Schumer: Stability in Afghanistan too expensive

posted at 1:36 pm on October 27, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Chuck Schumer appeared on MS-NBC this morning to endorse an unusual strategy in Afghanistan — the very “air raiding villages and bombing civilians” that Barack Obama derided as a candidate. The clip from Morning Joe is lengthy, but the portion that caught The Hill’s attention takes place in the first couple of minutes. Schumer seems to have missed a couple of strategy sessions in coming up with this idea:

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Schumer said the U.S. might be able to keep itself safe while leaving Afghanistan destabilized.

“If we can accomplish the first part–protecting ourselves from terrorism–without bringing stability to Afghanistan, which I think is a very long, expensive, and iffy process, we should try to do it,” Schumer told MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

The New York Democrat compared the situation to Iraq, where he suggested stability had been too expensive.

“It cost us [a] trillion dollars and 4,500 lives approximately to bring stability to Iraq,” Schumer said. “Just in terms of the loss of life and treasure, do we want to do the same exercise in Afghanistan?”

The drone attacks in Pakistan have been effective in killing al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership, it’s true. However, that success is tied to getting good intelligence from locals on the ground on target selection. Without building trust locally, on the ground in Afghanistan, we’re simply not going to get the intel to hit those targets in the future. We certainly won’t get intel on target selections in Pakistan from bases in Malta or Okinawa, just as we weren’t going to win Iraq with a long-distance aerial campaign when John Murtha made the same suggestion in 2006.

If we want to prevent Afghanistan from lapsing back into a failed state, then we need to bring it to viability and stability. If we explicitly reject that mission, then we can expect the terrorists to once again take over the country and use it as a permanent base of operations for attacks around the world. Democrats made that argument from 2006 until this year in arguing that we should abandon Iraq to focus exclusively on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Now that they’re on the hook for making those decisions, suddenly “air raiding villages and bombing civilians” — exactly what Schumer offers as an alternative — looks attractive.

Actually, Joe Scarborough makes a much better point just after Schumer. It will take at least a decade, and probably several decades, to bring stability and infrastructure to Afghanistan. Forget about Schumer’s argument for the moment; does the American people have the stamina to see that mission through to its end, even for ten years, let alone 20, 30, 40, or more? If not, does it make sense to get out now and leave Pakistan to fend off the radicals as they move their flags across the frontier to avoid the Pakistani army and set up terrorist shop in Helmand while our credibility suffers in the region?


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You deride Schumer in the headline by using the phrase “too expensive”.

You refute his point by… well, not saying a single word about costs.

Funny how when it comes to health care – something that extends lives – you guys are all up in arms about the costs. But when it comes to being a Perpetual War State, you cant even conceive of the notion of a pricetag.

You mention that this will take decades, but you aren’t intellectually honest enough to admit that if it takes that long, it will also cost untold trillions of dollars.

Oh, but I forgot: Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility!

orange on October 27, 2009 at 3:15 PM

I can’t in good conscience support a war that’s going to spend $1 Trillion in 10 years to stabilize a country and make it a democracy.

Now, I’d like to switch gears here and talk about the results of the $1 Tillion we’ve spent to stimulate the economy this year…

Nethicus on October 27, 2009 at 3:18 PM

Where is Hillary?

booter on October 27, 2009 at 3:24 PM

Funny how when it comes to health care – something that extends lives – you guys are all up in arms about the costs. But when it comes to being a Perpetual War State, you cant even conceive of the notion of a pricetag.

orange on October 27, 2009 at 3:15 PM

National defense is one of the few legitimate tasks of the federal government. Health care is not within the power or responsibility of the federal government. Health care is a purely state issue. Any expenditures on health care, at the federal level, are un-Consitutional, and breaking the Constitution in that fundamental manner – to even fund health care from the federal level – is worse than even the spending, itself. Social issues are left to the states. That is how our government is structured by the Constitution.

Get a brain.

And without having to put up with people like you, the cost of war would be much, much less. You people are the ones who demand unrealistic restrictions and fantasy rules, which cost money and don’t even reflect any reality.

