Obama Goes AWOL On Afghanistan

July 20th, 2010 at 3:25 am | 31 Comments |

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Most senior U.S. military leaders believe that the United States can’t lose in Afghanistan — provided our political class remains committed to a long, ailment messy and protracted counterinsurgency campaign. But if we do lose, physician who’s to blame:

  1. the American people, for prematurely (albeit understandably) tiring of the war;
  2. the new right-wing isolationists;
  3. the war itself, because it proved too hard and too difficult to win; or
  4. President Obama, the Democratic Party, and the left-leaning political class, which includes the legacy media and the leftist net-roots?

There are elements of truth in all of these answers, of course. Indeed, all of these people and groups would bear some responsibility for an American defeat in Afghanistan. However, the most blameworthy and culpable, I believe, are those in choice “d”: President Obama, the Democratic Party, and the left-leaning political class.

I say this because these are the people and groups who are incessantly saying, “No we can’t!” even as the U.S. military respectfully says, “Yes we can!”

The new commanding general of U.S. Central Command, General James N. Mattis, alluded to this problem in a recent speech to the Navy League in Norfolk, Virginia. The General had recently returned from Afghanistan and, according to the Virginia Pilot, concluded that:

the American people should not lose faith now.

“The only way we can lose this war is if we lose it in Paris and Brussels, in Berlin and Washington, if we lose it in the bars in Boston and the living rooms of Illinois. That’s where we would lose it.”

Yet, amongst the internationalist and interventionist Right — of which I am a proud, card-carrying member — there is considerable angst and alarm over what appears to be the growing influence of the new right-wing isolationists: people like GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul and Republican Congressmen Jason Chaffetz (Utah), Walter B. Jones (N.C.), Ron Paul (Tex.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.).

The concern is that by tapping into a populist backlash against the war, these conservatives might be helping to effect a military defeat for the nation and a political defeat for the Republican Party. Thus warns historian Ron Radosh,

The danger is that those who now believe the Afghanistan war is unwinnable, and that we should scuttle our Afghanistan policy and withdraw, will soon be moving on to demand acceptance of the entire neo-isolationist agenda [which includes protectionism and a nonassertive American foreign policy].

Political analyst John Avlon concurs: “Short-term partisan calculus,” he observes,

will likely cause Republican leaders to encourage an uneasy alliance with the neo-isolationists because they hope to benefit from their aggressive dislike of President Obama in the mid-term elections. But their increased influence on the GOP could prove disastrous for a serious 2012 presidential nominee who will have to campaign as being ‘strong on national security’ and confront an ongoing non-optional war against Islamist terrorism.

I think Radosh and Avalon have it backwards. The right-wing isolationists aren’t driving this debate; the debate (or lack thereof) is sustaining them. Indeed, they’re filling a leadership void that shouldn’t exist — and which, if it didn’t exist, would mean an even smaller and more marginal group of right-wing isolationists.

So worry not about the new conservative anti-warriors. They really aren’t much of a problem. Given strong countervailing leadership, the American people are not inclined to follow them down the primrose path to defeat.

But therein lies the rub: You can’t beat something with nothing, as the political consultants like to say. If the right-wing isolationists are to be beaten back, then advocates of an assertive U.S. foreign policy, and victory in Afghanistan and Iraq, had better start speaking out. The danger, it seems to me, is not that the American people will bug out on Afghanistan; it is that the political class — and the president especially — will fail to lead.

And in fact, the president and the political class have been mostly AWOL re Afghanistan. They have said little and done even less. The war, meanwhile, seems to drift on aimlessly, with no end in sight.

Is anyone surprised, then, to learn that public sentiment has turned against the war? I’m certainly not. The American people are rightly worried that their political leaders have no real strategy for winning in Afghanistan, and who can blame them?

Still, this doesn’t make the American people anti-war, because they’re not. They’re anti-losing! Yet, despite the thinking of General Mattis and other senior military leaders, Radosh accepts the losing narrative of the political class. Thus he writes:

As the nation comes to tire with the loss of American lives in Afghanistan, and with no clear strategy for ‘victory’ and not enough troops to secure success for the McChrystal-Petraeus strategy of counterinsurgency, the possibility exists that a growing antiwar movement might take root, as it did as Vietnam dragged on.

