Off to Berlin


Hope everyone had a terrific and relaxing Thanksgiving weekend. I’m off to Berlin this evening and staying for a few days to meet new players in the German government and to think through Barack Obama’s next move on Afghanistan.
I’ll be covering the Afghanistan speech on Tuesday evening from Berlin — and commenting on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown, as things now look — pending the availability of a studio in the middle of the night.
For the rest, I’ll be providing updates here and via Twitter @SCCLEMONS.
— Steve Clemons


17 comments on “Off to Berlin

  1. Linda says:

    What is is about the first law of holes (When you are in one, stop digging.) that DOD and military-industrial-Congressional complex does not understand?


  2. Maw of America says:

    If you have seen “Touching the Void,” you have some idea of our situation in Afghanistan. Briefly, the film documents two climbers on a mountain in a snow storm. One has a broken leg and must be lowered by the other on a rope as they work their way down. The rope is long enough that they can neither hear or see each other during the descent. The injured climber falls off a ledge and hangs while the other suddenly finds himself being dragged by 200 pounds for unknown reasons. He must decide whether he will risk freezing to death on the mountain, not sure if his partner is dead, incapacitated or something else altogether. He finally decides to cut the rope and suffer the scorn of fellow climbers upon his safe return.
    This is where Obama finds himself. He just hasn’t cut the rope yet. Do we hang on to the corrupt and likely doomed government of Karzei, losing more troops and allies in the process? Or do we cut the rope and let the Afghanis decide their own fate, risking the reputation of America?
    Those who have seen the film know the twist at the end… the injured climber managed to survive the fall and crawl to safety, after which he was rescued and lived to tell the tale.
    More troops in Afghanistan is a fool’s errand, but probably the politically necessary one domestically. I am reminded of young John Kerry’s testimony to Congress: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”
    Sadly, that is exactly what Obama is doing.


  3. nadine says:

    sam, how many Muslims have been killed by al Qaeda and other Islamists? The vast majority of suicide-bomb victims have been Muslim, you know. Or don’t they count?
    Do you have the faintest idea how many Afghans were slaughtered by the Taliban?


  4. samuelburke says:

    stephen walt …
    “Why they hate us (II): How many Muslims has the U.S. killed in
    the past 30 years?”
    “Tom Friedman had an especially fatuous column in Sunday’s
    New York Times, which is saying something given his well-
    established capacity for smug self-assurance. According to
    Friedman, the big challenge we face in the Arab and Islamic
    world is “the Narrative” — his patronizing term for Muslim views
    about America’s supposedly negative role in the region. If
    Muslims weren’t so irrational, he thinks, they would recognize
    that “U.S. foreign policy has been largely dedicated to rescuing
    Muslims or trying to help free them from tyranny.” He concedes
    that we made a few mistakes here and there (such as at Abu
    Ghraib), but the real problem is all those anti-American fairy
    tales that Muslims tell each other to avoid taking responsibility
    for their own actions.
    I heard a different take on this subject at a recent conference on
    U.S. relations with the Islamic world. In addition to hearing a
    diverse set of views from different Islamic countries, one of the
    other participants (a prominent English journalist) put it quite
    simply. “If the United States wants to improve its image in the
    Islamic world,” he said, “it should stop killing Muslims.”
    Now I don’t think the issue is quite that simple, but the
    comment got me thinking: How many Muslims has the United
    States killed in the past thirty years, and how many Americans
    have been killed by Muslims? Coming up with a precise answer
    to this question is probably impossible, but it is also not
    necessary, because the rough numbers are so clearly lopsided.”


  5. samuelburke says:

    “As Rutgers University political scientist Jack S. Levy noted in
    2003, findings about the human tendency to want to recoup
    sunk costs “help to explain why states continue to pursue failing
    military interventions . . . rather than cutting their losses and
    negotiating a withdrawal . . . , as evidenced by France in
    Algeria, the United States in Vietnam, the Soviet Union in
    Afghanistan and Israel in Lebanon.”
    Indeed, in 1965, Undersecretary of State George Ball famously
    predicted that if the Johnson administration escalated in
    Vietnam to avoid losing the war, it would never be able to
    reverse the policy: “We won’t get out. We’ll double our bet and
    get lost in the rice paddies.”
    President Obama should heed these powerful insights today as
    he weighs the pleas of advisers to double our bet in
    Afghanistan. To keep us from getting further lost in its desert
    sands and rugged mountains, he must consciously resist our
    collective aversion to admitting and accepting losses.”


  6. samuelburke says:

    “A troop surge can only magnify the crime against Afghanistan
    If Barack Obama heralds an escalation of the war, he will betray
    his own message of hope and deepen my people’s pain”
    “After months of waiting, President Obama is about to announce
    the new US strategy for Afghanistan. His speech may be long
    awaited, but few are expecting any surprise: it seems clear he
    will herald a major escalation of the war. In doing so he will be
    making something worse than a mistake. It is a continuation of
    a war crime against the suffering people of my country.
    I have said before that by installing warlords and drug
    traffickers in power in Kabul, the US and Nato have pushed us
    from the frying pan to the fire. Now Obama is pouring fuel on
    these flames, and this week’s announcement of upwards of
    30,000 more troops to Afghanistan will have tragic


  7. nadine says:

    This is if you like, Obama’s first bipartisan adventure. He had better sell it to his base and independents, because if he gives off ‘dog whistles’ that his heart isn’t in it, it will be a disaster. The Taliban will smile and prepare to outwait him – and prudent Afghans will side with them, having no real choice.


