Neither you nor I nor Barack Obama know enough about the world to say whether his decision to send 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan at a cost of billions and untold casualties makes any sense.
It's a huge gamble in a series of gambles now defining Obama's place in history. I'd suggest he's thought through this move, but even he can't know the outcome.
I'd also suggest that if Osama bin Laden's still alive, he must be laughing. He's damn near bankrupted us. We sure could've used the trillion dollars spent on unnecessary armaments, war and nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yet, instead of cutting back, Obama's upping the ante.
Eight years after the U.S. began bombing and occupying Afghanistan to little good effect, Obama's plan suggests and demonstrates the folly of ever allowing President Bush to lead us into two wars in his inimitable style—demonizing opposition at home while bombing, invading, and occupying abroad… and leaving the mess for someone else to sort out.
That would be Obama, and he's got a lot of sorting to do. The mess he's inherited surely is vindication for those of us who opposed these Bush wars from the beginning.
It's hard to imagine how things could've gone much worse.
In Iraq, we weakened one of the main barriers separating Israel from its enemy, Iran, by bringing down Iran's hated Sunni foes in Iraq and putting Iran's Shiite brethren in charge there. As Washington Post reporter and author, Thomas Ricks, said recently on C-Span, no country has benefited more from our invasion and occupation of Iraq, than Iran has.
In Afghanistan, it's even worse. By bombing and invading we drove al-Qaeda and much of the Taliban into Pakistan, dramatically destabilizing that nuclear-armed nation.
It's hard to see how a surge in Afghanistan will repair that. More likely it'll inflame anti-American passions throughout the Muslim world, especially among the Sunni majority.
Ricks and others report that fewer than 100 al-Qaeda even exist in Afghanistan right now. That's one for every 1,000 American troops under Obama's plan. Every 2,000 if you count the paid contractors and other shadowy groups there, such as Blackwater. Add to that the involvement of shadowy Pakistani, Saudi, Yemeni and other forces, and the only thing clear is that you and I see through a glass darkly when it comes to Obama's war policies.
Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh has reported steadfastly in the New Yorker that U.S. and Northern Alliance Afghani forces not only drove the scariest al-Qaeda and Taliban elements into Pakistan years ago, but that secret U.S. and Pakistani elements actually cleared the path and escorted many of them from Tora Bora into Pakistan, possibly including bin Laden.
Manifestly, there's much that you and I don't know about motives and bedfellows, both here and abroad. Whatever myriad wellsprings have been feeding them, both our wars are proving to have been catastrophic mistakes. A precise and efficient seek and arrest-or-destroy strategy, paved with U.S. cash and world sympathy following 9/11 would've been far preferable.
I'll not go into the torture, lies, corruption, broken treaties, lowered prestige, economic ruin, wasted resources and worse that the previous administration dragged our country through in its War on Terror. The results are everywhere visible in broken lives and unnecessary violence here and abroad, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, where millions of casualties and displaced families haunt the hearts and minds of thinking people, compassionate people, on this planet.
In fairness to Bush, one could say our first mistake was to embark on a strategy of “giving Russia its Vietnam” in the words of foreign policy authority, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who used to brag about his role in “luring Russia into Afghanistan” over 30 years ago under President Carter. I think it proved to be a big mistake to help arm anti-Soviet forces there under Reagan and Bush the Daddy, and to turn our heads while our so-called ally, Pakistan, developed nuclear weapons and sold such technology around the globe.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, admitting blowback from such long ago strategies, has suggested our real failure came later, when we abandoned Afghanistan at the end of the Cold War—X'd it out of our budget--and allowed the Taliban to rise there.
At this remove, our whole history in Afghanistan seems arrogant, unnecessary and cruel, serving only to keep the cycle of violence turning, weapons expenditures up, and a variety of business interests fed. We can't turn back time, however, and I only mention these things to bring context.
There were NO Afghanis among the hijackers of those 9/11 airplanes. They were mostly Saudi Arabians. The Taliban no more attacked us on 9/11 by “allowing” al Qaeda elements to set up camp in Afghanistan than we attacked ourselves by “allowing” hijackers to train in US flight schools.
Here's still more.
Bin Laden stated he opposed us to begin with because “infidels” trod holy ground. He long ago boasted his life's mission was to rid his homeland of Saudi Arabia of American troops. In that, he succeeded, when we withdrew from there several years ago. There's little doubt he hoped we'd react to 9/11 in some way that would inflame the Arab world and cost us dearly in money and blood. Given our history of shortsighted over-reactions, I'd say we've hurt ourselves far worse than he ever could.
So, given that the war in Afghanistan has been a dismal failure to date. Given the near-absence of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and the reality of its presence in Pakistan. Given that al-Qaeda's grown in dozens of other countries and all over the Internet. Given that our presence in the Muslim world inflames more opposition, what could Obama be thinking by sending 30,000 more troops and adding an 18-month timeline for even beginning to leave?
I don't know anyone smart enough to answer that question, including Obama.
As one of his most ardent supporters just one year ago, I hate to admit it, but I think his extension of this war into yet another decade will prove to be a terrible mistake.
Had Bush proposed it, I would've opposed it.
I won't go along because it's Obama's plan.
It just feels wrong.