Oct 31 2009

Pontius Pilate Washed His Hands Too

Category: Afghanistan,Obamaamuzikman @ 12:03 am

General McChrystal’s request for more troops in Afghanistan originally came in a report he submitted on August 30, 2009.  Since then at least 97 American soldiers have died while President Obama tries to decide on a course of action in that war-torn country.  One cannot help but wonder if Obama considers this primarily a political decision.  In fact, it has even been suggested the president has been waiting to announce his decision until after next Tuesday’s elections. I hope that is not the case.

Mr President, two months you have now delayed making a decision.  Two months since your hand-picked general first gave you his frank assessment of the situation in Afghanistan. You obviously valued his opinion or you would not have placed him in that most difficult of command positions.  He has asked you for an increase of 40,00 more troops and he has explained why.  Yet you have still not made a decision.  Perhaps you have taken that time to reflect on the difference between skillful utterance of campaign rhetoric and actually being Commander in Chief.  Perhaps you are really struggling with this terribly difficult choice.  I hope so – it’s not supposed to be easy.

Mr. President, I suggest you look down at your hands, do you see the blood there?  It is the blood of brave soldiers who have died on your watch.  Don’t bother washing your hands, the stain will never go away – just ask any other President who has faced the extremely difficult choice of sending troops into harm’s way.  I’m sure they will tell you how many times they washed their hands… to no avail.  I’m not saying the deaths of those 97 soldiers could have been avoided had you decided on a course of action sooner – it is impossible to say,  But I am saying that you can no longer claim to be “mopping up someone else’s mess”.  It is now your mess.  It is now time for you to understand and embrace what is meant by the phrase, “The buck stops here”.

It is my most fervent prayer that you will make the best possible decision – not the most expedient or the most politically calculated, not the one that might endear you to the most people, or shine the best light on you – but the one that is best – best for our troops, best for their families, best for the people of Afghanistan, best for the people of The United Sates of America, best for the cause of those who hold freedom and liberty dear.  But I do know this – decide you must, and no matter what you decide that stain will still be there on your hands, long after you leave office.  It comes with the job.


Sep 26 2009

An Afghan Tribal Chief’s view of the facts on the ground

Category: Afghanistanharmonicminer @ 9:21 am

Following up on this discussion about our prospects in Afghanistan, here is An Interview with an Afghan Tribal Chief. This video and/or text interview is the first in a series on the blog of Steven Pressfield, and I highly recommend it, as well as his books, which have to be one of the most entertaining and engaging ways of learning history I’ve seen.


Sep 19 2009

Can we win in Afghanistan?

Category: Afghanistanharmonicminer @ 8:32 pm

A couple of weeks ago, George Will opined that it is time to get out of Afghanistan.

Here is yet another response, from a man who knows a great deal about the history of the region, Michael Brandon McClellan, guest posting on the blog of Steven Pressfield, another expert on the region.

The correct questions to ask are these:

If we leave Afghanistan before it is reasonably stable, with a not-completely-corrupt government, what will happen next?  Who will move into the power vacuum?  What will be their motivations?  Will Afghanistan be used again as a staging and training area for terrorists acts against the West, and the US in particular?   What can we expect to be the opinion of those whom we want to believe that we keep our promises, and carry out military actions we’ve begun?  What will Joe Jihadi think about the resolve of the West, and the US in particular?

It’s expensive for the US to be in Afghanistan.  It costs some US lives.  It gets harder and harder to sell back home, where the Sept. 10, 2001 mindset is on full display, and spreading fast.  But the alternative is not peace and joy in the middle east, and a USA that is left unmolested by terrorists.  There are forces at work in this who take a LONG view, and are willing to plan attacks on the US, or US interests and allies, attacks that may not happen for a decade, but are made possible by a US withdrawal after we’ve failed to end significant Taliban and Al Qaeda influence in Afghanistan.  And, of course, Pakistan’s nuclear arms are much less of a threat to the world if they are in the hands of a Pakistan government that is not constantly challenged by the Taliban and Al Qaeda.  Pakistan’s stability is undermined by an unstable Afghanistan.

It is not good to be there.  But it’s probably far worse to leave before it’s done.  In the nature of things, this cannot be absolutely proved, and even if and when it works, there will be those who insist it wasn’t necessary.  Of course, there are those who insist to this day that the US should have stayed out of WW II.

