These Deaths Are On You, Obama

During the campaign, the wingnuts tried to smear Obama as hating the troops for some very sensible remarks he made about our situation in Afghanistan:

And that requires us to have enough troops that we’re not just air raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems there.

That was a sensible point, and it was met with howls of outrage from the usual suspects who broke out their GI Joe action figures and pretended that this was some sort of grievous insult to the honor and dignity of our troops. When, in actuality, not having enough troops on the ground and having to rely on bombing runs in which innocents are killed is wholly unproductive, and not only that, immoral.

So where are we now? Well, candidate Obama is now President Obama, and we have elevated the number of troops on the ground and are allegedly pursuing a new strategery in Afghanisatan. Change and all that, you could say. Unfortunately for those on the ground in Afghanistan, it is just the same shit different day:

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday he had dispatched a joint U.S.-Afghan team to investigate U.S. airstrikes that killed more than two dozen people in the western part of the country and prompted an outcry from Afghan officials.

Although the International Committee of the Red Cross said that women and children were killed in the U.S. strikes, Gen. David McKiernan told reporters in the capital that it was too early to know exactly what had happened. “We’re hopeful in the next couple of days we can have at least the initial truth,” he said.

According to the Red Cross, these numbers are not wildly exaggerated:

Red Cross officials are backing local reports that U.S.-led airstrikes in western Afghanistan earlier this week killed dozens of civilians. The U.S. military is sending investigators to the scene and President Hamid Karzai has pledged to take up the issue in meetings with President Obama.

Local Afghan officials say the incident occurred during a battle Monday and Tuesday in Farah province, when Afghan troops aided by U.S. soldiers were battling Taliban insurgents.

Local officials said bombing raids on the suspected Taliban positions killed as many as 100 civilians and residents are still digging through rubble looking for more bodies. A Red Cross team sent to the region backed up the claims of dozens of civilian deaths, including women and children.

I’m no pacifist. I understand there will be civilian casualties from time to time and that we will breezily call them “collateral damage,” but this has to stop. What is this accomplishing? What is the purpose in this? And why is the man who identified this as a problem a year and a half ago sitting by and letting this happen? A total damned disgrace, Obama.

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143 replies
  1. 1
    TenguPhule says:

    Unfortunately for those on the ground in Afghanistan, it is just the same shit different day:

    One Obama’s few but very fucking horrible mistakes.

    At this point we’re just delaying throwing in the towel and letting India try to sort it out.

  2. 2
    cervantes says:

    This happens at least once every week, in fact. If anything it’s getting worse. We document events daily on Iraq Today, which we have now expanded to cover Afghanistan as well.

    We will reap the whirlwind.

  3. 3
    Atlliberal says:

    MSNBC is reporting that the village may have been hit by Taliban grenades and staged to look like it was an airstrike.

    War is hell, we may never know the truth.

  4. 4
    TenguPhule says:

    What is this accomplishing? What is the purpose in this?

    1. Makes the locals hate us. Makes Taliban happy.

    2. It demonstrates the President’s big brass ones. Or something

    And on a side note, Kipling did a wonderful poem about the Aghani women. We really should drop the Bushies in to meet them to explain why their friends and families had to die.

  5. 5
    sgwhiteinfla says:

    Actually Hillary Clinton apologized earlier today to Karzai and the Afghan people, something that Bush was loathe to do. And while it is horrific to have these airstrikes kill innocents, evidently they ARE having a serious effect.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05.....ghter.html

    The one thing that impressed him were the missile strikes by drones — virtually the only American military presence felt inside Pakistan. “The drones are very effective,” he said, acknowledging that they had thinned the top leadership of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the area. He said 29 of his friends had been killed in the strikes.

    Now please remember that President Obama said on the campaign trail that the way to reduce the amount of airstrikes was to send more troops. He is in the process of doing that but in the meantime should we just stand down?

  6. 6
    JM says:

    I don’t expect collateral damage to disappear. What I do expect is that Oliver Freaking North will not be the Pentagon’s star witness, saying that nothing happened, this time, like he was after the incident at Nawabad last year.

  7. 7
    mantis says:

    @Atlliberal:

    The WaPo article John linked notes an (unnamed) possible alternate cause:

    Local villagers in the province told Afghan officials that they put women, children and the elderly in several housing compounds that were struck by the U.S. planes, according to the Associated Press. McKiernan, however, hinted that the U.S. airstrikes might not have been responsible for the deaths in Farah province. “We have some other information that leads us to distinctly different conclusions about the cause of these civilian casualties,” McKiernan said. He declined to provide more detailed information until the U.S.-Afghan team was able to further investigate the battle.

    Mmm..fog. Mmm…war.

  8. 8
    cervantes says:

    Oh come on Atlliberal, even the U.S. military admits that they called in an airstrike on those buildings. Hand grenades can’t reduce a whole village to rubble. What a crock.

  9. 9
    asiangrrlMN says:

    Damn. More discouraging and depressing news for the day. Yes, this has got to stop. I don’t know how, though. We’re so fucking entangled in the shit. I AM a pacifist, albeit an angry one, so this is just…hard.

  10. 10
    TenguPhule says:

    He is in the process of doing that but in the meantime should we just stand down?

    Given how shitty our intel of the area is, YES.

    Whatever tactical advantage those airstrikes give us isn’t worth the damage they do for the strategic goals.

  11. 11
    TenguPhule says:

    The drone attacks simply prompted Taliban fighters to spend more time in Afghanistan, or to move deeper into Pakistan, straddling both theaters of a widening conflict.

    Action. Reaction.

  12. 12
    cervantes says:

    The U.S. always lies about these incidents initially, then after they complete the investigation they admit it, although they always lowball the casualty total and usually make some squawks about human shields. It’s a consistent pattern, happens every time. Believe me, I’ve been following this for years, in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s positively robotic.

  13. 13
    akaoni says:

    Yes Obama should be held accountable for these actions as Commander in Chief the buck stops with him. That said, I doubt he’s all that involved in day to day operations in Afghanistan. More likely, it’s the same commanders who have been waging the failing war in Afghanistan since we first invaded. Obama should step up and publicly take responsibility for these deaths and try to take steps that this stops. Unfortunately, as long as we’re in Afghanistan I doubt we’ll see an end to the civilian deaths.

  14. 14
    smiley says:

    And why is the man who identified this as a problem a year and a half ago sitting by and letting this happen?

    Sitting by and letting this happen? That’s a bit over the top.

  15. 15
    Ricky Bobby says:

    No such thing as a “good war” left. There’s only bad ones, and Afghanistan is going to be the kryptonite to Obama’s super-awesomeness.

  16. 16

    Until we have all the facts it is probably most judicious to wait for the investigation to be completed. The military and the Obama administration will tell us the truth about what happened. If we did casue these deaths then it’s time for the administration to rethink its plan and do what they said they would do last year. However, I have a suspicion that everything is not as it seems to be. There is more to this story than we are being told.

  17. 17
    Dennis-SGMM says:

    Just what are we trying to accomplish in Afghanistan at this point? The economy and civil society there are in chaos (As usual) warlords of one stripe or another control more of the country than the central government does (Also as usual) and Afghan people are being blown up by our military. I doubt that there’s any easy, cheap or short term solution for the first two problems but there is a damned sure solution for the last one. Obama needs to open up an honest debate about what we hope to accomplish in Afghanistan, what it will cost and how long it will take and then let Congress decide whether our goals there are worth it. And none of this pie-in-the-sky crap about a “functioning, stable democracy” either. A place where people can make a living without dying for it would be a huge improvement.

  18. 18

    Why hasn’t Obama delivered on his promise of War Without Death?

    These politicians are all alike.

    As you can tell from the years of relentless moralizing on this subject, the American people are totally intolerant of “collateral damage” and civilian deaths. That’s why they ran Bush out of office in 2004, amirite?

    Day and night, the cable tv outlets and the blogs cried bitter tears over every civilian casualty in the Middle East all the way back in 2003, and nobody was listening. Nobody cared.

    Now, finally, somebody is listening.

    BlogAmerica is Great Country.

