Specter On Afghanistan

Just finished participating in a call with Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) regarding Afghanistan. I imagine Senator Specter was a bit surprised by my questions from the more hawkish view on Afghanistan. Senator Specter's position is that he opposes troop increases in Afghanistan and even questions maintaining troops in Afghanistan unless the effort is "indispensable" to the conflict with al Qaida. (See Spencer Ackerman's coverage of the call) Senator Spector's primary opponent, Representative Joe Sestak supports troop increases in Afghanistan.

Senator Spector responded to my question regarding the connection with Pakistan and Afghanistan and how an effective Pakistan policy related to adequate troop levels in Afghanistan by turning the question around to me, asking how does increased troop levels in Afghanistan help us with the situation in Pakistan? A fair question, which I will try to address more comprehensively in another post. But on the issue of Pakistan, I believe Senator Specter demonstrated understanding of the issue and when I pressed for an answer on what type of initiatives he would support, he made a good point - promoting peace between India and Pakistan would be an important breakthrough that could lead to a more cooperative and responsible Pakistan. Which could lead to a more successful policy against the Taliban and al Qaida in the region. More on this discussion in a later post.

< Thursday Morning Open Thread | Former Bush DOJ Officials Back Holder on Trial of 9/11 Suspects >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    As a Pennsylvania D-primary voter (5.00 / 1) (#42)
    by Peter G on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 09:17:15 PM EST
    I am made dizzy by the thought that Specter may hold (or in Specter's case, I guess we should say "asserts," not "holds," since it is unclear that anything he says represents an actual principle) a more "progressive" position on Afghanistan than Sestak.

    Specter has a difficult needle to thread (none / 0) (#1)
    by andgarden on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 03:20:10 PM EST
    I think what this answer indicates is that he thinks his tougher race is in the primary.

    I'm not sure I've heard (none / 0) (#2)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 03:31:00 PM EST
    anybody else in politics make that point about India and Pakistan, obvious as it should be.  But cracking that particular nut may be beyond any third party's diplomacy.

    This is the second Specter conference call you've posted about here, I think, isn't it?  Was this for bloggers only or a general media mob?  Who organizes these things anyway?  Is it coming out of Specter's office, or is somebody on the outside arranging them and then persuading him to participate?

    It's curious because it doesn't seem many pols are doing this, and Specter would not be the first one I would guess would be gung-ho about the idea.  Maybe he's smarter than I usually give him credit for.

    Holbrooke made the point (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by BackFromOhio on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 04:44:28 PM EST
    about the importance of getting India and Pakistan to unite behind the common enemy some months ago when he was interviewed by Charlie Rose.  

    I scoff at Holbrooke (none / 0) (#14)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 04:57:50 PM EST
    After delving deeper into what voices he has nurtured and backed.....he has gone with regional advisors made up almost exclusively of Pakistan military origin.  And that is why the Pashtun's are furious with us now, they've had no voice and I place a lot of that on Holbrooke's head.  Backpeddling is taking place now, but he was warned.......seems like he just wanted to go with who was easiest to work with at the time, ignoring that Afghanistan is in civil war.

    Not at all Holbrooke's (none / 0) (#53)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 10:52:32 PM EST
    modus operandi, so you'd need to provide some back-up for that accusation.  He is a very hard-nosed guy, though, and will work on whoever he thinks it's necessary to work on, whether somebody cries about it being unfair or not.

    Oh, he certainly doesn't care if someone (none / 0) (#60)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Nov 20, 2009 at 12:22:33 PM EST
    says something is unfair.  Just because he is hardnosed does not mean he is inclusive.

    On what do you base your dislike of (none / 0) (#61)
    by oculus on Fri Nov 20, 2009 at 02:33:09 PM EST

    He has a very large group (none / 0) (#64)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Nov 21, 2009 at 08:01:19 AM EST
    of advisors but chose to only focus on the advise of certain ones.  He seemed to completely avoid listening to anyone who was interested in "counterinsurgency" for whatever his reasons were......I suppose he was being hardnosed about the "military view" running things.  Even though the military view encouraged reaching out to all factions.  Now the Pashtuns are upset and they are joining the Taliban.  Backtracking has now begun in hopes of rectifying the favoritisms.  It isn't that I don't like Holbrooke.  I suppose I'm pissed at him right now.  Yeah, he was hardnosed alright.  I don't know if being more inclusive of all the avialable advisors will lead him to creating better policy.  But we know what we got when he sidelined the voices he didn't want to hear.  I personally feel that Holbrooke signed onto the Biden plan long ago, and was making decisions from his position based on that plan.