Which proves that hindsight ISN’T always 20/20, let alone foresight.

Sometimes you just have to muddle through and do your best, and not quit because things get hard.

UPDATE:  George Will has posted another column, this one comparing the difficulty of creating a stable regime in Bosnia to doing the same for Afghanistan.   He may be right.  If he is, perhaps we should immediately withdraw our resources from Bosnia, and put it all in Afghanistan.

It’s those Pakistani nukes.  It’s those guys who intend to kill as many of us as they can, when they can.  Bosnia is no particular danger to us… yet, anyway.  I suppose that some Islamist crazies there could also be plotting revenge on the US, for saving Muslims from the Serbs, after the manner of Saudi anger at the US for saving Saudi Arabia from Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War.  But we know, for a fact, what the intentions of the Taliban and Al Qaeda are.  And we can be pretty sure of the outcome if they ever succeed in destabilizing Pakistan enough to get their hands on those nukes.

It seems to me that Will is correct in pointing out the difficulties, but that his solution (pull out, hope, and bomb occasionally) is just feckless.  We already know where that leads.


Jan 17 2009

Non-peace with dishonor

Category: Afghanistan,Islam,left,national security,Obamaharmonicminer @ 10:18 am

At Daily Kos, pressure on Obama’s left flank to declare defeat in Afghanistan and run. You have to read the whole thing to get a flavor of just how wrong headed they are.

An ad hoc group of bloggers has come together for the purpose of opposing a U.S.-led escalation in Afghanistan that is slated to double the number of American troops there.

Sure. Let’s let the Taliban take over Afghanistan again. Let’s go back to the situation that created the 9/11 attack, and supported its training and operational phases. After all, surely they’ve learned not to mess with the USA, don’t you think?

I wish we could send the entire Daily Kos crowd on a little vacation to Waziristan. Maybe a nice bus ride in the mountains, a chance to make new friends, show them that all Americans aren’t war-mongering degenerates, you know? We could equip them with satellite phones and live video feeds, just in case they need to call us or something.

On second thought, I’m hoping this is Obama’s left flank…. if he has one.

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Dec 24 2008

More than a bandaid

Category: Afghanistan,Islam,military,terrorismharmonicminer @ 10:21 am

In an article showing pictures of a medical clinic in Afghanistan, and signs with operating hours and lists of services provided by US military medical personnel, Michael Yon makes a very important point, rebutting charges of cynicism in putting up such signs with English translation, and offering lots of great observations about the overall situation. A key graph:

At a moment when much of the Islamic world is suspicious of the U.S., publicizing the positive changes that Western nations have provided is essential. The enemy advertises cutting off heads, or attacking innocent civilians in India, or blowing up a train in Spain. They smile when blowing up tourists in Bali, and dance as buildings fall. We smile when babies recover and the children of illiterate shepherds and subsistence farmers learn to read. You have to be willfully blind not to know the difference between the good guys and the bad guys in this place.

What would you guess is the literacy rate in Afghanistan? Click the link above, read the article, and try to reconnect your jaw to the rest of your face.  Understand that we are in this for the long haul, and if Obama will fight that war, and invest in that society, you’d better support that aspect his policy, whether or not you voted for him.

And whenever you get a chance, put a stake through the heart of moral equivalence argumentation.  Most of the time, we ARE the good guys in the world (which is what makes our occasional failures so remarkable, and so attention getting), and if we give that ambition up, we die, first by abdication, and later, by national assassination, which will be all we deserve.

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Nov 16 2008

The Iraq War is won: now, Obama and the Afghanistan war

Category: Afghanistanharmonicminer @ 9:50 am

Here is how it works: for the first two years of a presidency that inherits a war, you can keep calling it the war begun by your predecessor. After that, win, lose or draw, you own it. Nixon found this out when he took the Vietnam War from Johnson. Obama is going to have to disappoint many of his peace-nik supporters and put more force into the war, and fight it even more vigorously, or he is going to have to just pull out and blame the loss on Bush. What he can’t do is just sit there in the status quo.

