Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 2, 2009

DIDN'T WE ALREADY RESOLVE THIS DEBATE?.... In his speech last night, President Obama briefly touched on his expectations for withdrawing from Afghanistan: "[T]aken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011."

You can probably guess who's complaining about the timeline.

Senator John McCain on Tuesday expressed support for the plan to send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, but said he objected to setting a date for an exit strategy to begin as early as 2011.

"Dates for withdrawal are dictated by conditions," Mr. McCain told reporters on Capitol Hill. "The way that you win wars is to break the enemy's will, not to announce dates that you are leaving."

Didn't we already resolve this debate? John "100 years" McCain may have forgotten, but his underlying argument -- the U.S. should fight open-ended conflicts until some vague concept of "success" is achieved -- has already been rejected by nearly everyone.

Here's a refresher: the Bush/Cheney administration, after years of rhetoric about avoiding "artificial" deadlines and our enemies "waiting us out," finally agreed to a withdrawal timeline for Iraq. Republicans accepted it. That was just last year.

Last night, President Obama referenced an indistinct, non-binding beginning of a withdrawal in 2011 "taking into account conditions on the ground."

So why would the right complain?

The withdrawal strategy may be amended as circumstances dictate, but at least it exists. That may annoy McCain & Co., but as Kevin Drum noted, "[L]ook, we've been in Afghanistan for eight years. If 100,000+ NATO troops can't start to turn the tide by 2011, then it's time to leave. The alternative is to commit to staying forever, and that's insane. Obama has now given the military everything it needs to succeed, and if they still can't do it, then they just can't do it."

Steve Benen 9:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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The first military principle is the OBJECTIVE.

What the President did last night was state an objective that can be achieved by July 2011: " We must deny al-Qaida a safe-haven. We must reverse the Taliban's momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government. And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan's security forces and government, so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan's future."

The key to it is the phrase "to keep the pressure on al-Qaida..." The President is talking about a form of containment, which after all was ultimately the successful strategy against Communism.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 2, 2009 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

If President John McCain sez not to announce fates of withdrawal then By God the date of withdrawal announced last night is automatically withdrawn...

Posted by: neill on December 2, 2009 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

This is no country for old men.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on December 2, 2009 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Shorter BHO: "My cut-and-run date is July 2011".

Posted by: Al on December 2, 2009 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

We could have at least 50,000 troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan for another 8 years so any discussion of drawing down or complete withdrawal is very premature. Our occupation of both countries is still very open ended.

Posted by: lou on December 2, 2009 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Just over a year ago, my neighbors and I, and others all over the country, got together as Americans and registered our decision about whether John McCain should be setting our foreign policy. We said no.

It really pisses me off the way he keeps talking.

Posted by: biggerbox on December 2, 2009 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

"Our occupation of both countries is still very open ended."

Obama quite explicitly set his Iraq withdraw time-table for 16 months. It has only been 10 so far, so he hasn't broken that promise yet.

Furthermore, unlike Bush or the GOP, he has now set a fairly solid (albeit wide-range) date of 2011 for Afghanistan. That's longer than I would want (yesterday would be better; never going in the first place would have been ideal), but at least now we have a date we can use to hold his feet to the fire.

So let's not surrender before the battle even starts, OK?

Posted by: Shade Tail on December 2, 2009 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

In October of 2001 we took the bait.

Now we are going to find ourselves still gnawing at the bait, going on a decade or more, having spent close to a trillion dollars on Afghanistan alone.

Meanwhile, our own economy is showing the strain of the obscene expenditures overseas.

Isn't that what Al qaeda wanted? Didn't they explicitly warn us that we would be sucked dry?

How many more trillions are we gonna spend?

Perpetuawar.


Posted by: Tom Nicholson on December 2, 2009 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

Of course McCain is undermining the whole point of the deadline which is as much for the benefit of the Afghani government as it is for 'our enemies'

What's really reprehensible is that he's smart enough to understand that but he really does put his own interest before his country's on a regular basis.