    I was just reading Turkana's (none / 0) (#65)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Nov 21, 2009 at 08:40:55 AM EST
    diary today at Orange about the economy.  Perhaps we will have another giant crash, and they'll bring everyone home and we'll fight them over here if they can get here :)

    He's one of the very few (none / 0) (#52)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 10:50:38 PM EST
    but he's not a political figure per se.

    Last I read (none / 0) (#3)
    by andgarden on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 03:34:56 PM EST
    he still has a Republican campaign manager. I do wonder who's doing his internet outreach.

    You say al Qaida. (none / 0) (#4)
    by Cream City on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 03:38:43 PM EST
    Others say Al Quaeda.

    Let's call the whole thing off.

    (But yes, there is Pakistan.  I'm glad I'm not making this decision.  Will Obama be, at last, an FDR with a win?  Maybe an Ike, with the guts to get out, when it was clear there could not be a win?  Or will Obama be an LBJ/Bush II?)

    It is a tough one (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by ruffian on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 03:45:17 PM EST
    I'm glad to see all the options being considered, and glad the senators (well, at least some of them) are also thinking it through. Whatever the decision regarding troops, I want a clear statement of what we are trying to accomplish.

    Excellent Post (none / 0) (#6)
    by kidneystones on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 04:16:12 PM EST
    Good to hear that some Dems recognize that there are costs, both in soft and hard power to leaving Afghanistan. The fact this debate is taking place (again) so late in the day is particularly troubling. Especially, since the long-term minimal time frames for a successful intervention have NOT yet made it into the discussion. Generations of commitment stabilized Germany and Japan. That's what successful 'nation-building' requires. Locals willing to cast their lot with the west for more than cash have to feel secure that they and their kids and their grand-kids can count on the presence of allies at their side. Brit generals are calling for fifty years. Ten years out Afghanistan will still be bloody. The question is: do the benefits justify the costs? I say, guardedly, they do.

    I doubt it (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by dissenter on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 04:40:36 PM EST
    You can't compare Germany and Japan to Afghanistan. As one who has spent years working on reconstruction in that country I can tell you that there is zero chance we are going to win Afghans over.

    Nation building is a pipe dream even if you had 50 years and unlimited amounts of money to spend on it. Germany and Japan were educated, modern industrial countries with a national sense of identity. Afghanistan is run by tribes with serious ethnic, political and religious divisions. There has never been a stable central government and there won't be with the cast of clowns in there now. There won't be one with whatever would replace them. For the most part Afghanistan is a country still living in the 13th century and while this is very hard for us to understand, 75% of Afghans are just fine with that. Including the women. I feel terrible for the 25% of the population that wants to move forward but you can't win with that level of support. You would have to split the country up.

    Obama has no good options but if he had been prepared and understood the country in the first place he wouldn't have been boxed into the corner he finds himself today. He can't win which leaves us with only one question...

    Is it worth hundreds of billions of dollars and untold lives on all sides to continue this or is it better to cut your losses now? Things won't be looking any better in 2012. All we are currently doing is providing protection for corruption. Lose now or lose later but lose we will.


    From 1860 to 1977, Afghanistan (none / 0) (#13)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 04:53:15 PM EST
    was ruled by one monarchy after another and Pashtunwali is fine with working monarchy.  I think it isn't feasible to think they will ever embrace democracy in the same terms we do, they do have their own legal and moral codes though.

    Not really (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by dissenter on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 05:09:55 PM EST
    I understand what you are saying except it didn't really work. I had Afghans show me their secret pictures from a day when Kabul was actually green and there were girls in mini skirts. That was a fleeting time that didn't work as evidence by the series of destructive wars that followed.  Pashtuns will never accept a monarchy...or anything that places a national government, its laws or anything else over tribal authority.

