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Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’
February 7th, 2013 at 12:21 pm
Rand Paul’s Really Ignorant Paragraph

There is much to commend, and there are some things to question, about Rand Paul’s big foreign policy speech yesterday at Heritage Foundation. The overall idea of using George Kennan-like “containment” for Iran or for jihadist Islam in general is, well, problematic , although there are plenty of elements of his speech that are at least somewhat sensible. It is a good thing to have discussion of such issues, and there is much value in having people make a thoughtful case against over-eagerness for military intervention. Those of us who tend a little more towards interventionism (”tend” being the key word, rather than “strongly favor”) do need to be challenged about the dangers of using military force.

Nonetheless, a fuller discussion of Paul’s speech would require more space and time than is available for me this morning. One paragraph, however, was so tendentious, so … well, civility requires that I withhold the most accurate words… anyway, so wrong as to demand response.

Here’s the passage at issue:

In the 1980s, the war caucus in Congress armed bin Laden and the mujaheddin in their fight with the Soviet Union. In fact, it was the official position of the State Department to support radical jihad against the Soviets. We all know how well that worked out.

Let’s leave aside for now the insulting, utterly asinine, sickening, inexcusable use of the phrase “war caucus” to describe those (including Reagan!) who supported the mujaheddin against the Soviets. That word choice alone is almost entirely disqualifying for its purveyor to ever be president.

Instead, let’s just look at a little history here — because the ignorance evident in this paragraph is truly astonishing. One would be hard pressed to find even a single historian, whether right, left, or center, who would argue anything other than that the Soviet failure in Afghanistan was not just a huge factor, but probably an essential one, in the Soviets’ ultimate loss of the Cold War. The mujaheddin did much to help bleed the Soviets dry, at a comparatively negligible cost to the United States (for smuggled military hardware and some intelligence). “We all know how well that worked out,” said Sen. Paul, dismissively, of the work of our “war caucus” to support the mujaheddin. Yes, we do: It played a key role in helping us win the Cold War. Anybody who doesn’t understand that is either foolish or invincibly ignorant.

Second, it is a myth that the United States “armed bin Laden.” False, false, false. It is also a falsehood to say that bin Laden was a major player within the mujeheddin or in the anti-Soviet war effort at all. Finally, it is false even to say that the Afghani effort against the Soviets was primarily, or even largely, about “jihad.” It was a defensive effort against armed invaders, not an offensive effort by “radicals” in the name of Allah. Sure, there were religious aspects to the motivations of the mujaheddin, who of course considered the Soviets to be “infidels,” but to say that the primary goal was to expand the reach of the Prophet is so absurd as to be laughable. The Afghani defense against the Soviets was, in truth, as close to being a nationalist, patriotic war as the diverse tribes of Afghanistan are ever likely to be involved in.

So every element of Sen. Paul’s paragraph was wrong: 1) Reagan was not the head of a “war caucus.” 2) The U.S. did not arm bin Laden.  3) The U.S. support had nothing to do with “radical jihad.” 4) The Afghani/mujaheddin effort as a whole was only tangentially jihadist. And 5) The war in Afghanistan that kicked out the Soviets worked out not badly, but very, very well for the United States, for the Western world, and for the hundreds of millions of people freed from behind the Iron Curtain and for millions elsewhere whose “non-aligned states” were freed from fear of the Soviets and thus could move more towards free markets and towards Western prosperity.

Finally, as a post-script, most knowledgeable people would argue that it was only after the Soviets left that the radical jihadists like the Taliban and bin Laden really gained ascendance within Afghanistan — and it was not because the United States helped arm the mujaheddin, but because we left so soon afterwards without providing reconstruction aid. While nobody would suggest that the U.S. should have done anything approaching “nation building,” it is certainly arguable — and the movie Charlie Wilson’s War, as well as congressmen I know personally, indeed did and do argue this — that humanitarian aid, of not-terribly-expensive sorts, might have gone a long way towards bolstering the society in Afghanistan, and towards bolstering more responsible elements therein, in such a way that the Taliban might not have been able to find anywhere near as much opportunity to operate.

