Obama’s speech hasn’t sent me racing to the barricades to either oppose or support his policy. The best thing about the speech was its tone: somber and sober. Nobody does the two S’s as well as the President. The worst thing about the speech was the troop increase: I doubt that it will work. Foreign powers have been trying to secure the rural areas of Afghanistan for centuries and there are always rebels in the mountains shooting at them. It’s a combination of geography and culture: Afghanistan remains a largely illiterate country dominated by tribes and war lords.

This is a tough time to be President; much of Obama’s job is to clean up the messes left behind by therecklessness, arrogance and stupidity of the Bushies. The Pashtun tribal areas of what could be called Afpakistan are perhaps the biggest mess of all. There was a rush to invade Afghanistan combined with mindless support for the Pakistani military junta of Musharraf. As we all know, that’s what set the stage for the current mess.

Obama made it clear that he considers this course to be the least bad one for the country. I not only hope that he’s right but that he will resist the inevitable demands from the Pentagon for more boots on the ground. I was relieved that he set a timeline for withdrawal and hope that he sticks to it. I think we should start withdrawing earlier than that and follow the sage advice of the Vietnam era Republican Senator from Vermont, George Aiken and “declare victory” and get the hell out of there pronto. Yeah, I know, everyone quotes Aiken at times like these but troubled times call for the classics. Speaking of which, Dan Rather was on the Rachel Maddow Show Monday night and also invoked the Aiken refrain:

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11 thoughts on “Ambivalent

  1. It should be a given that there were/are no good answers to the question about what to do now in Afghanistan. Any policy adopted is a bad one in many ways. So, in my opinion, the President had the responsibility to pick the option that would do the least harm to our country. He didn’t do that, and I suspect he became doomed to be a one term president as a result.
    It is time to figure out what we should do when faced with President Palin in 2013.

  2. hoppy, if Iraq couldn’t make Bush a one-term president, then I doubt Afghanistan will make Obama a one-term president.
    Wecan credibly declare victory in the Afghan war; we accomplished our initial goal of busting up al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. We tolerated the Taliban before 9/11, and we might have to tolerate them again after we leave and they win the second Afghan civil war — on the condition they don’t support al-Qaeda, in which case we send strike forces in and repeat the offensive of late 2001.
    Successful US strategy has always been to strike, not occupy, unless it’s a big war with maximum support. Since independence there have been only three of those: the Civil War and the two World Wars.

  3. i got the feeling that if he could have just pulled out, he would have. and he tried to keep the troop count down, WHILE making sure there were enough. and there is the pull out. and END. i fear the years of georgee made it a LONG SLUG. georgee oedipal made things axtra bad. are we out of iWaq yet?

  4. It’s just such an ambiguous mess, which is why I’m ambivalent.
    For Obama to be a one term President, he’d have to have a challenger who could do well in New Hampshire. That’s the template for President’s who lose or quit. Poppy Bush first had Buchanan and later Perot to contend with. It’s the classic scenario.

  5. First of all I would like to say that staying in Afghanistan and not making a hasty exit is the right thing to do. The Iraq war may have been the wrong war for the wrong reasons but going into Afghanistan was not only the right thing to do for America but was also the right thing to do for the Afghan people and for the stability of that part of the world. Leaving now would have undone any of the good work done there and would been a waste of the sacrifices of all the forces sent there over the past few years.
    However I believe that sending in 30000 more soldiers will be a waste of time unless there is a change of policy in how the forces take on the Taliban and a change of training for those men and women before they are sent. The US Army can no longer go to places with the wam bam thank you maam attitude of the past with the comfort that they have the greater numbers and better weapons. The enemies today are elusive targets and have the intelligence to appeal to the hearts and minds of the locals whom the nato forces have to win the trust of.

  6. Scotsman, we will have to disagree on this one. It was never a good decision to send the military into Afghanistan, set up a puppet named Karzai, or whatever it is, to pretend to rule the country, and it is an especially bad mistake to ignore the previous mistakes.
    Now I try…, American voters will always elect the man who they think will cut someone’s taxes, even if he is a proven pedophile, but that only works for Repubs, since Democrats can’t be assumed to always cut taxes. Mark my words, Obama will not be reelected without switching parties.

  7. Who’s going to challenge him in the primaries, Hoppy? That’s well nigh a prerequisite for a sitting President to lose. I think a lot of folks to his left will think twice about alienating black voters.

  8. In two more years there may be several good alternative candidates. Two years before Johnson pulled out of the race no one would have predicted he was near the end of his term of office, either.
    Obama has to start doing something progressive, and stop emulating Bush. If he does it quickly he has a chance, but I see nothing that would make me believe that he will do that.

  9. The thing is, Hoppy, Obama is doing on Afghanistan what he said he’d do during the campaign. I’m not crazy about it but it’s not doing what Bush would do. Bush did not finish what he started in that backwards country and left a horrible mess.
    I just don’t see a truly viable challenger on Obama’s left who would have the guts to run and try and take out the first African-American President. They’d have no chance of winning a general and pols don’t run unless they think they can win. Unless, that is, there’s a new Adlai Stevenson or Gene McCarthy out there.

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