Your health care ideas are just as loony and detached from reality. Our health care is expensive because we have the best and because our market funds almost all of the major research and development (no one even thinks about developing major medical products or procedures, if the US market is not the main target) after which others get it on the cheap and after it’s been established in use and process on our dollar. You morons think we can just become liek the others and that same advancement will still appear, out of nowhere, but we won’t have to pay for the R+D and learning curve. You folks are nuts. We are the engine. You slow us, and it all slows, and it wouldn’t be pretty, I guaranteee you.

progressoverpeace on October 27, 2009 at 3:27 PM

You deride Schumer in the headline by using the phrase “too expensive”.

You refute his point by… well, not saying a single word about costs.

Funny how when it comes to health care – something that extends lives – you guys are all up in arms about the costs. But when it comes to being a Perpetual War State, you cant even conceive of the notion of a pricetag.

You mention that this will take decades, but you aren’t intellectually honest enough to admit that if it takes that long, it will also cost untold trillions of dollars.

Oh, but I forgot: Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility!

orange on October 27, 2009 at 3:15 PM

Freedom is more expensive, and more important, than curing your psychosis.

uknowmorethanme on October 27, 2009 at 3:35 PM

You folks are nuts. We are the engine. You slow us, and it all slows, and it wouldn’t be pretty, I guaranteee you.

progressoverpeace on October 27, 2009 at 3:27 PM

I would love to know how much money was spent R&Ding the MRI machine.

Then I would love to know how much it would have cost the gov’t to create the technology.

Private industry has incentive. Gov’t does not. That is why the US is was King.

uknowmorethanme on October 27, 2009 at 3:39 PM

Given the jihadi obsession with New York City, arguably a good chunk of the US defense budget is indirectly devoted to protecting New York. I certainly don’t begrudge that, but it would be nice if the senior Senator from New York acknowledged it.

Realist on October 27, 2009 at 3:46 PM

Really we don’t need all our kids all over Arabia. A few well connected well placed pros can do the intel job. The big moustaches need the protection that only we can provide, and there will always be plenty ready to sell the other nasty guy for a few bones.

Reality Check on October 27, 2009 at 3:47 PM

Nothing like a weak pantywaist president to encourage our enemies. Thanks Chuck. When the nuke goes off in NYC I hope you are there to see it first hand.

Kuffar on October 27, 2009 at 3:51 PM

What is Chuck going to do when Comrade Obama decides that protecting New York City from terrorism isn’t a cost effective measure? After all, it’s on an exposed series of islands with no natural means of production to produce goods.

Perhaps national defense can be more productive if concentration is placed on the interior of the U.S.

I submit that what I’ve just written is as silly as Senator Schumer’s comments.

Special Forces Grunt on October 27, 2009 at 3:52 PM

Unlike Healthcare, defense of the common welfare is a CONSTITUTIONAL responsibilty

MyImamToldMeToDoIt on October 27, 2009 at 4:01 PM

What is Chuck going to do when Comrade Obama decides that protecting New York City from terrorism isn’t a cost effective measure? After all, it’s on an exposed series of islands with no natural means of production to produce goods.

Perhaps national defense can be more productive if concentration is placed on the interior of the U.S.

I submit that what I’ve just written is as silly as Senator Schumer’s comments.

Special Forces Grunt on October 27, 2009 at 3:52 PM

Of course it’s silly. New York votes blue!

Now, if Florida goes Republican in 2010, well then….

Nethicus on October 27, 2009 at 4:13 PM

I think this is quite devious. Smart, in an evil way. People are most worried about the economy. Play up the price tag and people start to care a bit less about the Afghan people assuming we can keep our own hides safe. He’s looking to fill that niche so any failure in Afghanistan can be shuffled off as prioritizing the US economy.

Dash on October 27, 2009 at 4:16 PM

Spent about 90 minutes this morning attending a brief and question and answer period given by MG J.J. Schloesser, USA, the former CG of 101st Abn and commander of RC East in Afghanistan.

One of the points he made was that people tend to think of Afghanistan as third world when it’s really third century. The average life span of a male Afghani is 44 years. (Not a lot of time for reflection on life) Literacy runs at about 20% and in one province he had it was 2%. What infrastructure they had in the larger cities was pretty much destroyed in the civil war following the Soviet withdrawal. In one villiage he visited he could not convince them that he wasn’t a Russian and there to kill them. Bottom line is that life there for most of the population is brutal, ignorant and short. Winning the hearts and minds of people that can’t read, don’t have electricity and whose language doesn’t even have a word for democracy is a tall task. The best thing we have going for us is that they don’t like AQ any more than they like us or any other strangers.

