The US is broke and cannot afford to maintain a standing army in Afghanistan — arguing the merits and demerits of US policy in Afghanistan is irrlevant — it’s sort of like shopping for a new car at a Porsche dealership, and then informing the salesperson after the sales presentation that you have zero money to spend on a car — what’s the point (?) — again, the US is broke and cannort afford to maintain forces in Afghanistan — period.
“There is a sense in Tehran that this President will fold, and that Iran can win a major political victory by hanging tough and outlasting him. He will back down in the end, they believe, and so they are tempted to call what they are sure is a bluff.” (Walter Russell Mead)
It’s not just Tehran that has a sense that Obama will fold. As Professor Mead implied, they have the same sense in Tel Aviv, Riyadh, Amman, Cairo, Beirut and Damascus.
The sense that Obama will fold also pervades the United States Congress. That’s why a resolution is pending in the Senate expressing the view that containment of Iran is not an option. When America’s enemies and its friends have precisely the same view of the President, that he speaks loudly but carries a small stick, it’s never good news.
My speculation is that Obama understands that politically he can only hold out for so long before taking action against Iran and that he is hoping against hope that in the interim the Iranians actually succeed in obtaining a small number of nuclear weapons of low megatonage.
If Iran succeeds, it will provide Obama with the chance to pursue the dream that has obsessed his foreign policy ambitions during the first two years of his term; a world without nuclear weapons. Obama would love to start with the Middle East and an Iran with nuclear weapons would provide just the catalyst that Obama believes would get negotiations to eliminate Middle Eastern nuclear weapons started.
It is easy to imagine the President’s speech shortly after Iran tests its first nuclear device. Surely he will point out that an Iran with nuclear weapons insures that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and perhaps the Gulf States will all attempt to obtain their own nuclear devices. Logically the President will point out that with every additional Middle Eastern satrapy that obtains nuclear weapons the risk of deliberate or accidental proliferation to terrorists goes up.
As icing on the cake, Obama will mention the obvious fact that none of the safeguards that prevented nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union exist between Iran and Israel; nor are those safeguards likely to exist between Israel and any Arab nation that obtains a nuclear device or between Iran and the Sunni Arab states. There are no hotlines, there are no summit meetings between leaders of the two nations and in the case of Iran there is no second strike capability which acts as an inducement to “launch on warning” even though that “warning” might be a mistake.
The President’s solution to this predicament is bound to be what he’s wanted all along; negotiations towards a nuclear free Middle East. Under his desired scenario the outcome is clear, Iran and Israel will give up their nuclear weapons and other states in the region will eschew developing them. Finally, in his own mind, Obama will have earned that Nobel Peace Prize that was sent his way by the credulous Norwegians early in his presidency.
The President will not care one iota that his desired outcome will present the Israelis with a Hobson’s choice. If Israel doesn’t give up its nuclear weapons and the Middle East, which is already a seething cauldron of instability and Jew hatred, becomes a hotbed for nuclear arsenals, the chance that a weapon which will destroy a majority of the Jews in the world will be launched by a Muslim nation or a terrorist grows exponentially.
Alternatively, if Israel does give up its nuclear weapons, a nation with only 6 million Jews faces the prospect of confronting 300 million Arabs or 1 billion Muslims, a significant percentage of whom hate Jews. Whatever its military advantages today, there is no way Israel can assume that it will maintain its advantageous position far into the future. Without nuclear weapons, the long term prospects for the Jewish States are at risk.
This is precisely what President Obama seeks; an Israel no longer able to protect itself but reliant for its very survival on the United States. The idea that Jews will be as vulnerable and arguably more vulnerable than they were in Europe in the 1930s bothers the President not at all.
Obama may be many things, but he is not stupid. It wouldn’t even surprise me if he’s concealed his true ambitions from his closest foreign policy advisors, some of whom are pro-Israel.
Professor Mead may think President Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East is crazy.
What I worry about is that Obama is crazy as a fox.