    And then you have all the other tribes that are not Pashtun. Then there are the serious religious divisions between Sunnis and Shia which rarely get covered in the US or anywhere else. Remember the "we have right to rape law?" Then there is the idea of capitalism... which is rejected by almost everyone. It is offensive to their values. Their values are more in line with communism.

    It is not as simple as people think it is and as much as I liked to look at those pictures from the 1970's as I went to work every day they were nothing more than an illusion.

    India and Pakistan are the answer... but a peaceful settlement there is going to be about as elusive as peace in Palestine. Until Islamic fanaticism runs its course, there will not be peace. I have come to believe the best way for that to happen is to get out of their countries and let them fight it out. When they have had enough of mass death it will stop. Not until.

    Our job and our security is solely built on building a new path to energy.


    Believe me (none / 0) (#20)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 05:16:10 PM EST
    I know it isn't simple.  But the region has to be stabilized.  They have transported uncountable numbers of sociologists to the area now......even intel officers who work for us but have family history in the different ethnic regions - and we have asked them to not fight and actually deal with the real problems.  What else do you want to do?  Ignore the situation?

    Yes (5.00 / 2) (#21)
    by dissenter on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 05:31:05 PM EST
    I have come to believe it is that simple. We can't fix the problems that run so deep in Islamic countries. At the end of the day, this their fight and they will fight it out whether we are there or not.

    No amount of USAID dollars or sociologists or psychiatrists can fix this mess. The Afghans we send over there (expat) to help us are interested mostly in one thing...how much money can they make. I know, I worked with a boatload of them. They make their bucks but at the end of the day they don't care. They are holding western passports and can get out. That is not the case for the average Afghan.

    On a military note, our SF guys can't even go out any longer without an Afghan to tag along and most of the time they don't show up for work so we have a ton of SF forces sitting inside the wire telling Obama to let them do their job or send them home. He will allow neither and no western democracy has the stomach for a strategy that takes ground and holds it. Our military morale is horrible over there and you can't fight a war with that going on either.

    So, in a word....yes, I think we should get out and let them fight it out. There is nothing we can really do to change the situation and I know how hard that is to hear. You have made huge sacrifices for that war and Iraq...like a lot of members of my family including myself but I have come to believe that our interests...which should be paramount to this discussion...is to get out and save ourselves through a new path to energy. Right now we are ironically securing the Chinese Government's future because that is the only real winner of these wars.


    It is news to me that (none / 0) (#25)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 07:06:58 PM EST
    our Special Forces don't go out alone and are sitting inside the wire right now.

    Thanks for several thoughtful posts (none / 0) (#38)
    by kidneystones on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 08:59:56 PM EST
    Thanks, too, for your insights and firsthand knowledge.

    I won't pretend to 'know better'. You're right, too, to avoid direct comparisons with Germany and Japan. I mention both principally to move the discussion from pure fantasy and speculation to some concrete examples of success; and to inject some realistic sense of scale to the exercise. MT adds useful remarks of her own.

    The problems of Afghanistan are not unique to Afghanistan. In almost every point I'd agree with you about the limitations of western aid and the need for local solutions. The problem is that Muslim societies have been on the back foot for pretty much the last two hundred years, if the metric is industrialization, infant mortality rates, liberty, and literacy.

    We do need to ask ourselves whether it is moral and right to allow societies such as the Taliban to exercise the sorts of societal controls they do over the Afghan population. The same questions need to be asked elsewhere.

    I supported the US and Nato operations in Afghanistan and opposed, actively, the US invasion of Iraq. I definitely fall into the hawk camp. However, I also agree that force need be used very selectively. I envision the complete dis-integration of Afghanistan as the state we know today.

    In its place I see a much smaller, densely populated area with good schools, manufacturing, roads, hospitals and social services. The nation we call Afghanistan was carved, as you know, out of a cluster of kingdoms fighting to resist encroachment from near and distant enemies.

    That was fine for a while. I say we give technology, literacy, and liberty a chance to take root. That means staying for something up to a century.


    I don't think so (5.00 / 2) (#47)
    by dissenter on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 09:59:28 PM EST
    I don't think crazy religious fanatics should control any country but I recognize the limits of power. That is my personal lesson from Afghanistan. I just wish our leaders could learn that lesson.

    Here is why your plan won't work.