That would not only divide the nation, but potentially lead to continuing Democratic strength among the electorate, and drain the chances for Republican electoral success. For those reasons among others, it is important to raise the issue of foreign policy now, rather than later when it may be too late.

I agree with Radosh about the need to elevate foreign policy in the national dialogue. However, I disagree with his prognosis for Afghanistan. Radosh blithely assumes that Afghanistan will prove to be the unwinnable “quagmire” that the Left and the media habitually foresee. But this is far from given, especially in light of the dramatic turnaround that took place in Iraq.

This turnaround took place precisely because the U.S. military belatedly embraced a counterinsurgency strategy — just as it is now doing in Afghanistan. This strategy, as General Petraeus has explained, is designed to achieve victory, and there is nothing suspect (Radosh puts “victory” in quotes) about it.

Radosh is right that there may be too few troops in Afghanistan. General McChrystal had given President Obama three options. The option that offered the best chance for success, he told the president, involved 80,000 additional troops. But Obama chose the middle option, which provided for just 30,000 additional troops.

If this has turned out to be a problem, then our commanders on the ground have a solemn obligation to speak out and to say so — and our political leaders have an equally solemn obligation to acknowledge and address this problem. But it’s premature, as of now, to say that there are not enough troops in Afghanistan to achieve victory. Maybe, maybe not. In any case, troop levels should be constantly reviewed and assessed and adjusted accordingly.

Radosh also exaggerates the potential for “a growing anti-war movement,” such as took root during the Vietnam War. In truth, the anti-war movement all but disappeared after the draft ended in 1973. But today, everyone who serves in the U.S. military is a volunteer. Thus, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines expect to deploy and to fight. In fact, for many of them, that is precisely why they signed up for military service.

Moreover, like its pale sister during the Iraq War, the anti-war movement during Vietnam fed off the burgeoning sense that America had no clear strategy to achieve victory. The prevailing view became that we were fighting an “unwinnable war.”

But while that certainly was true for a long time in both Vietnam and Iraq, it is no longer true in Afghanistan. We now have a clear and successful strategy for victory. We now recognize that we are fighting a protracted counterinsurgency campaign.

Americans aren’t defeatists; they’re winners. They like to fight and they like to win, as Patton once reminded us. Our people will endure casualties in pursuit of a just and winning cause. But what rightly infuriates the American people is the sense that our political leaders are using our military to fight and die in a hopeless and unnecessary war.

That’s why political leadership is so important — and it’s especially important today, what with 24/7 cable television news, the internet and smart phones.

It’s especially important today because people nowadays are digitally connected always to the media, which is ubiquitous. Thus, it is absolutely critical that our political leaders constantly articulate, in new and compelling ways, the nature of the threat that we face, why we are at war, and why we must fight.

George W. Bush’s failure to effectively exercise the bully pulpit was a major failure of his presidency; and so, too, with Obama: He rarely talks about the war and, in fact, seems studiously uninterested in Afghanistan (and Iraq.)

This is not surprising. The president’s priorities clearly lie elsewhere: with domestic change and “reform.” Thus, in his Dec. 1, 2009 speech at West Point Obama warned that “our troops commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended: because the nation that I’m most interested in building is our own.”

This, of course, is a false choice based upon bad analysis. Obama’s false choice pits American economic prosperity against relative peace and stability in Afghanistan. But the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan account for little more than one percent of America’s Gross Domestic Product.

Indeed, as the Heritage Foundation points out: “The 2010 projected war cost of $95 billion is just 2.6% of the total proposed 2010 $3.8 trillion budget.” And what’s more, Heritage notes, domestic social-welfare spending far exceeds wartime defense expenditures. In fact,

one year of welfare under Obama eclipses [the total] seven-year cost of [the] Iraq War: According to the Congressional Research Service, the [cumulative] cost of the Iraq war through the end of the Bush Administration was around $622 billion. By contrast, annual federal and state means-tested welfare spending will reach $888 billion in FY 2010. Federal welfare spending alone will equal $697 billion in that year.

