If you can read this, you’re aware there’s a debate within and outside the Obama administration about what the US is to do about Afghanistan. If you are, also, a careful reader you are probably confused or conflicted. With good reason.
Eight years after 9/11, the objectives and the means to them are still unclear or ill-focused. We’re told by various authorities the objectives range from containing a relatively few Al-Quaeda to reconstituting much of the social fabric and governance of Afghanistan and its immediate neighbors. Similarly, authorities recommend means that range from narrowly targeted attacks from within or outside Afghanistan, or Pakistan, to increased ground forces to major social welfare and government reform efforts, each with differing time horizons.
Those authorities with the most experience in these matters tend toward the broader objectives and means. Yet, all of them caveat their course with hard-learned reservations about success.
THE authority, as provided by the Constitution, the President, despite his and supporters’ politically convenient mouthings meant to win an election, is determined to, according to reports from insiders, re-examine the entire matter from basic assumptions forward.
Opponents of his presidency find themselves in the comfortable position that Obama capitalized upon pre-election of pointing out the gross inconsistencies in the president’s words, actions and results. This is furthered by the arch comedy of verbal hypocrisies from his supporters.
A few more global strategists, like Henry Kissinger, point to the broader tableau of possibilities, involving India, China and Russia much more deeply. However, none have demonstrated such inclination. Indeed, even the NATO countries are, as usual, hesitant to increase their meager commitments, especially to unsure decision-making in Washington and prospects.
Compounding all this is that, now including the global economic shakeout, none of the Western countries appear willing to devote the commensurate resources to the broader missions.
So, ultimately, the start-from-scratch debate is healthy in revealing the stakes, the stake-holders, the opportunities, the risks, the costs and the constraints. Regardless of efforts for the debate or process to be more transparent, it is reasonably so, and such decisions are always finally made among a small circle and the inescapable responsibility of the President.
Obama administration insiders preclude withdrawal. That leaves either a full-bore effort, which may or not succeed, or a lesser effort that everyone with access to the best information says will only prolong everyone’s agonies with less to no expectation of satisfactory resolution.
No one’s eloquence can mask that stark choice. Polling indicates that is recognized by most citizens.
Politicians tend to see compromises as the natural order of things. The rest of us live in a more directly consequential reality.
All of the evidence so far about President Obama indicates his reality is dedicated to vapid speeches. No tangible results have come from any. On any subject, only his hardest-core supporters still rally to his words.
I support the fullest re-examination of all aspects of our involvement in Afghanistan, both in itself and for its vital educative function for all of us.
I support the direct consequences of whatever decision is made by President Obama to be properly seen as his responsibility alone. He has finally cornered himself, and has run out of words to distract from that.
What we’re debating is not just the fate of Afghans, Pakistanis, other countries, our or others’ security and pockets. It is, also, the determiner of our own and President Obama’s mettle, integrity and future.