    1. There is no will or money to pay for such a sustained plan. If you don't have buy in from the American people you can't do it. The EU isn't paying for it nor are the American people.

    2. Literacy and education can only happen in small areas of the country. The Taliban doesn't believe in education outside of religious education. Girls are not even human in their eyes. They are a commodity. Education for boys under the Taliban was confined to the Koran. If you made a deal with the Taliban there would be no real education for anyone. The Taliban effectively control at least two thirds of the country.

    3. You have to be able to control the political and security situation on the ground. We can't do either.

    4. There is nothing to manufacture. Afghanistan doesn't have the natural resources to manufacture much of anything. The only hope is agriculture and there is a severe shortage of water. The lands that once provided good harvests are in ruins from decades of war. Poppy doesn't require much water at all. The area that holds the greatest potential for agriculture is in the South. We control none of it outside of a few bases.

    5. The country is land locked.  Creating a manufacturing center like India or China is unrealistic. You can't fly raw materials in and send finished goods out and expect to compete. You need a port.

    6. Investors. No sane company is going to invest much over there. We tried to lure them in when the place was a lot calmer. Western companies will not do it and neither will Middle Eastern countries. Arabs and Afghans hate each other.

    7. Other nations have turned to tourism to boost the economy (in the Islamic world). Afghanistan has amazing sites but you will be killed attempting to see them. Plus their strict adherence to hard line Islam ensures you will not have hotels or other things that will entice western tourists. Afghanistan will never be Dubai. It won't be Jordan or Pakistan.  

    I could go on but you get my drift. You are right...you are talking a century to build anything but nobody has the time or the will to do that. Development plans must have something to build off of. Afghanistan is a catch 22. No security, no development. No development, no security.

    I'll go with McChrystal (none / 0) (#50)
    by kidneystones on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 10:30:10 PM EST
    For the moment, thanks. As much as I read your comments with interest and learn from them, I remain optimistic. I don't do surrender to the Taliban all that well, on any front. Not that you're explicitly advocating that.

    I'm of the opinion, however, that there's almost no problem that organization, irrigation, education, investment and the requisite amount of force can't solve.

    We're on the same page, I think, on virtually every point except that. I do very, very strongly believe that, with the will, small and then larger parts of Afghanistan can be 'greened' and grown.

    Going the other direction defers a recurring problem and can't possibly lead to improved relations between India and Pakistan, not to get too far off the main point. Worth noting, too, that South Korea stands in stark contrast to the North, although the South is far from perfect.

    Cash and capitalism works and there's certainly nothing in the culture or history of the region that suggests Afghans can't succeed. Arab schools in Israel produce large numbers of students who excel in every area. There are many, many Muslim women working and studying in the UK and other European countries. Not to mention the billion or so others who aren't blowing-up statues or otherwise trying to re-create the stone age.

    This is eminently doable. Yes, scholarships. Yes, curtailing some civil liberties. Yes, large numbers of foreign troops. Yes, top-to-bottom re-structuring of local military/civil administration.

    Do it right; or don't do it all.


    And I ask (none / 0) (#51)
    by dissenter on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 10:44:20 PM EST
    Who is going to pay for this dream - in blood and dollars?

    I applaud your enthusiasm however it would be quite interesting to see what you would say about those ideals after they have hit the crushing wall of reality.

    I will pass on your optimism to my former colleague who who has spent the better part of the last five years drilling for water. I'm not sure if it will make him laugh or cry. They can't find usable water for irrigation. Cheers.


    If this were a scrap, I'd (none / 0) (#54)
    by kidneystones on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 10:55:18 PM EST
    have to say, I'm getting my ass handed to me. LOL.

    I should, perhaps, have mentioned that a strong program of dis-incentives should be set up to serve as the stick.

    You know the geography and the specifics far better than I. The costs can be measured in different ways, but blood is the most expensive, IMHO. We're spending it already for the wrong reasons. Pulling back inside the walls doesn't seem safe or feasible.

    Might as well go forward and fight to win. Now, I'll go hang-up my uniform. You're right. I'm not sure folks see things the same way these days. I was proud to volunteer and serve. I'm sure the US military is filled with folks every bit as dedicated.

