Monday, August 31, 2009

Prominent Conservative calls for a Pullout from Afghanistan

It's too bad George Will didn't make his arguments during the Bush years. He probably would have been denounced as a traitor. Better late than never, I guess. But some of us like, myself having been calling for a pullout from Iraq and Afghanistan for years.

George F. Will, the elite conservative commentator, will call in his next column for U.S. ground troops to leave Afghanistan, according to publishing sources.

“[F]orces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters,” Will writes in the column, scheduled for publication later this week.

President Obama ordered a total of 21,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan in February and March, and casualties have mounted as the forces began confronting the Taliban more aggressively. August saw the highest monthly death toll for the U.S. since the invasion in 2001, the second record month in a row.

Will’s prescription – in which he urges Obama to remember Bismarck’s decision to halt German forces short of Paris in 1870 - seems certain to split Republicans. He is a favorite of fiscal conservatives. The more hawkish right can be expected to attack his conclusion as foolhardy, short-sighted and na├»ve, potentially making the U.S. more vulnerable to terrorist attack.

Will's declaration comes at a time when serious questions are being raised about how to sustain a costly war against an intractable enemy.
As public support wanes, the Obama administration feels it needs to deliver speedy progress in Afghanistan so that it can gain time and backing for its long-term military strategy.

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Washington - The Obama administration is racing to demonstrate visible headway in the faltering war in Afghanistan, convinced it has only until next summer to slow a hemorrhage in U.S. support and win more time for the military and diplomatic strategy it hopes can rescue the 8-year-old effort.

But the challenge in Afghanistan is becoming more difficult in the face of gains by the Taliban, rising U.S. casualties, a weak Afghan government widely viewed as corrupt, and a sense among U.S. commanders that they must start the military effort largely from scratch nearly eight years after it began.

A turnaround is crucial because military strategists believe they will not be able to get the additional troops they feel they need in coming months if they fail to show that their new approach is working, U.S. officials and advisors say.

There are even some prominent Democratic Senators calling for withdrawal from Afghanistan:
Scores of national security strategists have implored that the U.S. cannot withdraw from Afghanistan anytime soon (if ever) because if Afghanistan falls into the hands of the Taliban it would lead to the further destabilization of Pakistan; and if Pakistan is destabilized, nukes would fall into the hands of al-Qaeda. However, I agree with Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold that reality on the ground has proven the indirect what-if postulates of foreign policy clairvoyants wrong, and it is time for the United States to begin a phased withdrawal.

How Obama is Failing with Health Care Reform

This from Alternet:

The real economic spillovers and side effects of Wall Street-leverage and rocket-science concoctions brought the curtain down on the romance with the unfettered free market. This was a mess that did not need to happen. It was a calamity that will cost the world economy trillions of dollars.

This is the stage that President Obama walked onto when he made his run and was elected to the White House. Government romance had been pounded out of the hearts of Americans for decades. Yet now free market fantasies were in tatters. For Obama, seeds of opportunity were contained in the crisis.

What was remarkable about Obama was his seemingly magical ability to inspire us all to suspend our cynicism about civic engagement and government and give things a new try. Sure, he had help from the dreadful examples of his predecessor's work on Katrina, Iraq, torture and the TARP bailout. Yet he pulled it off, and the idea of a strong leader steering us through a crisis brought visions of FDR into the minds of many.

We took comfort in the notion that "the best and brightest" would be taking over. The Administration promised bold actions on many fronts, including stimulus, climate change, financial regulation, bailout policy and healthcare.

[...]Instead, we got nothing on inauguration day. We got a plan-to-have-a-plan in early February, followed by the announcement of PPIP and infinite forbearance through an intravenous-drip system of capital injections so that the behemoth banks, their executives, their stockholders -- and most profoundly, their unsecured creditors -- could hold onto their money. We got that, coupled with the announcement of AIG bonuses. As a final insult, we heard Administration officials waxing on about the sanctity of contracts while the autoworkers' benefits and pensions were being restructured. The public was rightly enraged.

Obama's own party is confused by the President's lack of leadership on health care:
President Obama can still secure major health-care legislation this year if he learns from his mistakes in recent months and spends more time reminding Americans why they were once eager for fundamental change.

His White House lost sight of the need to make a strong case that reform would deliver specific benefits to the insured as well as the uninsured. Absent a consistent set of arguments from reformers, advocates of the status quo filled the vacuum -- often with outright lies.

The administration also sent mixed and confusing signals about its position on a public insurance option. This set off a liberal firestorm and increased the role that the public option played in the public debate -- which, paradoxically, is exactly the opposite of what Obama's lieutenants intended.

And his aides did not foresee just how fraught the situation would become in the Senate, where Max Baucus, the Democratic chairman of the Finance Committee, allowed Charles Grassley, the committee's ranking Republican, to string negotiations along indefinitely without making any commitment to voting for a bill.

Senate leaders signaled Obama as early as June that they wanted him to intervene more actively to push Baucus along. The administration held back, hoping it could postpone its most forceful involvement until after both the Senate and the House had passed bills. But Baucus's failure to produce a proposal before the summer recess added to the sense of legislative chaos and bred uncertainty as to what reformers are seeking.

U.S. Commander: Afghanistan Situation Serious