President Obama And The Afghanistan Dilemma

 Dammed If He Does…And Dammed If He Doesn’t!

Barack Obama, king of the World Heavy is the head that wears the crown

Only one thing is certain about American policy in Afghanistan: President Obama is right to take his time and carefully study his options as commander-In-Chief, before committing further American blood and treasure to that protracted conflict where the objectives are uncertain and the possibilities for disaster are legion.   Indeed, Barack seems to have heeded the old adage “fools rush in where wise men fear to tread!

 The problems American forces face in that remote and foreboding land are staggering and public opinion is deeply divided at home.  Furthermore it is clear that simple approaches such as the “Powell Doctrine” that worked so well in “Desert Storm,” or the “Surge” strategy that is now credited with a dubious American “success” in Iraq, will not work in Afghanistan.  The former is based on strong public support at home and overwhelming force against the enemy, and the Surge strategy depends upon flooding hostile areas with large numbers of troops who will take and hold ground. Neither approach is applicable given the treacherous terrain in Afghanistan and the turbulent political climate in the US.

Although General Stanley McCrystal, the President’s hand picked commander in the Afghan theater, has requested more troops he does not believe a dramatic increase in the Taliban body count is the path to an American victory.  The General seems to have studied the lessons of past counter-insurgency efforts well.  In recent interviews he has downplayed the role of firepower and greatly emphasized the importance of winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.   He is so committed to this strategy that he has taken to walking among the Afghans unarmed to show that he means them no harm.

The General has declared in no uncertain terms: if US forces fail to win the support of the Afghan people, no amount of firepower can salvage their mission.  This is the major lesson of the Vietnam war that emerges from “Deadly Deceits.” Written by Ralph McGhee, a former CIA agent from the Vietnam era,  the principle lesson of that candid expose was that American policy makers and military commanders never understood the real nature of the Vietnamese insurgency – mainly because of politicized intelligence designed to justify a preordained policy rather than inform policy makers of the facts on the ground.

The reckless Republican policies that led us into the bogus invasion of Iraq was also based on politicized intelligence, presided over by “Dirty Dick” Cheney and the cabal of policy wonks he recruited from the Project for a New American Century led by Paul Wolfowitz.  And these same war criminals are now trying to goad President Obama into precipitously escalating the war in Afghanistan without a coherent plan spelling out American objectives or how they will be achieved.

For these war mongers, the loss of life, limb and sanity on the part of young American soldiers, or  the slaughter of Afghans of all ages and genders, is of no real concern; only their imperial ambitions for a Pax Americana matters.  Hence President Obama must ignore the clatter on the right, heed the counsel of his chosen advisors, and deliberate with Solomonic wisdom in choosing his course.  Even then, given the fact that the US is committed to supporting a government that just stole an election, disaster may prove unavoidable.

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Playthell Benjamin

 October 1, 2009

 

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