That said, Gen Schloesser was very proud of the progress of the Afghan Army. It’s an ethnically integrated force and is serving to break down barriers between the tribes themselves. It will take years to nurture this force, but it’s our best hope for long term success.

Keeping Afghanistan from becoming a terrorist base through air strikes or SF ops alone is a pipe dream. As Ed pointed out w/o intel to direct those strikes you are blind. And you can’t get that from the air. There are no ball bearing plants in Afghanistan.

There is some good cooperation with the Pakistani Army across the border. On a number of occasions our artillery and theirs were engaging the same targets. But, if we left the Pak’s would probably support the Taliban. They want stability in their rear area at all costs. For them, the front line is India.

SoonerMarine on October 27, 2009 at 4:27 PM

They worked hard for the title “Defeatocrat”.

Roy Rogers on October 27, 2009 at 4:27 PM

Let’s see where we are on the democrats surrender list:


1.We have democrats saying that “all of a sudden” the Afghanistan government is corrupt.

2.We have democrats saying that the Taliban are not dangerous or our enemies now.


3.We have democrats stating that we need to draw down troops so that we can just bomb villages and use special ops.


4. Now we have democrats saying that it is to expensive to fight the “good war” in the “central front of the war on terror” that Obama campaigned on as being so “important to win”.

The Obama administration is screwing this up so bad they are going to make Vietnam look like D-Day.

Baxter Greene on October 27, 2009 at 4:29 PM

progressoverpeace on October 27, 2009 at 3:04 PM

Attacks on Kuwait are apparently in the same category as attacks on Canada. Canadian forces have been fighting in the middle east for years, yet they’ve never been attacked. Kuwait has been attacked many more times than Canada, and Kuwait also has a big problem with exporting terrorism into Iraq. This defeats your first hypothesis unfortunately.

In your world you’d have to carpet bomb Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia all at the same time. And I’m probably missing a few. Comparing this War on Terrorism to WWII is dishonest, disrespectful, and a bad analogy over all.

The Calibur on October 27, 2009 at 4:32 PM

The political trap that Schummer and Obama dug to for Bush has now got them falling into it headfirst. The truth is that only a fool will try to win the Pashtun mountain valleys on the map between Afghanistan and Pakistan, but actually part of neither country. But Obama has to tell us the truth and risk looking weaker to get us out, and he has never experienced telling the truth. God willing he will not leave the US Marines and National Guard Combat Brigades out there as target practice for ambushes and IEDs built in Iran for absolutely no reason. This is ONE time El Rushbo is wrong and Schummer is right.

jimw on October 27, 2009 at 4:35 PM

But creating economic and security instability in order to push whacked-out social programs can never be expensive enough, eh Chuckie?

Look, Chuckie, there’s a camera over there!

onlineanalyst on October 27, 2009 at 4:38 PM

Senator from New York acknowledged it.

Realist on October 27, 2009 at 3:46 PM

Senator from New York acknowledged it STFU.

FIFY!

belad on October 27, 2009 at 4:39 PM

Attacks on Kuwait are apparently in the same category as attacks on Canada. Canadian forces have been fighting in the middle east for years, yet they’ve never been attacked.

Exactly. Opposite to your notion.

Kuwait has been attacked many more times than Canada,

By the palestinians? Not that I can recall. I can’t even remember any palestinians complaining about Kuwait. Most people don’t even know about the gulf war ejection of palestinians, or care. You probably don’t care, either. Did you know about it?

and Kuwait also has a big problem with exporting terrorism into Iraq.

That’s a probelm coming from Kuwait. I still don’t see truck bombs going off in Kuwait.

This defeats your first hypothesis unfortunately.

?? Read more slowly, next time and think before you type.

In your world you’d have to carpet bomb Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia all at the same time.

