Afghan Endgame: WNYC’s Brian Lehrer & Steve Clemons

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brian lehrer square twn.jpgThis is an audio clip of an extensive discussion with Brian Lehrer on WNYC National Public Radio today about Barack Obama’s options in Afghanistan.
I am pleased and applaud President Obama for requiring his advisers to come to him with plans including serious “exit strategies.”
Lehrer properly noted that I am a skeptic of a surge of forces into Afghanistan now and lined up some callers who were proponents of committing greater resources toward the problem.
I thought that this was an excellent exchange — and covered the terrain well. Brian Lehrer knows how to expertly peel back the onion skin of these complex national security issues.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

41 comments on “Afghan Endgame: WNYC’s Brian Lehrer & Steve Clemons

  1. John Waring says:

    1. http://www.newshoggers.com/blog/2009/11/an-interview-with-matthew-hoh.html
    2.http://www.harpers.org/subjects/NoComment#hbc-90006124
    3. http://www.harpers.org/media/image/blogs/misc/dark-truth-behind-gitmo2.pdf
    The first link is to an interview Derrick Crowe had with Matthew Hoh, the Marine officer, veteran of Iraq, and state department official recently serving in Afghanistan, who resigned rather than support current policy. Mr. Hoh staht the presence of US combat troops has done nothing to defeat al-Qaida. He says we are involved in a civil war. We’ve taken one side in that civil war, and our presence is only encouraging the continuance of that civil war. Good stuff. Read the whole post.
    We did not have a robust debate before invading Iraq. The last administration talked of mushroom clouds, and off we went to fight an unnecessary war. I devoutly hope more views than those of Gen McChrystal are aired this time around.
    The leaking of the McChrystal report was a classic attempt by the military to steamroller the process in favor of their own pet views. I view Obama’s refusal to be stampeded as a good sign.
    The second link is to Scott Horton’s blog, “No Comment”. The particular entry is “Hannah Arendt on the Political Lie”. Mr. Horton uses this entry as an introduction to a lecture he delivered to Pace School of Law, entitled, “The Dark Truth behind Gitmo”, which is the third link.
    Scott Horton makes a powerful case that the Bush administration must be held to account. I wholeheartedly agree. Under Bush, we put innocent people into Gitmo, and tortured them. Emanuel and Axelrod are mistaken. They have given the president bad advice about moving forward. Our national wounds will not heal until the pus from the Bush administration is drained away.
    Dan Kervick is correct. The Bush administration frittered away American power with both hands, and destroyed our moral standing in the world.

    Reply

  2. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Interesting how the rabid RW always thinks the military is 100% right if they share ideologies and analysis with the bloodthirsties like this bigot Nadine, but 100% wrong when they don’t.
    ‘Tis truly a pity we didn’t listen to Shinzeki. But the “Nadines” in leadership positions FIRE the generals that actually abhor and oppose wars sold with propaganda.
    Nadine insults Dan, implying he has no respect or gratitude towards our soldiers, yet it is Nadine that advocates spilling blood for lies, and for the interests of a foreign nation, even when it harms our own national interests. Point of fact, it is Nadine that has no respect for the United States military. It is Nadine that advocates throwing the lives of American soldiers away like bags of garbage.

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  3. nadine says:

    “Boo hoo. Maybe when a guy spends his days being saluted and having his boots licked at the top of an authoritarian chain of command in his local theater of operations, he can’t deal with finding out he has bosses too.” (Dan Kervick)
    Thank you so much for exposing your real feelings about the military.
    Gen. McChrystal was tasked with achieving victory in Afghanistan, and he will fail his country if he squanders all chance of success by meekly accepting the dithering and incompetence of the Obama administration. He put his career on the line to try to make Obama understand how serious the situation is.

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  4. Mr.Murder says:

    Joint session material.
    Convene a hearing with two Committees in it(perhaps three).
    Foreign Relations/Security on the one hand, and Agriculture/Commerce on the other.
    Sweeten the incentive in ways that profit American agribsuiness.
    Suddenly you’ve bought and built support and votes. Anyone opposing it is trying to *bring down the mission….

