A Horrifically Bad Idea

Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times
Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times

Where’s the “Mission Accomplished” banner, Mr. President?

The President addressed the cadets at West Point tonight taking a play out of his predecessor’s playbook: surround yourself with troops, and appeal (six times) to 9/11:

To address these important issues, it’s important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place. We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, 19 men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people. They struck at our military and economic nerve centers. They took the lives of innocent men, women, and children without regard to their faith or race or station. Were it not for the heroic actions of passengers onboard one of those flights, they could have also struck at one of the great symbols of our democracy in Washington, and killed many more.

He states himself that al Qaeda is no longer in Afghanistan:

As we know, these men belonged to al Qaeda — a group of extremists who have distorted and defiled Islam, one of the world’s great religions, to justify the slaughter of innocents. Al Qaeda’s base of operations was in Afghanistan, where they were harbored by the Taliban — a ruthless, repressive and radical movement that seized control of that country after it was ravaged by years of Soviet occupation and civil war, and after the attention of America and our friends had turned elsewhere.

It’s also nice to be reminded just how horrible those Taliban are: “ruthless, repressive and radical.” Nice alteration, Mr. President. Excellent work on painting the enemy as less than human.

So the occupation that has lasted for the past eight years will continue for at least another 19 months. We’re barely two years shy of the total occupation that the Soviets managed (and that we condemned while we funded and armed the opposition) during the 80’s. But this shouldn’t be viewed as a new Vietnam:

First, there are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another Vietnam. They argue that it cannot be stabilized, and we’re better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing. I believe this argument depends on a false reading of history. Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action. Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency. And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border. To abandon this area now — and to rely only on efforts against al Qaeda from a distance — would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our homeland and our allies.

The United States officially had soldiers in Vietnam from 1965-1975.  This is not like that at all.

Mr. President, on September 23, 2001 I stood in a pulpit and spoke to a people who were afraid and angry. I read Romans 12:20-21:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

What I said then is true today: We cannot defeat terror by being more terrifying. It was true for President Bush. It’s still true for President Obama. This increase of soldiers in Afghanistan is a horrifically bad idea.

"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.


    1. Exactly my point . . . Conservatives will never accept any moves towards appeasement from a Democratic President. Democratic Senators sure they’ll accept any capitulation. But from the President, they’re only looking for defeat.

      1. Republicans. Not conservatives. Republicans.

        Personally I think it is a good start. We helped make the mess, we should clean it up. In many ways, it is like Viet Nam. The entire “war” shifted on us while we weren’t paying attention, and we fell behind. We do that. AS a rule, it seems America is slow to change.

        And I like that passage from Romans. And I think, if ever in history there was an Army that held true to that passage, it would be ours. I’m not saying they are doing it perfectly, but I’d argue that never before in history has there been a more humanitarian military than our own.

        And before you throw torture or some other red herring into the mix, remember that those actions were rare, exceptions and illegal or at least questionable. But in many armies around the world today, and most armies in the past (including our own) they were the norm, and no one would have batted an eye to them.

        Question, how long did we stay in Germany and Japan? I forget.

        1. Okay, I’ll give you that, but in my defense, I don’t know any self-described conservatives who support Obama.

          I agree that our army and armed forces in general are overwhelmingly humanitarian. I am not blaming them for following orders or doing their jobs to the best of their ability. My venom is directed toward our political leaders who are too chicken to realize that making peace takes a will far stronger than making war.

          Did I misunderstand Obama’s intent? Is he sending these additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan on a humanitarian mission?

          Germany and Japan were different situations than Afghanistan and Iraq. (Talk about me making use of red herrings . . . )

  1. Exactly how are Germany and Japan different? They are at least as similar as Viet Nam.

    And no, you didn’t misunderstand his intentions. But at the same time, we’ll be like we were in Germany and Japan, and when we leave Afghanistan it will be a better place than before we screwed it up with our invasion.

    Iraq, different matter. I don’t know why we ever went in there.

    And, you know one self described conservative who supports Obama. At least on this issue. Frankly, in many issues.

    But not health care. At least, not what I’ve seen so far. I’m not opposed to universal access on principle, but am opposed to most of the plans put forth so far.

    1. The difference is that since 1945 there hasn’t been ANY active hostile opposition to American forces being in Germany and Japan.

      One quick statistic will demonstrate the difference:

      How many US troops have died in Germany and Japan in the past 64 years? I’ve looked quickly, but haven’t found any. I’m sure there must be some, but the number is likely less than 100 in 64 years, and I doubt any of those deaths would be considered combat deaths.

      How many US troops have dies combat deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq in the past 8 years? 5,299. 932 have died in Afghanistan alone, and 302 of those deaths occurred in 2009. http://icasualties.org/

      That’s how the situation is different.

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