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BlueStateMan On December - 3 - 2009

solomonWhat is our ALTERNATIVE?

We can’t just charter a bunch of jets & “leave”… & even if it was physically possible, it would be irresponsi­­­­­ble… as history has taught us.

I’m not happy about this.. & I GUARANTEE you that President Obama isn’t, either… you could see it in his face when he made the announcement.. but the QUICKSAND that Bush plunged us into has got us into a situation where there are NO options other than “Bad” or “WORSE”.

Look to the lesson of Southeast Asia.. where Nixon made the TERRIBLE mistake of withdrawing too quickly… the ensuing bloodbath in both Cambodia & South Viet Nam a terrible testament to the frivolity of making POLITICAL decisions where HUMAN ones were better served.

President Obama did not make this decision callously (as did his predecessor) nor without weighing ALL of the facts (as did his predecessor) & I’m POSITIVE he did not decide for POLITICAL reasons, as the “outrage” from his “supporters” demonstrates.

This is the only way OUT of that quagmire.. one that he INHERITED.­­­­­. one that is OWNED in its ENTIRETY by those who STARTED it.

30,000 SUPPORT troops (combat ready.. as are they ALL sent to SHORE up the situation) is not an “escalation” by ANY definition in this situation.­­­­­.. as all experts agree that an EXPONENTIAL addition would be necessary to “occupy” Afghanistan & that a STRATEGIC, well-planned WITHDRAWAL is the SINGULAR goal here… it’s the only plan that makes sense.  After all, this is not even a “Nation” in any real sense.. just a loose amalgam of warlords, tribes, religious fanatics & criminals (lead by Karzai) & without a viable “central government” one would be hard-pressed to define a “military victory”.. & the President KNOWS THAT.

I had written over a month ago that President Obama would announce a structured, strategic plan to withdraw & that is exactly what he did.  This is the FIRST TIME that a TIMETABLE to withdraw has been formulated.. & for the first time the GOAL is not to “win” but to LEAVE.


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73 Responses so far.

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  1. Bernard Marx says:

    I agree with you, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been agreeing with your alias over at the Huff too.

    I am tentatively supporting Obama on this. But this support is based on the premise that the troop increase is indeed part of a well thought-out exit plan. I certainly hope that it is.

    The war should never have been started, but it was. Leaving requires sober heads and a pragmatic approach.

    • nellie says:

      Bernard what do you think our response to 911 should have been? I’ve always wondered if there was another alternative to going into Afghanistan the way we did.

  2. Khirad says:

    I will admit the key problem I see with Pakistan is its continued denial that OBL is there. They also once said he was dead (I’m agnostic on that). Maybe they’re being cute. In any case, it is problematic in light that they’re asking for more “clarity” on the mission.


    • BlueStateMan says:

      OUR invasion was NEVER about BinLaden, 9/11, “justice” or even REVENGE.

      It was about fossil fuels & the conduit with which it could be distributed.

      It was, as are ALL motivations of the neocons, MONEY.

  3. KQuark says:

    The more I hear after the decision the more I think this is a final good faith effort to help the Afghan government prove themselves and then get out. I totally agree with your assessment regarding Bush. He and Cheney were outright negligent leading to few choices and an indefinite occupation. The troops will try t create tactical space now and then employ a Green Zone strategy to contain the Taliban long term.

    • nellie says:

      I agree with you, KQuark. This is our effort to do what Bush should have done when he had the chance. But Bush didn’t know how to fight in Afghanistan — “there are no good targets” — and he ignored HIS generals when they asked for more troops. Instead he destroyed Iraq and then took credit for liberating the country.

      So President Obama is left with trying to go back to 2002 and clearing out Al Qaeda’s stronghold. It’s basically up to the Afghan people whether this strategy works or not. And maybe if we can work with their government, pour in more foreign aid, and make it clear we’re not going to get mired down in their internal issues — maybe there will be sufficient motivation on all sides to get this right. Or as close to right as this mess can get.