Politically we’ve all moved on from thinking about President Obama’s infatuation with the likes of Jeremiah Wright or Rashid Khalidi. Whatever the political realities may be, should we doubt that the President still pines for the views that he learned at their knee?
Thanks for this spot on analysis of the administration’s looming disaster in the Middle East.
1. Regarding the recent murders of U.S. military personnel by one our our Afgan ‘allies,’ you say, “That one bad apple got into the barrel does not mean that the whole barrel is rotten.
Well, this isn’t the only time such a thing has happened; this case has just gotten more publicity than most.
And how many U.S. military men have been lost in Afghanistan & Iraq because they have been forced to fight a politically correct war when avoidance of collateral causalities is the prime directive, even over their own safety?
2.William McKibbin has it right; the U.S. is broke. American cannot afford to police the world, never mind trying to build nations where the ingredients for such are non-existent.
Hunker down to what end? What will constitute victory in Afghanistan? Decades of nation building in a country surrounded by countries more in need of nation building? The whole region is a mess, and the least of it is Afghanistan. Even if we achieved a World War II total victory, the place would descend back to the stone age within a decade.
We need to be sure they are unable to achieve another terror success in CONUS. This means CIA style operations, not the Army.
And as Mr. McKibben points out, we’re broke.
The real mistake was Bush, Rumsfeld et al deciding to install a democracy instead of our own SOB.
Obama’s deadline has guaranteed defeat in Afghanistan. What could be worse than doubling your bet and throwing a mediocre hand on the table for all to see?
Obama’s America is a weak adversary and unreliable ally. We will pay a heavy price.
It may be time for us to leave Afghanistan. Or pull most of our troops there (I’m sure we’ll continue to have some presence – troops nearby, CIA, drone facilities).
But saving money will be the last of the reasons, if it’s one at all. Afghanistan costs the US government about $80-100 billion annually ($455 billion over 10 years). Removing all of our troops (we’ll still have to feed and house and train and supply them wherever they are) may save us $50-60 billion.
In a $4 trillion budget with a $1+ trillion deficit, that $50 billion is meaningless.
Again, let’s debate a withdrawal but financial reasons won’t be much of a consideration.
Perhaps things would improve if we didn’t have an incompetent in the White House.
Making a decision to leave should be left to the last moment and then executed as quickly as possible.
The current strategy of an announced departure time with no real policy, except wait till that date, is just plain stupid.
The nation-building notion was a mistake from the beginning. I was reluctant to admit that, at first, but the weight of the evidence is now incontrovertible.
Of course, after the loss of life itself, the worst component of the recent atrocity is Obama’s response to it, but at this point in his tenure in the Oval Office, that comes as no surprise.
It is doubtful that the Republican leadership will go along with this policy. Out here in Indiana Sen. Lugar is losing county straw polls left and right. It is difficult to see him cooperating with the president on this. Out here in “fly-over” land, many of us are heartily and to the bottom of our souls sick of war and the utter ungratefulness of the people we are trying to help.
And things were going so well in Afghanistan after…erm…11 years was that? The US have created a bigger mess in that poor country than even the Taliban did. Who cares if the US can afford the ticket. They had no business there or in Iraq (or currently in Libya by proxy or Iran or Syria) in the first place. Stay home FFS and give us all a break.
Yes, indeed, success in Afghanistan is drifting away from us.
Yes, setting a date for withdrawing was a huge mistake. Any first-year military history student knew that.
Secretary Gates and now-CIA Director Petraeus were the only realists about Afghanistan/Iraq/Iran. Now they are both gone. (I have the feeling that the CIA is marginalized in Obama’s world.)
So we’re left with Leon Panetta as a solid realist. The rest: Biden, Hillary, Tom Donilon, Samantha Power, Susan Rice et al and, of course, the president himself, are powder-puff idealists. “If we just present the parties on each side with rational alternatives, things will turn out just fine.”