  19. 19
    mantis says:

    @cervantes:

    The U.S. always lies about these incidents initially

    I would agree that the military usually lies initially, and then fesses up after the investigation, but sometimes they do get blamed for stuff they don’t do. So not always, no. The fact that they deny it certainly is not proof that the initial report was true.

  20. 20
    voldemortsgirl says:

    Could just be me but do we know what the fuck is going on in Pakistan? Pakistan and Afghanistan are related…maybe Pakistan has to lend a little hand to stop the border crossing Pasthuns and spend a little more time fighting the Taliban. If Pakistan feels really shitty about fighting against these Talib forces, could we get our money back? How many millions have been diverted to the military at this point? Zardari is the most useless puppet I have ever seen. No one respects him. I don’t fault Obama for those drone attacks. That is what he campaigned on. It must be shitty living on the edges between Afghanistan and Pakistan and minding one’s own interest to just get blown away. I heard it was pretty effective, alas. At least, until Pakistan gets its act together and tries to help US forces. If it does not want to help US forces, fine, lets just stop funding its military industrial complex and just leave. Try to give Afghanistan to the Tajiks and the non crazy ethnicities, negotiate with Iran and just bolt. Why are we still stuck there?

  21. 21
    Ronzoni Rigatoni says:

    When the fruk are they gonna learn that the Air Force is obsolete? There are no “smart bombs” to protect the civilians out there, and the intelligence still sux. So, if we’re gonna do that job with any credibility, stop the bombing (Alas, a 1968 slogan). Bombing is not an easy solution. It is no solution. It is a problem.

  22. 22
    TenguPhule says:

    When the fruk are they gonna learn that the Air Force is obsolete?

    Not obsolete, it’s that they don’t suit the mission profile.

    Air Force like the Marines are for blowing shit up.

    This doesn’t work when you’re trying to stabilize the area.

  23. 23
    someguy says:

    Typical U.S. incompetence.

    The way forward is pretty simple. Quit our illegal and immoral war for southern Caucasus oil, get the hell out of there, and either pay India a shitload of money and beg them to take care of the problem, or pay the Taliban a shitload of money and beg them to forgive us. Otherwise, we’re screwed. Afghanistan is where empires go to die get strangled.

  24. 24
    HyperIon says:

    Why isn’t this filed under “The Failed Obama Administration (Only Took Two Weeks)”?

  25. 25
    The Other Steve says:

    I’m starting to question whether we have a purpose in Afghanistan.

    I have this sneaky suspicion the Russians are playing a game of “Fuck You Too Assholes” and sneaking weapons across the border.

  26. 26
    Anne Laurie says:

    More proof, as if it were needed, of what Alexander the Great could’ve told Obama: Afghanistan is where empires go to die. Of course, historians of the VDHanson school will cheer that at least we’ve established America’s status as a hard-core old-skool empire…

  27. 27
    Cris says:

    @Ricky Bobby: No such thing as a “good war” left.

    Clarified, in honor of WWII veteran Howard Zinn.

  28. 28
    Flukebucket says:

    Afghanistan is an anvil that has worn out many hammers.

    A total damned disgrace, Obama.

    Amen brother.

  29. 29
    HyperIon says:

    @The Other Steve:

    I’m starting to question whether we have a purpose in Afghanistan.

    starting?
    maybe you should lay off the OJ stories and pay more attention to foreign affairs.

  30. 30
    Ricky Bobby says:

    @ Cris: You think America could get by without war? There won’t ever be enough “Dancing with the Stars” to keep us entertained. Sorry, but war is our national pastime. Rosy remembrances of WW2 help keep it that way, but so do the gigantic dickheads in all corners of the globe just begging for a Tomahawk strike to their bunker.

  31. 31
    voldemortsgirl says:

    The way forward is pretty simple. Quit our illegal and immoral war for southern Caucasus oil, get the hell out of there, and either pay India a shitload of money and beg them to take care of the problem, or pay the Taliban a shitload of money and beg them to forgive us.

    I propose (1) quitting giving Pakistanis any more money (2) negotiating with Iran, India and Russia to support a Tajik/Hazara government (3) get out of Afghanistan after leaving some troops there and warning the Afghani government that if any attacks takes place again in the US again with any sort of assistance from the Afghani government, the US will be back and badder

  32. 32

    @The Other Steve:

    Of course we do, silly. It is to capture Obama Bin Osamaladen, punish the Talibanman, make the Afghan a hound for Democraciness, Strike at the Axis of Weevils, Show the World that they are Either With Us Or Agin’ Us, get some feelgood mojo going after that 911 bitchslap, get all up in the Turrists’ grill, Send Iran a Massage, er, Message, and did I mention, capture Obama Bin Osamaladen and his elves?

    If there ever was righteous and well intentioned war, this is it right here. Plus we are making Afghanistan safe for girls schools and also trying to cut down on the number of beheadings during otherwise pretty fun sporting events.

    Every American knows these goals and understands them, and the path to victory is clear.

  33. 33
    JL says:

    @akaoni: Hillary issued a statement but I agree with you, we should hear from the President.

  34. 34
    oh really says:

    And why is the man who identified this as a problem a year and a half ago sitting by and letting this happen?

    Unfortunately, this is not the only place where Obama is not living up to his campaign promises (not even close).

    He has made good on some promises, but on some of the issues of life and death, as well as human rights, justice, and executive power Obama has come up woefully short.

    Of course, it’s hard to have time to do everything when you have to campaign for Arlen Specter. Even if the actually campaigning is still months away.

  35. 35

    @oh really:

    I agree. We really should amend the Constitution down to 100-day terms for presidents.

    I mean, a HUNDRED days for crissakes! Gawd Almighty created the world in seven. What the fuck is Barack’s problem?

  36. 36
    D-Chance. says:

    So when are we going to call for the impeachment of this war criminal president of ours?

    “Meet the new boss… same as the old boss.”

    BTW, say “hello” to the new, improved Gitmo Military Tribunals v2.0 while you’re at it…

    Yeah, “change we can believe in”… unicorns and fairies… blahblahblah…

  37. 37
    JL says:

    This is from Politico
    J

    ONES AT BAT: Gen. Jones takes the podium after Gibbs introduces “the p.m. edition” of the daily briefing. (5:06 p.m.)
    “It was clear that President Karzai was moved by the president’s statement” on this morning’s civilian deaths in Afghanistan, Jones says. (5:07 p.m.)

    President Obama made a public statement but did not address the recent deaths directly.

  38. 38
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    And why is the man who identified this as a problem a year and a half ago sitting by and letting this happen?

    Unlike you JC I am a pacifist, but even I realize that nothing is going to change on the ground until the new troops arrive and the new gameplan can be carried out. And even then there will be more innocent civilian deaths. How long does it take to replace reams of politicized intelligence with the real thing?

    If the previous administration had actually focused on intelligence gathering in Afghanistan while the trail was still warm instead of stirring up a hornet’s nest in Iraq that resulted in 500,000+ civilian deaths, these 100 Afghan citizens may be alive today.

  39. 39
    Svensker says:

    @The Grand Panjandrum:

    The military and the Obama administration will tell us the truth about what happened.

    You are snarking, aren’t you? Otherwise, just another Kool-Aid drinker, albeit Democratic rather than Republican.

    Investigating your own actions seems….hm….open to possibilities.

    I have become a pacifist as I’ve become more immersed in Quaker witness. It’s hard to think of any military actions of ours in the last 50 years that haven’t been, at best, silly, and at worst, counter-productive (not to mention war crimes). A lot of people have died for absolutely no reason. We had a fucking mental breakdown when our country was attacked on 9/11 — are other people immune from rage and grief?

  40. 40
    asiangrrlMN says:

    Can we please stop with the Obama is just as bad as Bush meme? It’s ridiculous. All you have to do is think about how the country would be if McCain had won to be thankful that Obama is president now. As someone who is to the left of Obama, I am still pretty damn impressed with how much he HAS accomplished thus far.

    P.S. Realize that I am NOT saying we shouldn’t hold President Obama accountable for his actions or non-actions. I am just saying we can do it without resorting to sweeping generalizations.

    P.P.S. This wasn’t directed at you, John. Just at some of the comments in this thread.

