I am someone who voted for President Obama, supported his campaign and continue to support his policies as President. Most of what he has done is straight out of his campaign promises. Some of those promises are coming along more slowly, but if you read his campaign platform, you can discern where he is going before he even goes there. Afghanistan is a bit different. Nowhere in his campaign literature or online pronouncements did he talk about escalating in Afghanistan. He talked about winning and if he escalates that may give him some room to say that he isn't going against campaign promises, but as a supporter there are a number of things I need to hear to understand whatever is coming in terms of a policy change.
I believe that we were right to remove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. I believe the Taliban provided protection and other aid and comfort to Al Qaeda, the group that attacked us on 9/11. I believe that when we asked the Taliban to hand over members of Al Qaeda that we deemed responsible, they refused to honor that request. I therefore wonder whether if we leave Afghanistan now or in the short term, will that allow the Taliban to reassert control over Afghanistan? If so, what is different now than the five years before September 11th during which Bin Laden and his lieutenants plotted to attack the United States? Will not the Taliban allow Al Qaeda to resume operations from Afghanistan unhindered? If the choice is between remaining in Afghanistan and fighting a war of attrition on the one hand, and another attack on the US on the other, I would vote for remaining in Afghanistan.
Is the choice that simple? I do not know and thus there is my quandary. The Republicans and hawks within the Democratic Party will undoubtedly make the choice out to be that simple. For conservatives, the slightest whiff of a provocation or threat is tantamount to a complete justification for war. Unfortunately, many on my side of the aisle are oversimplifying this situation too. "It's like Vietnam, we should just get out." is a theme I hear a lot. I wasn't alive during Vietnam, but I'm pretty sure from reading my history that neither the North Vietnamese nor any subgroup they housed on their soil ever attacked the continental United States. In fact, Ho Chi Minh attempted to meet and negotiate with the winning countries including the United States at the end of the first and second world wars to negotiate a free Vietnam presided over by Vietnamese, not foreign powers. I don't think we ever had such a thing (an offer to negotiate with them before they started fighting and killing) from Bin Laden or Al Qaeda. No one ever thought that as a result of pulling out of Vietnam that there was a realistic threat of a group supported by North Vietnamese executing a terrorist attack on the United States, nor did any group ever threaten anything like that. They simply wanted to us to leave so they could govern themselves. Ho Chi Minh, while he believed in an ideology that was significantly different from ours, seemed fairly reasonable at least in comparison with the likes of Osama Bin Laden, Mullah Omar and Ayman al Zawahiri.
"Get out of Afghanistan, it's like Vietnam" is a frequent theme on OpEdNews.com where I write and articles with that theme get a lot of positive responses. I am curious whether any of the authors of those articles or those who pen supportive replies are willing to go on record saying that they are relatively certain that an exit from Afghanistan will not eventually result in another Al Qaeda attack on the United States. If so, I would also like to hear the reasoning behind that belief. If they cannot or will not make such assurances, is it OK to them that we might get attacked if we leave? It seems to me that a situation where we are genuinely preventing another attack on the United States is perhaps one of the few reasons we should ever be at war. The problem, of course, is that such justification has been used disingenuously so many times, many on the left refuse to believe it even when it seems logical and appropriate to the situation.
What is the current situation?
There was a recent post that garnered a lot of responses on Democratic Underground with a title along the lines of "Do you really know what is going on in Afghanistan?" The poster and several responders felt that they knew what was going on but in many cases their interpretations were mutually exclusive of each other. http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=433x21881
If grassroots Democrats disagree on even what the situation is now, there cannot be any agreement on or support for a course of action. I was even more curious to see the posts on Free Republic if one does a search on Afghanistan on that site. One gets postings like these:
- "Isn't the lesson of Viet Nam to not snatch Defeat from the jaws of Victory?"
- Obama's toughest challenge will be to win over his most loyal political supporters.
- His entire decision (or non-decision) on Afghanistan is politically motivated. He's going to put on a show at West Point and blame the former Commander in Chief's failure to capture Bin Laden as justification for committing more troops. He is the ulitmate coward.
See more of the same here, http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2396317/posts , here http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2396313/posts and here http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2396306/posts
Freepers and, by extension, since I use them as a baseline for the rightmost half of the Republican Party, Republicans don't seem to have a strategy at all for what to do with Afghanistan. Republican grass roots discussions on Afghanistan seem geared towards whether Obama will "surrender", whether Democrats were being honest when they said Iraq was the false war and Afghanistan is the real one, and other similar talk (when they weren't issuing odd, veiled threats against the President). I couldn't find many posts on Free Republic where a Freeper laid out a suggested course of action regarding Afghanistan. Admittedly, I didn't spend a ton of time researching, but this is very strange from a group that usually has a lot of detailed (and generally gung ho) suggestions about war. Regarding past conflicts like Iraq, it wasn't hard to find suggestions from Freepers about how the war should be waged. It is curious to me that it is hard now.
What this all tells me is that we all need to hear from the President exactly what the current situation is in Afghanistan and wherever else elements of Al Qaeda and the Taliban may be hiding in the region (i.e. Pakistan). How well or how badly is the war going and which regions are doing well and which ones are doing badly? I want to know WHY are things going well or badly overall and regionally. I want to know what things are lacking that are causing any issues for US forces.
Have we conducted ourselves in a way that has caused ourselves problems with the Afghan people? If so, what did we do that was wrong? Have we lost the support of a majority of the people in Afghanistan? If so, is there a reasonable chance we can win that support back? If they don't support us, are they willing to help us at least in terms of building infrastructure and a central government? If, as many people say, Afghanistan is so "tribalized" (yes, I know that is not a real word) that a central government will not be supported in general, is there appropriate strategy that takes that into account? The President needs to explain all of this so that we can use our own judgment to determine whether we support his actions.
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