You Can’t Make Some People Happy

Especially if you’re President Obama, and “some people” are conservative politicians or Fox News commentators.

Having bashed Obama for not capturing those responsible for the Benghazi attack on 9/11/12 that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead, the right is now beating up on him because he’s captured the ringleader, Ahmed Abu Khattala.  They don’t like the “timing.”

Special Forces planned and practiced the raid on Khattala’s compound for a year, and now he is heading to the U. S. for trial in a civilian court.

But instead of celebrating the news, the right is dismissing it as an effort to distract from Obama’s other problems and to promote Hillary’s book tour!

Moving to a “Support Role” in Afghanistan

President Obama announced today, after meeting with Afghan President (or as I think of him, Kabul Mayor) Hamid Karzai, that our troops will move to a support role in the spring.

He didn’t announce troop levels either between now and the end of 2014, when the war is supposed to end, or beyond 2014, when we may leave a lower level of troops under a new bilateral agreement.

Obviously our troops, currently at 66,000, are in less danger if they play a support role, but I’d still like to get them the hell out of there ASAP.  Even if our government were running a surplus, I still wouldn’t want to waste any more American lives and healthy brains and limbs on this hopeless effort.

Forget the counter insurgency.  That requires a strong, stable central government, which Afghanistan still doesn’t have despite our decade of sacrifice.  Focus on counter terrorism.  That requires drones and special forces, which we have in abundance.

After 9/11, we kicked out Al Qaeda in a few months, without a lot of ground troops.  We can do it again if we have to — and again and again.But the Taliban isn’t interested in coming after us, they just want to run Afghanistan, so they have no reason to let Al Qaeda have the safe haven they did before.  Lessons learned all around.

We have to let Afghanistan go back to the war lords and the poppy growers.  The Pashtuns will support the Taliban and the non-Pashtuns will fight them.  And we will go after Al Qaeda wherever they are.

Realist Hagel and His Neo-Con Haters

Those who oppose Chuck Hagel for DoD, and either whisper or shout that he is anti-Israel/anti-Semitic are really saying that to be pro-Israel, you have to support absolutely everything that Benjamin Netanyahu wants and stands for.

It’s like saying that you’re anti-American unless you support the GOP or anti-British unless you support the Tories.

Suddenly support for Israel is limited to support for its far right.

By this bizarre standard there are a whole lot of folks in Israel and politicians in its Knesset who are anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.

Senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham and newbie Ted Cruz are afraid of Hagel.  They want to stay in Afghanistan forever, and they know that Hagel will argue to get out sooner than the end of 2014, which is what this war-weary country wants.

Now sometimes being war-weary doesn’t mean you’re right, sometimes you have to suck it up and stick it out, but in this case, the mood of the country matches the strategic reality that we have nothing to gain by staying longer in Afghanistan.

The Hagel haters also fear that he will be an effective spokesman for making DoD more efficient.  They can see him on the Sunday talk shows convincingly arguing that some weapons systems can be eliminated, that the defense budget can be cut without making us less safe.  They can see him authoring cogent op-eds that will sway opinion leaders.

I am excited about the combo of Hagel at DoD and Brennan at CIA.  Brennan is our Drone Guy, and he and Hagel will continue to fight the War on Terror the way it needs to be fought, with more drones and special forces, not tens of thousands of troops stuck manning mountain outposts while Al Qaeda finds other homes.

As Al Qaeda and its affiliates move and spread, we have to be as flexible as they are.  We had as many drone strikes in Yemen in 2012 as we did in Pakistan because we are taking the fight to the enemy.  There is talk of drone strikes in Mali (and maybe they are happening as I write this) because that’s where Al Qaeda is.

Obama, Hagel, and Brennan get it.  They see the big picture of how everything fits together. They see the importance of our relationship with Pakistan, frustrating and infuriating as it is.  They see how the war in Iraq destabilized the region and upset the balance of power by taking away Iran’s biggest rival and constraint.    Now Iran and Iraq are friends, and Iran is freer to pursue its dreams of hegemony in the region.  Hagel is a realist like Bush 41, who recognized that we should kick Iraq out of Kuwait, but not continue to Baghdad because we were better off with Saddam Hussein in power.

 

Afghanistan — Enough Is Enough

The Pentagon has just submitted its semi-annual report to Congress on Afghanistan, “Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan,” covering the period from  April through September, and it’s same-old, same-old.

Only one of the 23 Afghan Army brigades can function independently, there is more violence now than when we began the surge two years ago, the Afghan government is hopelessly corrupt, the Taliban is still strong, and Pakistan is still providing safe havens for them.

It’s never going to get better, and we just need to get the hell out of there ASAP.  We can’t keep pouring American dollars and blood down this rat hole.  Drones and special forces, people, not 68,000 U. S. troops defending nothing in the middle of nowhere.

Mitt Sorry We Left Iraq, Wants to Stay in Afghanistan

In his foreign policy speech today at Virginia Military Institute, Mitt showed how out of touch he is with American voters, not just on economic issues, but on military ones as well.

He said that he would have stayed longer in Iraq, when the country as a whole is glad to be out of there:  “America’s ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence.”

Strategically, we’d be better off today with Saddam Hussien in power as a bulwark and counter-weight to Iran.  The problem isn’t that we left, it’s that we went there in the first place.

Mitt said that he won’t be bound by Obama’s promise to get out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, when the country as a whole would like to get out even sooner: “I will evaluate conditions on the ground and weigh the best advice of our military commanders.”

If Mittens thinks we want to lose more lives and limbs and healthy brains, thinks we want to waste more money we don’t have in either Iraq or Afghanistan, he has no clue how the American people feel about these wars.

The terrorists who threaten us have long since moved on from Afghanistan — across the border to Pakistan, north to Yemen and Somalia — and a big ground war there makes absolutely no sense.  This is a war for special forces and drones.

As for Iran’s nuclear quest, where Mitt has criticized Obama for not being tough enough, he spoke of sanctions, not military action:  “I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran and will tighten the sanctions we currently have.”  Iran has made it clear that sanctions won’t deter their nuclear ambitions.  So Mitt’s saying he’d do more of a failed policy.