  41. 41
    Florida Cynic says:

    Civilian casualties due to an over reliance on air power is a direct result of not having enough boots on the ground. You can thank a certain recent ex-president for ignoring the problem and letting the situation deteriorate to its present level. There aren’t a lot of good options, and I’m hoping (despite some missteps) Obama is moving toward the right direction.

    Of course, one big step would be legalizing the opium trade. That gets farmers paid, deprives the extremists of recruits and profits, and provides trade for the nation. For any doubters, ask yourself when is the last time you heard the words “Turkish heroin.” Sadly, it won’t happen.

  42. 42
    Montysano says:

    When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
    And the women come out to cut up what remains,
    Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
    An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.
    … Kipling

    The graveyard of empires, indeed. George W. didn’t go there to deliver a quick smackdown to those who attacked us on 9/11 a bunch of mercenary warlords. We went in with the full intention of occupying the country and doing some Freedomizing. Hubris doesn’t even come close to describing it.

  43. 43
    The Other Steve says:

    @HyperIon: Sigh, your attitude almost made me want to be a Republican again.

  44. 44

    Was the “Afghanisatan” typo intentional? I laughed at it as a typo, but are wingnuts calling it this now?

  45. 45
    The Other Steve says:

    @Florida Cynic: The Afghani people actually need food a lot more than they do opium.

    The key is to figure out how to make food production more profitable for the farmers, not legalizing opium.

  46. 46
    gnomedad says:

    A relevant information source: http://ourbombs.com/striketracker

    Not sure where I got this; someone nay have posted it here yesterday.

  47. 47
    Laura W says:

    @dougie smooth:

    Was the “Afghanisatan” typo intentional?

    An integral part of The John Cole Charm Offensive.

  48. 48
    sparky says:

    @asiangrrlMN: i agree with you that the Obama=Bush notion is a silly one, though it seems to be more of a misdirection claim by Obama supporters.

    your other observation got me to thinking–what exactly has Obama accomplished?
    –stimulus
    –release of memos
    –rollback of Cuba policy to 2004

    anything else?

    on the other side, there’s
    –bank debacle
    –executive privilege assertions
    –more troops to a war theatre

    so where exactly are the lots of things? is there something i’m overlooking?

  49. 49
    tropicgirl says:

    Obama could very well be in deeper trouble by this fall. Never mind Feinsteins’ “investigation” (to clear herself). By this fall HE should be one of the persons (along with Feinstein and Reid) to answer questions of what they knew and when they knew it. Feinstein is probing a very narrow question, thinking she can get away with it, but more questions arise on drone bombing civilians, renditions, torture of non-important prisoners, and the murders that we are finding out happened at these black sites.

    The Nuremburg trials were not about the torturers, it was about the enablers, the judges, the lawyers and the lawmakers. Now we find out that most of those who were tortured by the United States, in the last several years, were done so without any attempt at questioning. They were just tortured for the hell of it.

    Because of the delay in the decision to prosecute, Obama missed the opportunity to pin it on someone. Now, up and down the food chain should be questioned.

    Europe will have no delay and the American people will back them. How embarrassing that will be. But we deserve worse.

    As far as Obama, I don’t think I’m the only one getting a little disgusted with the family and kids scene. I think of other families with mothers and children who have been drone-bombed, phosphorus-burned, nuclear-poisoned and maimed. I watch the Obamas at their party scene, their fashion statements, their oh-so-happy life with the dog and swing sets and wonder if even the kids know their father is killing other people’s children for (everyone agrees) no good reason. Smile on you baby-killing, dancing fool.

  50. 50
    Krista says:

    @ sparky: you forgot about stem cell research, rescinding the “conscience clause” and making Plan B more available. Those are three that I can think of off the top of my head, anyway.

  51. 51
    Ash says:

    more troops to a war theatre

    Damn that Obama, doing something he said he would do for a year and a half. PSHAW!

  52. 52
    asiangrrlMN says:

    @sparky: You don’t consider any of that to be significant? Really? In a hundred days? How about mending diplomatic relations with foreign entities? How about stem cell research? S-chip? Science? Lily Ledbetter? That’s just off the top of my head.

    Thanks, Krista and Ash for helping me out there.

    Look, I am not happy with the torture thing or the bank mess, but it’s disingenuous to say that Obama hasn’t done anything or little in a hundred days.

  53. 53
    Elie says:

    I think that its going to be hard to disengage from Afghanistan with Pakistan becoming more unstable…and that is the country that I am concerned about, frankly. Nuclear weapons and instability are not something to take lightly though I am not sure what we can do. I am certainly not advocating for invasion of Pakistan but neither can we just walk away.

    I am unhappy with this and don’t feel that there will be anything more than more suffering and bloodshed — and yes, as much as I support Obama — his hands ARE bloody and getting bloodier. I don’t see an exit, however, anytime soon…

  54. 54

    @sparky:

    Bank debacle?

    Any remote possibility of being taken seriously went out the window with that gaffe.

    The entire Bush admininstration was a bank debacle, which we are now trying to get out from under.

    To say nothing of a fiscal policy debacle, which we are slowly getting out from under.

    Also a foreign relations debacle, which we are now getting out from under.

    Also a domestic politics debacle, which are now getting out from under.

    Also a healthcare debacle of neglect, which we are about to get out from under.

    And finally, a complete collapse of public confidence in government, which we are getting out from under.

    Spooftrollin just ain’t what it used to be, is it?

  55. 55
    voldemortsgirl says:

    @ Sparky
    Yes, McCain would have closed Guantanamo Bay,restored relationships with Russia, Iran, Cuba and other Latin American countries as well as have drawn up a withdrawal plan for leaving Iraq within the first 100 days/snark

  56. 56
    J.D. Rhoades says:

    Civilian casualties due to an over reliance on air power is a direct result of not having enough boots on the ground

    More troops does not necessarily = fewer airstrikes. Not when one of the things those troops do is call in airstrikes. They may make them slightly more accurate due to having eyes on the ground, but it’s not a panacea for the serious problem of civilian casualties.

  57. 57
    Brachiator says:

    @Dennis-SGMM:

    Just what are we trying to accomplish in Afghanistan at this point?

    The answer is simple, but whether or not we can accomplish anything is far more complicated.

    We are trying to prevent a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, not just for the sake of nation building, but so that the Taliban will not give haven to terrorists who might plan attacks against the US or other countries.

    The huge issue now is not simply civilian casualties (as terrible as this is) but whether or not US policies are contributing to instability in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    The sad thing is that I don’t see much evidence of military or diplomatic expertise in this area from anyone in the Obama administration, or even from supposed “experts in the region,” who have been surprised by almost everything that has happened since the assassination of Mrs Bhutto. But I don’t see that a purely military solution — more boots on the ground will accomplish anything.

    As an aside, the Los Angeles area public radio station, KPCC, had a wonderfully insightful interview with religious scholar Reza Aslan on the interview program Air Talk, which can be found on iTunes or here.

    Some background:

    Cosmic War – A cosmic war is not a war between nations and armies, but a religious war in which God is believed to be engaged for one side or the other. The hijackers of September 11 believed they were fighting a cosmic war. And according to religious scholar Reza Aslan, the United States is also fighting a cosmic war through the rhetoric of its War on Terror. In his book “How to Win a Cosmic War”, Aslan explores radical ideologies and the religious violence of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He argues that the only way to win a cosmic war is by refusing to fight one, and to address instead the social and political roots of a conflict. Larry Mantle talks with author Reza Aslan about his book.

    I don’t agree with Aslan’s conclusions, but his view on the Taliban, and how they are different from Al Queda and fundamentalist Islamic clerics is very instructive, and gives an idea of the tangled situation we are faced with here.

  58. 58
    agorabum says:

    Sounds like a tragedy, whatever happened.

    But the WaPo article states:

    The fighting in western Afghanistan’s Farah province began when Taliban fighters beheaded three civilians Sunday and Afghan police forces responding to the violence were overwhelmed, McKiernan said. The provincial governor asked for U.S. support in a battle that raged for several hours and included strikes from U.S. warplanes that were supporting the Afghans and a small number of American Marines.

