Monday, October 19, 2009

Taking His Time

According to recent news(1), it has now been 76 days since General McChrystal has submitted a request to supply more troops to bolster American efforts in Afghanistan. President Obama has refused to come to a decision on the matter.

Which makes the observant American invariably ponder... why the sudden deviation from his MO? We passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act before the bill was read by Congress, on the pretenses that the economic bottom would fall out if we did not. Cap-and-trade passed through the House before any representatives read the bill, because Obama and his ilk told us that, somehow, unless we tax carbon emitters our grandchildren will die of famine on a scorched earth. He has been adamant that we must act now on health reform, and casts aside any suggestion that we slow down to design a well-crafted bill that Americans can agree on.

As Americans, shouldn’t we ask ourselves why he coaxes us to act with all haste to fight intangible phantoms, but then coaxes us to be patient when there is a very real and hostile threat to our soldiers in Afghanistan?

Whether he decides to send more troops or to begin a withdrawal, this is truly something to be prompt in addressing. But our president seems to be more focused on propagandizing his healthcare package, attending late-night talk shows, stepping out to swanky restaurants, promoting Chicago in an Olympic bid, etc. You know, all of the really important issues and actions that made him a mysteriously unaccomplished Nobel Prize laureate.

The Taliban surge, the American lives being lost, how our defeat could affect national security and position in the Middle East: to him, it seems, that stuff can wait.

William Sullivan


  1. very good points. I would have to disagree with the idea that adding more troops is going to help anything in Afgan nation. That country is a mess and always has been a mess. It's leadership is corrupt and that's not going to change. It's a country ruled forever by warlords and druglords. The great majority of citizens of Afgan don't want us there or our help.
    I say we need to pull out completly from Afgan and keep a small force in Iraq. This whole Iraq/afgan thing has ran its course. We originally went to Iraq because we deemed Iraq as a threat to our country after 9-11 and that they had wmd's. We all know how the wmd thing turned out but at the time 9/11 was happenning we really didn't know if Iraq had Wmd's so hindsight is always 20/20. It's time for us to admit our mistakes and move on. We could save billions in tax dollars by not fighting in Afgan and Iraq at the same time and I think now is a great time for the US to save some money.

  2. The entire issue of the continued involvement by the US in Afghanistan is complicated, especially to the American populous. I believe this is the case largely because so few really know (or care) what is occurring over there. Your sentiments most likely reflect the vast majority of Americans. Press coverage of the war in Afghanistan took a back seat to Iraq as soon as it became obvious that an invasion of Iraq was a real possibility. Since the situation in Iraq has calmed considerably, other domestic issues have received the bulk of media coverage here in the US (the presidential election, the recession, health care etc.) I feel this overall lack of information has led to a general belief of “What are we still doing over there anyway?” I have no doubt that the American people are tired of war, especially when the end results of our fighting are not immediately apparent. “Winning” in Afghanistan, which I still believe to be very possible, would not resemble the “winning of a war” that most Americans are used to. There would be no white flags or treaties signed or VA day (Victory in Afghanistan) It would be a process, most likely a long one. The first step, I believe, is to win the trust of the Afghan people. The turning point in Iraq was “the troop surge”. Although lambasted by the media and the Democrats at the time, the surge was the tipping point in Iraq. The reason it was so successful was not as simple as just having more troops in which to kill the enemy. It showed a true commitment by the US which in turn had a real effect on the local religious and community leaders in Iraq. The real fear for the people in Iraq was that the US would tire of the war and pull out, leaving the job unfinished. The majority of Iraqi’s, although probably not fond of Americans in their country, were also not supportive of the suicide bombers and the militant extremist. Iraqis couldn’t go to the market without the very real fear of a suicide bomber injuring or killing themselves or a loved one. Self preservation is what drives most humans and the best way to survive is to back the winner. Like in Afghanistan, most people’s loyalties lie with a local leader (either a religious leader or a warlord) and these leaders were on the fence concerning whom to support, the extremist or the Americans. Once the Americans showed that they were increasing troop strength and conducting major offensive operations, the local leaders, in an act of self preservation, jumped on board. This had a tremendous effect on the outcome of the battles and eventually on Iraq in general. Although Iraq and Afghanistan are two completely different countries, with completely different cultures, I feel this tactic, along with the very real promise of continued US support would also become a turning point in the war. In turn, I feel that the local leaders and Afghan population will never fully support or help the US if we fail to show our full commitment because they would be left to deal with the repercussions and reprisals of the Taliban once the US pulled out.
    With all that being said, I can not claim to know exactly what is going on in Afghanistan right now. There are other issues, such as the opium trade, that are unique to that country, and to which we will have to find unique solutions. No one should know these issues better than the general on the ground. If the US is going to continue to have troops in Afghanistan, then General McChrystal should have President Obama’s undivided attention and should trust in his assessments of the situation. The absolute worst thing that could happen, for both countries, is to fight the war half way. Not only would we never win the confidence of the Afghan people (which is absolutely necessary for victory) but we would endanger our soldiers with no positive outcome on the horizon.

    This article provides a unique inside propsective on Afghanistan

    Calvin Parker

  3. Good points, all. I do think our mission has become convoluted in a fray of domestic unrest. The mission in Afghanistan, as it was begun, was part of a "war on terror," (a phrase now outlawed) which was intended to be an effort to root out all radical terror organizations, and included an indictment of all countries that openly harbored them. Through a media initiative and the hatred of George Bush, that "war" became little more than an oil-grab and a false WMD claim.

    But we were in Afghanistan because the Taliban openly supported Al-Qaeda, and allegedly assisted in their financing. We were in Iraq because of Saddam Hussein's incessant failure to comply with past treaties by disclosing all weapon manufacturing facilities, and beyond that, to check his apparent deception and defiance to the international community in doing so.

    Whether or not we should pull out or send more troops to the fray, I do not know. Both actions could have dire consequences. Gen. McChrystal has said that the troops are in danger because they are undermanned. The public is screaming that the troops are in danger because of a stupid war for backward people. The president's job, as commander-in-chief, is to either keep the troops out of danger, or provide all necessary means for victory when he must send them into danger.

    President Obama is doing neither of those things right now. He’s not having constant meetings with generals, or trying to open deliberations with the Afghani officials to garner more local support. He's hosting galas at the White House.(1)