    We may need a few more and these folks may need to be paid a lot less, at least for a while.

    Anyway, cheers! Please accept my thanks and pass on the same to your hard-working associates.

    Going to feel good when that water starts flowing, especially after so many years of dust.

    Again, thanks.


    I guardedly agree with you (none / 0) (#7)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 04:33:45 PM EST
    The Taliban is often involved (none / 0) (#8)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 04:37:32 PM EST
    in stoking hostilities between Pakistan and India.  Taliban members make up the ISI.  Does he acknowledge this connection?  And that between the U.S. dealing with the Taliban in Afghanistan and the loyal Pakistan military dealing with them in Pakistan as they are currently beginning to do in unison with us.....that this will make peace between Pakistan and India much more attainable?  

    Sen. Feingold spoke to this (none / 0) (#15)
    by Cream City on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 05:02:39 PM EST
    last week, strongly stating the differences between the Taliban and Al Quaeda -- that we may disagree with the Taliban on many counts, but that they are not the terrorists, and we must work with them to make this work.

    I have to read up more on this.  Wish I had that part of Feingold's talk on tape.

    And the rest of the talk, reviewing Progressive work of the past and laying out the agenda, all Fighting Bob style in 1900 (and Fighting Belle style in 1896, since she wrote it first), for the Progressives in future.  We will see.

    (To clarify: His talk was taped but the tape is not yet available.)


    I'm not talking about the Taliban (none / 0) (#16)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 05:07:08 PM EST
    Al Qaida link, Specter says that what must be worked on is relations between India and Pakistan. He say that needs to be stabilized.  What is the single most troublesome entity in creating something like that?  ISI militants which is mostly made up of Taliban.  We aren't the only people on the globe that the Taliban thinks is cool to help organize and carry out terrorist bombings of.

    Although the animosity between India (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by oculus on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 08:31:36 PM EST
    and Pakistan dates back to the creation of independent India and Pakistan in 1947. The violence actually began before that, as people killed each other in anticipation of two countries--religious cleansing.  Horrible.

    You've recently been to India (none / 0) (#48)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 10:01:39 PM EST
    What were your impressions of this situation? I already know what the Taliban thinks of India.  They're pretty clear on that and proud of it.

    I learned more from reading history of India (none / 0) (#55)
    by oculus on Fri Nov 20, 2009 at 12:42:29 AM EST
    and the run-up to Independence than I learned in India.  But the English language newspaper in Delhi was full of news of some men being shot and killed at the border coming from Pakistan into India.  No trial there.

    Everything I learned (none / 0) (#57)
    by Steve M on Fri Nov 20, 2009 at 01:20:46 AM EST
    about India, I learned from reading Salman Rushdie.  Hope it was kinda accurate.

    I read "The White Tiger" just before my (none / 0) (#59)
    by oculus on Fri Nov 20, 2009 at 11:33:05 AM EST
    trip.  Was kind of uncomfortable when I learned we were being driven to dinner by our host's private driver!  

    Work with the Taliban? (none / 0) (#22)
    by andgarden on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 05:47:54 PM EST
    I'm sorry, but that is insane. I won't even consider it.

    Some branches of the Taliban (none / 0) (#23)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 07:03:27 PM EST
    do appear that perhaps we can work with them.  The Taliban itself is varied, there are Talibans within the Taliban.  The Neo Taliban is who we will not work with and who support Al Qaeda.  We are reaching out to less militant branches though even as I type this.  Will this come back to haunt us?

    Isn't this Gen. Jones's theory? (none / 0) (#29)
    by oculus on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 08:32:09 PM EST
    General Jones was mostly (none / 0) (#37)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 08:56:30 PM EST
    concerned with working with those in power because that was easy. If he's changed his tune it's a bit late.  He is very old school military.  The Pashtuns were not in power, they are mostly tribal and rural.  I'm sorry, but I don't think Jones broke much of a sweat in Afghanistan over anything when he was the commander there.

    Including the Pashtuns is more along (none / 0) (#39)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 09:01:34 PM EST
    the goals that Petraeus works with.  All the old school Generals hate him too.  Who is right though?  Do you want your military in Afghanistan only to engage people in the act of killing each other or do you want your military in Afghanistan to engage people in act of living together?  Both are risky.  I can promise people will die doing both.