The Secretary of State, in particular, has never shown the ability to manage any project or responsibility. As First Lady, she messed up health-care legislation. She couldn’t even fire the WH travel office without creating a scandal. In the senate, she never authored any bills of substance and was a linear-thinking back-bencher.
As Secretary of State her first challenge came in Honduras where she sided with Castro and Hugo Chavez against the Honduran patriots who wanted to enforce the country’s constitution. Since then, she’s treaded water in Egypt, Russia (how’s that reset button, Hill?), Libya (where are those democrats, Hill?), Britain (where’s that special relationship, Hill?), Canada (Keystone Pipeline was supposed to be State’s call) and Mexico (sold any weapons to drug gangs lately?)
And here’s to you, Mrs. Rodham-son
Jesus loves you more than you will know (Wo, wo, wo)
God bless you please, Mrs. Rodham-son
Heaven holds a place for those who pray
(Hey, hey, hey…hey, hey, hey)
Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you (Woo, woo, woo)
What’s that you say, Mrs. Rodham-son
Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away
hey, hey, hey…hey, hey, hey)
Everything Obama and Hillary touch fails utterly. We have to vote these 1960’s Marxist failures out in November.
Americans should not repeat the mistake we made at the time of the Tet offensive in Vietnam, when US opinion mistook a military victory for a strategic defeat.
Given that the MSM is basically the propaganda arm of the Democrat Party, and that a Democrat is currently in the White House, what do you think the chances are that the American public will be told on-air by a media personality that we’re losing?
Nation-building in majority-Moslem regions has now been proven conclusively to be a failure everywhere it has been tried. Let us resolve never to attempt it again. (Or its associated activities, either: let us resolve to never again expend treasure providing, e.g., tsunami relief to majority-Moslem nations. Islamic culture is intrinsically ingrate.)
The Afghan people, collectively, are not worth a single American life. In the last three thousand years, they have contributed nothing to the world but barbarism and pederasty. They are a blight on humanity and should be quarantined from civilization. No Afghans should be granted any kind of visas to visit, study, or work in the West, and they should be absolutely forbidden to immigrate.
Let us further resolve to deter terrorism in the future using the Curtis LeMay method. If we had nuked Afghanistan on 9/12/2011, we would now have far less trouble around the world.
“…. one notes that core elements of the plan are in deep disarray.”
Oh one does, does one? Perhaps one would like to stipulate what plans this administration has put in place in the mideast are not in deep disarray. That state of “the plans” is not accidental but intentional.
“…. looks increasingly like the kind of grave mistake that makes success all but impossible.”
It only looks like a mistake if the kind of “success” you invisage is really the “success” that was envisioned. If the “success” was this sort of rolling disaster from the get go then it really isn’t a “grave mistake” at all.
I have a great deal of respect for much of the work here at Via Meadia but I have to admit that I find it’s continuing faith in the “good intentions” of this administration charming in the same way that fresh iterations of the ‘Hello Kitty” pencil cases are.
Our policy in Afghanistan should be to destroy any economic-political unity in the country, breaking it down to the tribal level, and insuring that it stays that way. That should be our objective in any of these lunatic “nations.” Let them live in the 7th century society their religion was born in. that way, they are no threat to us, and can decide for themselves if they want to be a threat to each other. In other words, not nation-building. Rather, nation-prevention.
Ask any US advisor to a muslim army. It’s not the case of one bad apple in the barrel. It’s a case of finding, then keeping alive, the one GOOD apple in the barrel. If it weren’t for sheer incompetence and cowardice, there would be far more “bad apples” exposing themselves.
WigWag, the ration response of Saudia Arabia, Isreal, et al, to Iran about to get nuclear weapons, is a first strike.
If the mullahs were ration and not desperate, then a deterrent force (i.e., everyone else gets nukes too) would be the rational response.
If Obama thinks Iran getting nuke would lead to disarmament, he is delusional. Entirely possible, there were plenty of people who thought the Kellog-Briand Pact would eliminate war.