      • PepeLepew says:

        I read an interesting article the other day that some administration officials were quoted as saying there are fewer than 100 al-Qaida in Afghanistan and perhaps “several hundred” al-Qaida fighters in Pakistan. I was struck that it sounded like they were talking about fewer than 1,000 people total, but we need 100,000 to root them out.
        I don’t know if those numbers are B.S. or not, but I found the article intriguing. It made me wonder if this is about al-Qaida, the Taliban or trying to establish a genuinely stable regime in Afghanistan.

        • nellie says:

          I’ve heard the same numbers about Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and I think the goal there is to make the country inhospitable. But I understand people are just across the border in Pakistan — waiting to return.

          The thing is, a small group pulled off 911. We don’t want something like that to happen again. And it seems this group is still determined to launch attacks against western countries. I don’t know why — but we are continuing to make arrests of people who are planning attacks.

          If we could sit down and talk with these folks and figure out what the deal is — we should do that. It’s hard to know what to think. Randi Rhodes is spending her entire show today comparing Afghanistan to Vietnam — a comparison I disagree with — but it’s very disheartening. She’s playing tapes of Lyndon Johnson.

          Now she’s talking to Congressman Joe Sestak (formerly 3 star admiral, also on the House Arms Services Cmtee) — who is basically saying what I wrote in my post. (I only steal from the best!)

          Here’s what he’s saying:

          550,000 insurgents in Nietnam, only 20,000 Taliban in Afghanistan. 70% are there for wages, earning 3 X as much as afghanistan policemen. So he thinks this is something that can be addressed.

          Biggest concern he has is getting Pakistan to be a partner in eradicating Al Qaeda on the other side of the border. 25,000 Al Qaeda on the other side of the border in Pakistan. He does not want to see 2000 nuclear trained scientists in a failed state.

          He is writing the president to ask for benchmarks for success, more clearly defined exit strategy. What will trigger exit?

          He believes our success is in the hands of the Pakistanis.

      • AlphaBitch says:

        Nellie: you are spot on! It IS up to the Afghan people. They are now aware of a timeline. With TRUE help -- with agriculture (which really takes 5 years before it can start producing), roads, SCHOOLS and CLINICS, the people themselves MAY be motivated enough to stand up for their people and their country. And remember: they love technology and being connected now -- more than ever before. I honestly think -- and hope and pray -- that this will enable them to make the decisions that you can see Iran struggling with. It’s not saying that they want democracy, or our westernized culture, but I don’t know many young people who don’t want a little more freedom, a little more opportunity, unless they are fundamentalists. They are outnumbered, here and there.

        Thirty years of non-ending war has left an entire country w/ PTSD. May we ALL find the peace we desire.

        • nellie says:

          Thank you, AB. I value your point of view so much on this issue. I’ve always thought helping the country to provide security for its people has been the key. And not military security, but Food Security, Shelter Security, education, technology, plumbing, electricity.

          We wasted a lot of time we could have spent doing something productive. Let’s hope we can start down a better road.

          One of my best friends grew up in Afghanistan, and they way she described her childhood — such a beautiful experience she had there. What has happened there really breaks her heart.

    • PepeLepew says:

      Hey, KQuark, I just finished reading a book about Afghanistan called “Where Men Find Glory.” It will make you really mad. It’s about the coverup about the death of Pat Tillman. Bush and Cheney really had no idea what they were doing. After reading it, I really came to appreciate what a clusterputain Obama inherited.

    • Mogamboguru says:

      Let this heretic ask one question, though, KQuark:

      What’s plan “B”, if plan “A” fails?

      And what would be the long-term outcome of a failed plan “A”?

      • Kalima says:

        Just because Rumy didn’t see further than the end of his nose, doesn’t mean that the President doesn’t have a Plan “B”, why the need to second guess him, could any of us do any better with the situation he has inherited?

      • BlueStateMan says:

        One would need to be formulated, mo… “war” leaves no guarantees… but, as I said, THIS time there is a GENUINE GOAL there (not some rhetorical pap about “winning”) & that is to be GONE from there within 18 months.

  4. KevenSeven says:

    I am very much of two minds on this whole mess. Perhaps more.

    I could dispute much of what you write. It is not true that we simply could not just get the hell out as quickly as possible. We could scuttle all the equipment and be out in about six weeks, although that is dangerous to the troops.