The lesson then would be not that Paul-like isolation is the best idea, but rather that just a little involvement might have then, and often does, helped ward off future disaster.

Rand Paul makes a lot of sense on many domestic issues. But by virtue of this one paragraph alone, his big “coming out” exam on foreign policy earned an unambiguous grade of ‘F.’

August 8th, 2011 at 5:58 pm
Rudyard Kipling’s Ode to SEAL Team Six

The Wall Street Journal summarizes the costly human waste that even worthy wars can bring:

As their Chinook was about to land, Afghan and U.S. officials said, a lone insurgent shot it out of the sky with a rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, in the deadliest attack endured by the American military in a decade of war in Afghanistan. Thirty American troops, including 22 SEALs, died in the crash, as did a civilian interpreter and seven Afghan commandos.

Each of the dead was the son or daughter of a family who raised a child willing and able to defend freedom at the most demanding level possible.  And while we say a prayer for each of these brave souls, it’s hard not to feel an extra tinge of anger that none of the 39 highly trained professionals killed had a fighting chance against a lone shooter with perhaps no more skill than is sufficient to operate a video game controller.

Whether it’s an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) killing and maiming members of a military convoy or an RPG ambush on SEAL Team Six (the outfit who killed Osama bin Laden), these kinds of deaths defy one’s sense of proportionality.  Rudyard Kipling saw his own share of disproportionate death as a writer in India during Britain’s Imperial rule, with similar misgivings (from the poem “Arithmetic on the Frontier”):

A scrimmage in a Border Station-
A canter down some dark defile
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail.
The Crammer’s boast, the Squadron’s pride,
Shot like a rabbit in a ride!

June 24th, 2011 at 8:40 am
Podcast: Afghanistan and Pakistan Expert Discusses Drawdown of U.S. Troops
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Jeffrey Dressler, Senior Analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, discusses Afghanistan and Pakistan security issues and the decision to start drawing down U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Listen to the interview here.

June 22nd, 2011 at 4:40 pm
McCain Too Quick to Make Charges of Isolationism
Posted by Troy Senik Print

For John McCain — who has never met an evil anywhere on earth that doesn’t require Spartanesque military might from the U.S. — Republicans that question America’s role in Libya and the continued need for a large footprint in Afghanistan are part of a worrying trend. As the Los Angeles Times reports:

“There has always been an isolationist strain in the Republican Party,” McCain said on ABC’s “This Week,” “but now it seems to have moved more center stage…. That is not the Republican Party that has been willing to stand up for freedom for people all over the world.”

McCain is engaging here in the logic fallacy known as “hasty generalization”. Just because some Republicans question the utility of some military missions, it doesn’t follow that they have a principled and categorical objection to America acting overseas. Tony Blankley makes the point with his trademark gusto in his column in today’s Washington Times:

… Almost two years ago, I was one of the first GOP internationalist-oriented commentators or politicians to conclude that the Afghan war effort had served its initial purpose, but it was time to phase out the war. As a punitive raid against the regime that gave succor to Osama bin Laden, we removed the Taliban government and killed as many al Qaeda and Taliban as possible.

But as the purpose of that war turned into nation-building, even GOP internationalists have a duty to reassess whether, given the resources and strategy, such policy is likely to be effective (see about a dozen of my columns on Afghan war policy from 2009-10).

Now many others in the GOP and in the non-isolationist wing of the Democratic Party are likewise judging failure in Afghanistan to be almost inevitable. That is not a judgment driven by isolationism. Neither are we – along with Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and almost the entire uniformed chain of command – isolationist when we see no national interest in Libya.