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  5. Mr.Murder says:

    Joint session material.
    Convene a hearing with two Committees in it(perhaps three).
    Foreign Relations/Security on the one hand, and Agriculture/Commerce on the other.
    Sweeten the incentive in ways that profit American agribsuiness.
    Suddenly you’ve bought and built support and votes. Anyone opposing it is trying to being down the mission….

    Reply

  6. Mr.Murder says:

    Benchmarks(including transparency) attached to a series of incentives.
    Mostly food bank(huge win over on the agribudget lobby for the domestic USA).
    Think of it as a way to gain ground on the GOP’s biggest hoped for votes.
    They want to try and paint it like DC is out of touch with middle America. Remind farmer John that the harvest he sells will help cultivate democracy along with profit.
    This is an opportunity for Obama to gain votes and support.

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  7. Dan Kervick says:

    “… Or perhaps he understands that he was being cold shouldered and ignored.”
    Boo hoo. Maybe when a guy spends his days being saluted and having his boots licked at the top of an authoritarian chain of command in his local theater of operations, he can’t deal with finding out he has bosses too.

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  8. nadine says:

    “The urgency McChrystal called for was in the area of a change in strategy. The report emphasized several times that “new resources are not the crux.””
    Seriously, Dan, that’s like arguing that because half a pair of scissors cannot do the job by itself, it is not needed at all.
    McChrystal was arguing for a new strategy which needed more troops to implement it. Thus he was arguing for both the strategy and the troops.
    “Perhaps McChrystal thinks his is the only voice that should count.”
    Perhaps. Or perhaps he understands that he was being cold shouldered and ignored, and decided that he needed to risk lighting a fire under the administration.

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  9. Dan Kervick says:

    “… and ignored a report that said basically, we are losing, and if you want me to turn this around I need more troops NOW.”
    The report was not “ignored”. It was delivered to the Secretary of Defense only three weeks before it was leaked, and was one crucial input in a review process that was already underway. Perhaps McChrystal thinks his is the only voice that should count.
    The report also by no means emphasized that we need new troops “now”. The urgency McChrystal called for was in the area of a change in strategy. The report emphasized several times that “new resources are not the crux.”

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  10. nadine says:

    Dan, your Bush Derangement Syndrome is showing. If deficits are so bad, why did Obama just quadruple the Federal deficit? Why does he want to quadruple it again with another completely unsustainable entitlement program, when Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are already bankrupting state and federal governments?
    Many mouths blew up the credit bubble, and if Goldman, AIG and loose regulation were one set of culprits, the Community Reinvestment Act, Fanny and Freddie were another.
    Consider: under normal circumstances, banks don’t want to lend money to people who can’t pay the loan back. They really don’t. Yet in the credit bubble, billions in subprime mortgages were written to anybody who asked. They were dragging bums out of gutters to give them mortgages. Why? What make the lenders behave in such a seemingly self-destructive manner?
    They didn’t care what loans they made because Fannie and Freddie were buying the loans with no questions asked. What made Fannie and Freddie behave so stupidly and yet people still trusted them? Why, Congressional instructions via the CRA and (implicit, now explicit) Treasury backing.
    It was Bush who tried to reign in Fanny and Freddie in 2003 and 2005, and Barney Frank and Chris Dodd who fended off the attempts, with the help of enough stupid/bought off Republicans to make the vote. Had that “West Texas bumpkin” been stronger, we might have avoided the subprime meltdown altogether.
    So there is plenty of blame to go around. You are a fool if you buy the line that Barney Frank is peddling now to cover his rear.