Obama’s bad analysis involves warning against an “open-ended” troop commitment in Afghanistan. Obama thinks that if we don’t set an artificial deadline for withdrawal from Afghanistan, then the Afghan people will grow dependent upon us and refuse to make the hard choices necessary to sustain themselves independent of American military action.

The truth, though, is quite the opposite: In the absence of a clear and unshakable American commitment to do whatever it takes to win, the Afghan people are worried that we’ll bug out on them and abandon them at their maximum hour of need. Consequently, they have been reluctant to fully embrace us and to trust us. This is a real problem and obstacle because in a counterinsurgency campaign, the people are the center of gravity; they are the prize to be won.

For all of these reasons, I’m not much worried about the new right-wing isolationists. They’ll pipe down and remain marginal when the American people start seeing tangible signs of military progress in Afghanistan.

What I am very worried about, however, is the lack of political leadership in Washington. The political class, after all, has a long and sordid history of losing its nerve when the going gets tough. Indeed, that’s been their modus operandi ever since the Vietnam War. And when you combine that with a president who’d rather not be commander-in-chief, you have the distinct possibility that America will needlessly lose in Afghanistan.

But if that happens, don’t blame the American people; don’t blame the war; and don’t blame the right-wing isolationists. Blame the political class; blame the Democratic Party; blame the anti-war Left — and blame especially the president whom they bequeathed us: Because he will be the one who says, “No we can’t!”, even as the U.S. military says, “Yes we can!”

You can follow John Guardiano on Twitter: @JohnRGuardiano

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31 Comments so far ↓

  • drdredel

    How about we skip the blame (and the empty rhetoric while we’re at it) and just acknowledge the obvious.

    a) there is not now nor was there every any “war”. We got angry because we were attacked by criminals and decided to kill some brown people in their general part of the world as retaliation.

    b) before going to kill some brown people it would have been useful to decided on how many dead brown people would satisfy our need for revenge.

    c) we failed to properly prepare (B) prior to attacking and now are stuck with no actual goal or purpose nor with any clear vision on whether enough brown people are currently dead/mamed.

    There is no “WIN” John… there isn’t even a vague definition of what “win” looks like! We’re blowing leaves in the wind. It’s time to pack up and go home… not because of what the generals say or don’t say, but because there is no missions, there is no objective, there is no purpose and this charade is very very VERY expensive!

    Don’t get me wrong, I like to see dead brown people as much as anyone, but I’m pretty sure we’ve demonstrated to them what we mean by “freedom” (i.e. the freedom to not be required to have your limbs attached to your torso) and at this point enough of them have been “freed” to keep the rest hating us for at least a generation or two, so… MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Time to pull out.

    But fine… if it will placate your adolescent “mind” to blame Obama… by all means… blame him. I can assure you that those of us who voted for him, with the hope/assumption that he is smarter than you, and understands my bullet points above, and will do his darnedest to wrap this nonsense up and bring our troops home from both their absurd ventures, will be deeply and thoroughly satisfied.

  • KandaharCityCanuck


    Respectfully, the focus in this article on political and military personalities is entirely off the mark. Bush / Obama, McChrystal / Petraeus – these differences simply do not matter at this point in the war. In other words, choice 3 is the correct answer. This war has been over for quite some time; it is simply that one side has not yet realized it (and I am not talking about the Taliban here).

    The forces that are shaping the end state of the conflict are so large and slow-moving that none can be turned around in the near, or mid-term:

    1) the failure of a centralized Karzai-led approach to governance and ingrained corruption at all levels of Afghan public life;
    2) the total inability of the coalition forces to understand Afghan (and primarily Pashtun / Taliban) values;
    3) the reality of a tough neighborhood pursuing regional objectives totally at odds with the goal of a stable Afghanistan; and,
    4) the continued and increasing influx of arms to informal actors and groups under the guise of local defence initiatives, i.e., pursuing short term gains in exchange for long term pain.

