The War President : Barack Obama at West Point

President Barack Obama announces his escalation of the War in Afghanistan at the US Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., on Tuesday night. Photo by Charles Dharapak / AP.

The War President at West Point:
Great speech, bad message

By Ted McLaughlin / The Rag Blog / December 2, 2009

Last night, President Obama spoke to the nation about the continuing occupation of and war in Afghanistan. As usual, he gave a great speech. He continually proves himself to be one of our country’s finest public speakers. Unfortunately, underneath the rhetorical excellence there was little that made much sense.

I should have known it would be like that, because he opened by talking about Iraq as though that conflict was over and great things had been accomplished there. But that is not the reality. The killings continue there, and the government can’t even agree on a new election law and therefore can’t hold scheduled elections. Our troops still have at least two remaining years in that country and possibly even longer. Success, whatever that is, is still a long way from being a reality in Iraq.

The president has now decided that all we need to succeed in Afghanistan is another 30,000 troops. He believes this will allow us to stop Taliban advances, pacify the countryside and eliminate al-Queda. It seems he has become a master of wishful thinking.

While the troop surge may temporarily halt further advances by the Taliban, it is not nearly enough to pacify the country outside of urban areas (and I suspect bombings will continue even in the urban areas). The fact is that once you get outside of Kabul, the people simply don’t like or trust the central government.

And training more Afghan troops that answer to the central government will not solve that problem. President Karzai has proven himself to be a corrupt leader who’s reelection was obtained through massive fraud. In addition, his brother is the largest opium poppy grower and dealer in the country.

We are in the process of making the same mistake in Afghanistan that we made in Vietnam. We are supporting a corrupt leader and trying to convince the people, or force them, to also support that leader. It didn’t work in Vietnam, and it won’t work in Afghanistan. Just because a foreign leader is friendly to the U.S. and its goals, does not mean he is worthy of or capable of winning the people’s support.

Then we come to the matter of al-Queda. A troop surge of 30,000 will do nothing to eliminate al-Queda. They are snugly entrenched in Pakistan and our troops cannot even enter that country. To truly eliminate al-Queda and the Taliban, we would need to not only occupy Afghanistan, but also invade Pakistan. That is neither militarily nor diplomatically possible.

The only bit of good news from the president last night was when he said our involvement in Afghanistan was not an open-ended one. He expects the central government there, as weak and corrupt as it is, to be able to take over the fight on their own in about a year and a half. He wants to begin withdrawing troops in the summer of 2011.

But note he said “begin” to withdraw. He gave no assurance that our troops would be out of Afghanistan in 2011. He also didn’t tell us what would happen if the situation wasn’t any better by the summer of 2011. Would there be another troop surge and another “deadline”?

I’m afraid we’re still in the middle of quagmires in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and sending more troops to either will not solve the problem. We should have learned in Vietnam, that it’s almost impossible to win a guerrilla war in someone else’s country.

Since we haven’t yet learned that lesson, we are now doomed to a repeat of history (and more dead American soldiers).

[Rag Blog contributor Ted McLaughlin also posts at jobsanger.]

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8 Responses to The War President : Barack Obama at West Point

  1. Janet says:

    Obama has pointed out the difference with Viet Nam. In Viet Nam, we opposed a popular leader and a popular movement.
    The Taliban is not so popular. So why keep making the wrong analogy?

  2. Mariann says:

    Obama’s speech was one of the most cynical, self-serving performances I’ve ever seen from an elected official, and that’s saying a LOT!!

    WTF??? How did he come up with the timetable for withdrawal? It’s not pegged to any definite benchmarks, any particular achievements, any specific anything but this: the troops sent to Afghanistan will start coming home one month before the Democratic National Convention at which Barack Obama hopes to be re-nominated for a second term.

    Why send them in the first place? A sop to right-wing militarists who think America’s not America if we’re not at war? A bone thrown to defense-related companies? Or, as I think fundamental, a reliable way to reduce the surplus/potentially rebellious labor pool here at home?

    Obama hopes to de-fang both right and left criticism, while making certain he can claim “Victory!” and “Peace!” both in 2012.

    Good luck with that.

  3. Richard says:

    In 18 months we will have completed the Afghanization of the war just as we Vietnamized the other war. The war there was finally Vietnamized on 30Apr75 when the PAVN reached Ho Chi Minh city. Like Diem and later the generals, Karzi neither wants to win or lose the war. He just wants the war to further enrich and empower his self, now O’Bomber has given him the assurance that he will profit as will Haliburton, and KBR and the other multinational mercenaries, for a long time to come. No matter how many people die for those dollars.

  4. Janet-
    During the Vietnam War, our government denied that Ho was a popular leader, and yet as you say, he was. Now we are denying the support the Taliban has, but outside of Kabul I believe the Taliban is more popular than Karzai. Their beliefs may run counter to ours, but they are far less corrupt and ethically-challenged than Karzai.

  5. Fed Up says:

    I’m afraid the Joker art on Obama was indeed precient.

    That speech was so bad, so obviously full of Bushite lies and self serving caveats, and also constituted such an expansion of the war into Pakistan, one wonders if it was not purposefully constructed to be, kind of like a stick in our eyes or something?

  6. Fed Up says:

    Bush installed Karzai, after the Northern Alliance, once armed by us, was successful. They were the credible force on the ground in Afghanistan. They were the ones who should have been given power and we should have left.

    This “model” has failed again and again and again. The model is that we install a puppet who has no social base, and he cannot do anything, so then we either kill him or depose him. If he tries to get a social base by siding on even the most minute thing with local elites, like Noriega did, we get rid of him. It is astonishing. Its hard to believe that anyone would want to be a US puppet anymore.

    Meantime, at home, we buy into the buzz all the time about “awful” dictators or generals, when we don’t know a thing about it!

  7. Pollyanna says:

    Fed Up makes a great point, asking WHY anyone would want to be a US puppet governor anymore! I ask the same about Colombia’s Uribe, where a gigantic US buildup is taking places right under our noses, and as far as I can tell, only the Rag BLog is covering it.

    Uribe is another election-stealer.

    Speaking of which, why has the US fallen totally silent over the rape of democracy in Honduras? I would imagine it is because the usurper of legitimate authority has reached an understanding with the Puppet Masters, no?

  8. Richard says:

    Pollyanna, I am reminded of Mr. Walsh of Boston a lawyer for Pvt. David Shine asking "Tail gunner" Joe McCarthy, "Have you no shame sir." Joe didn't answer but everyone at that moment knew the answer, No Joe McCarthy knew no shame. Hillary, Gates and O'bomber in their dealings with Karzi, and Uribe, and supporting the coup in Honduras, Know no shame!

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