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Is it really a debate when neither participant knows what they're talking about?:
Obama's criticism of the so-called "surge" in the past has focused on the fact that short-term tactical successes were not marshaled in pursuit of any of the aboveboard strategic goals claimed, namely political reconciliation between Iraqi factions leading to a stabilized and democratic federal government. But - and I was in a noisy bar trying to pay some attention to details besides what will "resonate" with the yokels - unless I missed it when he was insisting that we must surge back into Afghanistan and Pakistan, he never described what he thinks the underlying problems in Afghanistan are, let alone how his short run tactical shift is going to fix them.
I don't know what his goals are in Afghanistan. The only thing he talked about was the bag-and-tag approach to Al Qaeda leadership that, while cosmetically appealing - like slashing executive pay when the culprits have already used their golden parachutes - doesn't achieve any sort of systemic alteration of circumstances he can call "victory". It's a variation on the GOP's solution to the credit crisis (cut taxes! ???! success!):
- Bag Bin Laden!
- Smoking ruins!
To be unfair and establish the false premise that I should know what some presidential candidate whose claiming authority on the issue should know: I don't know what my goals would be in Afghanistan, either. The first thing that comes to mind would be figuratively getting my army out the Khyber Pass alive. More to the point, Obama doesn't appear to know: there is no "issue" page on the war he's embracing ownership of, and his speech two months ago laying out what he'll do - complete the militarization of humanitarian aid and reconstruction efforts; kill "terrorists" better faster and stronger; and most amusingly "increase international support to develop the rule of law across the country" - doesn't explain what it's going to achieve. How are the vast populations supporting the resurgence of the Taliban going to be incorporated back into our puppet municipality in Kabul? Are our ever expanding stellar constellation of goals going to be circumscribed to a simple victory of coming home with some heads on sticks? One could hope, I suppose, that that's the implication.
Along these lines, Reidar Visser explains a serious misunderstanding that shook whatever scant confidence I might have had that Obama understood the basics in Iraq well enough to disengage constructively. The political likelihood of a non-punitive withdrawal was always very slim, and populist rage that the Iraqi "government" is enjoying the kind of budget surpluses we wasted invading their country now makes it a virtual impossibility. Obama's provisions where others might put conditions for a generous withdrawal are outright miserly. But the least we could have is somebody who understood the place well enough not to inadvertently tear down the few tatters that remain of their society as we trip over our bayonets on the way to the door.
To quote myself some time ago, "before we can start endorsing the views of technocrats with constructive policy proposals we have to deal with the fact that our leaders can't get their facts straight when discussing policy". Well, here we go again.
:: posted by buermann @ 2008-09-27 13:52:04 CST |