    A number of questions need answering: how much of a risk to us would the Tali taking back Afghanistan be to the US? At a previous point a few weeks back, you were at pains to insist that there was no risk to the US. Has your thinking evolved on this point?

    A perfectly cogent argument can be made that the risk/reward calculation would advise us to get out and massively improve our police skills. It would be fatuous to insist that there is no argument for speedy withdrawal.

    Likewise I reject the assertion that the president in no way calculated the political implications of his decisions. That is absurd to suggest. A president simply cannot govern without some shred of popular support. One only need look at the previous occupant of the office, with his bullying, his insinuations of treason, his outrageous claims of moral supremacy, and most of all the lies, to see the lengths an executive much go to when he really cannot make an honest sale of his policies.

    America would never have ratified the invasion of Iraq had the truth been presented them. Had the argument been that Saddam was a sadist and the Iraqi people would be better off without him, the American people would have said: tough shit.

    Obviously Obama considered carefully the impact of this decision on his approval ratings, his leverage with Congress, and his prospects for re-election. I am perfectly happy to join in saying that these considerations did not poison his analysis and give us a crappy decision, and the belief that he is essentially a decent man and a competent executive. Hum a few bars, I’ll come in on chorus.

    I gotta get to work, where I will not have a computer. See y’all this evening. Oh, and none of my comments above in any way violate the terms of use;they are they no sort of personal attack. I challenged the quality and conclusions of the argument, nothing more. Please, no weeping of bitter tears, and I direct this injunction at no particular individual. It really sucks to feel compelled to write this disclaimer. But I think I’ll save it for future use.

    • BlueStateMan says:

      The political fallout is across the board… I didn’t say he didn’t consider it.. he considers EVERYTHING.. which is why he has my RESPECT.. I just feel that the political considerations had little to NO bearing on his final decision.. a decision that leaves HUMAN LIVES in the balance.. ANOTHER reason he has my respect.

      C’Mon, kev.. do you really think that he came to this conclusion because he though it would “up” his numbers??

      Sometimes, one must make a choice between LEADERSHIP & GOVERNANCE… & I feel that this was a case in point… again when LIVES are at stake.

      I agree that we PHYSICALLY could leave in a few months… but as you say, that would endanger the troops.. which is a deal-breaker.

      • KevenSeven says:

        I am certain that he considered what course would be least damaging to his ability to govern, in other words, his popularity.

        • BlueStateMan says:

          I disagree, kev… he did this, simply because it was the RIGHT THING TO DO…. it was about LIVES… the political calculation would have led him to a different plan.

          • KevenSeven says:

            Disagree all you want, blu,,,,the evidence is that he chose a middle road that was going to HONK OFF the flanks and satisfy the middle….it is about GOVERNING….I defy you to show me a political calculation that would have netted MORE SUPPORT.

            Go ahead. Tell me what other path he could have taken that would have, considering the slamming that either side would have given him, that would have delivered more support.

            • BlueStateMan says:

              Immediate withdrawal would have garnered more support from his “base”.. & I challenge you to cite this “evidence” that he took the middle… which was McChrystals initial proposal.

              You still fail to see the difference between “Governing” & LEADERSHIP… & in WAR, if you have ANY INTEGRITY at ALL.. it’s about the LIVES of those you are sending into harms way.

              All else is cynical politics.

    • Mogamboguru says:

      Well said, Kev!

      And I hope, the disclaimer wasn’t intended for me… 😉

    • nellie says:

      I don’t think the threat is the Taliban. It’s Al Qaeda. It’s nukes in Pakistan. That’s what we’re doing there.

      • KevenSeven says:


        The Tali is a group of deranged religious extemists, whose purpose is to drag the world back into the dark ages.

        They have a solid base in a nation that actually HAS nukes, and are favored by the dizzy shit-heads that run the intelligence agency and military of that benighted craphole.

        This particular breed of deranged religious asshole extremists actually brag about their interest in gaining nukes and using them. I really could give a rat’s ass as to the formal name each group takes. Until I have reason to believe that what ever group, the Tali or who the hell ever, is not inclined to sympathize with the aspirations of the other co-coreligionist deranged extremists, I consider them all threats.