    To ignore these defining factors, and attribute the fate of Afghanistan to the vagaries of American leadership is simply wrong and, I would add, embarrassingly self-absorbed. It isn’t always about Republicans versus Democrats. Sometimes it’s just a good old-fashioned ‘ass-whupping’.

  • TerryF98

    John Guardiano,

    Almost as wrong all of the time as Carl Rove. And has just about as much credibility. Remember the utter BS he wrote about the McChrystal firing. Why is he still here presumably being paid for this utter bullshit?

    Really there must be military analysts better than this. Why does this blog constantly serve up this tripe from Guardiano and Linnane?

    I won’t comment on the article as it is yet another boilerplate bash Obama, killing brown people good, war is great, and spending more than the rest of the world on the military is fine for my bank account piece.

  • bamboozer

    TerryF98 gets it right and I certainly do agree: Why serve up this crap?

  • Derek

    Lets see, without offering even one shred of factual evidence to support his theory that the same people who are now escalating the war in Afghanistan, are responsible for losing it, this article reaches for even higher levels of ignorance beyond that. I’m not about to offer a counter cause for an event that hasn’t happened yet, but surely even a right-wing propagandist recognizes that blaming an entire group of people for a future event disqualifies him from anything but barking out his hate on a soap box in some unknown park, rather than writing here. David Frum ought to be ashamed for publishing this crap.

  • TerryF98

    I wonder if there is actually someone who reads articles before they are posted?

    Does any critical analysis happen or are “writers” able just to put their pieces up without any editorial policy or oversight?

    It sure seems that a load of dross gets put up here by the same few people.

  • Xunzi Washington

    This is an amusing, though in the end empty, column. John draws up a lists of reasons why a war can be lost, three (1, 2 and 4) of which serve as political reasons and one, 3, a military one. He then argues that if Afghanistan is lost, it will be because of political reasons.

    Of course, this relies on us believing that criteria or reason 3 has not been triggered. Of course, in the midst of a Guardiano column, criterion #3 is highly suspect because I sincerely doubt that there are any conditions whatsoever that would lead John to agree that it had finally been triggered.

    Isn’t that right, John? Can you imagine _any_ circumstances under which you’d say “okay, we lost due to 3″?

  • Derek

    It is surprising that George Bush and the Republicans, who invaded Afghanistan and then ran off to attack a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, leaving the Afghan war in limbo, is not on the list of potential causes for a potential loss. Oh wait a minute, the fact that they are missing is not a surprise at all.

  • easton

    Yes, I agree it is utter garbage, but from a different perspective. This guy is publicly declaring defeat and then blaming this defeat on Democrats. The war is not lost, not close to being lost, in fact we have and are accomplishing our one goal, to prevent Al Qaeda and their Taliban allies from having a state.

    Obama has in fact done everything the army has asked of him, increased troop strength, came up with a plan devised by the best minds of our military and he is sticking to it. John Guardiano should be offering support instead of stating that we should just surrender now since he does not trust Obama to follow through. I have little doubt after reading crap like this that Guardiano is praying for our defeat so he can crow, but if we win then he will crow that it was HIS support of our military that did it, and how they won in spite of Obama.

    I hate Bush but I supported the surge because I always believed that Shinseki was right, that we could not win in Iraq with a light footprint new agey warfare, and Bush finally came around and brought about the surge and we have had the success we have had.

    By the way, how disappointed Guardiano must be that Obama did not pull all our troops out of Iraq, that becoming President gave intelligence access so that he could understand his campaign promise to pull out all the troops was bunk. Has Guardiano once acknowledged and applauded this?

    I, for one, loathe this notion that once a politician makes some kind of promise he is forever bound to it. Both Bush and Obama adapted as to Iraq, and what looked like a horrendous blunder might yet still be saved. I will not write off Obama as to Afghanistan. I promise you we will not lose. In fact, I guarantee it.

