June 21st, 2011

Obama does the Nixon thing in Afghanistan

Wednesday evening Obama is due to announce that he will start to withdraw the 30,000 extra “surge” troops from Afghanistan.

This is not unexpected; what was surprising was that he sent them there in the first place. Public opinion is strongly against our involvement in Afghanistan; a recent poll notes support for partial or complete withdrawal at around 75%. Now that Osama Bin Laden has been killed (which, after all, was always part of our goal there) it gives Obama the perfect opportunity to begin a pullout. And if he continues to withdraw more troops, the timing will be good for the 2012 election.

Gates acknowledged Tuesday that domestic public opinion and congressional support for further military engagement must be taken into account by the president.

“Sustainability here at home” is an important consideration, Gates said. People are “tired of a decade of war.”

It had become difficult to justify our continued presence in Afghanistan at this point, although there may be a great deal we don’t know about what’s happening there—in fact, sometimes I think we know next to nothing about what’s happening there. Afghanistan is an especially opaque country, hard to understand and recalcitrant to change no matter what the intervention. And President Obama has been terrible in articulating why we are there—what our exact goals might be, and the definition of “success” (he virtually never uses the word “victory,” so I won’t use it here)—except, of course, for the aforementioned death of Bin Laden.

[NOTE: What do I mean by “the Nixon thing?” This.

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28 Responses to “Obama does the Nixon thing in Afghanistan”

  1. JimG3 Says:

    Completely off topic. Neo, have you read Mamet’s new book? As a literary person with much more experience in that field than I, but one who has spent a lot of time thinking about change, I’d like to know what you think. Hitchen’s review in this Sundays NYT was so swarmy it was like saying “Forgive me guys, can I come back home?”

  2. JimG3 Says:

    The question of victory is one of definition, as we can see by simply not acknowledging the defeat of al-Queda in Iraq. Killing Bin Laden doesn’t kill al-Queda central, killing Yamamoto didn’t finish the war with Japan. I really think the present problem is based in the atomic era, there is just so far we can go. So we hold back at the beginning. Also we fight the war as if we have already won, kinetics and nation buliding at the same time. No wonder our combat officers are reading “Three Cups of Tea.”

  3. Terrye Says:

    My understanding is that the commanders feel that the enemy has been damaged badly enough that the military can now move onto counter terrorism rather than concentrating on counter insurgency. I think it would be a mistake to simply pull out altogether, but it is only matter of time before we reduce the numbers there.

    I also think that Iraq will want some Americans to stay there as well.

  4. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Michael Yon sheds some light on the situation in Afghanistan.

    Here’s what he starts out with,
    “It’s time to make big decisions. These decisions will have a huge impact on the future of Afghanistan. The biggest question at hand: How many troops will we keep here and for how long?

    The answer to that question must not be dreamed up in political strategy sessions or in focus groups. Buzzwords and abstractions won’t do.”

    Will Obama not consider the political strategy first and foremost? My intuition says that it will be his biggest consideration and should not be. Throwing away all that has been accomplished at a great cost in blood and treasure is at stake here. No one knows the situation better than Petraeus. I pray that he gives Obama good advice and that Obama (who knows nothing of war and combat) heeds it.

    Yon says we have made huge progress in Afghanistan and provides anecdotes to show just how far we have come. (He’s been there almost continuously since the fighting died down in Iraq.)
    How many articles of this quality have been put out there by the MSM? Not many. Afghanistan is “opaque” because there is virtually no coverage except by embeds like Yon.

    Read the entire article here:
    http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2011/06/19/2011-06-19_battlefield_reporter_says_afghanistan_is_making_undeniable_progress_but_it_could.html