    So it may have played out like this:

    US Marine advisors fighting with Afgahn Army to USAF:

    We are in danger of being overrun, I repeat, we are in danger of being overrun. Please drop all possble ordinance at the following coordinates…

    If you implement a policy of no further airstrikes, period, you will have more dead US soldiers and marines, and dead Afghan police and army as well. It’s terribleto have dead women and children from errant bombs. But the other option isn’t so good either, and will lead to its own problems. Like standing by while the Taliban takes over villages and kills all your potential allies in public beheadings.

  59. 59
    AhabTRuler says:

    I think the answer is clear: we need to develop new and better weapons systems! Ones that use money. I mean, who complains about cluster bombs when they are filled with $100 bills? I bet you could easily develop a 120mm discarding sabot round for the Abrams main gun that could disperse $250k a pop. Put a couple $20’s in a M16 round, $500 grenades, etc.

    I mean, with a program cost of $65 billion for the F22, we could bury Afghanistan under a pile of cash using a fleet of Ryder trucks.

  60. 60

    Today Afghanistan scares the pee out of me. Seven years ago sufficient troops, concentrated bombings, and mop up operations could have done the job, this is different. I’m not convinced there are enough troops taken all together to make up for the lost time, ground, and advantages of concentrated opponents.

    The military is a blunt object tool, it breaks things and kills/injures people, subtlety is not it’s function. It is appropriate where brute force is called for – and sometimes, regrettably, it is.

    I have no idea how Obama drags this back up from seven years over the cliff.

  61. 61

    The key is to figure out how to make food production more profitable for the farmers, not legalizing opium.

    Most of that land is perfect for growing poppies, and terrible for growing much else. You are never going to make growing food more profitable than growing opium. That is the starting point of all rational discussion on the subject.

    However, there is an alternative to legalizing the opium trade, which comes from James Wimberley over at Mark Kleiman’s place. By his figuring, the world is drastically short of opiate pain killers, such as morphine. His claim is that a lot of suffering could be alleviated if we would simply buy the whole opium crop, turn it into painkillers, and let the Afghans buy food with the proceeds. The idea would take some work figuring out how to keep the opium from leaking out of the pipeline, but it seems to me that it’s a great idea.

  62. 62
    jon says:

    So, is Obama supposed to end all pilot/technical error with our air power? We’re fighting an insurgency that likes to hide among the population: as long as the war continues, this will happen.

    There’s no good choices in Afghanistan, but pulling out completely and letting the farce known as the Afghani & Pakistani govts fight it out with the Taliban/Pashtun tribesmen seems like the worst possible option.

  63. 63

    Re: Airpower

    Airpower is useful in two regards, strategic bombing to destroy infrastructure and tactical to destroy enemy concentrations and cover. Troops hold or take ground and take out pockets of resistance with direct fire. In today’s world long range artillery much takes on some of the roles of tactical air power. None of these tools are scalpels.

  64. 64
    The Cat Who Would Be Tunch says:

    @voldemortsgirl:

    …negotiating with Iran, India and Russia to support a Tajik/Hazara government…

    I’m not trying to be snarky here but do you really think that’s the way forward? Give power to the Tajeks, Uzbeks, and other minority groups under the former Northern Alliance? What do you suggest the Pashtuns, the group that oh…just makes up 70-80% of the population in Afghanistan, do in such an arrangement?

  65. 65
    Ed Marshall says:

    Most of that land is perfect for growing poppies, and terrible for growing much else.

    That’s not true. It isn’t even exactly the money that keeps them growing poppy. It’s that you can’t transport anything anywhere without either the Taliban, the police or the military taking it away from you. You can grow poppy and reduce it down right where you stand and you can travel with it without attracting some predator to shake you down over it.

  66. 66
    AhabTRuler says:

    @Chuck Butcher: You are correct, but there have been, are, and will continue to be airpower advocates who will insist that they can solve all problems and open your beer with bombs (cf. Homer Simpson and a gun). Unfortunately, many of them have positions in the Pentagon and determine doctrine, deployment, and procurement.

    None of these tools are scalpels.

    What, your scalpel doesn’t have a effective lethal radius of 100 yds.?

  67. 67
    schrodinger's cat says:

    US military presence in Afghanistan is destabilizing Pakistan, if Pakistan becomes a failed state, this could have potentially horrendous consequences for India and the entire subcontinent. Remember that India is home to the second largest Muslim population in the world with its own brand of wing nuts (i.e. the Hindu right).

  68. 68
    BlizzardOfOz says:

    There’s also the “of the banks, by the banks, for the banks thing”. Including grandstanding against AIG bonuses then quietly working behind the scenes to block the 90% tax passed by congress. Hyper-timid incrementalist bullshit we can believe in!

  69. 69
    Laura W says:

    @Krista: Out of true curiosity and admiration, how is it that you know and care so much about US politics and policy? I asked the same of TattooSydney recently.
    I’m a self-confessed idiot about so much of this stuff, which is why I come here to read and learn (well, that might be a stretch since most of the time I’m goofing) every day.
    I really marvel at you folks who don’t live in the US yet take such an intelligent interest in the goings-on.

  70. 70
    Elie says:

    #61

    I actually would be willing to pull out and let the Afghanis and Pakistanis duke it out but unfortunately there are complexities that involve nukes and India. I think we have to keep our hand in, for better or worse. I am not sure, either, what a “good” solution looks like. I guess most of all a stable Pakistani government that doesnt provide an escape hatch for the Taliban, but I think that may be asking too much. What is scary right now is the sense that things are coming apart in Pakistan and how that comes apart will dictate what our short and medium range outcome will be…

    I really like Fareed Zakharia’s show on Sunday, GPS on CNN– which is where I have gotten the most detailed view of what may be going on and a discussion of the few options that exist.

  71. 71
    Libby says:

    I so agree John. I’ve been blogging about the Afghanistan debacle for a while now. Posted on this one at Detroit News today. Crushing disappointment to see this happening.

    They are doing it wrong. I didn’t vote for this.

  72. 72
    Woody says:

    There’s no good choices in Afghanistan, but pulling out completely and letting the farce known as the Afghani & Pakistani govts fight it out with the Taliban/Pashtun tribesmen seems like the worst possible option.

    I fear something l ike that’s gonna be the case no matter what anybody does, one way or another, eventually.

    It migh be kinder to withdraw now while the weaponry is still relatively primitive, and the damage might thereby contained, rather than delay withdrawing and allowing everybody to arm themselves to the teeth…

    Unless you wanna stay there…and we’re not leaving Iraq anytime soon, either.

    Just divest yourself of any illusions on these matters…

  73. 73
    voldemortsgirl says:

    @The Cat Who Would Be Tunch

    I’m not trying to be snarky here but do you really think that’s the way forward? Give power to the Tajeks, Uzbeks, and other minority groups under the former Northern Alliance? What do you suggest the Pashtuns, the group that oh…just makes up 70-80% of the population in Afghanistan, do in such an arrangement?

    Pashtuns don’t make up 70-80% of Afghanistan…more like 45%. And Pashtuns make up the majority of the people under the Taliban. Pashtuns are the ones who go across the borders to their “brothers” in the NWFP in Pakistan as well. That does not mean Pashtuns don’t get to share in the Tajik/Uzbek government but it would be much better to have an alliance like we do now with the northern tribes who tend to be more tied to their lands in the north and speak Persian (Dari). It would, I gather, bring more peace to the region but I am open to ideas. Also, the Northern Alliance have a good relationship with Iran and neighboring countries which is important if we leave. I am just done trusting Pakistan on these matters.

  74. 74
    Ash says:

    They are doing it wrong.

    But how do you do it right?

  75. 75
    Woody says:

    They are doing it wrong. I didn’t vote for this.

    yes you did. he told you all along that he was going to pursue military strategy in Afghanistan.

    More troops.

    The drones are the genius touch: We kill them and they don’t kill us…BRILLIANT!

  76. 76
    John S. says:

    These Deaths Are On You, Obama

    You really have come full circle, John.

    Why I remember not too many years ago, you were rabidly defending Bush’s actions in Iraq, New Orleans, etc. and claiming that no reasonable person could claim that those deaths were on his hands.