  • Drosz

    Here’s the problem I have with articles like this…it’s more than a counterinsurgency campaign. Have you spoken with Marines returning from Afghanistan? We’re talking combat everyday. Trench-style warfare (not WW I style, mind you), but small pockets of engagement throughout contested regions. Marines are sleeping in trenches and engaging the enemy throughout the day and night. That’s not counterinsurgency or unconventional warfare, that’s open conflict using battlefield tactics.

    I’m not sure what’s truly happening over there, because what I hear from my buddies coming back and what I see in pieces like this and in the media are two completely different things. However, if such fighting continues, it’s actually in our favor as the Taliban and their supporters would be hard pressed to defeat the US in open conflict. However, we’ve heard this music before haven’t we? The Taliban fled the country…but now they’re back and ready to engage the US in open conflict? Something doesn’t jive.

    My prediction? We’ll force them back into a counterinsurgency for awhile where they’ll pull back, reintegrate into the cities, countryside and neighboring nations, recruit more folks, and return to start over again. Just like they did over the last eight years…scratch that, just like they did over the last 50 years. Folks have said we have a clearly defined goal for victory, but I haven’t seen it expressed. That bothers me.

    I would love to see victory over the Taliban, who are definitely enemies of the US. But is it possible to destroy their capacity to wage infinite war? You mentioned winning the hearts and minds, but after eight years, I’m not sure how much progress we’ve made.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a fight worth making, if the will is there. Why? Because these folks have a strong network of allies who are, and will continue, to work against US interests and if we pull out now their position will be that much stronger. But complaints about interventionists and their policies aren’t much off the mark, in my opinion.

    There has to be a change in how we are carrying out such operations and when we decide enough is enough. A small number of Americans are carrying the mental and physical load of a nation that’s supposedly at war. Couple that with the moronic way I saw civilian defense officials handle situations under Bush…it was complete stupidity and borderline insanity. That’s no way to win. So, sorry, Mr. Guardiano, you guys had your chance for eight years…and you blew it. Give someone else a chance.

  • sinz54

    “drdredel,” despite his rather wild rant, is raising THE important question:

    What exactly would satisfy Americans that the 9-11 atrocity had been avenged, and justice done?

    The answer is obvious: Shooting down Osama bin Laden in his cave like a dog.

    THAT is why we invaded Afghanistan in the first place. It wasn’t to “kill brown people” (are the Afghans “brown”?). It was to trap Osama bin Laden and his top henchmen, shoot or capture them, and capture all their files and records so we would have enough info to put al-Qaeda out of business. The Afghan government had refused our ultimatum to turn him over to us unconditionally, and so we went to war.

    We failed in that.

    Osama bin Laden escaped our dragnet, and apparently fled to Pakistan.

    Ask yourself this: If Osama bin Laden and his henchmen and files had all fled to Pakistan in the days right after 9-11, would we still have invaded Afghanistan? I think the answer is no. So what exactly is it that we’re trying to do now?

    The world is full of failed states; Afghanistan isn’t the only one. Any of them could be havens for al-Qaeda; and sure enough, we’ve seen them operating in Somalia (and we’ve fought them there with Ethiopia’s help).

    Right after 9-11, I said that if we failed to put al-Qaeda out of business in Pakistan, we would be chasing them around the world like Indiana Jones. And that’s what happened.

    The answer is not a worldwide counterinsurgency campaign to prop up failed states everywhere. It’s to make a difficult decision: How to go after Osama inside a country with a nuclear deterrent and a populace most of whom, frankly, hate our guts.

    The answer is to announce to the world a new American policy: We’re going to be patient. Sooner or later, Osama bin Laden and his top henchmen will make a mistake. And then we’re going to go after them. In Pakistan, their nuke deterrent notwithstanding.

    Our ultimatum to the Paks: Get the hell out of our way, or else.
    We have a bigger nuclear strike force than you do.

    Americans have never been good at counterinsurgency warfare.
    But we’ve been real good at nuclear brinkmanship. The history of the Cold War proves this out.