  5. Jared Clark Smith Says:

    My goodness, 10 years of war and the people want to claim ignorance, and so they are. 4 points: want to know whats up in Afghanistan or indeed, Central Asia?; ask a soldier. Want to find reasons to stay and finish the job?; ask an Afghan mother who’s children now attend school. 3 cups of tea was and is crap and discredited crap at that. No one cares about Bin Laden, they never did. He is just one more bad guy on a long list of bad guys.
    As an occational correspondent with M. Yon, I respect his opinion, but wouldn’t it be great if the 99% of America not involved in the actual freedom fighting, inquired of the 1% whom actually fight.
    Forgive my sarcasim; but this whole…”Gee whiz, I wonder whats going on with the warfighting great unwashed in far-away places that don’t ship stuff to Trader Joes!?”, is killing me. There you sit with the magic information box in your very hands and you want plasiable denyability on your nations efforts to keep that nation free. That is so jacked-up. So easy to take it all for granted.
    Thank goodness for my peers who do not take it for granted and who know all too well the profound challanges of freeing oppressed peoples and are willing to actually do something about it.
    We should stay untill the job is done. And we would and we could if the American public were informed and involved. Just in case there is any doubt; actual people actually live in Afghnaistan.

  6. Michael Says:

    Hey! Don’t knock Afghan opacity. R. Kipling used it to great literary effect.

    Although the O-Man will not do any strategic thinking about this, or rather none to the advantage of ["What was the name of that place? Oh, yeah, the United States of Somewhere."] we might believe that a small but defensible anti-terrorist base left there could be our foot in the door when we have to go back in, under a new. pro-American administration.

  7. Parker Says:

    I have family members who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan or both and friends whose kin have served; not one of them believes we should continue operations in Afghanistan. All are doubtful about the long term prospects of Iraq becoming a stable, neutral to the West, nation. I value their opinions far above those of generals, diplomats, and presidents. Bring them all back home asap.

  8. ziontruth Says:

    “…the profound challanges of freeing oppressed peoples…”

    They use their newly given freedom to vote Islamic theocrats to power. Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan, Gaza—the same story everywhere.

    This strategy isn’t working.

  9. neo-neocon Says:

    JimG3: no, haven’t read the book yet. I read Hitchens’ review, though. It didn’t surprise me.

  10. Don Carlos Says:

    I take umbrage at likening Obama to Nixon in any way. Obama is a worm. Nixon was flawed, as most of us are. And badgered and bullied by the Rathers, to boot. I was hardly a Nixon fan then, being led by the nose by Rather et al., but I have come to regret my errors.

  11. Roy Lofquist Says:

    There ain’t no way we will ever win the “War on Terrorism”. This thing has been going on for 1400 years.

    The initial strikes were to send a message to the world: If you support, with all the inherent advantages of statehood, a group that attacks us or our allies you will sincerely regret it.

    The second objective was to ensure that that state power would not be subverted again. Bush’s limited force was aimed specifically at that – protect Kabul. We still have a vital strategic interest there and that is to prevent the mechanisms of statehood from being subverted. Let the tribes kill each other. They’ve been doing it for centuries.

  12. Sergey Says:

    Brits quit Afghanistan because they understood that this population is too backward for nation building. These people simply do not subscribe to the very notion of a state. Tribe is the highest form of organization for them, and nobody can build a nation from people who do not want it.

  13. ziontruth Says:

    Roy Lofquist,

    “There ain’t no way we will ever win the ‘War on Terrorism’. This thing has been going on for 1400 years.”

    Insofar as this war is conceived on the model of ordinary wars, foremostly WW2, that’s true. Sending armies abroad can do little to no good here.

    Instead, people need to realize this war takes place mostly on the infidel turfs. In the rush to send troops to Afghanistan and Iraq and Libya, the infidel states have neglected the security of their home fronts. Far worse, the demographic policies in most infidel states are rigged so as to only further Islamization by demography.

    A fresh look would no longer see a bunch of men, women and children on the boats to, say, Lampedusa seeking asylum and freedom from oppression; it would see them truthfully as an Islamic invasion army. It would realize that Erdogan’s characterization of the mosques as barracks is more helpful than all the ROP mantras being flung around.

    Unfortunately, this view is considered a thoughtcrime according to the reigning socio-political dogma.

  14. Oldflyer Says:

    Bush’s intent was to overthrow the Taliban, maintain a small military footprint to give the Afghans time to form government, and leave them to it. He tried to turn the military task over to NATO, and found, as witnessed again in the Libyan debacle, that NATO is a soft, timid and hollow military. Still, Bush would not commit large U.S. troop numbers to Afghanistan.

    Obama, having bashed Bush incessantly during the campaign for taking his eye off of Al Qaeda and Bin Laden, to pursue his Iraq adventure, got trapped by his own rhetoric. To hear his simplistic argument, Bin Laden was the only enemy we faced. Now having committed a large force to the “essential” war; he wants out.

