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September 23, 2009

Defeating the Taliban: For It Before They Were Against It

It's hard to capture how spectacularly cynical and dishonest the Democrats have been on "the war of necessity," but Rich Lowry gets a good swing at it.

At the height of their anti-Iraq War fever, Democrats accused Pres. George W. Bush of cooking up the war for political reasons. It must have been their guilty consciences speaking.

Democrats are the party of extreme situational politics on national security. Almost every major Democrat with presidential aspirations voted to authorize the Iraq War, then turned on it. As the Iraq War spiraled downward, many Democrats called for more troops, then resisted the surge. It has practically been mandatory for all good, card-carrying Democrats to trumpet the centrality of the Afghan War since 2003, using it as a rhetorical club to attack President Bush’s focus on Iraq. Now that it is crunch time in Afghanistan, they’ve gone from resolute to flaccid.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t “think there’s a great deal of support for sending more troops.” Once upon a time, she insisted, “We need to finish the job.” Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is touting an implausible plan to train the Afghan army without any more American troops. Forgotten are the days when he browbeat Secretary of Defense Robert Gates for a failure to provide “the kind of commitment of forces or resources that our commanders on the ground are asking us for.” And John Kerry, who used to be as gung-ho as John Wayne in The Green Berets, now sounds ready to revert to his usual martial role of leading the political charge toward defeat.

And then he gets on to Obama.

The Weekly Standard's blog is howling over this in every third post or so, and it is a "keep on scrolling" sort of thing. But to digest:

Carl Levin claims Gen. McChrystal's blistering report on the necessity of additional troops (as Candidate Obama promised) says the complete opposite and in fact claims that troop levels are irrelevant.

Iran's Qods Force training/supplying Taliban.

Obama Administration is treating McChrystal's blunt assessment as so nuanced as to require weeks of review to comprehend his subtle points. Most people would call this "stalling for time" and "ducking the issue."

Steny Hoyer agrees with John Boehner that MacChrystal should testify before Congress.

And so on.

Some have suggested that perhaps Afghanistan is not winnable, or, maybe, not worth winning, in the sense that manpower required to turn this backwards country into something worthy. At The Corner, isolationist (which is not meant derogatorily) Derbyshire wonders why it is we need to rebuild these countries at all -- "if you broke it, you bought it" -- and why we cannot simply invade briefly, kill as many of the leaders as possible, and abandon the countries to their own violent means of working things out post-invasion.

I have to say I often wonder about this myself -- a country like Iraq or Afghanistan is going to have a long, violent struggle due to a sudden power vacuum; is it truly necessary that US troops be involved in the bloodshed?

Nevertheless, even if it were true that post-invasion/power-vacuum violence is more or less inevitable and US troops can only reduce this by a small amount, this seems to be a fantasy solution to me. Yes, we can discuss, as a purely academic question, whether or not it makes sense to let God, and their own determination to purge and kill, sort out who has won and who has been murdered. But the US consensus ethic on this is currently overwhelming: The US, rightly or wrongly, must step in and repair the countries it smashes, at least until there is a change in what we consider the ethics of warfare.

I might be willing to sign up for a policy of benevolent neglect, or cruel-to-be-kind, going forward. Going forward. But at the moment it seems that anytime we leave a place in a greater state of chaos and misery than we found it in, we have "lost" that war, in our own imaginations as well as in the imaginations of our enemies.

Furthermore, while I think this is a perfectly reasonable proposition to debate in the abstract, we cannot overlook the fact that we have made certain commitments in Afghanistan, and we have staked the success of the anti-terror war on purging the Taliban from Afghanistan.

And perhaps even more important: While I am even more ignorant than most on the situation in Afghanistan and what would be needed to win, I am not ignorant about Obama, and I do not trust the man's judgment to make a decision in America's true interest.

What I expect him to do is to make a judgment in his own political interest, whether it's in America's interest or not, and nod towards the Derbyshire-style "More Rubble, Less Trouble" line of thinking because it's expedient for him to do so and at this point he needs to give The Left the victory they most crave, an American defeat.

The political deck, it seems to me, is stacked very much in favor of surrender and defeat in Afghanistan, because that is what Obama's all about.

Incidentally, if Obama does hand Afghanistan back into the tender mercies of the enemy which must be defeated, at least a year ago, I expect him to hand the entire country over to handmaidens of 9/11, and not even attempt the decency of a partition so that the non-Pashtuns do not have to become the slaves of the Taliban-supporting Pashtuns once again.

Why artificial boundaries are more important than a people's right to self-determination and to be free of the tyranny of a larger, more violent, more Taliban tribe is quite beyond me, but I'm sure it's all in the interests of multiculturalism that our allies in the Northern Alliance of non-Pashtun tribes must accept the Taliban yoke once more.

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posted by Ace at 12:23 PM

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