  • drdredel


    I thought my “rant” would be over-the-top enough to be self evidently so. I think you and I are *mostly on the same page. I was just illustrating the beheaded chicken syndrome of which we’re guilty where we’re enraged and just flailing about; unable to take stock of what our goals are.

    I disagree with you on one count. I don’t think it’s all that imperative that we pursue Bin Laden. Firstly it’s far from clear that he had anything to do with 9/11 (that’s not a conspiracy theory, that’s just a fact… there is nary any evidence to support his participation, other than his claiming to have done it, but of course, given that he’d LOVE to have done it, it makes sense that he’d be happy to take credit once its been assigned to him. there’s also a famous video tape where someone who is clearly NOT him is being present as him, which begs the question, who would make such a video and why… I obviously don’t have an answer to that one).
    Secondly Bin Laden is neither Hitler nor Stalin. The organization is not his, the agenda is not his, and the brains are not his. He’s just the most visible figure head of the moment, but killing him does nothing to alter what the reality of our plight is… if anything it just makes him into a martyr and serves, on some level, to prove his point to the people that subscribe to his flavor of fanaticism.

    Sadly, the solution is one that will take a long, long time. It is one in which we re-build the world’s love for us and make it impossible for fanatics to orchestrate any truly damaging offensives. There will always be the occasional downed jetliner and the infrequent cafe full of charred bodies, but that’s simply unavoidable. The key is to keep the bulk of the world populace either indifferent or actively supporting us, and the truly dangerous weapons out of the hands of those that do not.

  • Oldskool

    To be accurate it should say “Bush Went Awol On Afghnistan”.

  • balconesfault

    Obama has just about tripled the number of troops in Afghanistan … from 34,000 when he took office, to 94,000 as of the end of May. We’ve been stretching international law to the breaking point with our huge increase in (successful) drone attacks on Taliban and Al Qaeda camps in northern Pakistan, at the same time that Hillary has been incredibly active in her negotiations with Pakistan, and we’re pushing new amounts of aid into that country to try to keep it stabilized while we bomb it.

    In short – what the hell is the author talking about, Obama being “AWOL”?

    Does he want Obama to completely ignore the economic mess that Bush left him, don fatigues, and go jumping out of helicopters to shoot him some insurgents? WTF?

  • Watusie

    Does he want Obama to completely ignore the economic mess that Bush left him, don fatigues, and go jumping out of helicopters to shoot him some insurgents?
    Not until he has finished washing all the pelicans.

  • dante

    Oh god, this is exactly one of the reasons why I LEFT the Republican party in the first place. Can ANYBODY tell me how this war is fiscally responsible? How in fighting this war (and the Iraq war) we’re spending our (your, mine, everybody’s) tax dollars wisely? We’re spending trillions of dollars fighting these wars. We’re fighting the same wars that supposedly took down the USSR (thanks to Ronald Reagan!!). Anyone who gives credit for Reagan/Afghanistan taking down the USSR does it by showing that they were bled dry, forced to carry on a very, very costly military campaign against insurgents that slowly drove their economy into debt.

    Hmmm, sound familiar?

    I’m not an isolationist (I supported going into Afghanistan originally to get Osama and the Taliban), but what is this pacifying/nationbuilding BS? GWB had it right in 2000 when he said that we don’t do nationbuilding, it’s just too bad that he spent the next 8 years trying to do exactly that. Insurgencies are almost IMPOSSIBLE to put down militarily. Lets name all the ones that haven’t:

    Afghanistan 1980s

    You claim you want to “win”, but how long does that take? 10 years? (we’re coming up on that milestone pretty quickly) 20 years? 50? 100? How many more trillions of dollars are you willing to spend (of MY GODDAMN MONEY)? I mean, so far ZERO of this war has been paid for. Not a single penny. Every single nickel and dime spent on this war has been added to the national debt, first through “emergency spending” measures each year from 2003 on (thanks Bushie!!), and now on the normal budget. To coincide with this massive spending, we’ve had a tax cut. Yup, the way we pay for our wars is to give lots of rich people lots more money, and force someone like me (34yo) to shoulder the debt for decades to come. No shared sacrifice. No accross-the-board tax increases to pay for it. No belt-tightening in other areas.