    I believe you can NOW start collecting your checks from George Soros.

  77. 77
    schrodinger's cat says:

    But how do you do it right?

    There is no easy way to do it right, Bushies knew this and so started the “easy” war in Iraq instead.

  78. 78
    Bootlegger says:

    @J. Michael Neal: Big Pharma no likey the competition. Otherwise I agree completely, we already spend more money each year trying to interdict the opium than the fucking opium is worth. We could buy the entire crop for less than we spend trying to stop it!!!!
    @Ed Marshall: It’s not the size of the package, but whether or not the local bully will let it through. Yes on Poppy! No on Food!

  79. 79
    Laura W says:

    @DanSmoot’sGhost:

    Spooftrollin just ain’t what it used to be, is it?

    See what you get for calling BOB “Sparky” earlier today?
    You have no one but yourself to thank.

  80. 80
    Elie says:

    Libby and Shrodinger’s cat et al…

    If they are doing it wrong (which I don’t necessarily disagree with), how SHOULD it have been done?

    – How did the US presence in Afghnistan destabilize Pakistan. Presumably, since the Pakistanis support the Taliban, that would have made their internal coherence greater, right? Please explain that logic to me so that I can understand your point of view…

    And Libby, what is the clearer way to this. I would think that just withdrawing would have led to some pretty interesting circumstances vis a vis the Pakistani government stability since I think we are propping up their weak leadership right now. And what do you think India would do if the Pakistani government collapsed? And if it collapsed, who would be left in charge of the nuclear capability?

  81. 81
    HyperIon says:

    @J. Michael Neal:

    His claim is that a lot of suffering could be alleviated if we would simply buy the whole opium crop, turn it into painkillers, and let the Afghans buy food with the proceeds.

    this has been proposed before.
    it sounds reasonable.
    why is it never discussed by SERIOUS people?

  82. 82
    cyntax says:

    @Krista:

    I’d add putting Shinseki in charge of the VA–big deal for the vets and the troops.

  83. 83
    SnarkIntern says:

    @Laura W:

    Story of my life, Laura. Story of my life.

    No good deed shall go unpunished.

    :(

  84. 84
    SnarkIntern says:

    letting the farce known as the Afghani & Pakistani govts fight it out with the Taliban/Pashtun tribesmen seems like the worst possible option.

    Which makes you wonder, why didn’t Bush try it?

  85. 85
    asiangrrlMN says:

    @Laura W: Aw, crap. You mean Sparky is just B.O.B. under a new name? Had I known, I would have done what I usually do with B.O.B. posts–let the rest of you tackle ’em.

  86. 86
    sparky says:

    @asiangrrlMN: no, i wasn’t clear. i am not saying he hasn’t done anything. i am saying something else, or rather two something elses.

    what i am saying is it’s not clear to me that he has done lots of stuff. i agree he has done things; but that’s not the same as saying he is doing lots of things. nor am i asserting that he should be doing lots of things. in other words, i am arguing with the perception that he IS doing a lot of things. or better yet, i am approaching the claim that he has done a lot of things with a certain skepticism.

    here’s why:

    a. most of what he’s done is executive order stuff rescinding the most outlandish Bush policies. now i’m happy that’s been done, but i would point out that (a) it’s easy (b) it’s a stroke of the pen (c) everything that’s been done has been pretty low hanging fruit.

    i’m glad that it has been done, but it’s not exactly a major accomplishment. and, of course, it could all be reversed by a GOP president.

    b. the only major legislation i can think of is the stimulus.

    i don’t count Guantanamo for two reasons. it has yet to happen, and at least per Greenwald, IIRC the Obama admin is making the same argument for Afghanistan that the Bush admin made for Cuba–beyond US courts. it was a bad argument for Bush to make and it’s a bad argument now.

    i am just trying to think things through a bit. and i would be happy to be proven wrong. people who say i am equating Obama with McCain or Bush are the ones being disingenuous by distorting my position.

  87. 87
    Krista says:

    @Krista: Out of true curiosity and admiration, how is it that you know and care so much about US politics and policy?

    When one lives in the shadow of a behemoth, it pays to know where the behemoth is stepping.

    Honestly, I didn’t know all that much about it until I stumbled upon Balloon-Juice back in…2004? I got interested, informed, and then addicted — not necessarily in that order.

    However, a lot of Canadians are very interested and very informed as to what is going on in the U.S. precisely because your policies do affect us — especially now, when we’re fighting the war in Afghanistan, which we entered solely because you folks were attacked. So U.S. war policy, and how quickly Obama can get more U.S. troops into Afghanistan in order to stabilize the region, directly affects whether or not we’ll be losing any more of our men and women.

  88. 88
    SnarkIntern says:

    what i am saying is it’s not clear to me that he has done lots of stuff. i agree he has done things; but that’s not the same as saying he is doing lots of things. nor am i asserting that he should be doing lots of things. in other words, i am arguing with the perception that he IS doing a lot of things. or better yet, i am approaching the claim that he has done a lot of things with a certain skepticism.

    Groucho?

  89. 89
    voldemortsgirl says:

    – How did the US presence in Afghnistan destabilize Pakistan. Presumably, since the Pakistanis support the Taliban, that would have made their internal coherence greater, right? Please explain that logic to me so that I can understand your point of view…

    This is how the US presence destabilized Pakistan. The Taliban government was supported by Pakistani government because of many things – mainly that they had good relations with the people who dominated Afghanistan, the Pashtuns since a lot of Pashtuns came over to Pakistan during the Afghan Civil War and the Soviet invasion and since it acted as a bulwark against Iran and India. When the US invaded Afghanistan, the Taliban fled to their compatriots in Pakistan. This along with destabilization with the ousting of the Musharraf government has led to a weak center. This weak center is affected by the rising Taliban threat in the Pakistani borders who have become resurgent because of the permeable border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. And all this is happening because the Durand line between Pakistan and Afghanistan is unnatural.

  90. 90
    Laura W says:

    @asiangrrlMN: That BOB is a wily, wiggly thing. He’s an acquired taste for sure. Enigmatic and “intriguing”, like a Zen koan, if you will.
    He makes me laugh. Which is 90% of winning my heart, unfortunately or fortunately, depending upon who you are.
    Sparky irritates me already because he can’t find his cap key.
    I hate that in a poster. And a man. (Assuming the male thing.)

  91. 91
    cyntax says:

    @sparky:
    That sounds like the real question then is what can a President get done in the first three months, and of the stuff that can get done that quickly how much of it is stuff we should really care about?

  92. 92
    Elie says:

    Sparky:

    So what is the trigger point for when things move from “low hanging fruit” that is easy to do to hard enough to “count”? Is it some amount of time to get it done? What makes doing something “hard” ? I mean, presumably he would be signing things with the stroke of his pen rather than going out to actually DO them himself, right? So even the hard things would be completed with that “stroke of the pen”.

    So.much.bull.so.little.time

  93. 93
    sparky says:

    @DanSmoot’sGhost:

    Any remote possibility of being taken seriously went out the window with that gaffe.

    really? who knew that not using the pre-approved language was a valid ground for rejecting comment! but then it would make sense to keep the approved language secret. don’t ever change.

    not to mention, the rather interesting notion that because the US had a catastrophe as president, it is illegal to criticize the current one. but then the GOP liked to blame Clinton for everything wrong on Bush’s watch, so perhaps it’s useful to keep up the tradition, right?

  94. 94
    Libby says:

    @J. Michael Neal:

    I have been saying this for years now. I said it again just the other day at my place and said it at DetNews today.

    The Senlis Council, a group out of England is worth checking out on this issue. There’s a ton of good data that suggests the opium could easily be diverted to legal morphine. I’m told there’s a shortage. But whoever said Big Pharma is blocking it, is right. Drive the price down, eat into the profits. They won’t go for it.

    But as I said in the post I linked to, if they can’t divert it, then just buy it outright and burn it. It solves all the problems. The farmers get their money and can pay off the loans to the Taliban, who finance the start up of the crop cycle, instead of having to sell their daughters to pay off the warlords. The Taliban doesn’t get the crops, so they lose their source of funding.