        Actually, I consider Christians threats too, but that is another discussion.

        Recognizing the Tali as a threat does not lock you into supporting any particular policy. As I wrote about a week ago, countless things are threats. The perfectly reasonable question to ask is: does this threat rise to a particular level of action?

        But it is nonsense to say that the Tali is no threat.

        • nellie says:

          I don’t see the Taliban as the same calibre of threat as Al Qaeda. And I’m not alone in that view. Most of them are people trying to make money, earn a living. If they had another source of revenue, they’d probably do something else. They’re a mixed bag. They’re local. They’re a bit of everything. I’m not saying they don’t do a lot of harm. Or that there aren’t fanatics at the core. I just think they can be handled. They would have been — if Bush hadn’t left and allowed them to regroup.

          Al Qaeda is a different story. I don’t know what their glitch is. They just seem to want to hurt people.

          • KevenSeven says:

            I don’t trust any deranged primativist, regardless of the pointless religious dogma they subscribe to.

            But I would agree that it may not be sufficient threat to justify the effort to defeat them. That is very much an argument worth making.

            • nellie says:

              I’m thinking the growth of the Taliban has much more to do with economics at this point than religion.

              But I don’t mean to minimize their threat. I just think it’s of a different nature.

          • Kalima says:

            Nelli let’s not forget that the Taliban are a real threat to their own people, especially the women and children. If our aim is to stabilize the country, then the safety of it’s citizen from torture, murder and oppression figures greatly and the Taliban should not be granted safe haven there.

            The Afghan government and the tribal leaders must make that choice too.

            • nellie says:

              I don’t mean to imply that the Taiban is harmless. They’re a scourge on the country. Violent and oppressive. But in terms of our own national security, I don’t think they compare to Al Qaeda. I believe Al Qaeda in Pakistan is the real reason for our presence in Afghanistan.

            • nellie says:

              The Taliban is still local — I guess that is my main reason for viewing them differently from Al Qaeda. And I think it’s important not to conflate the two groups.

              I don’t mean to minimize either. They are both dangerous. As I said, I just think the Taliban can be managed — can be worked with in some way. This has happened in the past. Al Qaeda, not so much.

              I just want to say, too, that I really think hard about what you’re saying, and keven as well.

            • Kalima says:

              I know that you are aware of their violence nelli but so many people don’t care about the big picture these days, would rather think about self interests.

              Both the presence of the leftovers of al Qaida and the Taliban taking over whole towns and villages in Pakistan, is still a threat to the stability of Pakistan and therefore a threat to any country afraid of WMD’s falling into the wrong hands. No one would be safe then, not just America.

      • Khirad says:

        I still don’t see what nukes in Pakistan has to do with anything.

        Except, that we helped set up their nukes’ security and have a fairly good relationship with their army (it’s love/hate), who actually runs the show when things come down to brass tacks. -- And looking at Zardari, that may come.

        • Kalima says:

          In a country as unstable politically and often with both corrupt leaders and in the military, nukes and the safety of them, should be of concern to any country in the world.

        • nellie says:

          Nukes in Pakistan are important because Al Qaeda has been searching for nukes since the 90s. And I think stabilizing the situation in Pakistan is a priority. This is why Biden thought this was the most dangerous place in the world. A lot of people agree with him.

          If you don’t think Al Qaeda is a threat, then, yes, escalating in Afghanistan seems pointless. I believe this group is a threat — a grave one. I guess that’s the crux of our differences. I believe our intelligence.

          • Khirad says:

            Yup, we will disagree. I take Juan Cole over Biden on this one.


            • nellie says:

              Juan Cole also wrote an amazing article in Salon. The best argument for leaving the region of any I’ve heard.

              Thanks for the link. Cole is one of my favorite people.

            • nellie says:

              Yes, that’s the article. Excellent, and very persuasive.

              It is a very complex situation, and there’s a lot I don’t understand. But I do tend to believe what I hear about the dangers in Pakistan.