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  11. nadine says:

    McChrystal (if it was McChrystal) leaked the report to the press after being ignored by the WH for months. Bush talked to the generals every week; but Obama spoke to McChrystal only once! and ignored a report that said basically, we are losing, and if you want me to turn this around I need more troops NOW. You can’t just ignore a report like that, whether your answer is yes, no, or to conduct a review. You owe your general some kind of answer. From what I know of McCrystal, I don’t believe he would ever have leaked if he didn’t think it was the only way to get the WH’s attention.
    “Whatever Obama’s team finally decides, we can expect a very public push of some kind to educate the public, lay out the new strategy in clear and understandable terms, and organize public support behind the agenda.”
    You have a lot more confidence than I. I think Obama is trying to vote “present” on Afghanistan, and will say as little as possible when and if he finally decides something. TWT

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  12. Dan Kervick says:

    Nadine, Bush’s review was not secret. If you do some googling, you will see that the fact that such a review was taking place was widely reported last fall. What you seem to be confusing this with is that the contents of the document that was finally delivered to Obama were not made public.
    That’s what McChrystal was supposed to with his own review: keep it secret. But he decided to leak it to the press, and that has blown this whole process up into a public brouhaha, and has necessitated counter-leaks from others so that McChrystal and his people are not able to set the terms of political debate and control public expectations unilaterally.
    Of course, the political requirements of an outgoing administration in its last month in office are very different from those of an administration in its first year in power. Whatever Obama’s team finally decides, we can expect a very public push of some kind to educate the public, lay out the new strategy in clear and understandable terms, and organize public support behind the agenda. Polls indicate that most Americans are sick of Afghanistan and are not convinced the war is worth the effort, cost and losses. So whatever Obama tries to sell to the public, it had better include a clear statement of achievable goals and a believable exit strategy, or else he and his administration are going to go the way of Johnson.
    My guess is that the Chinese are quite happy to see us embroiled in Afghanistan and Iraq, because the more resources we pour into those countries – in terms of our money, soldiers, labor and time – the less we have available to invest in Africa, Latin America and East Asia. And this means that the Chinese are able to expand their sphere of economic influence much more rapidly than they would otherwise. And with so much of our military tied up in the Middle East in the permanent Long War of paranoid delusion, the US’s economic competitors know that we are in no position to defend our interests aggressively anywhere else.
    American power in relative terms was bound to decline anyway during the first part of the 21st century, simply due to the growth of other powerful economies. But the chief effect of Bush was to accelerate a gradual decline into a catastrophic plunge by the application of a double-wallop of dumb: two unnecessary and colossally expensive wars, followed by the wreck of a national economy through the abdication of the responsibilities of governance. That West Texas bumpkin turned a once-proud national economy into an out-of-control Ponzi racket that amounted to turning the looters free to do a business in the fine china and deck chairs from a sinking ship.

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  13. nadine says:

    “There is no way you can do a major strategic review of this magnitude and keep it entirely secret”
    Oh really? Then how did Bush do it? You’re whistling past the graveyard, Dan. Stop spewing hatred of Cheney and think if you can manage. When Bush adopted the surge in Iraq in late 2006, somehow there too he managed to review his war strategy without hemming and hawing to the whole world. Obama has no executive experience, and it shows.
    “Our president just had to conduct a seriously important trip to China and East Asia in a dreadfully weakened position, because he is seen by his foreign peers as humiliatingly tied to the prosecution of two ridiculous and extravagantly wasteful wars.”
    WTF? Why should the Chinese care if we are tied up in wars? If we keep open the Straights of Hormuz, that is good for them. If we provide an attactive target to jihadi Uigers, that is good too.
    What the Chinese care about is what is about to happen to the US dollar, which Obama is fixing to destroy with his insanely reckless spending. The Chinese hold enormous amounts of our treasuries, and have little choice but to accumulate more; they have to sell. Their own economy is bubbly and in danger of bursting. So we have the ironic spectacle Chinese Communists begging us to behave with greater fiscal responsibility.

