Mr. Obama's Afghanistan Speech and Plans (12/2/09)

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Mr. Obama's Afghanistan Speech and Plans (12/2/09)

Postby Ferguson Foont » Wed Dec 02, 2009 11:38 am

As is his usual wont, Barack Obama gave a masterful speech last night relating his purposes and plans for Afghanistan. He very eloquently explained his view of the essential nature of this war and its relationship to our national security, particularly regarding our need to defend ourselves against al-Qa'eda and the precarious situation in Pakistan where there is a possibility that nuclear weapons lie in the balance.

The speech was clear, persuasive, and powerful. Unfortunately, it is my clear opinion that Mr. Obama used fair words to make a foul case. He is WRONG about Afghanistan and the effects our military actions there will have on our national security in the long term. His speech is the speech George W. Bush would have given were Mr. Bush an erudite man, and mere words, however well-chosen and well-spoken, do not change wrong into right.

We cannot enhance our security by increasing the numbers and dedication of our enemies, and that is the only thing that our war in Afghanistan can ever accomplish in the real world. Every man, woman and child we discomfit in Afghanistan makes an enemy of that person's family and friends. Think about how you would feel if soldiers of a foreign occupying power were to come into your neighborhood, enter your home at will, shouting crude instructions comprised of syllables the soldiers memorized by rote, soldiers who are unable even to understand any words you may try to speak to them. They make you sit on the floor under the watchful eyes of large, uniformed men carrying automatic rifles, as they search your home and ransack your belongings. This scenario describes the real life experience of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of wholly innocent Afghan families every single day of our occupation. Do you think that they can somehow be persuaded that this is for their own good? Is that what YOU would think?

Mr. Obama made several factual errors last night in an effort to strengthen his case. The first was right at the start where he stated that the Taliban had encouraged and supported al-Qa'eda's efforts in the southern area of that country. This is not true. The Taliban had no power to alter al-Qa'eda's activities and would have been effectively and forcefully rebuffed had they tried to shut them down. Al-Qa'eda was the de facto administrative authority in that region and was more than able to defend itself against the Taliban's legitimate authority.

Mr. Obama went on to say that the Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden when we demanded that they do so. This may be technically correct but is highly misleading. We had no extradition treaties in effect with Afghanistan at that time. There was no mechanism through which Osama bin Laden might legally be delivered to us. The Taliban did make the offer to hand over Bin Laden to a third party nation with whom both they and we had extradition treaties, but we declined their offer. Their offer was meaningless anyway because there was no way on earth that the Taliban could have apprehended Osama bin Laden. There was no way for the Taliban to accede to our demand -- they did not have the power that would have been necessary to arrest or otherwise apprehend him. Hell, even WE don't have that power. We might as well demand that Albania or Myanmar retrieve our flag that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left at the Sea of Tranquility.

Another "misstatement" that Mr. Obama made in his speech was in an effort to counter the arguments that, by our continued efforts in Afghanistan, we are ignoring the "lessons of Vietnam." He seemed to think that the most significant difference between the two situations is that we have a multi-national force in Afghanistan whereas we were going it alone in Vietnam. While it is easy to question the notion that the chief "lesson of Vietnam" was that we should never go it alone, it's even easier to point out that we did NOT "go it alone" in Vietnam and had help from many nations, most notably Australia but also including, among others, Britain, France, Thailand, the Philippines, and even China at some turns in that war.

I have long held the opinion that the chief lesson of Vietnam was that it is not possible, however mighty our military may be, for us as a foreign power to force a government down the throat of a people who are determined to oppose it and govern themselves, however badly. It seems as if we may be quite pointedly ignoring that "lesson of Vietnam" in Afghanistan, just as we have done in Iraq. But more importantly, we are ignoring the more recent and more obviously relevant lesson that the Soviets learned in Afghanistan itself.

I find it ironic that Mr. Obama's plan raises our troop level to approximately 100,000. That is the same level the Russians thought would be adequate to subdue Afghanistan. Of course, the Soviet Union, with its long direct border with Afghanistan and larger military forces, never faced the logistical nightmares we face trying to support such a force, but even so it broke their nation to the point at which it actually fell and disintegrated and their influence in world affairs diminished in a way from which they will never recover. That should serve as a pretty strong lesson, and I'm getting this strong whiff that Obama is whistling past a graveyard here in failing to heed that important lesson.

I supported Obama in the election and still believe that he is FAR preferable to any Republican alternative or to Hillary Clinton (Joe Biden is the only politician in any position of prominence who I might ultimately prefer). Heck, John McCain, who just wants war forever regardless of the costs in lives and money and any hope for victory, reminds me of the Black Knight in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," who intends to keep fighting even after he's lost all his limbs. "Have at you!"

But I believe that this is Barack Obama's worst hour, and he will come to rue this decision, as we all will. It is truly tragic, a fool's errand, and just because George W. Bush was the initial fool, we still pursue his errand. It is harder to strive for peace, but that's what the truly brave must do if we wish to provide the leadership in the world that we fashion ourselves to deserve.
Republicans whine and Republicans bitch: "Our rich are too poor, and our poor are too rich."
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Ferguson Foont
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