Why? In my world we wouldn’t have to bomb too many people at all, since we would have retaken the gulf oil fields after 9/11 and would have immediately defanged the whole arab/persian/muslim world. It will have to be done eventually. They stole the fields in their forced nationalizations of the 50′s and 60′s and the oil fields are what fuels their political, financial and military power and threats. The fields are the supply sources of the enemy (and are also used as “the oil weapon”, as with OPEC attacking us economically and organized embargoes as in the 70′s). All threats from the arab/persian/muslim world start and stop with control of the gulf oil fields.

So my sort of war would be almost bloodless, but you types would scream bloody murder, just to make pains of yourselves and force the US into rough waters.

For those cases where populations were centers of terrorists and harboring them, I would bomb and attack with abandon. Their own populations would stop backing them, soon enough. That is how the middle east works, and most of the rest of the muslim world, too.

And I’m probably missing a few. Comparing this War on Terrorism to WWII is dishonest, disrespectful, and a bad analogy over all.

The Calibur on October 27, 2009 at 4:32 PM

Nothing dishonest about it. If it’s okay to incinerate a city full of people, then it’s an acceptable tactic (when deemed necessary) and it is disingenuous to act as if there is some moral problem with it. We have a strategic nuclear arsenal, you know. You and your ilk act as if owning that is illegal, itself.

We believe in sovereignty. Nations that allow terrorists to operate out of them are responsible for the actions of the terrorists, unless they try to stop them and help us stop them – for real. Populations that support terrorists are as guilty. They are responsible for their own behoavior. It is not our responsibility to hold trials in the field to determine who can be shot at, which is what we are coming to these days. You cannot deny reality. Eventually, it must be dealt with.

progressoverpeace on October 27, 2009 at 4:50 PM

From: Don’t Tread on Me

To: I will not be rushed.

Dhuka on October 27, 2009 at 5:07 PM

Exactly. Opposite to your notion.

Whut? Kuwait has expelled Palestinians. Canada has killed Arab civilians and so have the U.S. Yet the U.S. is the only country in this list attacked by terrorists, unless you count attacks abroad for Canada. In your definition, all countries that have hurt the Arab populace would have been attacked, which is obviously not the case. Unless you’re referring to Palestinians specifically. Again, the U.S. has killed more Palestinians along with Israel than Kuwait so it wouldn’t make too much sense for them to travel across Iraq. This is because Israel is expanding into their lands and it only makes sense for them to fight. Nowadays, Palestinians would have to go through Iraq to attack Kuwait, which wouldn’t make sense since the U.S. has indirectly killed many more Palestinians than the Kuwaitis have obviously.

Generally speaking, since the fall of the Soviet Union, everyone but the U.S. have figured out that you can’t have ultimate hegemony. It’s impossible. You will always end up having to trade with someone else on their terms eventually. The oil fields belong to the Arab people and we may trade with them if we wish. It’s a world market and they have every right to price and supply as they wish, as we do with our products. Even if we tried to take them over they’d bleed us dry just like they are here.

Besides, with you being a fan of sovereignty, why would you be invading oil fields of another country? Shouldn’t they be able to run their own lives without big brother and the nanny state there to show them the way?

If you have no problem with incinerating a whole city of innocents who are disenfranchised and unable to do what you want them to do….you ironically sound like a statist.

The Calibur on October 27, 2009 at 5:09 PM

Besides, with you being a fan of sovereignty, why would you be invading oil fields of another country?

They stole them, as I said in the first post. They have no “right” to stolen property.

If you have no problem with incinerating a whole city of innocents who are disenfranchised and unable to do what you want them to do….you ironically sound like a statist.

The Calibur on October 27, 2009 at 5:09 PM

National sovereingty is a collectivist notion. So? Sovereignty means that I look at other nations as black boxes, who are responsible for everything that takes place on their territory and with their government’s and people’s help.

My individualistic stance is for America and the way I prefer to live. If other nations want to structure themselves individualistically, then good for them, but they are just sovereign foreign nations, with respect to national security and defense. Those nations are not my concern, but when they become threats beyond our tolerance, they should be dealt with ruthlessly and efficiently.

progressoverpeace on October 27, 2009 at 5:30 PM

In your definition, all countries that have hurt the Arab populace would have been attacked,

The Calibur on October 27, 2009 at 5:09 PM

That was what YOU were arguing. You were the one saying,

The more civilians you kill and displace the more enemies you create, ultimately leading to an unstoppable spiral.