    Well, the question appears to be (none / 0) (#26)
    by Cream City on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 07:49:51 PM EST
    more along the lines of whether the Taliban, or anyone in Afghanistan, will work with us.

    And Feingold has long tenure on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of course.  So I tend to think that he knows something that you don't know. . . .


    We are all friends (none / 0) (#27)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 07:56:29 PM EST
    I can't blame andgarden for his opinion about the Taliban.  I'm a woman, for God's sake what am I doing condoning less radical (whatever that means...I guess you just don't plan attacks on other countries but you are fine stoning your women) branches of the Taliban?  I don't feel I have a better option considering the situation.

    Where is your line in the sand? (none / 0) (#32)
    by oculus on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 08:41:03 PM EST
    What to do about Somalia, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, et al.?

    I'm talking Taliban (none / 0) (#34)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 08:48:01 PM EST
    Do you mean the funding of the Taliban from Saudi Arabia?  Somalia's problem is Al Qaeda and we go after them there right now.  I'm not sure how Zimbabwe had anything to do with 9/11.

    I'm not sure our presence in Afghanistan and (5.00 / 1) (#56)
    by oculus on Fri Nov 20, 2009 at 12:45:24 AM EST
    assistance to Pakistan have anything to do with 9 11 either.  Hope so.  

    I seem to recall (none / 0) (#33)
    by Steve M on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 08:46:56 PM EST
    that we were already reaching out to elements of the Taliban, under the last administration.  Years ago.

    So this could backfire? (none / 0) (#36)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 08:52:56 PM EST
    Is that what you are saying?  The goal is to stabilize the region to end attacks.  When we were in Afghanistan before we were told to continue to stablize the region but nope....we left because it was easy and Russia took a dive and we loved it and that was all we wanted.  Now we have 9/11.  Should have stayed then?

    Not at all (none / 0) (#40)
    by Steve M on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 09:10:18 PM EST
    It might have worked great, in whatever limited scope it was tried, for all I know.  I was mostly dismayed by andgarden's suggestion that something I believe we have been trying for years is unthinkable.

    I certainly do not want to be complicit in the oppression of women, or anyone else, by the Taliban.  But I distrust slogans and sound bites because I am pretty confident there are no easy answers in Afghanistan.


    I don't know if we can get anywhere (none / 0) (#43)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 09:25:11 PM EST
    either.  If one thing gives me pause that maybe, just maybe we can do something, it is that so many people with specific knowledge are being sought out and put into play.  And that we question what our goals are and understand that this cannot be obtained singularly through any kind of military action.  I'm grateful that Obama has put Karzai over a barrel too.

    BTW Tracy (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by dissenter on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 09:30:20 PM EST
    I admire you and a few years ago I had that kind of optimism. It is only after a rude awakening on the ground that my views evolved to what they are today.

    It is just a mess; one that we can't fix and it pains me to say that. Like US military personnel, there is nothing worse than risking your life and  having your family life stretched to the brink only to find out it was for nothing.


    I wish I could say you were the only (none / 0) (#46)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 09:36:32 PM EST
    one I knew.  Stu lives across the lake, he was shotdown over there and he will use a cane for the rest of his life and he's a young man.  He says it is hopeless.  He says the whole place was shot up when we got there, and it isn't willing to be anything but.

    I don't know.... (none / 0) (#30)
    by lentinel on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 08:36:23 PM EST
    I am under the impression that the Afghan people were prefer that we got out of there.

    People say this (none / 0) (#35)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 08:49:49 PM EST
    and refuse to acknowledge the Afghans who don't want us to leave.  I don't know how many times I have to bring up that even Code Pink has changed their position of troops on Afghanistan after meeting with their Afghan female members.

    Huh (5.00 / 2) (#41)
    by dissenter on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 09:14:38 PM EST
    The majority of Afghans want us out. We can't stay and fight a war on behalf of 25% of the population ...they aren't even Pashtun.

    I don't know why people think if we had just stayed there after the Soviet withdrawal things would look so much different. What evidence is there for that? There isn't any. In fact, if you want to talk about delivered aid the Afghans will tell you the Soviets did a better job.