    Trust me, if this is the idea of the “new GOP”, count me out. Trillions of my money for war, trillions more for extending the GWB tax cuts ($4.4T to extend them through 2018, thanks Boehner!!), but when it comes to financing unemployment benefits our our nation’s infrastructure, suddenly the Republicans claim there’s no more money left.

    I may not like the Democrat’s financial policies, but at least they’re socially moderate like I am, and the GOP has shown themselves to be at least as bad, if not worse, at fiscal policies…

  • balconesfault

    You claim you want to “win”, but how long does that take? 10 years? (we’re coming up on that milestone pretty quickly) 20 years? 50? 100?


    Q: President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years — (cut off by McCain)

    McCAIN: Make it a hundred.

  • jerseyboy

    I don’t see how we can decide the question of winning/losing the war unless we make clear what the goals are. If the goal is to transform Afghanistan into a well-functioning, minimally corrupt state, then of course we are losing and we will certainly lose. Afghanistan is an awful, backwards country and will always be so. But if are goals are more narrow — such as preventing Afghanistan from serving as a base for terrorism — then success is possible.

    Let’s keep the goals narrow and focused on direct US security interests. If so, we can win!

  • dante


    Q: President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years — (cut off by McCain)

    McCAIN: Make it a hundred.

    And it’s amazing that after being prepared to stay there for 50 years, Bush was still submitting “emergency war spending bills” 7 years after the wars started.

    I just don’t get it. I can’t see in ANY sensible economic method how this makes sense. 9/11 cost us less than $50b total (economic impact, lives lost, material lost), and yet we’ve spent 20x that much in Iraq and Afghanistan already, not counting the costs going forward like caring for wounded vets, economic impact of those who have been killed, etc. 3,000 people were killed on 9/11, and yet we’re already 50% MORE than that with regards to Americans killed in Iraq/Afghanistan.

    If these wars were fully paid for, I would be far more accepting of them. Instead we have wars fought off-balance sheets, paid for 100% by tacking it all onto the national debt, and the Conservatives somehow think that’s fiscally conservative. Combine that with massive tax CUTS during this time, and it’s no wonder the Interventionist Republicans support this “painless war.”

  • medinnus

    The fact of the matter is that if the money for either war was translated by politics into “For every dollar you earn, 15 cents is to pay for the futile wars in the Middle East”, there would be an outrage and a reaction that would have the Chickenhawks who call for, essentially, perpetual war burned on the street corners. Especially if the American people found out how much of that money actually is spent on wastes like that 10B reconstruction contract for CheneyBurton that produced no results.

    No results except to line NeoCon pockets.

    It is only by hiding the costs from the budgetary process that those wars were – and remain – possible.

    EDIT – the whole point of this article was not to provide analysis – but to slam Obama and the Democrats. Every argument the author made was slanted that way. I don’t know why he bothered with a cursory assessment of the other points, except perhaps to lend a faint whiff of “fair and balanced”, which succeeded about as well as Faux News.

  • Xunzi Washington

    I think Mr. Guardiano is “preparing his endgame.” He knows this thing is hopeless so he’s getting his partisan points together for later.

  • LFC

    In short – what the hell is the author talking about, Obama being “AWOL”?

    He or somebody from his administration is not on TV several times a month telling us about the huge successes we’ve had and the great dangers we’ve been saved from, unlike Bush. Remember when Cheney, with a straight (and evil) face, said that the increase in violence in Iraq was a sign of desperation? Do you remember how many important “lieutenants” of AQ we supposedly killed?

    Obama isn’t constantly trumpeting every accomplishment while ignoring every setback, hence in JG’s opinion he’s AWOL.

  • Nona

    Gee, two weeks ago this was Obama’s war and the conservative party line was that it was stupid and useless for us to be there. Careful, you might make Ann Coulter’s head spin around so fast that it comes off.

