We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Is it all about the 2012 election or about national security?Without a doubt, the domestic economy will weigh most heavily. But, the question and peril in the background will be whether matters abroad make the US safer or not and whether our leadership is up to the challenges.
President Obama is, to say the least, conflicted between his leanings toward disengagement from prior foreign commitments and realities on the ground. Potential Republican candidates are, to say the least, also conflicted between Republicans’ ordinary strong suit of sticktoitness abroad and most Americans’ war weariness.
The restrained, many say half-way and too weak or too unfocused, administration path in Libya has highlighted the divide. It comes down to attitudes of do the least, or if doing it do the job. Not even doing the least in Syria, comparable to a comparatively stronger involvement in Libya, further argues for the weakness at our helm.
Nonetheless, the potential Republican candidates as well as the administration’s loyalists continue to spin their PR as if the choices are similar to the 2008 election, if not the 2006, in the case of the Democrats wanting withdrawal, or not important enough to take a strong stand, in the case of Republicans.
Let’s step back, then, to President Bush’s courageous decision to surge in Iraq in 2007. This game changer accomplished our core objective, to set up an Iraq that would not be a sanctuary for terrorists or home of WMDs.
President Obama reluctantly approved a surge-light in Afghanistan while at the same time announcing a quick drawdown and withdrawal. What the American press has presented the public with since is the bravery of our troops operating under highly restrictive rules of engagement, the corruption and backstabbing of Afghanistan’s Karzai, and the sanctuary for the Taliban in Pakistan. No wonder most Americans want free of the mess.
News reports (Washington Post, for example) have the Obama administration using the death of Osama bin Laden, though anymore a figure-head, as justification to speeding our withdrawal from Afghanistan. But, our core objectives are not met by that, setting up an Afghanistan that isn’t a source of terrorists or a Pakistan whose real nuclear weapons won’t fall into the hands of evil doers.
Peter Bergen, who has long studied bin Laden, national security analyst for CNN and the liberal New America Foundation, delivers a read-it-all analysis in the liberal New Republic of where we’re really at in Afghanistan, “Can We Win in Afghanistan.” Bergen’s article is full of useful background and current information.
In war, perceptions tend to lag behind reality by a considerable distance. In Afghanistan, our efforts were widely thought of as successful for several years after things had clearly begun to deteriorate on the ground. Today, it appears that we have the opposite problem: improvements on the ground that are widely dismissed amid a narrative of defeat.
Bergen believes that President Obama will stay the course. His article was likely written before today’s reports of the Obama administration trying to speed disengagement.
Regardless of whether Bergen will fall into line with this latest Obama administration gambit, his article stands as strong argument why President Obama more hastily trying to retreat should be confronted by those who care more for the US national security than pandering to war weariness for 2012.
Our neglect of national security challenges during the 1990s fed into our being forced to face harsher realities during the past decade. Will we repeat that grave error?