    Most importantly, nobody gets killed. The farmers are dirt poor. They’re going to give their loyalty to whoever helps them feed their families and doesn’t kill them in the process. That’s how you do it right.

  95. 95
    sparky says:

    @SnarkIntern: who wants to know?

  96. 96
    SnarkIntern says:

    @sparky:

    Rarely do we meet somebody so completely full of shit as yourself, sir.

    A toast! To a Great Bullshit Artist!

    { glasses clink }

  97. 97
    SnarkIntern says:

    @sparky:

    Fresh from the Professor Irwin Corey Institute of Non Sequiturs, I see.

    Funny.

  98. 98
    sparky says:

    @cyntax: all i’m saying is that i think the whole 100 days notion is pretty silly. does it matter if it’s the 101st day? or the 92nd? not that i can see. if i’m wrong i’m sure someone here will correct me.

  99. 99
    Laura W says:

    @Elie: Elie, read upthread a bit. You’re way too smart to engage.

  100. 100
    sparky says:

    @SnarkIntern: well, as long as we are on this topic, flattery will get you…

    /soars on the wings of snark

  101. 101
    SnarkIntern says:

    if i’m wrong i’m sure someone here will correct me.

    No, but we will certainly mock you.

    You’re funny.

  102. 102
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    this has been proposed before.
    it sounds reasonable.
    why is it never discussed by SERIOUS people?

    First things first. You’d have to end the War on Drugs before buying up poppy fields becomes a viable solution. And before ending the War on Drugs becomes a possibility, you’d have to take the first step and end the war on marijuana. Our domestic hangups limit our international options.

  103. 103
    Elie says:

    Libby:

    So all this time that the US has been in Afghanistan, all that we had to do was buy all their poppies, give them x amount of money and the whole thing would be done? The Taliban just essentially represent the interests of poor, disappointed farmers looking for more dough and if we gave them that dough outright, the Taliban goes away and along with them, the whole problem with the Pakistani support of the Taliban? It was that simple all along?

  104. 104
    Tsulagi says:

    And why is the man who identified this as a problem a year and a half ago sitting by and letting this happen? A total damned disgrace, Obama.

    Little bit of hyperbole in that isn’t there? Plus don’t believe while campaigning or since he said all airstrikes in any circumstances would be ended as a tactical option.

    I think I’ll wait for additional information and investigation. And unlike some, I don’t believe the military always lies.

  105. 105
    Jon says:

    @Woody: They already are armed to the teeth. We pumped in how many thousands of ak-47s, stingers, and man portable artillery into Afghanistan into the 80s? God knows how much Al Queda pumped in from 89-01. The only viable solution is to cleave any remnants of Al Queda out of the Pashtuns areas, then leave. The best way to do that, imo, is to repeat the Soviet’s VDV campaign only with drones backing up the troops(before anyone points out that the Soviets lost in Afghanistan, they did change tactics are tried to use their special forces+air power to root out the Mujaheddin, and it came very close to succeeding).

    @SnarkIntern: Different situation in Pakistan with Musharraf running the show.

  106. 106
    SnarkIntern says:

    @sparky:

    Pride goeth before making a crater.

  107. 107
    cyntax says:

    @sparky:
    I’d agree that the first 100 days metric is pretty arbitrary and probably focuses on many things that aren’t all that significant. Almost by definition something that can be resolved in ~3 months just ain’t that complicated in terms of national agendas.

  108. 108
    Ash says:

    @Libby: Giving farmers money, thus somehow cutting off the Taliban’s resources, is really all it takes? Really? I honestly have no clue, which is why I asked in the first place what the “right” thing to do would be. But I have in inkling that it’s not quite that easy?

  109. 109
    Elie says:

    #89Voldesmot girl

    Thanks. I can see how the US destabilized this from your perspective .. but how do they fix it? Does just withdrawing re-stabilize Pakistan? It seems the strength of the Pakistani leadership would not be dictated by the US but by other factors – at least in part, no?

  110. 110

    @Elie: Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. It would be a big step in the right direction, but it doesn’t solve everything.

  111. 111

    When GWB invaded Afghanistan I stated that he would try to do it on the cheap and screw it up and leave a worse mess. I advocated massive bombings and troops while the Taliban were concentrated and/or fleeing the sites. He did exactly as I predicted and we got exactly the results.

    It is absolutely true that the scale of bombing I advocated would result in collateral damage, the question in that regard is the collateral damage as a consequence of not doing so. It is now much greater.

    Special forces are as close as the military gets to a scalpel, it is still a blunt force tool, just smaller in radius of effect. Trying to bomb scattered and irregular forces means getting civilians and possibly in larger numbers than fighters.

    The military knows about airpower, the questions were asked and answered in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. The military also will not sacrifice troops for civilians and will blow shit up – tell the families of soldiers why not… Think about this, Hiroshima and Nagasaki stopped WWII in the Pacific, it cost a hellish number of civilians and a hell of a lot of the commenters here would not exist otherwise. War is a nasty brutal affair, you can try to set up some humane limits, but it will remain, ultimately, inhumane.

    I get totally pissed about the pretences regarding the costs and inhumanity of warfare, it really sucks and if you go there expect it to be nasty – don’t tell people it will be something else, that’s a lie.

  112. 112
    Libby says:

    @Elie:

    Of course, it’s not that simple but am I the only one that remembers our great noble mission in freeing the Afghanis from the tyranny of the Taliban? I was told the people hated being oppressed by them. Remember all the crowing about how we destroyed the Taliban forever? I suspect some of that sort of chestbeating was going on right here by our own Mr. Cole back in those days.

    I was one of the 10% that was against ever going in. Never thought there was a military solution to terrorism and I still don’t. All I know for sure is you’re going to win hearts and minds with bread, and going to lose them with bombs.

    I can’t help but think we can buy the locals loyalty and they would likely fight alongside us to get rid of the Taliban, if that’s what we’re trying to still do, if we were building stuff instead of destroying it and were passing out bucks instead of bullets.

    I’m also old enough to remember when the USSR was a major world power. Afghanistan was a major factor in their downfall. The, what was it, ten years, they occupied the country, bled them into near irrelevancy and led to the breakup. It’s a lesson too often forgotten by those who favor wars.

  113. 113
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    So all this time that the US has been in Afghanistan, all that we had to do was buy all their poppies, give them x amount of money and the whole thing would be done?

    Even if there weren’t domestic forces preventing that, there’s still the question of how do you make sure the money gets to the farmers in a country where the government is extremely weak, corrupt and unable to provide basic services.

  114. 114

    Forget Japan for a moment, a handful of German snipers and a tank or two would result in French villages being flattened by artillery and attack bombers (tactical bombing). After that you’d still get horrid cassualties trying to clear the rubble.

    This kind of shit sucks.

  115. 115
    voldemortsgirl says:

    @ Elie 109

    Thanks. I can see how the US destabilized this from your perspective .. but how do they fix it? Does just withdrawing re-stabilize Pakistan? It seems the strength of the Pakistani leadership would not be dictated by the US but by other factors – at least in part, no?

    A US withdrawal as *Afghanistan stands now* would probably result in a resurgent Taliban and a NWFP frontier (in Pakistan) that is dominated by the Taliban. A lot depends on the the strength of the Pakistani government and Pakistani will. If the Center is weak, anything can happen and if the Pakistani military sees east instead of west and does not seek to protect its turf, I don’t know, the Taliban would probably start influencing Pakistan as well. Frankly, there are no quick solutions. A lot of the stuff happening there is extremely complicated and the US is pretty helpless in controlling any outcome. The only thing they can do is perhaps plan to secure Pakistani nukes if Pakistan falls, pump a lot of money that would probably be appropriated by Pakistani military elites and hope for the best. Or they could try to create more alliances with neighboring countries. They should have thought about this before putting all their eggs in having only Pakistan and some Nato troops as allies.

  116. 116
    Libby says:

    Even if there weren’t domestic forces preventing that, there’s still the question of how do you make sure the money gets to the farmers in a country where the government is extremely weak, corrupt and unable to provide basic services.

    The same way they did it in Iraq when the bought off the insurgents in the Great Awakening or whatever the hell they called it. Have the soldiers hand out the cash.