  8. Bill Kavanagh says:

    I look forward to your analysis of the Afghanistan speech tonight. One hopes Obama hasn’t given in to the war machine in order to avoid being called weak. As Bob Herbert so ably put it this morning in the Times, “We still haven’t learned to recognize real strength, which is why it so often seems that the easier choice for a president is to keep the troops marching off to war.”


  9. Paul Norheim says:

    Not only Iraq 2003 replay. There is precedence for this in Afghanistan as well –
    mujahedeen fighters supported by the US when they fought the Soviet military in the
    1980`s – and transformed into Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in the 1990`s. With a
    very week and very corrupt Afghan central government, training Afghan soldiers is
    risky business.


  10. DonS says:

    . . . those of us who are old enough have seen this movie too many times before. The choice to go to war, to escalate, driven by jingoistic fervor and xenophobic fear, or fear of being thought not man enough to use physical force where some other approach might lead forward in a positive way. The phoney rationales, hand wringing, breast beating. The whole sorry lot. The same outcomes and recriminations, post hoc analyses and finger pointing. The tail of one misbegotten exercise in shortsighted excuses for failed policies barely ahead of the next iteration.
    And on it goes. War: America’s raison d’etre. Ain’t we great. Almost take your mind off the unemployment statistics, or the unemployment line. Blame it on them ragheads.


  11. JamesL says:

    On this day before obama’s Afghanistan speech supposedly authorizing 30,000 additional US troops to be sent to Afghanistan, Asia Times contains this Nov 26th story lede:
    “WASHINGTON – One in every four combat soldiers quit the Afghan National Army (ANA) during the year ending in September, published data by
    the US Defense Department and the Inspector General for Reconstruction in Afghanistan reveals.”
    One must ask where they went, and if they took their weapons with them. Iraq 2003 replay.
    The rest at:


  12. DonS says:

    Hey, here is a brilliant suggestion by three real Murcans — Sens. Graham, Lugar and Bayh — that Obama’s little Afghan adventure ought to be paid for by blowing off health care for a year or two. No suggestion that perhaps they just conveniently merge the two issue, the one they hate (providing basic health coverage to citizens), and the one they love (endless war). Well, damn, I’m really impressed by their perspicacity. Only I suggest that as long as they are willing to put their fellow citizen’s health care on hold they ought to give up their own insurance just to show, you know, solidarity with the sacrifice that is necessary for Americans to fight the war that ‘we just can afford to lose’.
    Can there be any clearer example of sleaze?


  13. Outraged American says:

    Merry Christmas Jarheads!
    9,000 Marines Heading to Afghanistan Immediately After Obama
    (Is Afghanistan a theater of war or a theater of the absurd? My
    vote is for the… oh, just guess at my vote. Actually it’s a theater
    of both.
    I pity every single person from the Marines ripped from their
    families before Christmas, to their poor families, but especially
    the Afghans and Pakistanis to be killed and maimed in the
    coming years. I’m frankly ashamed to be an American at this
    Aims to Double Marine Presence in Helmand
    The United States is wasting no time in throwing more troops at
    the war in Afghanistan. Officials say as soon as President Obama
    makes his Tuesday announcement of the escalation of the war,
    9,000 additional Marines will depart for Afghanistan.
    That the troops are all heading to Helmand will no doubt be
    troubling news to Pakistan, as Prime Minister Gilani cautioned
    only two days ago that he was worried a US escalation in
    Helmand could destabilize the nation’s Balochistan Province.
    whole article
    Here’s another from antiwar columnist Jeff Huber, a Commander
    (ret) in the US Navy (forget 9000, its going to be 30,000 +. Now
    that thar’s a surge…:
    Obama’s Big Speech
    President Obama will announce his big decision about
    Afghanistan on Tuesday. The sanctioned leaks about what he’ll
    say are coming fast and furious.
    According to various reports, he’ll commit somewhere between
    30,000 and 34,000 extra U.S. troops to the region. When he
    announces that, NATO nations will maybe send 6,000 extra
    troops. That adds up to the 40,000 in extra forces Gen. Stanley
    McChrystal wanted, and then we’ll train Afghan security forces
    up to an end-strength of about 400,000, and we’ll have as many
    counterinsurgency troops in place as our bogus
    counterinsurgency field manual calls for (between two and 2.5
    percent of the host nation population, which in Afghanistan is a
    little over 28 million, so the total number of counterinsurgents
    will be in the ballpark of 600,000).
    I loved Berlin, but was greeted with a bit of hostility by some
    Germans because I kept asking where Hitler’s bunker was. It’s
    near enough to the Brandenburg Tor to walk, and that took a lot
    of sleuthing to figure out, and finally a bribe to a souvenir seller.
    This was years ago, but at that point it was just a mound in an
    open field.
    Talk about burying your past. Maybe one day our grandkids will
    be embarrassed to point out the remains of the White House
    after UsRael starts WW III, and the world takes revenge.


  14. JohnH says:

    What is Informed Comment bulletin 1371? No link available?


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