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Our Leaders Just Don't Get It

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Sandy Shanks       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   3 comments

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View Ratings | Rate It Headlined to H3 9/21/09

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I read an article the other day that absolutely infuriated me. It dealt with the quandary lawmakers are having about escalating the war in Afghanistan. Escalating the war in Afghanistan? Our leaders should be discussing ways of getting out of there, not debating a further surge after the additional 21,000 troops Obama ordered to the Graveyard of Empires.
These days, when it comes to Washington, the conclusions of the article were rather predictable. Subsequently, I should have not become so enraged, but I did. The second paragraph read, "There's a significant number of people in the country, and I don't know the exact percentages, that have questions about deepening our military involvement in Afghanistan," Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said Friday.
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Well, Senator, I know the percentages and so should you. A recent CNN poll revealed that 57% of Americans are opposed to the war. Astonishingly, 42% support the war. I would like members of that group to talk to me. Why are you in support of this war? What do you hope to accomplish by prolonging the war? Is your source of information the Pentagon or Fox News website? The second part of Levin's statement misses the point entirely. There should be no debate about "deepening our military involvement in Afghanistan." The debate should center on how to get our people out of there with a minimum of unintended consequences and some degree of grace. Not so incidentally, support for increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan is at 25%.
I have a dream. Just once could the elected representatives of our government, including the President, do the bidding of the American people who hired them. I know, what a dreamer. On the other hand, what our leaders should seriously consider is that we, the people, also have the power to fire our elected representatives, including the President.
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As I continued reading the article, I found a faint glimmer of hope. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold two hearings on Afghanistan and is urging discussion of a "flexible timeline" for ending American involvement there. The glimmer faded quickly. Later, Feingold said that setting a timetable for withdrawal would "undercut the misperception of the U.S. as an occupying force." That statement makes no sense. So, now I've got to worry about the intellectual capabilities of a U.S. Senator.
According to McClatchy Newspapers, "The president is weighing whether to increase U.S. forces in the country. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, submitted an assessment of the war to the White House last month, and he's widely expected to ask soon for tens of thousands of new U.S. troops. The three options that are being discussed are 5,000, 21,000 or 45,000 more troops." However, the New York Times reported recently, "The military's anticipated request for more troops to combat the insurgency in Afghanistan has divided senior advisers to President Obama as they try to determine the proper size and mission of the American effort there ."
Leading the opposition is Vice President Joe Biden. According to the Times, "Leading those with doubts is Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has expressed deep reservations about an expanded presence in Afghanistan on the grounds that it may distract from what he considers the more urgent goal of stabilizing Pakistan, officials said ." He is opposed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has been "vocal" in favor of more troops, and some officials said they expected her to be an advocate for a more robust force, the Times says.
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"Getting it right is of the utmost importance to the president," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs stated. "There isn't an imminent decision now. I think it will be many, many weeks of assessment and evaluation." We have sent our very best to die in this hell-hole and spent our treasure for nearly eight years, and now it is going to take "many, many weeks of assessment and evaluation." As a friend of mine likes to say, I just want to hurl. This sounds like we will be in Afghanistan for a very, very long time. For what, I ask, for what?
So that is where we stand in Washington. Where do we stand in Afghanistan? In quicksand and sinking fast as recent violence and escalating death tolls indicate. There is no better authority on Afghanistan than Tom Englehardt of Tom Dispatch, and he does not mince words. In writing an article subtitled, "Measuring a War Gone to Hell," Englehardt states:
Here may be the single strangest fact of our American world: that at least three administrations -- Ronald Reagan's, George W. Bush's, and now Barack Obama's -- drew the U.S. "defense" perimeter at the Hindu Kush; that is, in the rugged, mountainous lands of Afghanistan. Put another way, while Americans argue feverishly and angrily over what kind of money, if any, to put into health care, or decaying infrastructure, or other key places of need, until recently just about no one in the mainstream raised a peep about the fact that, for nearly eight years (not to say much of the last three decades), we've been pouring billions of dollars, American military know-how, and American lives into a black hole in Afghanistan that is, at least in significant part, of our own creation.
He adds, Imagine for a moment, as you read this post, what might have happened if Americans had decided to sink the same sort of money -- $228 billion and rising fast -- the same "civilian surges," the same planning, thought, and effort (but not the same staggering ineffectiveness) into reclaiming New Orleans or Detroit, or into planning an American future here at home. Imagine, for a moment, when you read about the multi-millions going into further construction at Bagram Air Base, or to the mercenary company that provides "Lord of the Flies" hire-a-gun guards for American diplomats in massive super-embassies, or about the half-a-billion dollars sunk into a corrupt and fraudulent Afghan election, what a similar investment in our own country might have meant.
Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post writes, "The Obama administration is reportedly rushing to 'preempt Congress with its own metrics.' It's producing a document called a Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP), which will include separate 'indicators' of progress under nine broad 'objectives' to be measured quarterly... Some of the about 50 indicators will apply to U.S. performance, but most will measure Afghan and Pakistani efforts. These are to include supposedly measurable categories like numbers of newly trained Afghan army recruits and the timeliness of the delivery of promised U.S. resources." I just want to hurl. Sounds like we will being Afghanistan for a very, very long time.
In his own inimitable fashion Englehardt makes his own assessment, in this case regarding SIP. "... metrics in war almost invariably turn out to occupy treacherous terrain. Think of it as quagmire territory, in part because numbers, however accurate (and they often aren't), can lie -- or rather, can tell the story you would like them to tell. The Vietnam War was a classic metrics war. Sometimes it seemed that Americans in Vietnam did nothing but invent new ways of measuring success. [This evolved into], as the grunts sometimes said, the 'Mere Gook Rule' -- 'If it's dead and it's Vietnamese, it's VC [Vietcong].' In other words, when pressure came down for the 'body count,' any body would do."
He continues, "The problem was that none of the official metrics managed to measure what mattered most in Vietnam. History may not simply repeat itself, but there's good reason to look askance at whatever set of metrics the Obama administration manages to devise. After all, as in the Vietnam years, Obama's people, too, will be mustering numbers in search of 'success'; they, too, will be measuring 'progress.' And those numbers -- like the Vietnam era body counts -- will have to come up from below (with all the attendant pressures). By the time they reach Washington, they are likely to have the best possible patina on them."
In a prime time speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in Arizona recently, President Barack Obama recommitted himself to the war in Afghanistan, saying that "this is a war of necessity" that is "fundamental to the defense of our people." And repeated what he characterized as a "new strategy" with a "clear mission" and "defined goals," namely to "disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al-Qa'idaand its extremist allies.'"
Gee, that sounds good. Trouble is, the nice speech was riddled with empty rhetoric. Why is Afghanistan "fundamental to the defense of our people?" What "new strategy?" Obama is using the same tried and failed methods as his predecessor. There is nothing "new" about his tactics except to send in more troops. Furthermore, Al-Qa'ida is no longer in Afghanistan. Is Obama trying to bring Western civilization and democratic values to Afghanistan? That is ludicrous, plain and simple. Even the commander in Afghanistan, Gen. McChrystal, is pessimistic. He told his troops that the supply of militants is "effectively endless." He hopes to install a new approach to counterinsurgency where troops will make the safety of villagers the top priority, above killing an endless supply of militants.
It is at this point that Frida Berrigan weighs in. "But whether the goal is an Afghan Marshall Plan that turns Herat into Heidelberg or Obama's more limited but still sweeping goal, the fact of the matter is -- as they say in Maine -- you can't get there from here." She continues her biting rebuke. "Defining what success looks like is proving just as difficult in the 44th White House as it was in the 43rd. As Af-Pak Special Representative Richard Holbrooke said, 'We'll know it when we see it.' That is not an acceptable matrix for success -- not when the price-tag is $[228] billion and counting. Historic elections or no, Obama finds himself just as lost as any other would-be conqueror."
She adds, "Disrupting, dismantling, and irrevocably defeating Al-Qa'ida and the Taliban cannot be done with remote-controlled drones, counter-insurgency forces, NATO troops, and private contractors training the Afghan security forces. It cannot be accomplished through increasing the number of doctors, dentists, and nutritionists in the country, or sending more city planners, engineers, and communication experts -- all during an occupation and a war. Democracy, education for girls, development -- none of these laudable and critical goals can be achieved through military operations or external efforts protected by military operations. They can be temporarily delivered. Elections can be held, schools can be built, and girls can be protected on the way to school. But this no more than photo-op, a fleeting kind of change."
It is now time to review the Powell Doctrine, a common sense approach that the U.S. must address before it commits itself to war. Gen. Colin Powell, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said these questions all must be answered with are resounding "yes" before the United States takes military action. He listed his questions in the 1990 run-up to the Persian Gulf War, Jan. 17 to Feb. 28, 1991.
1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?

2. Do we have a clear, attainable objective?

3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?

4. Have all non-violent policy means been exhausted?

5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?

6. Have all the consequences of our action been fully considered?

7. Is the action supported by the American people?

8. Do we have broad international support?

These questions, in turn, beg another question. Can our Commander-in-Chief, President Obama, answer "yes" to any of these questions let alone all eight?
Donald Rumsfeld, serving as Secreatary of Defense for President George W. Bush, declared the Powell Doctrine "outmoded." Gen. Powell commanded U.S. forces in the Gulf War in 1991, which ended in a heartbeat as wars go. A fourth-ranked military power, Iraq, suddenly became the 104th, and, from a military viewpoint, the Gulf War is considered the most efficient war in the history of man. As Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld led U.S. forces in the invasion of Afghanistan, Oct. 2001, and, later, the invasion of Iraq, March 2003.
On Tuesday, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Forces Committee that "a proper effort" to counter the Taliban insurgency "probably means more forces."
I just want to hurl.


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I am the author of two novels, "The Bode Testament" and "Impeachment." I am also a columnist who keeps a wary eye on other columnists and the failures of the MSM (mainstream media). I was born in Minnesota, and, to this day, I love the Vikings (more...)

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