If the Afghan war isn’t won, or clearly about to be, in the next two years, and he isn’t deep into pulling out, the “quagmire” will be his, and only die-hard supporters will buy that it’s still Bush’s war.  On the other hand, if he’s pulling out by then, even with a loss, he can probably salvage the good opinion of many of his supporters, those who don’t think much about the future of terrorist attacks on the USA, and are happy to lose any old way, as proof of American inferiority, which excites them.

NATO’s impatience with the Afghan war, and the failure of non-English speaking NATO members to really fight in it (as opposed to just providing logistical support, etc.), is probably not going to be curable by Obamian rhetorical style, regardless of cheering throngs on his grand tour of Europe.  Obama will discover the exact limits of being “well regarded by the world”, which does not produce much actual action, but merely a lessening in bilious criticism.

Does Obama have the stomach to WIN the war?  I don’t know.  I hope so.  Anything else is bound to kill LOTS more Americans, sooner or later.

Continue reading “The Iraq War is won: now, Obama and the Afghanistan war”

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Aug 24 2008

Petraeus on the war. Subtext: we REALLY need a grown-up in the White House

Q&A: Gen. David Petraeus on Leaving Iraq | Newsweek Iraq War | Newsweek.com

we have to be very careful, and we are with respect to Anbar. We know [the insurgents are] trying to come back in … and we have picked up a number of those individuals who have tried to come back in. And of course they attacked and killed several of our marines and sheiks in the attack [June 26 in Karmah, near Fallujah]. But the fact is that the level of violence in Anbar is the lowest in our recorded history, literally, the lowest of any of our data.

Read it all. Hope he enters politics someday. He seems to tell the unvarnished truth.

h/t: Michael Yon

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Jul 28 2008

Respect to our soldiers

Category: Afghanistan,election 2008,McCain,middle east,military,politics,terrorismharmonicminer @ 9:20 am

Soldiers recount deadly attack on Afghanistan outpost | Stars and Stripes

Walker and two other wounded soldiers distributed their ammo and grenades and passed messages.

The whole FOB was covered in dust and smoke, looking like something out of an old Western movie.

“I’ve never seen the enemy do anything like that,” said Walker, who was medically evacuated off the FOB in one of the first helicopters to arrive. “It’s usually three RPGs, some sporadic fire and then they’re gone … I don’t where they got all those RPGs. That was crazy.”

Two hours after the first shots were fired, Stafford made his way — with help — to the medevac helicopter that arrived.

“It was some of the bravest stuff I’ve ever seen in my life, and I will never see it again because those guys,” Stafford said, then paused. “Normal humans wouldn’t do that. You’re not supposed to do that — getting up and firing back when everything around you is popping and whizzing and trees, branches coming down and sandbags exploding and RPGs coming in over your head … It was a fistfight then, and those guys held ’ em off.”

Stafford offered a guess as to why his fellow soldiers fought so hard.

“Just hardcoreness I guess,” he said. “Just guys kicking ass, basically. Just making sure that we look scary enough that you don’t want to come in and try to get us.”

You need to click the link at the top, and read this whole thing. And you need to show respect to our fighting men. These men are not victims, they are heroes who choose to serve us, and they deserve the best we can give them, including the leadership we elect for them.

hat tip: blackfive

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Jul 23 2008

Barack’s extended family is SO proud he’s on tour

Category: Afghanistan,election 2008,Europe,humor,Iraq,media,Obama,politics,White Househarmonicminer @ 11:40 pm

to; george@sorosenterprises.com

Dear George,

Barack’s school theater troup is on a field trip. Isn’t he cute? Don’t you just LOVE the way he delivers speeches? Doesn’t he look GREAT up there? He sounds just like one of the grown-ups when he talks, as long as he stays on script.

He looked so adorable playing with the real soldiers. He could so totally play the role of president in a movie.

It’s pretty clear that improvisational theater will never be his thing, but hey, lots of fine actors just learn their lines and deliver them well, with suitable feeling and gesture.

Uncle Charlie, Uncle Brian and Aunt Katie are SO good with the video cameras: we’re all going to have some great home movies. Wasn’t it sweet of them to come along and video Barack’s trip for the rest of the family, and provide helpful narration of his better work? They’re so good at just getting his best performances on tape, and shooting from the best angles, and downplaying the awkward spots, or even just editing them out. We’ll have to have them over for dinner soon. It’s wonderful to have such fine people in the family.

Continue reading “Barack’s extended family is SO proud he’s on tour”