Posted by: Paul Dirks on December 2, 2009 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

"The President is talking about a form of containment, which after all was ultimately the successful strategy against Communism."

Containment, as a policy to limit Soviet expansionism, required ca. 50 years of continuous application. I don't think we're going to continue the current US military occupation of Afghanistan for 50 years. If containment of the Taliban by military occupation of Afghanistan for 18 more months is the goal, it is obviously doomed, as the Taliban can wait that long in Pakistan.

"So let's not surrender before the battle even starts, OK?"

The "battle" was over seven years ago. What is going on now is a military occupation. That needs to end. Now.

Posted by: Joel on December 2, 2009 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Sending additional troops is not going to work, but the deadline is for our military, not Afghanistan's. Obama is telling our military and State Dept. leaders they have six months build-up and planning followed by one year to win. That's not what he said last night, but I think the real message was received by those it was intended for. They asked for it, they got it, it's all on them. Clinton and McChrystal.

Posted by: Th on December 2, 2009 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I'd like to hope for the best, but leaving it to "Taking into accounts on the ground" is a HUGE open door and pretty close to saying " whenever it's time" which is pretty close to saying "sit back and watch us once again meddle with a corrupt country for years on end
(make that countries-Pakistan is a real picnic) who is no direct threat to us right now (Can you say Bush Doctrine?)..watch the young ones die, watch the money be depleted from where it really needs to go..and watch the joke of an attempt to hand over control to a country that has no history or knowledge or desire to assume that kind of leadership...

War! What is it good for? Absolutely Nothing.

Obama is doing this because he has to show he tried something --lest we have a horrible terrorist attack...doing it for show...and the dirty truth is we will very likely have a terrorist attack anyhow and it will be blamed on him regardless.

He just dropped WAY down on my opinion of his judgment.

Posted by: War: What is it Good For? on December 2, 2009 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

'The "battle" was over seven years ago. What is going on now is a military occupation.'

FYI: I meant that metaphorically, not literally. I was referring to the political fight of making Obama actually live up to his promises to withdraw.

Posted by: Shade Tail on December 2, 2009 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

"Obama is doing this because he has to show he tried something"

Actually, no. Obama is doing this because he's been saying all along that he would do this. It was a rather large plank in his campaign platform. And back then, it was the majority view in this country that Afghanistan was the "good" battlefield, even among democratic voters.

Like Mr. Benen, I'm highly skeptical of this, but I'm willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, for now. After all, he's done a bunch of good foreign policy and counter-terrorism so far.

Posted by: Shade Tail on December 2, 2009 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

"Our occupation of both countries is still very open ended." me

Shade Tail:
"Obama quite explicitly set his Iraq withdraw time-table for 16 months. It has only been 10 so far, so he hasn't broken that promise yet.

Furthermore, unlike Bush or the GOP, he has now set a fairly solid (albeit wide-range) date of 2011 for Afghanistan. That's longer than I would want (yesterday would be better; never going in the first place would have been ideal), but at least now we have a date we can use to hold his feet to the fire."

You wish. If things start going to hell in Iraq we could renegotiate the withdrawal agreement. This is in fact a likely scenario.

And the 2011 date in Afghanistan is when we start drawing down the escalation of forces. We could easily end up with 10s of thousands of troops there for the indefinite future.

So, in my view, our occupation in both countries is very open ended. Our fragmented political landscape in the US pretty much predetermines such a "bipartisan" outcome.

Posted by: lou on December 2, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

No, we won't be occupying Afghanistan for 60+ years. We may have some personnel there (more than before 9-11, anyway), but the President made it clear that come July '11, we're gone.

But the real policy announcement, very clear but not neon'd, is that we're not going to try to rollback Muslim craziness: we're going to contain it, pressure it, and watch it shrivel up and die.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 2, 2009 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Forget the first half of the speech. Rejoice in the second half. That half is about ending the culture of permanent war and rebuilding the economic strenght of the US. It seeks to rebrand the US as a partner to like minded peoples rather than their military patron. Obama talked of balancing costs and goals. No longer blank checks. I could not ask for more. Hopefully, he is strong enough to accomplish this goal.