Anyone wanting to know what President Obama’s real strategy is vis a vis Iran can read it right here; there is little question that Obama agrees one hundred percent with the views expressed in this op-ed.
Those who are interested in why Obama’s strategy is potentially so catastrophic can find the answer here,
The United States and Israel have some different interests that inevitably push up against the other. Additionally, because their security situations are very different (U,S. continent sized country bordered by two oceans; Israel small country surrounded by hostile neighbors), United States and Israel will never have completely overlaping geopolitical interests. Consequently, given that Iran’s nuclear program is a more acute threat to Israel and Afghanistan pull down (Afghan transformation) affects Middle East and regional actors, the U.S. President will be forced to act in our interests internationally speaking – Afghanistan, Jerusalem, Tehran, though very important, are not heart of geographical global economy (cf. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics).
We cannot fix Afghanistan, we can barely make it better. At this point in time social science and military theory don’t have the tools to defeat an insurgency let alone radically transform a society that we know so little about and understand even less. Our expedition in Afghanistan has been folly just like Iraq and Vietnam. We don’t have the ways or means either materially or intellectually to win these kinds of conflicts. We should offer know how to Afghans when they ask for it, but we shouldn’t occupy their lands for a decade.
“the public announcement of a withdrawal date looks increasingly like the kind of grave mistake that makes success all but impossible.”
I am often reminded of the famous Bernard Lewis quote (which he attributed to a Turkish general): “The problem with having the Americans as your allies is that you never know when they’ll turn around and stab themselves in the back.”
We are on the brink of military defeat. A measure of our folly.
What me worry? It’s all part of that smart diplomacy we were promised!!!
1. If Obama goes ahead and leaves Afghanistan in chaos, it will be the second time the US has done so. I refer again to “Charlie Wilson’s War” against the Soviets, in which the Democrats who controlled Congress funded a billion-dollar, secret CIA-managed program to help the mujahedeen battle their enemy. The muj won, and the Soviets ended their 10-year occupation in 1989.
Congressman Charlie Wilson then argued desperately but futilely for ongoing Afghan aid. We know what happened next: the Taliban takeover, followed eventually by 9/11. Afghans and the rest of the world can reasonably conclude that Americans sometimes make good foul-weather friends, but when we’re ready to become reabsorbed in domestic challenges, we’re outta there.
2. Prof. Mead is a lifelong Democrat who, I believe, liked Obama’s idealistic rhetoric and wanted to believe he could accomplish what he promised. I stress that this is my opinion, but I think Prof. Mead still doesn’t understand how ill-prepared Obama was and is for the job.
Obama is a lifelong Democrat who has lived almost his whole life in a VERY blue bubble, from liberal parents and Ivy academia to corrupt Chicago, Illinois politics and a Democrat-controlled Congress for his first three years as prez. He didn’t accomplish much of anything as an Illinois legislator, and as a US Senator, after the National Journal rated him as the most liberal, stopped voting and started campaigning to be Leader of the Free World.
At which he is mostly incompetent and even inept. On the domestic front, all he cares about is the environment and making the Blue Social Model even bluer, more powerful, more all-encompassing. Hence the RunAmok EPA, Keystone and strangling offshore drilling. Hence Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and union and blue state bailouts.
Hence the only time Obama cooperates with Republicans is when he’s forced to. He ran roughshod over them when Dems ruled Congress. He ran for prez blaming Bush and Republicans – still is – and now he’s running blaming Congress, by which he still means Republicans in Congress.
His Blue Enviro-Social Model is more important to him than Iraq and Afghanistan, and now that a number of Americans are (unaccountably, to Obama) concerned about the country’s finances, he needs Defense funds to advance his BESM domestically. It should be clear to all by now that he never meant whatever promises he made in 2008 about fiscal responsibility. He set up a Deficit Commission and then ignored its recommendations, and still ignores them. See, too, his proposed 2013 budget with accompanying mega-deficit.
Personally, I’m ABO 2012. Anybody but Obama.