    Reply

  14. Dan Kervick says:

    Nadine, I did in fact respond to almost everything you wrote.
    After years of neglect and blundering stupidity, the Bush administration did a review of Afghanistan policy on the way out the door. My reading is that the current administration concluded that that review is not worth the paper it was written on, and quickly decided they had to start from scratch.
    Far from being classless, the Obama administration has bent over backward to avoid dumping on the Bush administration the full load of the opprobrium the latter rightly deserve for their criminal misdeeds and disastrous foreign policy blunders. The administration has also shielded the previous administration from the workings of justice. Most of Cheney’s old cronies should be in jail. The United States has never been in a worse position overall in my lifetime, and it is mainly the fault of that miserable and incompetent buffoon Bush, and his crooked and malevolent vizier Cheney.
    How much more “class” do these bungling titty-babies need? If Cheney had the class of an Old Roman, he would take to a bathtub with a razor blade and address his brutalization of the American people, their laws, their well-being and their traditions with the last nanoparticle of his honor.
    There is no way you can do a major strategic review of this magnitude and keep it entirely secret. From time to time during a war, the war’s leaders hold a war council, and outsiders can generally see this process is occurring. Nevertheless, the current review process would have been much more buttoned-up, disciplined and quiet if General McChrystal and his Pentagon buddies had not gone rogue, and had kept their yaps shut. The leaks and speeches and publicity gambits that have occurred since McChrystal made his big, loud play are part of an unfortunate cycle that was started by the general’s brazen, usurpative attempt to push the internal debate out into the political sphere, and to seize control of the decision-making from his commander-in-chief.
    The Spectator is another lame old conservative outfit and bastion of British Empire chauvinism that is crying over the rapidly departing glories of the “Bush-Blair era”, and is appalled and terrified by the spectacle of rational decision-making in government, because they know that every time rationality is applied to their beloved old Bush-Blair projects, the result is to scrape off another layer of the thick varnish of imbecility and mythology that coats the rotted hobby horses they ride. Well, read it and weep, Spectator, as the rest of us say good riddance.
    Our president just had to conduct a seriously important trip to China and East Asia in a dreadfully weakened position, because he is seen by his foreign peers as humiliatingly tied to the prosecution of two ridiculous and extravagantly wasteful wars. These wars are a foreign policy ball and chain that he drags around behind him, clinking and clanking, and they must be the occasion of much (politely hidden) mirth among the Chinese. He is correctly seen as in no position to bargain so long as his capital city is in the grip of War on Terror Americajihadists, and he has to waste piles of time, money and leverage on cleaning up our preposterous, unnecessary and futile overextention into a godforsaken region. Instead of pouring everything we have into competing with the Chinese, and leveraging our diminishing but still estimable economic power, Obama has to spend fortunes to make sure the last *200* Al Qaeda bumpkins don’t set up a safe haven in faraway mountains of Afghanistan.
    Now, Nadine, perhaps you could let us in on your own ideas about the proper aims and strategy of our endeavors in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and about the resources that should be dispensed and the tactics that should be employed.

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  15. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Actually, Nadine you aren’t “agreeing” with me, thank God. I’m afraid if I was actually in agreement with anything espoused by a glaring bigot, I might just have to shoot myself.
    Dan’s actual mistake, as it applies to Bush, is not recognizing that Obama’s policies aren’t substantially different than Bush’s. FISA, torture, rendition, a lack of accountability, yadayadayada. It won’t suprise me in the least if we come out of the Obama term worse off than we came out of this asshole Bush’s reign. Obviously, the Palestinians are ALREADY worse off.
    And Obama has three more years to screw things up. Whats worse, we will not only have to deal with Obama’s four years of incompetence and betrayals, it will be compounded by the disaster of the RW regaining control of the White House. I predict, in 2012, a dismally low turnout from voters on the left, who will really get NOTHING that was promised to them, if the last few months are any indication.

    Reply

  16. nadine says:

    Dan, I hate to sound like I’m agreeing with POA on anything, but you are going off into your comfort zone of bashing Bush without addressing any of my points: first, that if the Bush administration handed Obama a strategy review about which they kept silent at Obama’s request, then it is classless to accuse Bush of paying no attention to Afghanistan; second, that strategy reviews must be conducted in secret so that the Commander in Chief does not broadcast indecision to the whole world; and third, that decisions must be made in a timely manner. Obama does not have six months or a year to consider the matter, because the situation on the ground is changing rapidly, and not in our favor.
    I notice that the British Spectator is leading with an article that calls Obama “The Worst Kind of Ally” and accuses him of being AWOL on Afghanistan, adding that Britain, who has thousands of troops on the ground, has been reduced to guessing about when and if Obama will make a decision:
    “‘The Afghan issue has made clear the astonishing disregard with which Mr Obama treats Britain . As he decides how many more troops to send to Afghanistan – a decision which will fundamentally affect the scope of the mission – Britain is reduced to taking a guess. The White House does not even pretend to portray this as a joint decision. It is a diplomatic cold-shouldering that stands in contrast not just to the Blair-Bush era, but to the togetherness of the soldiers on the ground.'”
    http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/5549818/britains-awol-ally.thtml

