Obama’s Strategy on Afghanistan

copyright © 2099 Jerome Grossman.  Relentless Liberal

It is difficult, even impossible, to accept President Obama’s “New strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan” as described by him in a formal speech on March 27.  It fails by imperial and non-imperial standards.

First the imperial: Chalmers Johnson, a former CIA agent, reports in his book Nemesis: “The Carter administration deliberately provoked the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  In his 1996 memoir, former CIA Director Robert Gates acknowledges that the American intelligence services began to aid the anti-Soviet mujahideen guerillas not after the Russian invasion but six months before it.  President Carter’s purpose was to provoke a full-scale Soviet military intervention to tie down the USSR.”  Will an expanded military effort in Afghanistan tie down the U.S. as it did the USSR?

Obama plans a U.S. military effort in Afghanistan lasting at least five years in a country 50% larger than Iraq in area and population.  The NATO allied forces are token in size and commitment and rarely leave their base camps.  A serious U.S. military effort will require at least 250,000 troops tied down in Afghanistan/Pakistan.  Will America be unable to react to other challenges as they arise especially its obligations, to protect Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, to deter Iran from a nuclear program, to support Pakistan from collapse; etc?

The invasion of Iraq could be justified on imperial grounds because it is strategically situated in the heart of the largest concentration of oil in the world.  Afghanistan has no comparable resource, one of the poorest countries, no industry, little farming, rugged terrain, a land of banditry and bribery.

The adventure fails from a non- imperial perspective.  Obama says “That country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.”  None of the 19 people who perpetrated the September 11 criminal tragedy were Afghan or Taliban.  Fifteen of them were Saudi.  There are no Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan any longer.  Osama bin Laden and what is left of his crew is in hiding somewhere in the wilderness of Pakistan.  The Al Qaeda operation is scattered and disorganized.  Yes, another 19 thugs could infiltrate the U.S. and kill Americans, but sending an army into Afghanistan is not going to prevent another such criminal act.  In fact, the hyped war in Afghanistan is more likely to divert us from protecting ourselves against another September 11.

  • Obama’s Strategy on Afghanistan
  • The Afghan Cemetery

    copyright © 2009 Jerome Grossman.  Relentless Liberal

    President Obama indicated through his press secretary that his administration would review its policy toward Afghanistan before making a decision about sending additional troops to fight in that country.  Richard Holbrooke, his envoy, was in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region talking with leaders about how best to address the military and political situation.  Obama also met with advisers at the Pentagon and the State Department.

    As recently as February 15, it was reported that Obama “is refusing to be rushed into his first decision to send troops into combat  . . . questioning the time table, the mission and even the composition of the new forces.”  However, Obama changed his mind on February 17, authorizing 17,000 additional soldiers and Marines for Afghanistan in what he described as an urgent bid to stabilize a deteriorating and neglected country, joining the 30,000 U.S. troops already there.

    Obama will be sending more troops to Afghanistan before he has begun to fulfill a promised rapid withdrawal of troops from Iraq.  His order leaves crucial questions of strategy and tactics in Afghanistan unanswered until the strategy review is completed in April.  Antiwar groups criticized Obama’s decision.  Tom Andrews, director of Win Without War said, “The president is committing these troops before he’s determined what the mission is…..  We need to avoid the slippery slope of military escalation.”

    The hasty decision ignored the many negative comments about the prospects for a U.S. victory.  General David Petraeus has called Afghanistan “the graveyard of empires.”  Holbrooke reported “a purely military victory is not achievable.”  British historians furnish the details of their three failed military attempts to pacify the country.  Twenty years after the troops of the Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan in defeat, the last Russian general to command them said on Feb 13 that the Soviets’ devastating experience, losing more than 15,000 troops in Afghanistan battling guerrillas “is a dismal omen for the U.S.”

    Supporters of expanded U.S. military operations in Afghanistan cite the successes of the American military against the Taliban in October and November, 2001, immediately after the tragedy of September 11.  However, that victory was accomplished by air power and bribery.  Airpower prevented Taliban military operations.  Hundred dollar bills bought warlord allies in this corrupt country whose main product is opium.

    Can we do it again, bribing our way through the drug lords?  Perhaps.  But history shows that Afghans don’t stay bought and that the guerrillas motivated by rebellion and nationalism will fight the invaders for hundreds of years, making a bandit’s living out of their tactics as they have done for time immemorial.

    Don’t think that General Petraeus does not know how to use money as a weapon.  While he was installing the “Surge” in Iraq adding 30,000 fresh troops with great fanfare, he was quietly bribing the insurgent Sunnis with $20 dollar bills and rifles, paying 100,000 warriors to stop fighting the Americans.

    Change

    (I am honored and privileged to present this thoughtful tome by Jerome Grossman.  

    If only change were more than a word, or a missive.  Might we consider change, as it applies to equality and tranquility, our mission. – promoted by Betsy L. Angert
    )

    copyright © 2007 Jerome Grossman Relentless Liberal

    It is hard to say what this political campaign is really about except that ambition has propelled some admirable and some not so admirable people to run for president. And, as though they all drank the same magical elixir simultaneously, to begin to utter the mystical word, “change.”

    As a verb, change is transitive, must have an object; for most speakers it is America, but one candidate said, “We can change America, then we can change the world.” Where have I heard that before?

    Change has become a cliché, somehow signifying that we are on the right track. It sounds dynamic without committing to anything in particular. Candidates and voters can give it any meaning they wish: to the right, to the left, or simply to install new people to pursue the same old policies.

    The presidential candidates of real, serious change are Democrat Dennis Kucinich and Republican Ron Paul, not taken seriously by their fellow candidates or many voters. In the ABC television Republican debate in New Hampshire on January 5, the GOP candidates were actually laughing at Ron Paul’s exposition of a needed change in U.S. foreign and military policy. No discussion, no rebuttal, simply disrespect. And Kucinich wasn’t even invited to the Democratic debate.

    On issue after issue the candidates of both parties give the problems a little tweak or a few new words and call it change. But the exercise makes everyone feel good. Mission accomplished. We have talked about change. Do Americans really want their politicians to change public affairs significantly?

    The average American, like people everywhere, are accustomed to the status quo and will not accept change until forced by events and we are far from that point. Social Security and Medicare, for example, are far from perfect, but politicians had better keep their hands off if they wish to stay in power. Furthermore, only about 50% of eligible voters actually go to polls and they are usually richer and older, heavily representative of the most satisfied, therefore the least likely to vote for change.

    Besides, significant change never comes from voting. Almost always, it is the result of deep and difficult organizing in the community of people who are being hurt by current policies, who become angry, who threaten, who don’t put their cause in the hands of politicians.

    The most important changes in U. S. history were forced upon our greatest presidents. Abraham Lincoln was pressured to issue the Emancipation Proclamation by the Abolitionists and the need for African – American soldiers in the civil war. Franklin Delano Roosevelt expanded the humanitarian role of the federal government in response to the threats of organized labor and the unemployed.

    Real change is forced on the politicians, always has been, always will be.

    To view the original treatise, please seek Change