This is not isolationism. It is a rational effort at judging how best to advance American values and interests in an ever-more witheringly dangerous world. The charge of isolationism should be reserved for the genuine article. Such name-calling advances neither rational debate nor national interest.

Bravo to Blankley. McCain is an honorable man — but one who ought to be a little more careful when throwing around ideological labels.

June 20th, 2011 at 11:45 pm
NPR Host: Taliban Isn’t a Threat to the U.S.
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Reasonable people disagree on the way forward in Afghanistan. Reasonable people, however, don’t tend to work at NPR.

That’s the conclusion we can take from remarks made by John Hockenberry, host of NPR’s “The Takeaway” (full disclosure: I’ve appeared on Hockenberry’s show before — not that it’s earning him any lenience). As the Daily Caller reports:

In an interview with Christine Fair, assistant professor at the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Hockenberry challenged the notion of the Taliban being an enemy of the United States and declared that the idea it could again make Afghanistan a haven for terrorists “an absurdity.”

“I guess, Christine Fair, I’m wondering why this is even a debate,” Hockenberry said. “The Taliban has never been an enemy of the United States. They don’t love us in Afghanistan, but they’re not sending planes over to New York or to the Pentagon and it seems to me much more broadly that the debate needs to happen is what is the sort of multi-state strategy for dealing with rogue nations of all kinds. Yemen is about to fall apart. You’ve got Somalia problems. The idea that terrorists just go to Afghanistan and launch weapons at the United States it seems in 2011 is an absurdity.” 

I’m sure the monotone sophisticates of NPR don’t need any math lessons from out here on the right wing. But, Mr. Hockenberry, a quick review of the transitive property: The Taliban harbored Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda attacked the U.S. (by sending planes over to New York and to the Pentagon, as I recall). Thus the Taliban is a demonstrated enemy of the U.S.

You can keep the tote bag.

May 24th, 2011 at 3:21 pm
Pouring Cold Water on the Arab Spring
Posted by Troy Senik Print

The always-provocative strategist George Friedman (head of Austin-based STRATFOR) is out with a new analysis of President Obama’s Middle East policy today on RealClearWorld (caveat: Friedman is always provocative, but not always accurate. He wrote a 1991 book titled “The Coming War with Japan”). As usual, Friedman’s work is rife with insight, but no single passage deserves quotation as much as his dispassionate diagnosis of the Arab Spring:

The central problem from my point of view is that the Arab Spring has consisted of demonstrations of limited influence, in non-democratic revolutions and in revolutions whose supporters would create regimes quite alien from what Washington would see as democratic. There is no single vision to the Arab Spring, and the places where the risings have the most support are the places that will be least democratic, while the places where there is the most democratic focus have the weakest risings.

The piece deserves reading in its entirety for its thorough analysis of the region, but this is perhaps its most important point. The Middle East needs real change before hope becomes an appropriate response. Newsroom revolutions are not adequate.

April 5th, 2011 at 12:38 pm
National Security Appointments Show Obama Taking Another Page from Bush Playbook

Britain’s Telegraph says General David Petraeus may be nominated to replace CIA Director Leon Panetta, after the latter is tapped to become Secretary of Defense when Robert Gates retires.

If that happens, President Barack Obama will have kept not only former President George W. Bush’s people, but also his rationale for staffing key national security posts.  Gates’ last government job before Defense Secretary was as CIA Director.  Air Force General Michael Hayden led the CIA under Bush before Panetta took over.

Despite his campaign rhetoric, President Obama has continued the war in Afghanistan, and reversed himself on civilian trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees.  Now, it looks like the current president is adopting the staffing rationale of his predecessor too.

Somewhere in Texas, I’m sure former President Bush is flattered.

March 28th, 2011 at 10:02 am
Ramirez Cartoon: March Madness
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

January 14th, 2011 at 8:37 am
Podcast: Washington Examiner Correspondent Discusses U.S. Foreign Affairs and National Security
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Sara Carter, national security correspondent at The Washington Examiner, discusses WikiLeaks, North Korea and her time on the front-line in Afghanistan.