    Reply

  17. Linda says:

    POA,
    I agree with you again and have been saying lately to friends and family about how sad and unsatisfying it is to say
    “I told you so”
    when the future of our country and lives of many people here and abroad are impacted by a President’s decisions.
    And while supporting Obama from the time he announced, I often said that all of them from both parties who ran for the nominations had to be a bit crazy and unrealistic to want to follow Bush as President. The odds of failure and being a one-term President were extremnely high, and it would be very easy to be the opposition party.
    I still don’t totally regret my vote because if McCain had been elected, many more troops would have been sent to Afghanistan by now-at least 40-50,000, and he’d be leaning toward filling requests for even more—and it could end up as high as 400,000-500,000 with same results. And if McCain had won, a lot of 5-4 Supreme Court decisions would be 6-3 the wrong direction to suit me.
    Not much to be thankful for this year except that it could have been worse!

    Reply

  18. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I cannot help but experience a bit of deja vu while reading Dan’s latest flight into the comfortable realm of wishful thinking. His musings on Obama’s future handling of Afghanistan closely mirrors the optimistic nattering put forth when Obama was pursuing his “hardline” with Israel.
    Personally, I find such optimism inexplicable, unless one is able to completely disregard the Obama Administration’s chaotic lack of concensus or loyalty towards a unified stance on any given issue. This constant state of war between the “right” and the “left” is damaging enough, but the state of war within the Democratic ranks, so clearly exhibited by the settlement issue, is utterly disastrous to implementing any sort of coherant or constructive course of action. I hate to say it, but once again, in the not too distant future, I will be saying….
    “I told you so”.
    Fact is, Obama inherited a number of MASSIVE clusterfucks that are unresolvable. Iraq and Afghanistan are two such clusterfucks. Both “issues” can only spell political disaster for Obama, AS THERE ARE NO SOLUTIONS. Whatever Obama does, he is doomed to political suicide. Pull out, stay in, escalate, or maintain, we cannot “win” these two “wars”. There is no course of action that is a “win” for Obama, politically. He’s fucked.

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  19. Dan Kervick says:

    There is no reason that the Afghanistan decisions have to be made especially “fast”. The war has dragged on for eight years, and could drag on for another eight, eighteen or twenty-eight the way its going. There was no pressing crisis there calling for immediate, urgent action. There is plenty of time to get it right.
    But anyway, Nadine, what specific decision would you like the president to make? What is your own vision of victory and the best means for achieving it?
    I have to laugh about anyone who thinks the Obama administration has treated the Bush administration classlessly. Not only was the Bush administration a catastrophic disaster for both US domestic and foreign policy, many of its most important members are almost certainly guilty of crimes against international and US law. In a Washington political world that was dominated by truth and justice, or even where a more aggressively partisan administration was in power, a lot of those guys would be in, or facing prison by now. The Bush folks should be saying prayers of thanksgiving every night for the gift of Obama’s forward-looking orientation.
    The Bush administration review conducted last fall was apparently afflicted with the same grandiose “transformative” thinking and unachievable ideological pipe dreams that characterized their whole blundering and heedless administration. The US military, under Bush, seems to have smoked a lot of the same crusading Democracy Holy War crack, and doesn’t want to lose its indulgent Bush-era boon of endless budgets, bottomless resources, open-ended time frames, vaulting ambitions and permanent war. But Obama has wisely declined the previous administration’s invitation for permanent, open-ended war with no exit strategy, and appears to be pressing for a plan that re-focuses on some more achievable goal, in a realistic time frame, and that ends with the US getting out.
    The supporters of the old agenda are desperate that it not be changed, and they oppose the strategic review because they are afraid the old approach *will* change. All their fussing and hair-pulling and foot stomping about the need for haste, and the wrongness of the review process itself are just a smokescreen for their fears about what is like to come *out* of a thoughtful review process. They would love for Obama just to delegate, react, improvise and succumb to the inertia of the processes and policies put into effect over the past eight years – and to put his faith in a military addicted to the blank check.