    I am a Hawkish skeptic. I believe that when a President commits U.S. military forces to combat, he is obligated to enunciate the goals, and metrics for success. Once the U.S. commits, we must achieve the announced goals, and I will back him to achieve them. There is no acceptable alternative.

    Talk of war weariness in the U.S. population is insulting. Our military force, and their families, are undoubtedly weary. For the rest, it has been business as usual. I think that if this war weariness characterization is accurate–and I am skeptical of those who proclaim it–it is more frightening even than having Obama as CinC. He will go in due time; this level of softness in America could be fatal.

  15. daisy Says:

    I was at Walter Reed Army hospital visiting a sick relative last week and I saw lots of young amuptees. There is nothing in Afghanistan that is worth one hair of an American head much less both legs of a young man.

  16. JimG3 Says:

    Untill we face up to the fact that this is about Islamic revival, not tribalism or any of the other masks we try to throw on it, we won’t get any type of handle on it. For example, the only reason this has gone on for so long is in direct relation to the last line of the Muslim Brotherhood pledge,”Dieing in the way of Allah is our greatest hope.” This is what the Taliban, al-Qeada, AQAP, al-Shebab, and all the other jihadi groups work for. Please read their literature, it’s all over amazon and any of the other muslim book sites. We can stay or leave, but we will still live in the House of War. Ten years, an afternoon for these folks.

  17. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    The unfortunate truth of fighting Islamism is that it is like trying to nail jello to a wall. Every place you apply pressure, they will ooze outward until the pressure is removed and then they filll back in.

    Some see promise in nation building in Muslim nations and that was the option that Bush took in invading Iraq. Of all the non-democratic Muslim nations Iraq had and still has the most promise for becoming another Turkey. The jury is still out on Iraq, but with Iran and Syria next door, the task is made far more difficult. It would be wonderful if Iraq became a successful Muslim democracy, but it wouldn’t end the struggle with Islamism.

    Afghanistan has almost no possibility of becoming a stable, democratic state in any reasonable time frame. So, nation building there is a fool’s errand unless we are prepared to stay for a couple of generations or even longer.

    The true solution to the problem is for Islam to reform itself. It has these fundamentalist believers who take seriously all the most anti-tolerance and warlike parts of the Quran. Unfortunately, they are essentially running the show even though the vast majority of Muslims are lesss inclined to wage unending war on all infidels and apostates.

    We need to continue to defend ourselves vigorously from the Islamic jihadis, but we also need to start talking straight to all Muslims. Since the jihadis use the moderates as cover, we need to make it plain that we will no longer pull our punches or worry about collateral damage. The moderates have to reject the jihadis, expose them, and cast them out. Otherwise, they are complicit in the offenses of the jihadis and cannot look to our tolerance to protect them. The same is true of mosques and Muslim groups in the U.S. The brand of preaching done by the fundamentalist imams is essentially calling for treason and sedition which cannot be tolerated by this country. Also intolerable are calls for sharia law and courts for Muslims only.

    Because of politics we will leave Afghanistan sometime in the next three years, of that I’m pretty sure. However, the war with the Islamist jihadis will not leave us. Until we understand the existential threat and quit trying to be politically correct, the low level conflict and fifth column invasion will continue. It may take the equivalent of the Thirty Years War to finally get Islam to reform. Do we have the stamina to see it through? That is the question.

  18. ziontruth Says:

    “The unfortunate truth of fighting Islamism is that it is like trying to nail jello to a wall.”

    Why do we have to fight? What’s wrong with the suggestion, made eloquently by Francis W. Porretto among others, that this threat simply be quarantined? As adherents of a transnational, imperialist ideology, they shouldn’t be in any part of the House of War (the Islamic name for all parts of the world not under the rule of shariah law).

    “…even though the vast majority of Muslims are less inclined to wage unending war on all infidels and apostates.”

    How do you know that? What if the Muslim world is as the Christian world was in the Middle Ages, with well-nigh all the believers taking the religion seriously? And even if the majority aren’t active participants in the jihad, they could still be supporters of it.

    “It may take the equivalent of the Thirty Years War to finally get Islam to reform.”