Listen to the interview here.

December 17th, 2010 at 5:53 pm
DHS Mum on Downed Mexican Drone near El Paso, TX

Could it be that a loaded gun passing unnoticed through a TSA checkpoint isn’t the only foreign object slipping under the radar of Secretary Janet Napolitano’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS)?  Reports are surfacing that an unmanned drone aircraft belonging to the Mexican government crashed near a residence in El Paso, TX.  In a move that can only be explained as an attempt to confirm the suspicions of Area 51 types, DHS returned the drone before other U. S. agencies could inspect it.

So far, no one with knowledge is saying why an aircraft similar to the drones the U. S. military uses to kill insurgents in Afghanistan was flying almost a mile into American airspace.  Even more incredible is the acknowledged failure to inspect the vehicle to make sure it actually belongs to the Mexican government and not one of the sophisticated drug cartels it’s battling.

Feeling safe about that southern border yet?

August 11th, 2010 at 12:21 am
Jacksonians, Jeffersonians, and Wilsonians: Three Foreign Policy Views on the Right
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Over at the American Conservative, Associate Editor W. James Antle III (apparently they pay by the number of letters in the byline over at the AC) has an insightful piece up today about the shift in foreign policy thinking on the right.

Antle’s key insight is that, as the war in Afghanistan increasingly comes to be defined as a creature of the Obama Administration, many conservative foreign policy hawks are managing to stay aggressive on national defense while divorcing themselves from the nation-building pretensions of the Bush Administration (this author is among that group, which Antle — taking a page from Rich Lowry — calls the “to hell with them hawks”).

As Antle notes:

There have long been three main foreign-policy tendencies on the American Right: old-style conservatives who agree with Randolph Bourne that war is the health of the state and therefore favor less military intervention abroad; neoconservatives who want to preserve the United States’ global hegemony and engage in armed proselytizing for democracy; and defense-minded conservatives who believe the U.S. should strike forcefully at its enemies whenever it perceives itself, its interests, or its allies to be threatened.

Roughly speaking, these groups can be described as the Jeffersonians, the Wilsonians, and the Jacksonians. Among rank-and-file conservatives, the Jacksonians are by far the largest group. In the postwar era, the Jacksonians have tended to align with the Wilsonians. But there is no reason why that conjunction is inevitable.

For the record, Antle and the folks over the AC (the foreign policy followers of Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul) consider themselves Jeffersonians, a term that deserves some criticism (this is, after all, the man who aggressively promoted the French Revolution and went after the Barbary Pirates). But on the broader point, Antle is right. The grand nation-building associated with counterinsurgency theory is basically liberal domestic policy extrapolated abroad. And as George Will has perceptively noted, the very idea of “nation building” makes about as much sense as “orchid building”.

In an age of microwavable punditry, Antle has done a great job of thinking long and hard about the foreign policy divisions on the right. Anyone who cares about the future of the conservative movement and international relations would do well to read his piece in its entirety.

August 4th, 2010 at 5:48 pm
Should the WikiLeakers Get the Death Penalty?
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Should the range of potential punishment for leaking classified Afghanistan data include the death penalty?

The statute codifying the subject offense, Title 18 U.S.C. Section 794(b) specifically includes that possibility:

Whoever, in time of war, with intent that the same shall be communicated to the enemy, collects, records, publishes, or communicates, or attempts to elicit any information with respect to the movement, numbers, description, condition, or disposition of any of the Armed Forces, ships, aircraft, or war materials of the United States, or with respect to the plans or conduct, or supposed plans or conduct of any naval or military operations, or with respect to any works or measures undertaken for or connected with, or intended for the fortification or defense of any place, or any other information relating to the public defense, which might be useful to the enemy, shall be punished by death or by imprisonment for any term of years or for life.”