  117. 117
    Elie says:

    Chuck:

    I hear your point —

    What makes ME upset is when people feign false innocense about the complexity of real world situations..

    No doubt the Afghanistan debacle would have been somewhat better (maybe) if it had been handled more decisively early on. One thing that is certain however NOW is that it is very complicated with a lot of down sides and no real EASY clean way out.

    I also dislike it when people pretend as though we can retain a certain clean innocense in our foreign policy — as though we have no interests, no desired outcomes and no risks and costs that we have to assess. Using this logic, our involvement in certain situations can be made purely on what is “right” and what is “wrong” — on some universal plane. I don’t want to be overly cynical, but I do not think that we could run our foreign policy effectively from that perspective or from that point of naivete.

  118. 118
    Elie says:

    Voldemot Girl:

    Thank you again

    “They should have thought about this before putting all their eggs in having only Pakistan and some Nato troops as allies.”

    Seriously, who else could we have gotten to weigh in on this and why would they? I think that the Chinese and Russians for two are happy to have us gummed up there — probably others too. This was already in place when Obama came on so how does he bring others on? My guess is that this situation is one to be avoided and that there is little to no pay off to get balled up into it for any other country.

    Seems like a stinking mess that we are neverthelessl committed to up to our butts. Like in the grasp of a giant python, we writhe and it tightens..

  119. 119
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    The same way they did it in Iraq when the bought off the insurgents in the Great Awakening or whatever the hell they called it. Have the soldiers hand out the cash.

    First there has to be a Great Awakening.

  120. 120
    Thankovsky says:

    edit: Nevermind, misread the article. I’ll comment when I’ve done a little more research, because I have a feeling we’re not getting the whole story here.

  121. 121
    magisterludi says:

    I bet getting rid of Karzai and his Family would go a long way in winning hearts and minds of the locals.

    Karzai is to Afghanistan as Chalabi would have been to Iraq- a free-loading, corrupt puppet of the highest bidder.

  122. 122
    Thankovsky says:

    @magisterludi:

    Karzai may be a complete failure, but having a complete failure of a president who’s able to keep a bit of stability is preferable to outright civil war. If we got rid of Karzai, we’d absolutely have to have an acceptable replacement on-hand. I’m not sure that’s something we have right now.

  123. 123
    voldemortsgirl says:

    Seriously, who else could we have gotten to weigh in on this and why would they? I think that the Chinese and Russians for two are happy to have us gummed up there—probably others too. This was already in place when Obama came on so how does he bring others on? My guess is that this situation is one to be avoided and that there is little to no pay off to get balled up into it for any other country.

    Right now, Afghanistan is a sinkhole and no country would try to wrest it off our hands because of how messed up it is but at the time of invasion, there was broad based support around the world. Iran supported the Northern Alliance as did India while Pakistan supported the Taliban after Soviet defeat. What we then did when we arrived in Afghanistan was to support the Northern Alliance and also support Pakistan, whose interest it was to weaken the power of the Northern Alliance (they vetoed any help from the neighborhood). We could have asked Iran and India to contribute more troops. India especially sends many of its troops as peace keeping forces, has contributed to infrastructure development in Afghanistan (minimally because of Pakistani objections) and is vested in the status quo in South Asia so if we had asked some Indian troops in exchange for the nuclear deal we signed or some such thing, they probably would have contributed troops and some sort of help. Russia especially after 9/11 was extremely willing to help United States in the “global war against terror” especially keeping its eye on Chechnya and hoping to redefine its role as a great power under Putin. I could see your point about China. But the main point is that we should have had a Plan B. We have no Plan B, not for Iraq and not for Afghanistan and as a result, we only have difficult choices. Obama seems to go along with the Bush policy of chastising Pakistan for being naughty and giving them lots and lots of money with seemingly no results. I don’t know what alternative he could pursue but he should now be looking at some alternative that does not depend on the trust of just one ally in the region.

  124. 124
    Thankovsky says:

    @sparky:
    I’m not sure what you expect a president to have accomplished just out of his first hundred days, but off the top of my head, I can think of a couple more things to add to your list: 1, significant strides towards nuclear disarmament, 2, rapprochement with the international community, and 3, cutting back on a lot of ridiculous DoD pet projects, including the RRW and the F-22.

    These are not insignificant policy shifts on his part, either in their potential outcome or in the amount of bureaucratic inertia that he had to fight in order to get them implemented.

  125. 125
    Zifnab says:

    @Libby:

    The same way they did it in Iraq when the bought off the insurgents in the Great Awakening or whatever the hell they called it. Have the soldiers hand out the cash.

    You mean with the $9 billion in cash sent over in ziplocked bags? Yeah, because that wasn’t embezzled on a massive scale. :-p

    I mean, the truth of it is there will be no easy solutions. You can’t just throw money at the tribes forever and make them happy, because they’ll eventually start doing the math and figuring out how to milk you. You can’t wave the magic Halliburton wand and rebuild the country after you’ve flattened it. There will be no flowers and candy. You will not be greeted as liberators.

    The Bush Administration dropped a giant stinking turd on Iraq and another steaming duece on Afghanistan. It’ll take decades to sort this out no matter what we do.

  126. 126
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    There is a Great Awakening strategy being explored for Afghanistan, btw, but the pieces may not be there.

  127. 127
    Thankovsky says:

    And why is the man who identified this as a problem a year and a half ago sitting by and letting this happen?

    Aight, I’ve given this situation a deeper look, and it doesn’t look like we’re going to hear the whole story on this incident for a while. I will respond to this rhetorical question you posted, though, with another question: “Does he have a choice”?

    He may be the C-in-C of the military, but keep in mind, this is the military we’re talking about. There’s no bureaucratic inertia like the bureaucratic inertia in the military and the DOD in general. Obama calling off airstrikes this early in the gain was really never an option. If he hasn’t at least significantly reduced their rate a year from now, I’ll be with you pinning the blame on Obama, but for now, remember that Obama has to force what is probably the least-pliable department in the government, to bend in an entirely different direction than it’s taken for the last several decades. Bottom line: it’s going to take a while before he can end all bombing runs.

  128. 128
    The Cat Who Would Be Tunch says:

    Warning: Long comment ahead*

    I’ve been thinking about the US strategy in Afghanistan for a while now. Sending an additional 20K is a start but the biggest problem with this is that it looks at the issue from a singular view: eliminating the Taliban. I won’t argue that security isn’t crucial but what’s being overlooked is the importance in creating an educated, skilled population.

    The approach with Afghanistan thus far has been overwhelmingly focused on fighting the Taliban. Thus far, this has cost the US to the tune of $200 billion thus far according to the latest budget. Compare this with the approximately $20 billion pledged (actual provided was $5 billion as of 2008) by the US and other donor countries like Japan. Those two numbers right there should immediately clue you in about why there’s been so little progress in Afghanistan.

    But even with the lethargic aid that has been provided compared to the military expenditures, those billions can still go a long way, especially in a country like Afghanistan. However, most of the aid still goes to foreign companies and does little to provide locals with knowledge.

    Case in point: Construction jobs related to infrastructure and facilities involving any skills were all done mainly by foreign workers, with the locals doing pure grunt work. This approach made sense in the beginning but it’s problematic in the long run. What happens when the foreign workers/companies leave? You’re left with a bunch of unskilled workers that aren’t that much better off. Since they weren’t coached along in the construction process, they can’t do much on their own. In other words, the greatest value in these reconstruction efforts comes from the knowledge transfer to the Afghan population and not necessarily the end output of the construction project. It’s those skills that have true long term value for the country as a whole. This point in particular is what differentiates Afghanistan from Iraq. Iraq was certainly crippled by the sanctions in the 90s. However, it was an industrialized nation with considerably better educated populace and a valuable resource prior to the sanctions. On the other hand, consider that most young or middle-aged Afghanis have had no opportunity to pick up any useful skills, since many of them would’ve been born a little before or during the Soviet invasion in the 80s.

