Posted by Wordsmith on 29 March, 2009 at 9:08 am. 5 comments already!


A U.S. Marine from Charlie 1/1 of the 15th MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) carries empty sand bags to a mortar position in southern Afghanistan, December 1, 2001.

It’s no longer the “War on Terror” but the “Overseas Contingency Operation”. Great. We went from a bad name to a worse PC-driven name.

While the anti-war pro-peace liberal progressive base are calling for an end to the war on Afghanistan, President Obama is doing just the opposite, doubling down on an old way forward by escalating the war in a manner that is consistent with, and reminiscent of, what his predecessor might have done:

His strategy is built on an ambitious goal of boosting the Afghan army from 80,000 to 134,000 troops by 2011 _ and greatly increasing training by U.S. troops accompanying them _ so the Afghan military can defeat Taliban insurgents and take control of the war. [Translation: When Afghans stand up, we’ll stand down]

That, he said, is “how we will ultimately be able to bring our troops home.”

There is no timetable for withdrawal, and the White House said it had no estimate yet on how many billions of dollars its plan will cost.

Kori Schake, also writing at Shadow Government, notes how this sounds quite a bit like McCain:

President Obama’s plan for Afghanistan is first rate. In fact, it sounds an awful lot like John McCain’s strategy for Afghanistan announced last summer, which is all to the good. And Obama outlined the resources necessary to carry it out: additional troops; greater participation by non-military departments; focus on training Afghan security forces; strengthening Afghan and Pakistani institutions of government; 5-year assistance packages for both countries; routine, high-level trilateral consultations with Afghanistan and Pakistan; creation of a Contact Group of neighbors and contributors; and trying to separate reconcilables from irreconcilables among the bad guys. Obama said he will set clear metrics to gauge progress, which is important and should be gotten underway fast.

And this is why the CodePink-types are up in arms; whereas NORMAL Americans from the left who might join in with pitchforks if this were announced by Bush, are more subdued and receptive that Obama is taking the pragmatic, responsible course of action here. By example, Feaver notes that Bush critics and Obama water carriers

who praise benchmarks in the Afghan strategy are the same folks who rushed to declare the Iraq surge a failure because certain benchmarks were not met by 2007.

Will the timelines calling for withdrawal arrive anytime soon?

Certainly, the lip-service has somewhat changed, as President Obama attempts to present to the world a “kinder, gentler” U.S. of A. But in our obsession with wanting to be loved by the world, we run the risk of not being respected by our enemies.

Even though, on the domestic front, President Obama seems to be implementing drastic changes we can’t, won’t, and don’t believe in, just how much of a departure is his foreign policy from that of President George W. Bush? Was Bush really so radical? Or are he and his successor carrying out a foreign policy that is more consistently pro-American than it is pro-partisan? And looking more similar than different?

American Power writes:

If folks are going to criticize Obama on Afghanistan, it should be for not doing enough. As Michael Yon noted this week, “the increase of 21,000 U.S. troops is likely just a bucket of water on the growing bonfire.” Michael Yon is hardly a “neocon,” although the very “fantasists” that Larison excoriates have suggested that despite Obama’s caution, “the president is pragmatic in the best sense of the word.”

Peter Feaver reports on how the Washington Post drew a contrast between President Bush’s last Afghanistan speech and President Obama’s recent one. According to Feaver, he sees Obama’s rhetoric as endorsing a minimalist approach, yet carrying out the maximalist one favored by Ambassador Holbrooke, General Petraeus, and Feaver’s loyal opposition colleague, Christian Brose.


But is there really a substantive contrast? What Obama committed the United States to do — for the narrowest of counterterrorism objectives — is build up the governance structures of Afghanistan and Pakistan with a massive influx of economic aid; build up the security structures of Afghanistan and Pakistan with a massive influx of military aid; enable the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan to exercise effective sovereignty over all of their territory; and shift the Afghan economy once and for all from a reliance on narcotics that, in Obama’s words “undermines the economy” and “fuels the insurgency.” (As Tom Donnelly has wryly observed, Obama has assigned Holbrooke to a counternarcotics program that is, in essence, the same program that Holbrooke called “the most wasteful and ineffective program I have seen in 40 years.”) As my Shadow colleague Philip Zelikow has noted, this set of objectives appears to be largely the Bush agenda, as determined by the strategic review the Bush team completed at the end of last year.

Even Iran doesn’t appear fooled:

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed overtures from President Barack Obama on Saturday, saying Tehran does not see any change in U.S. policy under its new administration.


“They chant the slogan of change but no change is seen in practice. We haven’t seen any change,” Khamenei said in a speech before a crowd of tens of thousands in the northeastern holy city of Mashhad.

A Bush policy by any other name is still a Bush policy. Since President Obama wasn’t above plagiarizing from speeches, why not policy matters as well? So long as it’s disguised as “anything other than Bush”.

Actually, amidst the criticism of appearing weak, even some of President Obama’s words echo the tough talk of former President Bush:

“I remind everybody, the United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan,” Obama said. “Nearly 3,000 of our people were killed on Sept. 11, 2001, for doing nothing more than going about their daily lives.”

Didn’t Bush get nailed to the cross for bringing up Sept. 11th in speeches?

Well, whatever the case may be, wherever it may be fought- from Iraq to Pakistan to Somalia to Indonesia to Afghanistan- and whatever it may be called, this is not Obama’s war or Bush’s war: It’s America’s war. And we better fight it to win.

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