Such sober voices as Tony Blankley, who actually opposes the Afghan war, suggest that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should not be protected “from being prosecuted and possibly executed by the U.S. government for wartime espionage.”  Whatever one’s opinion on the war itself, Assange’s conduct has clearly jeopardized American troops’ lives, not to mention the lives of Afghans (and their families) who have taken great risk in assisting us against the Taliban and al Qaeda.  Indeed, Assange should pray that his punishment comes at the hands of U.S. authorities, not some vengeful person horribly affected by his crime.

July 29th, 2010 at 5:34 pm
Should We Disclose the Home Address of WikiLeak’s Julian Assange?
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Julian Assange, editor of the WikiLeaks site that disclosed classified military documents and the names of Afghans who assisted American forces, arrogantly says he enjoys “crushing bastards.”

The 92,000 documents released by Assange and WikiLeaks included such things as military communication protocols, tactics and juicy tips for intelligence operatives in such places as China, Iran and Russia.  More horrifically, however, the disclosures identify the names, families, locations and forms of assistance provided by Afghans still vulnerable to vicious Taliban retribution.  Anyone who read or saw The Kite Runner knows exactly the sort of brutality imposed by that murderous band.

Here’s an idea.  Perhaps some enterprising citizen, or perhaps the family of someone Assange has jeopardized through his own little “bastard” jihad, would like to publicize his home address, phone number or other confidential information.  After all, complete and open disclosure is a good thing, right Mr. Assange?

July 2nd, 2010 at 2:44 pm
The Surge to Nowhere
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Last week, I wrote that even as august a figure as David Petraeus may not be enough to save the American military endeavor in Afghanistan given that country’s poor suitability for a counterinsurgency strategy.

Writing in today’s D.C. Examiner, Byron York looks at what General Petraeus’s testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee reveals about the war’s shortcomings:

“For example, nearly seven million Afghan children are now in school as opposed to less than one million a decade ago under Taliban control,” Petraeus said. “Immunization rates for children have gone up substantially and are now in the 70 to 90 percent range nationwide. Cell phones are ubiquitous in a country that had virtually none during the Taliban days.”

It was an extraordinary moment. Americans overwhelmingly supported the invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11 terrorist attacks. In eight and a half years of war there, 1,149 American servicemembers have died. And after all that sacrifice, the top American commander is measuring the war’s progress by school attendance, child immunization and cell phone use.

Petraeus is a military hero, deserving of every accolade that has been heaped upon him for the success of the surge in Iraq. But defining victory in Afghanistan as erecting a functional civil society overseen by a competent government is a “boil the ocean” strategy that may not be achievable in 18 years, let alone 18 months. And it’s relation to our legitimate national security interests in Central Asia is tangential at best.

Rather than letting the current strategy atrophy into withdrawal, it’s time for the administration to start developing an approach in Afghanistan that protects our legitimate security priorities without indulging in nation-building that has neither the domestic support nor the timeframe necessary to succeed.

June 28th, 2010 at 6:54 pm
War on Many Fronts

These days, it seems like war is only the extension of politics by other means; except that even the means are political.

Last week, President Barack Obama minimized conservative harrumphing after firing General Stanley McChrystal by appointing General David Petraeus as his replacement.  Though politically savvy, CFIF Senior Fellow Troy Senik correctly notes that reassigning Petraeus may be a pyrrhic victory since most of the conditions for successfully implementing his counterinsurgency strategy are missing.  When he gets in country, Petraeus’ biggest enemy won’t be the Taliban or a corrupt Karzai government; it’ll be trying to deliver a victory conservatives can stomach on a timetable and troop count demanded by liberals.

