Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Good War?

The President has been involved in protracted deliberations over the strategy needed in Afghanistan. Amazingly, former Vice President Cheney has chosen to criticize the President for being deliberate in his decisions. Amazing criticism from a man who encouraged his President into making a huge string of strategic mistakes, from the conduct of the war in Afghanistan during the Bush Administration, to invading Iraq, to the general tenor of our foreign policy to idiotic and disastrous domestic policies to participating in the outing of a covert CIA officer.

That rant aside, the President has an incredibly tough decision to make.

Like much of what he inherited, President is faced with a range of shitty options, none of whom hold great promise.

Withdrawal on some sort of timetable and leaving the Afghanistani's to their own devices would be terribly difficult to sell politically even if he wasn't already in the middle of two other very important political debates.

Keep with the current force levels and strategy. Probably the one choice no one is advocating.

Bulk up our forces by 40,000 or more troops to expand the current strategy of take, hold, and build that was the concept behind his first troop increase in March. Basically doubling down on his earlier strategy.

Shift the focus from anti-insurgency and nation building implicit in take, hold, and build to a focused anti-terrorist strategy that utilizes special forces and targeted munitions to target Al Queda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and essentially withdraw from the Afghani civil war.

There may be other options, these are the ones I have heard of.

And they are all terrible options.

Any strategy that is focused on building the institutions and military structure of the Afghani government in Kabul runs headlong into the debilitating corruption of the Karzi government. And there is no real evidence that his opponent in the upcoming runoff will be any less corrupt. And this is why any strategy built on nation building in Afghanistan begins to look and feel more and more like Vietnam. And that image scares me.

I don't know how different a strategic picture we would be seeing in Afghanistan if the Bush Administration had not screwed the pooch so completely, but we may now be at the point where the Taliban cannot be defeated. They have used money and what almost looks like effective governance to establish a very strong position in much of the country. And they can easily present us as invaders and occupiers and history shows that Afghanistan is not kind to invaders and occupiers. And what passes for a central government in Kabul is riddled with corruption and ineptitude. How can we try to build a nation based on that central government? Though it would be easy to criticize President Bush for picking Karzai, I don't know of any other Afghani leader who could have been effective at creating a national government in a nation that has never really had one. If there is a leader who would not be corrupt himself and who could create a government largely free of corruption, I have not heard his name.

Take, hold, and build might possibly work if we could bring in enough troops and keep them there long enough, but the more troops we bring in, the more we look like occupiers. The longer we stay, the more we look like occupiers. The more we support a corrupt central government the more we look like occupiers.

I supported President Obama in the election and I supported his decision to increase our force level in Afghanistan early in his Presidency. Now I am not so sure.

Increasingly I believe it’s time for us to accept that we cannot enforce our will on Afghanistan. Maybe we never could have. Maybe even if the Bush Administration had focused on Afghanistan from the beginning it would still look the same, I don't know.

But I don't see any good outcome here. We will continue to lose good men and women fighting a war trying to build a stable nation in Afghanistan and I don't see any realistic way for us to succeed. Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan doesn't really have any history of central governance. It has always been a tribal society where people are far more faithful their faith and their tribe than to their nation. Can come together and stop fighting each other when the need to deal with invaders and occupiers, but they don't see themselves as a nation. Afghanistan is, after all, a nation created by western colonial powers drawing lines on a map that had little or nothing to do with reality on the ground.

We have screwed up here. We gleefully helped the Afghani people defeat the Soviets. The Soviets pulled out and the first Bush Administration patted itself on the back and walked away from a country we helped break. Maybe if we had stayed then, maybe if we had worked with the Pakistani's and the Afghani's to build civil structures and build infrastructure that would give people other options than growing poppies, maybe it might have worked then. My natural inclination is that since we broke it, we have to fix it. I just don't think we can.

We need to be finding a way out. Sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What has conservativism done for you??

Conservatives gave us record deficits and an illegal invasion of a country that wasn't a threat to us and the deepest recession in 70 years and maniacs shooting doctors.

So what have conservatives done in the past 40 years to make the lives of anyone who isn't rich better?

The opposed the Clean Air Act and The Clean Water Act and the EPA and Medicare and Clinton's tax increases (which only set the stage for the greatest expansion in a century or more). They deregulated banks which led directly to the current recession. They have lied about climate change/global warming for at least 15 years and stopped us from taking on the most important challenge this world faces right now. They insisted that the federal government should intervene in private medical decisions made by a grieving husband in Florida after illegally disenfranchising thousands of (mostly minority) voters just before the 2000 election. They have spent the past 6 month lying about health care reform, especially the public option.

They have opposed every increase in the minimum wage despite all the evidence that it actually benefits people and doens't actually lead to job losses.

Proposition 13 in California lowered people's property taxes and eviserated public education in that state.

So really, what positive thing for the majorit of American's have conservatives accomplished in the past 30 or 40 years??


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Religious Conservatives

I was on my standard 600 mile drive yesterday and surfing the radio (CD player is broken). I came upon the President speaking to some enthusiastic crowd so I stopped surfing and listened.

Our President was addressing a rally on the mall for Gay Rights. And the President was telling these Americans that he supported some of their causes. That he supported the Repeal of DOMA. That he supported the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. The crowd was going nuts.

It sounded like a really good speech.

After it ended, some guy named John came on. He was absolutely horrified that President Obama had ended his speech to a group of Americans with "God Bless America!". How dare the President support people who were gay!!!!

John then went on to talk about how Homosexuality was an abomination and a sin and a really nasty thing. And then he opened the phone lines and caller after caller came on to say that this was a horrible thing.

And in the middle of this there was an ad.

The ad was for some group supporting Christians in some country who are being persecuted by Muslims simply because they are Christians and the Muslims are trying to impose Shiara Law.

And I thought, how much the same those Religious Conservatives were.

They both cherry pick from their holy books to support their beliefs that other people are evil or sick or depraved or just infidels.

And they both want to make their vision of right and wrong into the law.

They pick and choose from their holy books what they want to read and ignore the rest and then claim some sort of moral high ground because they are just doing what their holy book tells them to do. At least the part of their holy book that they choose to emphasize.

And in many Muslim countries, the conservatives are winning and women are being forced under the veil and Christians are presecuted and harrassed.

And here, in the Land of the Free, there is a powerful push to repeal the law in New Hampshire to ban Same Sex Marriage. Not because there is any evidence that Gay Marriage is bad for anybody. Not because there is any evidence that allowing lesbian couples the same benefits as straight couples does society any harm. There isn't any evidence because allowing two people who love each other to marry turns out to be a good thing for society. But they oppose it because the parts of the bible they choose to read tell them its an abomination.

And they think their opinion should be law.

What, really, is the difference between these two groups of religious conservatives?

President Obama, Nobel Laurete

Just Amazing
I personally think its too soon. I suspect that he would have eventually won the Peace Prize. In many ways this is because he has approached the world in such fundamentally different ways than his predecessor. And that, by itself, may be sufficient justification for this honor. Our President, the President of the most powerful country in the world, has let the world know that we are no longer the nation of our way or the highway. Taht we recognize that are a force for good in the world, but that we are occasionally a force for evil as well, that we stand a far better chance of achieving our goals with we approach the rest of the world with respect, not derision.
Just Amazing