            • Khirad says:

              My point was it’s a valid concern, but the refrain about Islamabad falling and a failed state often neglect geography and safeguards in place. If there is any silver lining to the horrible attacks on governmental installations by TTP and other Talibani groups, it is that the populace in Punjab and Sindh are concerned too and the Army no longer amused with former allies (not to say it still doesn’t have relationships with other Talibanis in regard to furthering their interests against India in Kashmir and Afghanistan, and that there might be rogue elements within the army still), but an unstable government would revert likely back to yet another military coup or Nawaz Sharif.

              Don’t know if this was it, but this was good:


  5. AlphaBitch says:

    Thanks, BSM. Good article, and I agree wholeheartedly.

    No easy answers. The key, I think, lies in that time “deadline” -- this is a VERY strategic move by the administration. Don’t doubt that for a minute. There is a chance this COULD pay off, and I can actually see how; whether it does or not remains to be seen. Who can’t understand the anguish of families who are sending their loved ones? Who can’t understand the cost -- in blood AND dollars -- for the U.S. to do this? The harder part is trying to understand why, and in trusting that the best decision has been made. I don’t have all the facts, and to my understanding, none of us here do. But I do still think Obama is a very intelligent, very measured man. And you are right: this is NOT about his political well-being. When you consider all that he went through to get “here”, and all the crap and mud that he and his family have to witness being thrown at him daily, you have to suspect that it would be much easier to do the popular thing instead of the best thing. Why it is best may not be for any of us to know. Time alone will tell.

    And thanks to the Planet, for allowing people to question and to think. It’s my favorite part of this wonderful Planet. I often come to just read, and weigh everyone’s perspectives. Doesn’t mean I will/could change mine, but it’s nice to give serious consideration to others.

    Off to rake leaves; company arriving in three hours. I will miss you all this weekend, as we are booked in entertaining! See you Sunday night. -- AB

  6. Gretel1or2 says:

    Did you watch Rachel Maddow’s interview with Susan Rice last night? I found it quite informative, with Rachel asking tough but appropriate questions, and Susan giving some very detailed explanations clarifying the reasoning behind the strategy announced by the president. I thought it was a very open and well conducted interview -- obviously not everyone will agree with Obama’s plan, but I think he is making an honest effort to get things done in a way that minimizes catastrophic outcomes, given the limited options that he has.

    I noticed that HP has all kinds of articles -- particularly those opinionated (not based on fact) superficial pieces that liken Obama to Bush, yet this very informative and relevant interview is conspicuously absent. Even Ed Schultz who had been critical of Obama lately, has scaled back his criticism and declared his support for the president in this latest event, and HP instead highlighted a “fight” between Ed and Barbara Boxer over the health care bill.

    • KQuark says:

      There are valid arguments against the surge but more and more I see progressive pundits resorting to hyperbole and salacious language to make there points with little facts. The argument that it will cost too much blood and treasure to stay in Afghanistan because you don’t think the situation will get any better is a valid argument, but all I keep on hearing are ridiculous comparisons to Bush (Bush never ever focused on Afghanistan so how is President Obama being like Bush?) and comparisons to Vietnam.

    • VegasBabe says:

      These days, one reads HP articles and considers with a grain of salt. There seem to be underlying “agendas” at HP anymore and one suspects its all about loot and clicks which kinda go hand in hand.

      I support my POTUS but I don’t support this initiative. I believe it would have been remarkable for him to announce he was bringing All of our soldiers home, beefing up our security here, and informing those in the middle east, including if not especially Israel, that we remain available to advocate and arbitrate, but we will not lose another american life on middle eastern soil.

    • javaz says:

      HP is nothing more than an Obama-bashing right wing rag.
      AH is nothing more than an opportunistic Republican in disguise and hopefully people wake up and begin to see her true colors.

      • ljc says:

        I just came from there. It has become unbearable. After yesterdays bashing by Arianna of our President on Morning Joke I may be gone for good.

      • FeloniousMonk says:

        javaz: Don’t hold back! Tell us how you really feel!

        Yes, I see a number of people who are seeing a lot of things there they don’t like now. Unfortunately, many return like they’re hooked on drugs and can’t live without the “juice”.