Heading back to Washington the war on rationality gets even rougher.  This morning four out of five Supreme Court right-of-center justices voted to extend the Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual’s right to own a gun to the several states.  The result produces two effects.  First, complete government bans on gun possession are unconstitutional.  Second, eight of the current justices are now on record supporting a liberal theory of constitutional jurisprudence: Substantive Due Process.  Only Justice Clarence Thomas opted for a textually supported, historically rooted commonsense reading of the Fourteenth Amendment.  Since no one tried to dispute his reasoning, it can be assumed that everyone accepted his conclusion – they just didn’t like his premises.

The only element these storylines have in common is one man bearing quiet witness to the power of clear thinking.  While the political class may be unable to sustain a coherent framework for addressing pressing issues, it is a comfort knowing that at least some of those they appoint are capable – and willing – to tackle important matters with precision and daring.

June 25th, 2010 at 12:56 pm
Ramirez Cartoon: You Can Fire the President?
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

June 24th, 2010 at 9:37 am
Ramirez Cartoon: They Replaced McCrystal…
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

June 15th, 2010 at 5:30 pm
Pakistani Police Detain Colorado Man for Hunting Bin Laden – Why?

Say what you will about Gary Brooks Faulkner’s quest to find and kill Osama bin Laden in the region between Pakistan and Afghanistan; at least the terminally ill man has a bucket list.

According to reporting by Fox News, Faulkner suffers from an incurable kidney ailment that left him wanting to go out with a bang before he died.  This from his brother:

“Now that he’s on dialysis he realized that this is going to be his last hurrah,” said Dr. Scott Faulkner, an internist in Fort Morgan, Colo. “One way or the other he knew — if his kidneys failed him, he could die on the mountain, he could take a bullet, or he could get bin Laden.”

Faulkner is trained in the Korean martial art of hapkido, was on his seventh trip to execute America’s #1 enemy, and was armed with a pistol, 40 inch sword and night vision equipment.  He’s also savvy enough to get dialysis treatment for his ailing kidneys in between scouting remote forests and mountain ranges.

It’s unclear whether Faulkner will be returned to America or stand trial in Pakistan.  Either way, that the Pakistani government would arrest him for doing what it’s failed to do since 2001 seems counterproductive.  After all, if a highly motivated foreigner wants to risk his life in Waziristan attempting to kill Pakistan’s – and America’s – most lethal enemy, why not let him die trying?  Let’s let Gary be a force multiplier and see if he can at least spook bin Laden out of hiding.

June 14th, 2010 at 12:37 pm
Afghanistan the “Saudi Arabia of Lithium”?

According to U.S. geologists, Afghans soon may be able to build an economy of something other than narco-terrorism.  The world leader of supplying opium is also sitting on perhaps a huge deposit of lithium, a key mineral used in creating batteries for computers, watches, and other electronic devices.  The effects of such a find could dramatically improve the standard of living in the country by encouraging foreign capital investment as firms seek to mine and process the mineral for export.

But before we get carried away by this newfound, morally neutral revenue stream, let’s pause for a moment to consider the coming liberal backlash.

“See, we did invade because we wanted to exploit the natives and their resources; it just took almost a decade to find out how!”

“Mining for minerals is an environmentally and culturally unsatisfactory way to build an economy.  Afghanistan should be left in a state of nature so that future generations of Bedouins can continue their ancient way of life.”

“Substituting lithium for opium as Afghanistan’s primary export in no way minimizes America’s need to legalize drugs.”

And of course, “These people will never be able to share their resources.”

Now, if General David Petraeus could just find a way to clear out the Taliban and negotiate some fair treaties between Afghanistan and foreign firms he’ll be well positioned for a 2012 presidential run.

H/T: Fox News

May 14th, 2010 at 9:30 am
Hillary Clinton Won’t Abandon Afghan Women
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

On May 13, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged that the U.S. would not abandon women’s rights and women’s opportunities if there is Afghan reconciliation with the Taliban to end the war.  “We will not abandon you, we will stand with you always,” she said.

Hey lady, why don’t you say that standing in your Oscar de la Renta pantsuit in the middle of Kandahar?  No?  We didn’t think so.