Green Room

What happens in Afghanistan stays in Afghanistan?

posted at 2:15 pm on October 5, 2009 by

President Obama has spent a lot of his career skating past actual decisions and voting Present.  All throughout the campaign he was hawkish on Afghanistan, and now that he is in a position to enact what he promised, he waffles.  Waiting, perhaps, for the media to turn public opinion around so he can (politically) safely surrender?  Waiting for the Taliban’s Tet moment?  He’s clearly not too interested in the input of the people most able to help him make an informed decision – his military commanders.  While he’s fretting over the PR hit he took for McChrystal’s straight talk and sending his Defense Secretary and National Security Advisor out to insist that “military advice must remain private” Obama is spending his time, energy and political capital fighting to make us report our private health care information to the IRS.

On the most important national security question since the Cold War, I am the only candidate who opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning.  This judgment was not about speeches, it was about whether or not the United States of America would go to war in Iraq.  Because we did, we took our eye off al Qaeda.  We have lost thousands of lives, we have spent hundreds of millions of dollars, our military is overstretched and our security and standing has been set back.  So don’t tell me that the decision to go to war was just a speech because it was far more than that for the men and women who have served and continue to serve heroically in Iraq.

Judgment to lead, indeed.

Picture Afghanistan back under the control of the Taliban, supporting al Qaeda.  Sure, they’re a threat to Pakistan (nukes!) and to us.  Sure, terror recruitment would soar like Obama’s vacuous rhetoric.  In the event of a major terror attack traced back to Afghanistan after we retreat, his political career would be destroyed.  But how likely is it they could pull off a major terror attack before the 2012 elections?  And after that, our  Blameshifter in Chief may reason that it’s someone else’s problem.  Mollifying the left (which is starting to admit they never cared about Afghanistan – it was  “political strategy, not foreign policy“) with a retreat is a political crapshoot but I think it’s one he may decide he can safely take, especially since Democrats paid no real political price for Vietnam and the Cambodian killing fields.  I don’t think His Narcissism is fretting about his legacy, though he should. The Times, they are a-changin.  What happens in Afghanistan will not stay in Afghanistan. Thanks to the alternative media, especially independent reporters like Michael Yon, the press will not get away with another Cronkite – Tet deception.

It’s also not too late to lose in Iraq.  Remember, Obama set a deadline of August, 2010 to remove all combat troops from Iraq.  This is moving along at a good clip – for political reasons, or because General Odierno feels it is safe to do so, or because resources are more urgently needed in Afghanistan?

“I work very carefully … to identify any capabilities that we have and that we no longer need that can be used in Afghanistan,” Odierno told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee.

And they are desperately needed, if Obama will send them.  “Present” isn’t going to cut it this time and as the song goes, if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.  While the decision to fight a war is ultimately political and entirely within President Obama’s purview as Commander in Chief, he’s actually going to have to make a decision and take the accompanying political hit from either the right or the left.  It’s of particular interest to my family, because my son-in-law begins his Iraq deployment in January.

In the meantime while Obama dithers, real people die and morale takes a beating and soldiers are expected to, well, soldier on, with no relief in sight.

Do the majority of Americans have this patience? How will more troop losses stir public opinion? For more troops, or for a different strategy? How will public opinion affect the President as he decides what resources to allocate to Afghanistan?

Even as politicians and generals grapple with such wider considerations, on the ground there are other priorities.
… While administrative actions provide some mental and psychological diversion for those in mourning, the memorial ceremony several days later inevitably brings with it the harsh realization that the unit will not be returning home with everyone. At these memorials, every soldier arrives with a somber stoicism, many with a promise to themselves that they will not let themselves cry. Some soldiers even avoid these memorials altogether because of the emotional pain.

The military precision, drill and ceremony of the memorials stand in stark contrast to the raw emotions within the hearts and minds of each and every soldier. When the First Sergeant conducts a roll call and the deceased soldiers’ names are mentioned without a reply, only then do inner feelings often begin to manifest themselves in soldiers’ outward expressions. A wave of emptiness engulfs the room as they realize that when they stand in formation again, no longer will their team leader, best friend, drinking buddy, or mentor be there with them.

At first one hears the faint sounds of sniffling and crying. But these emotions spread like a wildfire, and soon even the most battle-hardened soldiers find themselves tearing up. At this point, no man is an island.

The memorial is not a Greek tragedy where the stage actors and audience reach catharsis. The mourning of a fellow soldier does not bring resolution. Moreover, once one leaves the memorial, there is still work to be done, whether it be patrolling, intelligence gathering, maintenance of equipment, or resupplying front line soldiers.

To co-opt a favorite word of left, this is unsustainable.