“nothing could point more clearly to the challenges that face the President’s primary goal . . ”
Gosh. Are there still people who believe that opportunistic fiction Obama’s handlers dreamed up when he was a candidate dissing every Bush policy in sight? The administration is clearly hoist on its own rhetoric about “the right war” vs. “the wrong war.” We all know, or I thought we did, that this operation is about cut and run as soon as possible.
“The nation-building notion was a mistake from the beginning. I was reluctant to admit that, at first, but the weight of the evidence is now incontrovertible.”
There was a better argument for it in “the wrong war” than there EVER was in Afghanistan. There was no basis on which to build any kind of viable nation out of the tribal goulash stewing for 200 years. That’s one reason I’ve always preferred leaving pretense at the door and bombing them back to the stone age where they and their kind belong.
Surely Iran doesn’t think the US is a paper tiger. Many may conclude, myself included, that the US lacks the ability to impose law and order outside of our own border. But no rational analyst doubts that the US has the ability destroy any nations offensive military capability. Or deny another countries’ citizens a middle class lifestyle with electricity and clean water
“The Afghan conundrum would be fiendishly difficult to solve under the best of circumstances, but the public announcement of a withdrawal date looks increasingly like the kind of grave mistake that makes success all but impossible.”
Nearly every knowledgeable citizen said Obama was an idiot when he announced the surge and the withdrawal date at the same time, as only an ignorant fool would think his battle plans would survive contact with the enemy. Obama has been a horrible disaster for this country, and he has replace Jimmy Carter as the worst president in my life time by a considerable margin.
I suspect WigWag’s comments in Comment #2 are close to a correct diagnosis of Obama’s thinking vis-a-vie the Middle East and nuclear weapons:
“If Iran succeeds, it will provide Obama with the chance to pursue the dream that has obsessed his foreign policy ambitions during the first two years of his term; a world without nuclear weapons.”
“The President will not care one iota that his desired outcome will present the Israelis with a Hobson’s choice.”
“Without nuclear weapons, the long term prospects for the Jewish States are at risk.
“This is precisely what President Obama seeks; an Israel no longer able to protect itself but reliant for its very survival on the United States. The idea that Jews will be as vulnerable and arguably more vulnerable than they were in Europe in the 1930s bothers the President not at all.
“Obama may be many things, but he is not stupid. It wouldn’t even surprise me if he’s concealed his true ambitions from his closest foreign policy advisors, some of whom are pro-Israel.”
“Politically we’ve all moved on from thinking about President Obama’s infatuation with the likes of Jeremiah Wright or Rashid Khalidi. Whatever the political realities may be, should we doubt that the President still pines for the views that he learned at their knee?”
I’ve read Stanley Kurtz’s book, “Radical-in-chief: The untold story of American socialism.” You never hear it discussed in the MSM or even in conservative media, but it’s a carefully-researched book that focuses on Obama’s adult career from his days at Columbia, then Chicago as a community organizer (with timeout to get his law degree at Harvard), then an IL state senator, a U.S. Senator, and finally his presidential campaign. Kurtz spent hundreds of hours reading obscure files in libraries of the organizations to which Obama belonged.
What came across to me is a man who was totally immersed in the left-radical community of (mostly) Chicago. He formed his political philosophy in the early 1980s and has never changed it in any significant ways.
WigWag’s speculation that he still holds his anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian opinions he learned in Chicago from his Muslim friends, his pastor Rev. Wright, and others is probably dead on. And he’s no dummy; he’s spent most of his career hiding his true motives from the broader public, and even from fairly close D Party colleagues. That’s because his are on the radical left fringe. (Kurtz points out that the D Party regulars in Chicago were very wary of the radical community organizers. Tended to keep them at arms’ length.)
I also agree with Toni in Comment #27 fully.