    There are some other hard to quantify factors like the corruption, the question of who’s supplying the Taliban with weapons, and how to get the farmers’ to shift away from opium production. The Pakistan military (and who knows what other actors are involved) does play a role in this. On the corruption side of things, it wasn’t uncommon to hear of colonels, brigadiers, and generals in Islamabad getting paid 500% of the cost for goods/services being requisitioned by foreign contractors (yes, such a fantastic use of our tax dollars). I don’t even want to think of all the other kickbacks that must take place as stuff is transported into Afghanistan.

  129. 129
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    I mean, the truth of it is there will be no easy solutions.

    When you’ve been doing business the worst way possible for as long as our government has, this will be the case for most of the big decisions Obama faces. But we live in an instant gratification society and that extends to our political expectations. Hence the tendency to propose one word solutions to massive clusterfucks: “Nationalize!” “Legalize!” “Withdraw!”

  130. 130
    Hunter Gathers says:

    Does Obama have blood on his hands over this? Of course.
    If he is responsible for these deaths, than the following are also responsible:
    corrupt Afghan pres. Hamid Karzai
    corrupt Pakistani pres. Zardari
    the corrupt Pakistani military, who are more worried about the Indian Army than enemies within it’s own country
    Rumsfeld
    Cheney
    Rice
    and George Motherfucking Bush

  131. 131
    Thankovsky says:

    @The Cat Who Would Be Tunch:
    Long indeed, but excellent; it pretty much sums up my assessment of the situation as well. I think one possible short-term strategy that I would hope the military/CIA/whatever is already looking into, is exploiting the possibility of certain factions within the Taliban. My understanding of the situation is that the Taliban, like al Qaeda, is in no ways a monolithic, unified entity. There are factions and subfactions that are only marginally affiliated with Mullah Omar and the other fanatics who formerly ruled Afghanistan, and who knows – maybe they could be bought, or at least paid to not cause any trouble.

    I have no expertise on this issue, but I would imagine that a sizable chunk of the insurgents in Afghanistan are fighting for purely nationalistic reasons, anyway, as opposed to any strongly-held Islamist ideals.

  132. 132
    wilfred says:

    “In order to have the Great Society, I had to give them their war”.

    They, in this case, being the war pigs who insist on AIR POWER, citing all those bang for the buck studies we remember from other bombing raids that killed civilians. Obama caved into these people immediately.

    That sickening feeling starting to develop in some of you comes from the realization that the way to health care and gay marriage will be paved with the bodies of dead wogs. Same as it ever was.

    Good on you, John, for this post. Nobody else will even mention it.

  133. 133
    wilfred says:

    I have no expertise on this issue, but I would imagine that a sizable chunk of the insurgents in Afghanistan are fighting for purely nationalistic reasons, anyway, as opposed to any strongly-held Islamist ideals

    Just so. In the same way that the war against the Russians was hardly jihad but rather a war against an invading army.

    Outside of academic journals and a few Afghan blogs you never hear any of that. One reason is because it disrupts our representation of Afghans as one size fits all mujahadin, instead of human beings who get pissed off when their children get blown up by American bombs.

    The asinine Hilary Clinton testified the other day that the Taliban were a threat to the entire world. They’re this administration’s gook.

  134. 134
    Elie says:

    129 – Shawn
    “But we live in an instant gratification society and that extends to our political expectations. Hence the tendency to propose one word solutions to massive clusterfucks: “Nationalize!” “Legalize!” “Withdraw!” ”

    Yep. And I suspect that this “solution” (as though it will be a uni-dimensional, yes/no, up/down type of thing) will be not only complex but play out over a long time and in many different ways across our foreign policy, economic, military and even social policy. We are stuck to this and it it stuck to us — I am sure if Obama stays awake at night he must have Lyndon Johnson’s nightmares: having a plan for the Great Society that gets destroyed by a military “adventure”. I term it an “adventure” because it is not clear that it has any other purpose for anyone and yet it is fraught with all the dangers one can imagine…

    BTW — if anyone wants to read and appreciate heartbreak, go to the LBJ library, take a day and take your time reading the letters, journals back when we were a people who wrote things down…LBJs letters to Congressmen, to citizens and to the families of the fallen — to world figures — things were slower and deeper but no less “for keeps”.

    We have lost something in our speed and (what is the right word for not being able to write coherent thought? – its not literacy) not being able to form ideas and share whole ideas and wait for not only exchange and reaction, but for time to process the message without having to ACT immediately…seems to me that diplomacy would greatly depend on knowing people and getting to know their thinking..how do you do that without talking to them and reading what they share about what they think? No wonder things get so f—–d up!

  135. 135
    Elie says:

    Wilfred —

    Things are the same until they are different. Is your bitterness a source of action or a source of just shrugging your shoulders in defeat?

    The history of mankind can be easily seen from just the perspective of misery and loss. There are no victories or transcendance — we just break rocks and die.

    Is that what you believe?

    It is not what I believe and that is what “progressive” means to me. We take our slaps but then we move forward, no matter how slowly. We HAVE made progress but things are not all wonderful. There are perennial set ups — as you say, “just as they always were”. But my experience and observation is that past does not preview all possible future.
    Otherwise, why bother to get up in the morning.? You already know the outcome…

  136. 136
    lethargytartare says:

    @Chuck Butcher:

    Think about this, Hiroshima and Nagasaki stopped WWII in the Pacific, it cost a hellish number of civilians and a hell of a lot of the commenters here would not exist otherwise.

    I was with ya right up until this bit of pablum.

    The notion that the atomic bomb was needed to end the war with Japan is nothing more than a myth we have created as a nation so we can avoid dealing with the shame and horror we should otherwise experience.

    see here

  137. 137
    wilfred says:

    @Elie:

    I’m not bitter, I’m ashamed of my country. I have a history with Afghanistan, whose people are to me a great and gallant people and some of whom, after they helped me when they sure didn’t have to, I promised that I would speak for them in any way possible.

    They deserve better than what we have brought them.

  138. 138
    Elie says:

    Wilfred:

    Thank you for that piece of key information. I respect your position and your intensity about this. Please do not give up or give in to believing that there is no hope or a positive future — though I know it must seem bleak and immensely frustrating

  139. 139
    Elie says:

    Wilfred:

    I guess I would also say that while I understand why you would use the word “shame” — I guess…it is not totally fair to characterize our presense in Afghanistan as just an impulse without cause and therefore a wanten expression of needless violence and aggression.

    While our long range goals should be questioned, as well as the “collateral damage” for whatever reason, the Afghanis tolerated the Taliban to use their nation as a site to bring great horror and pain to a couple of thousand Americans — remember?

    While I recognize that most Afghanis would know little about that, or have a hand in it, the ties to them are real — so their culture, if not individuals in it, are not innocent — not completely.

    That is what pulled us in there. Bear that in mind when you balance the scales. The American mind set to achieve that justice was primitive — but at least understandable on a level that most people would “get” — including the Afghan people.

  140. 140
    SqueakyRat says:

    “The initial truth.” I love it. Put that in the Liar’s Lexicon on page 1.

  141. 141
    Nellcote says:

    It’s karma, it’s chickens coming home to roost. We used, abused and then abandoned Afghanistan when we chose to use their country as a battlefield to fight the Russians in the last days of the cold war. And when we were done we left and didn’t look back, leaving Afghanis to the tender mercies of the Taliban. We owe them to try to help rebuild but we can’t do that until they stop shooting at us. Obama, Gates and others are aware that some who’ve joined the Taliban can be co-opted while others will have to be chased down. Obama said for over a year and a half that this is what he would do. Why the angst now? Iran offered to help back in 2002 (?) and was refused by BushCo. Obama is trying to build some sort of relationship with Iran. Perhaps they can help but the bs with the neo-cons will be a hurdle. They’re already going hard on the “he’s making us less secure” talking point. Resolution in Afghanistan will be hard and ugly but we can’t walk away AGAIN.

    ps.Didja hear the one about Pakistan having nukes?

    pps. Yo! Sparky!
    http://www.npr.org/news/specia.....matracker/

  142. 142
    Guano Island says:

    maybe the IDF is running U.S. air command?/snark

  143. 143
    Krista says:

    @136: Thank you so much for that link — I’m looking forward to using that in many an argument.

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