Obama’s War Indeed


One could simply grouse with reference to the Great Game — better know in journo-jargon than in reality — and say the whole Af-Pak situation is hopeless and have a reasonable chance of being right. Adding, of course, we should not be there. We should walk away.

Or one could add in the following condition or question and see how it affected your point of view:

If Afghanistan falls to the Taliban, placing Pakistan under threat of the same, would it become an uncontainable terrorist base, signaling serious and perhaps terminal danger to the United States?

If your answer is yes, you do not have the luxury of blowing the whole thing off.

I never thought I would give Barack Obama the nod on a policy that is sure to be dubbed neocon-ish, but this is my tentative nod. And I would like to be able to write in three months or so that Obama Was Smart (smarter than most of us who questioned it) To Stay The Course.


Afghanistan: We Need Focus, Not Surges

NOTE: Also posted at Huffington Post Your comments there would be appreciated. Huff has a habit of submerging posts in rapid fashion and has done so with this.


Focus, not surges, is what is needed in Afghanistan.

Surges is what Joe Lieberman is proposing, in a widely praised speech given at the Brookings Institution. READ IT HERE

The first surge that Lieberman proposes is in coherence. The final reason that the Senator gives for all his surges is that Afghanistan is the center of global Islamic terrorism. And that we must overcome it there.

There are several problens with Lieberman’s approach besides the fact that terrorism has no geographical limits and that it is more a mindset than the province of any group or religion.

1. We cannot defeat the Taliban militarily. Lieberman suggests we could, with a coherent strategy. We can no more beat the Taliban than we could beat the willing suicide soldiers of Ho Chi Minh. We need to talk, not merely to the Taliban but all terrorists.

President Obama has been doing this in his own utterances.

The battle against “Islamic terrorism” is a code word for unilateral military conquest.In reality, terrorism is a mindset that has nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with an exit from tolerable civil behavior, wherever it occurs.

2. We cannot ensure that the coming elections in Afghanistan will go our way, whatever that might be. A fight with the Taliban to ensure “fair” elections assumes that Afghanistan is a functioning democratic state that can exercise central control over its disparate centers of leadership. Karzai with his corrupt associations has demonstrated the weakness of an effort that is completely reactive to the Taliban.

3. We cannot “nice” our way to any good end in Afghanistan. The notion that a benevolent approach would result in sowing love where there is now resentment is as fatuous as assuming that Iraq will operate on anything other than the conflicting self-interests of its various factions.

What then is an honest answer for Afghanistan?

Talk to the Taliban.

Make the quest for Al Queda, which is itself fraught with ironical dangers when it comes to preventing even more terrorist activity, dependent on an invitation from Pakistan.

Figure out an exit strategy from Afghanistan.

If we are going to play an active role in a global effort to counter terrorism and genocide, do it through acceptable channels.

The Lieberman route is the neocon route and violates every Niebuhrian caution in the book. The only protection against this is the instincts of Barack Obama and of the military observers who are not afraid to utter the word quagmire.

We do not need the Lieberman surges. We need sage disengagement coupled with a tough assault on terrorism, where and when we are invited to do so. Not an an Islamic phenomenon, but as the unacceptable action of any group or individual who believes they have the right to take innocent lives to further political ends.


Is Barack A Neocon?

Before you recoil in horror, consider this piece by Jacob Heilbrunn, already published, but set to appear in the Jan. 12 issue of The American Conservative.

… the notion that Obama will seek to roll back the American empire is a pipedream. It wasn’t McCain but Obama who declared on the campaign trail that America has to “lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good.”


Despite my effort to raise the issue of nonviolence, it is clear that there will be none of that in an administration committed to enlarging the military. Still, the degree to which diplomacy will be soft rather than the same old Clinton-Bush seat-of-the-pants military engagement is germane. And ultimately the entire effect of the Obama administration will be judged on whether there was change or not. And the issue that will tell the tale is whether Barack turned out to be a neocon or turned away from that exceptionalist, prideful and ultimately self-destructive course.