“VM thinks that hunkering down is the least bad option. We want the war to end as much as anybody, but you don’t get peace in a situation like this by making everyone think you are desperate for peace and on the brink of psychological if not military defeat. And we think that projecting a strong and determined US commitment to continuing presence in the Middle East is the best way to reduce the chances of both an Iranian nuclear weapon and a new war in the Gulf.”
Nah. Just bomb the idiots back into oblivion and be done with it. It’s not like we have any friends left in that part of the world. Or need any, for that matter. I say blaze away and get out.
Simple. Clean. Decisive. The (modern) American way. Works every time.
I find it unlikely in the extreme that Obama, after continuing so many of Bush’s policies for so long and facing so few consequences for it from the Left, would allow Afghanistan to deteriorate to the point that the GOP could paint him “soft on defense” in an election year.
“The White House now faces a tough dilemma in Afghanistan. Does it rescind the commitment to withdraw and hunker down for an indefinite stay — angering peace Democrats at home and NATO partners abroad while committing itself more deeply to a complicated and tricky war? Or does it embrace defeat and get on with the business of American withdrawal as Afghanistan tumbles about its ears, the Taliban gain in power, and hardliners in both Islamabad and Tehran conclude that the US is a paper tiger?”
Levity aside, I can’t imagine a more stark and straightforward review of our options. That last question in particular is one we need to keep uppermost in our minds. That is, if we’re not to lose our heads altogether. We need (even momentarily) vindicated hardliners in Iran and Pakistan about as much as the world needs a US paper tiger.
Then again, what do I know? If you want to talk to a really SMART guy (who has all the answers, BTW), you can always try my alter ego @ #33. Patience is for losers, right? FAST business, technical and/or military solutions to every CONCEIVABLE human problem. Works. Every. Time. Just ask Rumsfeld.
@ “The withdrawal announcement diminished US influence in Pakistan”
And Mead’s influence with the foreign policy establishment?
I thought Steve Sailer’s headline was better: “Obama Admin: U.S. not accomplishing anything in Afghanistan, so can’t leave”
@”or will he commit to withdrawal even if this means that the long war ends in defeat — and tempts Iran to turn the American retreat from the Middle East into a rout?”
You gotta be kidding.
WigWag – “If Iran succeeds, it will provide Obama with the chance to pursue the dream that has obsessed his foreign policy ambitions during the first two years of his term; a world without nuclear weapons. ”
And I thought economics was a subject no one could ever agree on! This seems [vulgarity removed] crazy to me.
[email protected]: “We need (even momentarily) vindicated hardliners in Iran and Pakistan about as much as the world needs a US paper tiger.”
And some Americans would much rather see vindicated hardliners in Iran and Pakistan than vindicated hardliners in Washington. (After all, the neo-cons are the enemy, and the enemy of my enemy…)
WigWag bases his extrapolation on the following (inter alia):
ON THE campaign trail in 2008, Barack Obama pledged to make the abolition of nuclear weapons a “central element” of U.S. foreign policy. The president repeated the pledge after he took office in major speeches during 2009 in Prague, at the UN, and again in Oslo while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama argued that deemphasizing nuclear weapons was not only a moral imperative but also good for U.S. national security.
This seems somewhat more related to insanity derived from Chiropteric excrement than WigWag’s analysis.
Obama did not learn his lesson from Iraq–where he also advocated setting and explicitly stating a withdrawl date, truly the most moronic idea ever concocted in the history of warfare. It still amazes me how his dilatory, poll-driven approach to the gravely serious business of waging war, and to foreign policy in general, is not more widely decried as the most pitiful and astonishing abdication of CinC responsibilities we have or ever will witness in a POTUS. I don’t see how history will look back with anything but scorn and rightfully castigate his craven lack of leadership and cynical politicking.
For the first time in the history of our nation–any nation?–we have a leader who speaks not of victory but of “ending”. Ask a few more to die in Afghanistan today Mr President, for that “good war” you were so determined to wage back when it was a useful rhetorical foil so you advocate full-scale tail-tucking, helipad-evacuating, retreat from Iraq without seeming like a total coward in general.