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  20. bob h says:

    I listen to Brian Lehrer, and you always do a great interview.

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  21. nadine says:

    “I get the sense that, above all else, Obama hates blundering reactivity, impulsiveness and thoughtless improvisation under the pressure of political events. That is something that has done in previous American leaders, and he inherited a dangerously wayward Afghanistan policy characterized by incoherence and inattention.” (Dan Kervick)
    Obama implied as much about a month ago – that the Bush administration had not paid attention to Afghanistan – and earned a blistering rebuke from Dick Cheney, who said that not only had the Bush administration conducted an Afghanistan strategy review in the fall of 2008, but at the request of the Obama transition team, had handed the report to the incoming administration without making it public, and that the new Obama administration had used it in formulating their initial Afghanistan policy. I didn’t hear anybody in the Obama administration refute or even address Dick Cheney’s charges.
    I believe Dick Cheney on this one. It shows that not only does Obama lack class (“blame Bush” will soon reach its expiration date as an excuse), but that the Bush administration was able to do something that the Obama administration cannot – hold a strategy review and keep it secret. As I have said before, another Afghanistan strategy review could conceivably be appropriate (though I do not understand why Obama would lose confidence in Gen. McCrystal before McCrystal even had a chance to put his strategy into action), but leaking the damn thing all over the world is TERRIBLE. It broadcasts weakness and waffling. It demoralizes our troops and encourages the enemy.
    If Obama really hates having to make hard decisions fast under the pressure of political events, then I think he does not want to be President. It’s in the job description.

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  22. Linda says:

    Hi,POA,
    We don’t disagree much at all–even focused on the same sentence.
    I decided long ago to give him a year. Invariably after two years, I am not pleased with President for whom I voted. I haven’t ignored his performance thus far, and I don’t think it will change significantly in the next two months.
    “Like to believe” is not believing. And so far, I don’t see much change I can believe in.
    I surely won’t be pleased if I have to again, as so many times before, just settle for getting better judges appointed to the federal judiciary.

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  23. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I’d like very much to believe that you are correct about this”
    Then I guess you better ignore Obama’s performance thus far.

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  24. Linda says:

    Dan,
    I’d like very much to believe that you are correct about this:
    “I get the sense that, above all else, Obama hates blundering reactivity, impulsiveness and thoughtless improvisation under the pressure of political events.”
    Perhaps Obama is doing that about his decision in Afghanistan. We will know soon enough about that, but your quote above pretty much describes the way health care reform is being designed by Congress. Whether it is foreign policy or domestic policy, I get concerned when a program or policy makes no good common sense and is hailed as a great achievement of historic proportions.

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  25. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I get the sense that, above all else, Obama hates blundering reactivity, impulsiveness and thoughtless improvisation under the pressure of political events”
    ROFLMAO!!!!
    Yeah, like the sheer genius and forethought he devoted to his settlemenmt stance, eh?
    You gotta be kidding me.

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  26. Dan Kervick says:

    Obama will complete his review process within an appropriate time frame. When he does, he will no doubt make a major, clarifying national statement, and both he and his team will give a series of speeches and interviews in which they will sharply define US aims in Afghanistan, and define victory.
    Recent reports suggest that a problem he is having is that when he has queried his top advisers, some of whom seem to be passionately committed to one action or another in Afghanistan, it has turned out that *they themselves* are not able to define for him, in precise terms, the ultimate aims of the policies they are endorsing, nor tell him how we are to assess and measure whether those aims have been achieved. This is an unsatisfactory situation, and he is right to me miffed if people are coming to the strategy table with a lot of vague, abstract and half-baked agendas.
    I get the sense that, above all else, Obama hates blundering reactivity, impulsiveness and thoughtless improvisation under the pressure of political events. That is something that has done in previous American leaders, and he inherited a dangerously wayward Afghanistan policy characterized by incoherence and inattention. He seems determined to put a stop to the drift by forcing through a process that puts an end to rule by vague slogans and murky thematic models, and produces a definite action plan around which it is possible to organize some coherent human action.
    Of course he is facing resistance, because most pundits and government officials are deeply hostile to the substitution of healthy clear thinking for their customary diet of posturings bloviations, and spasmodic mental reactions.
    Both the American and British public are, even after eight years, desperately confused about their governments’ objectives in Afghanistan. That’s not their fault. Rather, they correctly perceive that for eight years their governments have not settled on a clear and defined course of action in Afghanistan, organized around definite and concretely articulated goals.

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  27. nadine says:

    “I interpret your response as if “victory” is more a question of smart advertising and labeling than substance”
    War is politics by other means, as Clausewitz famously said. In politics, perception is not opposed to substance, it is part and parcel of substance.
    If our real purpose in Afghanistan is simply to deny it to Al Qaeda as a base, then that should be declared and perceived as “victory”. If you don’t put your definition out there, your enemy will fill the void.

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  28. samuelburke says:

    thanks for the advise paul.

    Reply

  29. Paul Norheim says:

    I interpret your response as if “victory” is more a question of smart advertising
    and labeling than substance. That makes sense in the context of your posts.

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  30. nadine says:

    Paul, why should “victory” ever be detached from reality? If you are fighting, victory is something you get to define. If you are wise, you pick an achievable target and call that victory. If our chief aim in Afghanistan is to keep Al Qaeda out of it, then that’s victory. If it’s to keep the Taliban out of of non-Pashtun areas, then that’s victory.
    If you don’t define it, the enemy will define it for you.

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  31. Paul Norheim says:

    And that justifies pasting it on as many threads as you wish? Why don`t you paste your
    material on three different blogs – instead of three successive threads on the same
    blog?

    Reply

  32. samuelburke says:

    because it relates to what is being done on blogs that deal with war and political issues…and the agents of influence that are assigned to do this type of work.

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  33. Paul Norheim says:

    samuelburke,
    why are you pasting an identical message – pasted stuff about your pet topic – on three
    different threads, two of them not even remotely related to your message? Can`t you wait
    seeing the host of this blog getting so pissed off that he shuts down the comment
    section?

    Reply

  34. samuelburke says:

    “The focus on war by other means over the internet is important, if only because it means that governments are using their vast resources to spread propaganda in a deliberate effort to confuse the debate over important foreign and domestic policy issues.
    http://original.antiwar.com/giraldi/2009/11/18/internet-under-siege/
    “Israel is at the forefront, exploiting its cutting edge telecommunications industry and enabled by its large and powerful diaspora to get out its message. Not surprisingly, its lobbies including AIPAC are also leaders in the effort, sometimes acting openly and sometimes covertly.
    Israel became heavily engaged on the internet during its devastating assault on Gaza last January, when world opinion came down strongly against it, recruiting teams of young soldiers and students to blog in support of Operation Cast Lead. It has recently focused on the UN’s Goldstone Report that claimed that Tel Aviv had committed numerous war crimes in Gaza, supporting a worldwide organized campaign to discredit anyone promoting the report. The latest victim of the smear has been the respected and nonpartisan group Human Rights Watch (HRW). In June Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister pledged that his government would “dedicate time and manpower to combating” human rights organizations. Shortly afterwards Ron Dermer of the Israeli Prime Minister’s office named Human Rights Watch as one of the offending organizations. Many attacks on HRW were subsequently carried out openly using various front organizations, including NGO Monitor which is based in Jerusalem and funded by wealthy Americans. Elie Wiesel, who cashes in on his humanitarian credentials while remaining notably silent over Israeli war crimes, is on the Monitor board and has written a letter attacking HRW. Critical pieces in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times soon followed the initial attacks, commentary that was distributed widely by AIPAC on Capitol Hill and also all over the internet.
    Israel’s Foreign Ministry, headed by right-wing extremist Avigdor Lieberman, runs a semi-covert program which is openly funded by the government as the “internet fighting team” but which deliberately conceals the affiliation of the “talkbackers.” Ilan Shturman coordinates the Ministry effort, which is run out of the Hasbara Department, “hasbara” being a Hebrew word that is normally translated as propaganda. Shturman’s young and enthusiastic employees work from a prepared script of official Israeli government positions. They are instructed not to identify themselves either as Israelis or as government employees. There have been numerous applicants to work for Shturman. An Israeli source reports that one applicant emphasized his own qualifications, writing “I’m fluent in several languages and I’m able to spew forth bullsh*t for hours on end.”