        I admit, I’m among them. I ditched my bag of socks the other day and now am back with a new one. It’s very appropo. Some others have tried names lately with plays on this name and moderation is having none of it. Could it be that Rob S read my little piece and I’m on his shit list? Nah!! Yep. :-)

        • PepeLepew says:

          I’ve got a couple new socks, too. Being prepared for that eventual permanent banning.

          • Mogamboguru says:

            I am not “socking”.

            I am who I am, and I bash who I bash at Huffy.

            Could it be, that I enjoy kind of a jester’s license at Huffy, because I am their “House German”?

            BTW: Rob S. was very friendly in his response, once I emailed him to complain about something. I can hardly envision him to be one of the bad guys at Huffy.

            • Khirad says:

              Did you ever get the scrubbing thing sorted out?

            • Mogamboguru says:

              You are SOOOOO kind, Khirad!

              Backatcha! :-)

            • Khirad says:

              So, maybe they don’t like their token German too much after all… even though I do. 😉

            • Mogamboguru says:

              Nope, Khirad.

              It got worse, recently. Over the last weeks, I only got through every second post on average.

              It’s really getting crazy over there.

            • PepeLepew says:

              I got away with murder forever until I finally pissed off a bunch of trolls and they ganged up on me to the moderators. Now, I have back up socks established in case I get banned. I don’t really feel the need to switch socks around all day like the trolls. I find that whole phenomena kind of bizarre. Maybe it’s all part of their paid posting.

            • Mogamboguru says:

              Or, rather, multiple personalities chasing one another…

        • escribacat says:

          Okay, Monk. Now I have to figure out what it is!

        • javaz says:

          Morning Monk!
          I understand the addiction people have with HP and do not think the draw is the articles.
          It was easy for me to break the habit because I wasn’t a long time member over there, and was never part of the clique.
          I rarely engaged the trolls, but can understand that it is fun for people to take them on.

          My addiction is PPOV!
          But I consider that a good and healthy thing!

  7. javaz says:

    Excellent article, BSM and I agree.

    President Obama understands the debacle better than any of us armchair quarterbacks, and even though we are all war weary, I agree that he doesn’t have much of a choice.

    Of course the Republicans must criticize him, since that’s what they do.
    But for liberals and Democrats to compare Obama to Bush, well, that’s disturbing and simply not true.

    • Gretel1or2 says:

      I think this “Obama=Bush” meme is a strategy designed to encourage disaffection among Obama supporters, which will make it easier for some Republicans to get back into office in 2010 and 2012.

      Of course Obama is going to seem like Bush in some ways…just as he sometimes seems like Clinton, Reagan, Carter, Nixon, LBJ, JFK, FDR and Lincoln, all of whom served as commander-in-chief of the US. There is always going to be some overlap. And because Obama and Bush have served in time periods that are proximal to each other, they will seem even more alike at times, since they have both grappled with similar issues. However, to summarily dismiss Obama’s core approach as being no different from Bush’s, is lazy and intellectually dishonest in my opinion.

      • BlueStateMan says:

        I’m afraid that most who use the Obama=Bush meme are political neophytes or impatient children.

      • KQuark says:

        That is the most bullshit meme of all in this case because Bush NEVER cared about Afghanistan, only Iraq.

      • nellie says:

        I’m more cynical about this than you are, Gretel1or2, I think people got so worked up over Bush that it became an industry and made a lot of money for a lot of people. Now we have a reasonable, capable president and the outrage industry is in danger of disappearing. I see the Obama = Bush theme as a profit strategy.

        I’m sure there are a few hard core whiners out there, like David Sarota, who sincerely believe all their own carping. But the piling on, especially by people like Ed Schultz and Arianna Huffington, is about money.

        • KQuark says:

          Unfortunately you are 100% right. I hear allot more even analysis from the moderates on the presidents Afghan policies these last few days.

  8. nellie says:

    That is my reading, also. Our goal is to leave responsibly. A precedent I hope we will keep in our arsenal of strategies.

    Those who are eager to compare Afghanistan to Vietnam should take special note of this part of your post:

    Look to the lesson of Southeast Asia.. where Nixon made the TERRIBLE mistake of withdrawing too quickly

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