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If Obama abandons Afghanistan, what would stop Iran from attempting to subvert, destabilize, or invade Iraq?

Skandia Recluse on October 5, 2009 at 3:08 PM

It truly amazes me that President Obama declares “rush, rush rush, hurry hurry hurry” with EVERY other policy decision BUT the one in which the risk to our soldier’s lives grows greater with every passing second of inaction.
How did anyone vote for this man?

MississippiMom on October 5, 2009 at 3:45 PM

Skandia, that’s not really a problem a good dose of hopey-changitude couldn’t solve. Besides, it’s not like Iran has ever sent supplies and help to Iraqi insurgents killing Americans, and in addition to that, you’re obviously racist. (Excuse me, raaaaacist.) 🙂

Mississippi Mom, I know what you mean – I’ve stopped a couple of Obamabots in their tracks by asking – since health care “reform” is such an emergency – why he wants to wait until after the 2012 election to enforce it. If it’s such important, lifesaving reform, what’s wrong with starting right now to get the IRS to start policing our health insurance policies?

Laura on October 5, 2009 at 4:08 PM

I think it’s one he may decide he can safely take, especially since Democrats paid no real political price for Vietnam and the Cambodian killing fields.

I don’t that’s borne out by the historical record at all. I think it’s more accurate to say that the political price was delayed – and don’t forget that McGovern was wiped out on a peace-at-any-price platform in ’72.

The broad movements of history, including political history, are complex, but by the late ’70s even Joan Baez was sounding the alarm about Communist depredations following the US withdrawal, in particular as dramatized by the fate of the Vietnamese “Boat People.” It helped set the stage for the Reagan response to Carter, though the perception of Carter’s weakness regarding Iran, the Soviets, OPEC, and others obviously contributed as well. To this day, the tendency to view the Democrats and Democrat leaders as too weak to cope with international challenges persists.

CK MacLeod on October 5, 2009 at 4:14 PM

Mississippi Mom, I know what you mean – I’ve stopped a couple of Obamabots in their tracks by asking – since health care “reform” is such an emergency – why he wants to wait until after the 2012 election to enforce it. If it’s such important, lifesaving reform, what’s wrong with starting right now to get the IRS to start policing our health insurance policies?

Laura on October 5, 2009 at 4:08 PM

I was never sure if “living in denial” was really possible, but I think the Obamabots have proven its existence.
You could say the same about the urgently needed, must pass it now (you know, before the crisis goes to waste) stimulus bill, where a majority of the spending was not scheduled to take place until 2010…oh…and, it is just a coincidence that 2010 is an election year.
So, Obamalaw is: rush on decisions that won’t happen for a year or so, and wait on decisions that are life and death. it.

MississippiMom on October 5, 2009 at 4:55 PM

I guess it depends on the meaning of “real political price,” CK… I think I’m much more of a hardliner than you are. That the Dems continued to exist as a political party at all after contributing to the death of nearly two million people just blows my mind.

Ford did a nice job of laying out the problem, and when the results of Congress’ refusal became clear, it’s not like those guys were run out of town on a rail. They got re-elected, for example, Jack Murtha, David Obey and Robert Byrd – decades in office – and Ted Kennedy obviously was until he died. All of them were involved in the talks and decision making as Congress stalled until it was too late. (Well, admittedly, the public had a lot of reasons to ditch Kennedy and never did, but still…) The media had a lot better control of what the public was allowed to know, but even so, the public had heard Ford’s case, witnessed the results, and still carried on voting Democrat.

Laura on October 5, 2009 at 4:55 PM


Dr Evil on October 5, 2009 at 4:58 PM

Laura, I agree with you probably more than I disagree with you, but the perception in the ’70s and persisting to a greater or lesser extent until today, is that the death and suffering in Vietnam and Cambodia following the withdrawal was to a great extent our fault for having de-stabilized the region, including the peaceable kingdom of Cambodia. That was the view propounded in THE KILLING FIELDS, as I suspect you’re well aware. As for whether the Khmer Republic could have stood with sufficient US aid, we’ll never know.

The problem we almost always had and will likely continue to have is that we’re a republican democracy with imperial responsibilities. It’s very difficult to maintain continuity of direction and strategy over extended periods. It makes us uncertain allies and poor conquerors, and stands as a good argument against open-ended military involvement – especially in any land war in Asia. The only permanent solution would be the one implied by your suggestion regarding the Democratic Party.

CK MacLeod on October 5, 2009 at 5:10 PM

especially in any land war in Asia

A classic blunder, rivaled only by going against Sicilians when death is on the line.

Laura on October 5, 2009 at 5:57 PM