    More importantly, you can't effectively fight a war when you can't even answer the question why. What is victory and how can you expect the American people to support it with blood and treasure when there is no clear path to victory (whatever the hell that is suppose to be).

    Regional stabilization via Afghanistan is the same bet we made in the 1980's and look where we are today. They are laughing their ass off in the Kremlin, the region is more unstable and our cities are under attack.

    You don't make deals or play games with religious fanatics. All you get is blow back.


    Then why are we there? (none / 0) (#45)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 09:33:05 PM EST
    Because we are there, and our leaders aren't leaving that I can tell.  NATO is pulling in many more troops from many other nations too, it isn't just us.  I suspect that some of these countries are only involved hoping to shore up a NATO membership but troops are troops and manpower is manpower.  It isn't just us doing this.  And Specter is saying what he is saying I suspect because he thinks this will get him the votes he needs to get :)  I don't know how he can stablize the Pakistan India relationship without taking on the Taliban.

    But someone has to fight (none / 0) (#49)
    by dissenter on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 10:05:45 PM EST
    Right now the only countries involved in offensive ops are the US, Brits and Canadians. The EU doesn't fight. They send in troops for us to guard. I swear to god it is the most unbelievable thing I have ever seen. My brother actually had to protect the Dutch. Yes, NATO has troops but you don't win a war on the defensive.

    The Canadians have announced they are leaving by 2011. The Brits want out as does every other taxpayer in the EU. This is unsustainable.

    You are right about the main point. We are there because leaders sent us there but they don't even know why at this point.


    You sound like this guy I live with :) (none / 0) (#58)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Nov 20, 2009 at 08:39:40 AM EST
    I don't know if the new special forces troops being sent can fight with us now. And my husband can't tell me, you know his phone calls are monitored and he isn't even supposed to talk about the weather :) I have nobody stateside who knows.  France has sent Special Forces in with us now, and Georgia plans to and may have some there already.  Are these forces permitted to fight with us?  I know that McChrystal has really been laying the guilting on hard with the EU about not sending in troops that can fight.  And it is sad that the Dutch can't even protect themselves :)

    Wait (none / 0) (#62)
    by Socraticsilence on Fri Nov 20, 2009 at 02:45:44 PM EST
    Fighting a war on behalf 25% that if we leave will be persecuted and oppressed is the very thing we rightly spent the 90s doing- I thought we learned that sitting back and allowing oppression/genocide to occur wasn't an option.

    Dianne Feinstein, when asked, for example, (none / 0) (#31)
    by oculus on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 08:39:53 PM EST
    to vote against the FISA revise by me, her constituent, belatedly replied she knows stuff even other Senators do not know, thus justifying her vote in favor of FISA revise.

    Pres. Obama definitely earned his (none / 0) (#9)
    by oculus on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 04:38:45 PM EST
    Nobel Peace Prize if he can persuade Pakistan and India to peacefully coexist side-by-side, despite such a tortured history.  

    He's leaving this up to (none / 0) (#12)
    by BackFromOhio on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 04:47:16 PM EST
    the State Dept - Hillary and Holbrooke.

    Good Presidents delegate. (none / 0) (#18)
    by oculus on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 05:15:56 PM EST
    No ones doing that though (none / 0) (#63)
    by Socraticsilence on Fri Nov 20, 2009 at 02:46:40 PM EST
    Its like suggesting he's going to Get Israel Palestine to co-exist.

    Mindsets, Health Care and Afghanistan (none / 0) (#24)
    by KeysDan on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 07:04:38 PM EST
    Well, in health care reform we were told that Medicare for all was impossible and off the table, without much explanation. Then we proceeded to discuss other ways to reform health care..  With Afghanistan, I detect a similar mindset.  For example, in the NYT editorial of today, the discussion started with "...but it seems clear that this is not the time for precipitous withdrawal, nor can the U.S. cling to the status quo while the Taliban gains ever more territory and more power".   Just  a premise to be accepted, and thereafter discussion continues about the best way to go about continuing the war, such as why we are there, and the absence of  credible partners, troop increases and funds for the war.  No notice was given to the first page article of the same edition by Baker and Landler, that the administration is leaning on Karzai, to among other things funnel development assistance to areas that the Taliban dominate--yes that same Taliban.