The Calibur on October 27, 2009 at 2:40 PM

progressoverpeace on October 27, 2009 at 5:34 PM

When Matthew Hoh joined the Foreign Service early this year, he was exactly the kind of smart civil-military hybrid the administration was looking for to help expand its development efforts in Afghanistan.

A former Marine Corps captain with combat experience in Iraq, Hoh had also served in uniform at the Pentagon, and as a civilian in Iraq and at the State Department. By July, he was the senior U.S. civilian in Zabul province, a Taliban hotbed.

But last month, in a move that has sent ripples all the way to the White House, Hoh, 36, became the first U.S. official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war, which he had come to believe simply fueled the insurgency.

“I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan,” he wrote Sept. 10 in a four-page letter to the department’s head of personnel. “I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end.”

“There are plenty of dudes who need to be killed,” he said of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. “I was never more happy than when our Iraq team whacked a bunch of guys.”

But many Afghans, he wrote in his resignation letter, are fighting the United States largely because its troops are there — a growing military presence in villages and valleys where outsiders, including other Afghans, are not welcome and where the corrupt, U.S.-backed national government is rejected. While the Taliban is a malign presence, and Pakistan-based al-Qaeda needs to be confronted, he said, the United States is asking its troops to die in Afghanistan for what is essentially a far-off civil war.

MB4 on October 27, 2009 at 6:35 PM

If we explicitly reject that mission, then we can expect the terrorists to once again take over the country and use it as a permanent base of operations for attacks around the world.

Will “The Terrorists” (What happened to AlQ anyway? Why just “the Terrorists” now?) build air bases there from which to launch long range bombers against the U.S. and Europe? The terrorists already have a base of operations in dozens, primarily Pakistan, of countries from which to plot and scheme and organize. 9/11 was mainly plotted/organized from Hamburg and mainly financed from Saudi Arabia.

MB4 on October 27, 2009 at 6:45 PM

Wonder if David Shuster is Schumers illegitamate child.

Same mouth.

Texyank on October 27, 2009 at 6:53 PM

NY Conservative on October 27, 2009 at 2:06 PM

We really feel for you. You are a brave, brave person.

yoda on October 27, 2009 at 6:58 PM

From Let them fight Blog:

The Philippine Insurrection (1899 – 1913) causes him yet another problem because even though there are those who suggest it was a counter insurgency, the reality is that it was a declared war by the first ‘President’ of the Philippines. The war quickly degraded into a war of tribes waging a guerilla style war with many atrocities by the Filipinos recorded. Our response to those atrocities would not be considered ‘politically correct’ today, but were effective. As the war raged into its final years, the splintered warring factions stepped up their guerilla tactics as well as the atrocities. General Pershing is said to have taken 50 prisoners of muslim persuasion and lined them up for the firing squad. He had the firing squad file by the prisoners, dip their bullets in pigs blood and shoot all except one with those bullets. He then let the remaining prisoner go to warn his brethren. There are also stories of dead Moros (muslim) being buried in pigs skin, face down (so they could not see Mecca) in an attempt to demoralize them and force a cessation to hostilities. I can’t imagine the good General is recommending these standards in dealing with the indigenous elements that are the Taliban, in Afghanistan. One must also note that there were several religious ideologies at play in the Philippines and it is not at all apparent that they played a part in the Filipino’s decision to declare war on the US or sustain hostilities for fourteen years.

Oil Can on October 27, 2009 at 6:59 PM

“I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan,” he wrote Sept. 10 in a four-page letter to the department’s head of personnel. “I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end.”

Then it’s good he quit.

But many Afghans, he wrote in his resignation letter, are fighting the United States largely because its troops are there — a growing military presence in villages and valleys where outsiders, including other Afghans, are not welcome and where the corrupt, U.S.-backed national government is rejected.

The problem isn’t that so many Afghans go out to fight Americans. The problem is, they come back alive.

If the American government has forgotten how to break a political movement through casualties, the answer isn’t to run back to Kansas and hope somehow we get left alone. The answer is to change American policy to total war.

Chris_Balsz on October 28, 2009 at 10:47 AM

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