    Reply

  35. Josh Meah says:

    Great talk!
    I liked the almost-slip at the end of “Pashtun
    civili…” There is so much more to that slip of the
    tongue than that which has been brought to the
    debate thus far.
    Taliban is just a political label — but being
    Pashtun comes first. The implication is that
    Afghanistan is de facto nation-building, because you
    mess with the Taliban — you mess with the “Pashtun
    civili…”

    Reply

  36. Paul Norheim says:

    “Why, yes. Perhaps Obama should have remembered to announce his “victory strategy” first:
    what we are fighting for and how we intend to achieve it. But, as he has said, he’s not
    comfortable with that word.” (Nadine)
    For most people having a closer look at the conditions and the realistic options,
    “victory” in Afghanistan seems like a concept disconnected from realities. You keep
    saying that “War is a test of will”, but of course it`s much more than that.
    How would you define “victory”?
    Secondly, do you have any strategical suggestions as to how the concept of “victory” may
    be attached to the realities in Central Asia – apart from raw human determination and
    will power?
    McCrystal`s recommendations – written before the Afghan election, resulting in a
    government that no one trust? His recommendations depend on a more or less legitimate,
    trustworthy government, if you haven`t noticed.

    Reply

  37. Scott says:

    Unless we develop a comprehensive South Asia
    strategy, the most we can hope for is a temporary
    peace in Afghanistan.
    What would such a strategy look like? Well, at the
    very least it requires some moderation of the
    strategic competition between India and Pakistan.
    Without attention to this aspect of the problem, we
    really are only playing around at the edges of the
    conflict.
    For more, see http://bit.ly/3vYHPk

    Reply

  38. Bart says:

    “Well-intentioned” may be the best we can hope for in today’s political environment.
    This war makes no sense in any environment.

    Reply

  39. dte says:

    Mr. Clemons,
    Thank you for visiting Italy and giving an excellent presentation at the Center for American Studies at Rome. Everyone agrees and said that you were the best and most interesting speaker with the most interesting things to say in this conference. You were very generous with your time and very provocative.
    Many thanks for your blog too! From your many new fans in Rome.

    Reply

  40. nadine says:

    Interesting discussion.
    “It’s difficult to persuade people you’re staying when you announce your exit strategy.”
    Why, yes. Perhaps Obama should have remembered to announce his “victory strategy” first: what we are fighting for and how we intend to achieve it. But, as he has said, he’s not comfortable with that word. Well, that’s a problem because the enemy is comfortable with it. War is a test of will and Obama is broadcasting indecision. The leakers in his administration are adding mightily to that impression. We have to decide soon whether we have allies in Kabul and Islamabad with whom we can work, or we do not.
    Steve do you realize you called the Administration “well-intentioned” at one point? Not the most flattering adjective for any administration.

    Reply

  41. Mr.Murder says:

    Steve,
    Forgive me for not being able to keep up with TWN of late. In the threads done since my last comment you’ve put out several items of such complex depth they deserve more attention than I can give at this time.
    The end game is important because we must have a destination in mind so we can navigate a policy course to arrive there.
    Thus your emphasis upon defining an objective should become one the media can fix focus upon. The more this is repeated, the greater a demand for clarity in policy can provide us with an exit avenue as a military presence.
    There are ways to cultivate a business fabric along interdependent lines. Made strong enough these can help smother the items that inspire failed states, inequity, and the myriad of problems that accompany both.

    Reply

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