  • PracticalGirl


    “Let’s keep the goals narrow and focused on direct US security interests”

    The question becomes, of course- what are those interests? And does the US care now most about our “security interests”, or has this become yet another “mineral war”? A stable, friendly Afghanistan could lead to a veritable gold mine-literally and figuratively-for American companies. Has this overtaken any slim, original intent for invasion?

  • morristhewise

    It would be a change for the best if the personality of Mohammed was replaced for that of Jesus who was a more peaceful individual. For that change to take place the Koran would have to be discarded for the New Testament, and the Mosque outfitted with a cross. Over night the Muslim worshipers would become peace loving Christians who attended church services every Sunday. The unemployed imams would become ministers who would follow the teachings of Jesus and officiate in a more peaceful way. Religious beliefs cannot exist without a structure and if mosques suddenly disappeared, a thousand churches would take their place.

  • Drosz


    I hope you’re not serious.

    The economic argument is the strongest I’ve seen against remaining at war in Afghanistan, but it’s also the strongest reason to stay. The war is obviously not sustainable at current levels of spending and progress. But I think the goal would to allow an extraction of troops from a friendly Afghanistan (well, at least not an overt enemyof the US). It’s an important region in terms of security, because of our reliance on oil for energy and the mineral wealth that exists there.

    I’m not gonna lie or BS folks and say this is a fight for freedom or to make the US safe from terrorists except in an extremely indirect way. It obviously passed that point long ago.

    I think everyone needs to realize that if we intend to continue our way of life without a change (the neo-con’s wet dream) these types of conflicts, both hot and cold, will continue. If you look at it that way, the neocon support of constant war to access energy on the cheap makes sense. And I’m sorry to say, without anyone pushing hard for alternative energy sources, they’re about right. Unless of course Americans intend to completely change their lifestyles and help become responsible and respectful stewards of resources…I think we all know that simply won’t happen in the near future. Sad commentary, but it’s true at the moment.

    Anyway, my cynical $.02.

  • cdorsen

    Oh the irony:

    “Obama thinks that if we don’t set an artificial deadline for withdrawal from Afghanistan, then the Afghan people will grow dependent upon us and refuse to make the hard choices necessary to sustain themselves independent of American military action.”

    Rephrase and apply:

    “Obama thinks that if we set a deadline for ending unemployment payments, then the American people will grow dependent upon taxpayers and refuse to make the hard choices necessary to sustain themselves independent of American government action.”

    If only he could see his own wisdom domestically as well as internationally.

  • Xunzi Washington


    Small difference: the capacity for making the hard choices required for self rule is in Afghan hands right now. It’s up to them. The capacity for making the hard choices required to get a job is not up to the unemployed in an environment where there are no jobs.

    The analogy would work better during a normal unemployment environment, but in that context, Democrats agree that you don’t extend UI, because it create perverse incentives.

  • Xunzi Washington

    I would say “John Guardiano has left the building” but I don’t think he was ever IN the building.

  • medinnus

    @ morristhewise

    *Closes a history book chronicling the atrocities committed in Jesus’ name, from the conversion of pagans by fire and sword to the bombings by both Prods and Provos in Northern Ireland and the assassination of pro-choice medical people in the United States*

    Yes, clearly Christians have a long history of being a peace-loving, non-violent people.

  • easton

    sinz: How to go after Osama inside a country with a nuclear deterrent and a populace most of whom, frankly, hate our guts.

    That is simply not true and shows a very little understanding of the Pakistani people. The government of Pakistan is fighting the Taliban at our behest, and they knowingly allow our drones to fly unimpeded over the country (or does sinz believe the slow moving drones can not be shot down by modern Pakistani jets, many of which are American made?)

    As to Afghanistan, this war is not destined for failure. Afghanistan has been defeated more times than pretty much everyone. It is a hodgepodge of ethnic groups and tribes that hate each other far more than they will ever hate us. If we were to behave as the Russians did and indiscriminately kill, then perhaps we can unite them against us, but we don’t. We need not pacify and build the country, we need only prevent the Taliban from winning. And they themselves never succeeded in winning in Afghanistan before 9/11, huge tracts of the country were outside of their reach.