Posted by: steve on December 2, 2009 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Shade Tail: Obama wavered for a good reason..when he saw how corrupt the situation truly is there, how brutal the terrain is, how things have changed..

H had SERIOUS doubts..he is one who has always said he's against stupid wars, and this one now is stupid IMO..

several years ago it wasn't..

H campaigned to show what the Bush administration did wrong and to show that he is brighter..at that time he didn't have the information he has now...this decision is a very risky one...Too risky IMHO.

I'd like to see how he starts pulling folks out in a year.seems highly unlikely, but maybe I'm wrong..I hope I am...and I'd like to see how much better the whole Al Queda mess is when this is all over..i

If our goal is to stop them, will we really? Ever?

A waste of energy and money..but hey, O.K...
I'll give some benefit of doubt--maybe he's got some really super-duper tight knit plan tucked under his sleeve that we're not privy to.

And I will say this: The only solace I have is I know he will back out if things get worse..he's humble enough to say "this was wrong"..at least he usually does...

Posted by: Doubtful--and Obama clearly is as well on December 2, 2009 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

"You wish."

I would respond to anything that came after that, but it was all, "This is the case because the conventional wisdom says so." Considering how successful conventional "wisdom" was in '06 and '08 (i.e. not at all), that argument doesn't really impress me.

Posted by: Shade Tail on December 2, 2009 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Ever since the Viet Cong pulled McAce's toenails off oh those so many years ago, he hasn't been quite the same man. You know, leaving the crippled wife of his children for a rich hussy, changing his mind evey six weeks on policy, bound and determined to make a liar out of himself for anyone interested in following his nauseating rhetoric.

So let's cut him some slack about all of those TV appearances. He has to do something on Sunday. We all know he doesn't go to church...

Posted by: stevio on December 2, 2009 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Would someone please correct me if I have the mistaken impression that the 2011 date applies only to this latest addition of troops? And if I am not mistaken, as a consequence, we could still have a force of over 50,000 troops there well after 2011?
So, if I am correct, what is so magical or so consequential about this 2011 time line? I don't get why anyone is getting worked up over this.

Posted by: lou on December 2, 2009 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

The worst argument I have ever heard against setting a withdrawal start date is the "waiting us out" one.

So if the "bad guys" are kind enough to wait us out until we leave, and if having us leave is their objective, why don't they "wait us out" now so that we leave even sooner?

The collective stupidity is wingnuttia/punditland is staggering.

Posted by: Ohioan on December 2, 2009 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder what George Carlin thinks about Obama's War.
KliK me to find out

Posted by: cwolf on December 2, 2009 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

So why would the right complain?

Because they're all traitors to their country who consider any Democratic president to be per se illegitimate. Why are we still debating this pointless rhetorical question?

Posted by: Alan on December 2, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

today, there is no al-fresco in afghanistan.

if there ever was.

the continuation of bill's and george's desires for perpetual military expenditures.

you want the real sanctuary for al-fresco? and the invasions would be easy. abu dhabi. saudi arabia.

you want the best bang for you warmongering expenditures, your tax dollars? deploy them where you can achieve the best gain for your investment, the real sanctuaries of gangsterism, of murder/mayhem.

you know, if you are going to do imperialism, it ought to be done with a good commercial target in mind.

afghanistan is not such a target. afghanistan is the venue for a forever war, the forever looting of the amerikan taxpayer. the war without end. the war with no resolution.

that is the reality that barry obombya has decided to pursue. barry is a bad imperialist. he refuses to pursue the most economically advantageous targets to enrich this empire. so in the light of the tunnel, barry is just another looter. an administrator of state-sanctioned imperialism who cannot discern the richest target for his constituents.

as i have said previously, barry is just the blackbush.

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Posted by: Soterios on March 9, 2010 at 1:08 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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