    The real Thirty Years War was one of the results of Luther’s Reformation. That reformation had stemmed not from the desire to modernize the Christian religion, but quite the opposite: Luther thought his reforms were about bringing Christianity to an original, uncorrupted state. Reformist Muslims like Sayyid Qutb, the spiritual progenitor of Al Qaida, had the same goal.

  19. JimG3 Says:

    One of the most interesting things about Mr. Qutb is his desire to cleanse The House of Peace of any western “filth.” It’s the basis of his book “Milestones”. He was sure this filth existed since he had attended church ice cream socials in Greely Colorado back in the 50′s. The music, the danceing, the mixing of the sexes in a house of worship so sickened him, not to mention the cutting of grass, that he ran back to Egypt and became a major theorition of the Brotherhood. He took up the gun against Nassar and ended up executed, his brother escaping to Saudi Arabia where he taught a young Osama in the esoterica of Islamic science.
    During the 60′s a Jewish hippie could get on a bus in Istanbul and ride to Dehli, drinking tea and smoking hash all the way. Times have changed in the House of Islam, and we have to find a way to fight it. Quarantine is impossible, air travel and the oil business make it so. So now what?

  20. Bob from Virginia Says:

    JimG3 and others, We have a weapon we never had before against dictatorships, the information age. Yes the Islamists will take over countries and install dictatorships and terrorcracies but they will also show themselves incapable of long term improvement, in fact laughing stocks. Eventually enough Moslems will get disillusioned and bring them down, or they will cause a war and be brought down. After the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany it is real hard to get frightened of someone who wants to bring back the Caliphate. Learn from tiny Israel. The Moslem world whatever it is, is not much.

  21. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    ziontruth asks, “Why do we have to fight? What’s wrong with the suggestion, made eloquently by Francis W. Porretto among others, that this threat simply be quarantined?”

    That is certainly one possibility. It is the equivalent of building a wall and a moat around the non-Muslim world. That is what Israel appears to be doing. With the wall, strong internal security measures, and the oncoming Iron Dome they may be able to sit behind the wall and only react to attacks. However, there is an issue known by some as “globalization” that makes such quarantining difficult, particularly for a large, diverse country that depends on trade for economic success. Or in a country that prides itself on political correctness.

    “How do you know that? What if the Muslim world is as the Christian world was in the Middle Ages, with well-nigh all the believers taking the religion seriously? And even if the majority aren’t active participants in the jihad, they could still be supporters of it.”

    I cannot know for certain, but there is anecdotal evidence of such. My evidence is the fact that some Christians and atheists of my acquaintance have traveled in Muslim countries and not been attacked as infidels. I have worked with Muslims in Africa, the U.S., and Philippines who were not, as far as I could tell, fundamentalists. Our military operations in Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Pakistan, and Afghanistan would not be possible without the cooperation of a majority of Muslims in those countries. Iraq would not still be struggling to become democratic if the majority of Muslims there were fundamentalists. They would be either a Muslim theocracy or a dictatorship right now. Maybe not enough evidence to convince you, but it works for me.

    “The real Thirty Years War was one of the results of Luther’s Reformation. That reformation had stemmed not from the desire to modernize the Christian religion, but quite the opposite: Luther thought his reforms were about bringing Christianity to an original, uncorrupted state.”

    My understanding of the Thirty Years War was that it was a bloody, barbaric war primarily fought over Christian doctrine. When it was over there was such horror at what had been done in the name of God that it led eventually to a new tolerance for differing ceremonies and doctrines. It put Chrisianity on a path toward emphasizing the peace, love, and tolerance of the New Testament. I’m no historian, nor do I play one on TV, but that is my take away from the Thirty Years War. If I’m wrong, I’m willing to be instructed.

  22. rickl Says:

    I’m open to the quarantine idea. But if we decide to fight them, then we must do so along the lines of the General Sherman and General LeMay methods. As LeMay said, “If we kill enough of them, they’ll stop fighting.” Guess what? It worked with the Japanese.

    I think that we will eventually come to the conclusion that this planet is not big enough for both Islam and Western Civilization. No coexistence is possible. One side will win and the other side will lose.

    The only question is how many Western lives will be lost before we get to that point.

  23. Parker Says:

    I’m with rickl, either go to war with the intent to kill them until they bow down begging for mercy, or stay out of it. We are not willing to do the former and we keep ignoring the latter….. Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya. When will we learn?

  24. bon homme richard Says:

    B-52s and a handful of Special Forces guys on horseback looks like the perfect combination to me.

  25. RandomThoughts Says:

    I think quarantine in any form is impractical in today’s world. Economics and communication technology have made this far too small a planet to successfully isolate any segment of its population.

    …if we decide to fight them, then we must do so along the lines of the General Sherman and General LeMay methods. As LeMay said, “If we kill enough of them, they’ll stop fighting.” Guess what? It worked with the Japanese.

    I too agree with this. However, the ultra-PC “coexist in peace” crowd will never countenance such a proven aggressive methodology. They are blind to the fact that Islam is inherently hostile to Western Civilization, and its most vocal leaders have no qualms about making their enmity clear.

    I am convinced it will take far more than 9/11 to clue the pacifist left into reality.

  26. Richard Aubrey Says:

    random
    PC leaders think western civ is a bad idea as it is. Hence their reluctance to concern themselves with external threats.
    Or their allying with such.
    The Thirty Years War had religion as one aspect, but it was mostly a matter of geopolitics. France had her interests and Vienna hers, and the German states were allies or enemies of one another. As is frequently the case, religion was both a cause and an excuse. Much of the fighting was done by mercenary armies and they can’t usually be said to be motivated by religion–unless the pay and loot are good, I suppose. One of the results of the war was the Peace of Westphalia, which gave us the Westphalian model of the nation state and international relations. The Westphalian model does not allow for non-state actors or failed states. As a result, confusion reigns in the current unpleasantness, especially among those who oppose opposing Islamism. See Gitmo. The Gitmo goons are supposedly POW until it is pointed out that POWs are kept until the war is over. Then they’re detainees who need trials. But….POWs aren’t tried, they’re just…POWs. You can’t try POWs. Except that if you do, you must provide all the intel backstory as evidence. And if they’re not members of a legal army, they’re not POWs, except if they aren’t, they may be criminals under the Geneva Convention which means they can be executed, possibly, so that won’t work, so they have to be possibly common criminals since what they did was a crime but not a military-type crime so they need conventional criminal trials except that means some may be executed, so they have to be POW, except….

    The dems have probably figured out that their well-deserved reputation as untrustworthy on national security–see them on the Cold War and Southeast Asia–has worn out and they can throw another ally to the wolves. Oddly enough, for ostensibly human and American creatures, they seem to get a great deal of pleasure from treachery leading to mass death.

  27. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Richard Aubrey, thanks for the excellent description of the muddled thinking of the PC crowd ala the jihadis.

    Your take on the Thirty Years War is essentially correct. The War produced a series of treaties that helped establish rules for conduct between nation states. However, the utter savagery and devastation iof the war, much of it done in the name of God, forced people to rethink the idea of making war based on religious diffgerences. There were further small wars over religion for another two hundred years, but the path toward more religious tolerance was begun by the Thirty Years War.

    Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:
    “The war also has a few more subtle consequences. The Thirty Years’ War marked the last major religious war in mainland Europe, ending the large-scale religious bloodshed accompanying the Reformation, which had begun over a century before. There were other religious conflicts in the years to come, but no great wars.”

  28. JimG3 Says:

    I once thought it would be easy to understand Islam, but using a template of my Protestant upbringing, mixed with the cold War made less and less sense. Since the beginning of this year I’ve been working on an Islamic glossary. By going through the terms and trying to write the definitions in my own words I believe I’m getting an insight into a religion that is trying very hard to deceive us, if only because they don’t have the military power to attack us directly and decisively. By the way my basic text is “A History of the Arab Peoples” by Albert Huorani, and is hardly Islamaphobic.

    Cliff May has a good article on this over at NRO today.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/270265/reading-ayman-al-zawahiri-s-mind-clifford-d-may

    And a quote from Khomeini always hits the spot.

    “ Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled or incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world. . . . Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless. Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Does this mean that Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by [the unbelievers]? Islam says: Kill them [the non-Muslims], put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]. Does this mean sitting back until [non-Muslims] overcome us?…Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for the Holy Warriors!” Ayatolla Khomeini after his return to Iran in 1979

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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