Could Gates Block Withdrawal From Afghanistan?

 Robert Gates

Photo: Robert Gates accepts nomination as Defense Secretary-11/08/06 

So the troops are coming home from Afghanistan?   That’s what Mr. Obama said.  I heard it.  Starting 18 months from now he will begin bringing our people home.  He gave no date for the withdrawal to be completed, but at least it’s a  beginning to the end of a military operation George W. started but failed to stop.   Or is it?  What’s really going on here?  Is there an exit strategy or is it nothing more than wishful thinking?

Mr. Obama, made it sound like his plans were laid but less than 24 hours later his Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, told a Senate committee that the situation would be re-assessed in December of 2010.  The implication being that the whole thing could be changed from that point on.

Then there was Secretary of State Clinton telling Brian Williams on NBC, that the decision will be “conditions based.”

Beyond that, consider the words of National Security Advisor Jim Jones, during an interview with Major Garrett on Fox News:  “This isn’t a cliff where everybody all of a sudden says ‘That’s it, it’s over.’ What is at stake here, in terms of the conditions, is how quickly we can do it. If things are going very well, we can do it more rapidly, if things need a little bit more attention, we can do it more slowly. But it is the point at which there will be a beginning to a different phase in our involvement in Afghanistan. And it’s not to say to your viewers, but more importantly to the people of the region, the United States is leaving. We are not leaving the region. We have enormous strategic interest in Afghanistan, east of Afghanistan in Pakistan and we intend to be supportive and helpful partners with them for many years to come.”

“We are not leaving the region?”  “Many years to come?”  And that means what, exactly?  It means we will begin drawing down our troop levels in 2011, unless we don’t.     Has a hint of the old Karl Rovian magic to it, doesn’t it?  Mr.Obama might as well have announced that the withdrawal date is a goal,  but that we might have to stay right where we are “for many years to come” based upon an updated assessment of the conditions.   That, of course, wouldn’t have had the same impact as his announcement that he will start bringing the troops home in 18 months.

It’s being reported that the President had to agree to making the withdrawal “conditions based” to get Bush Administration holdover and Defense Secretary Robert Gates on board.   According to his defense department bio:  “Dr. Gates is the only Secretary of Defense in U.S. history to be asked to remain in that office by a newly elected President.”   Wonder if there’s a reason for that?  Maybe it’s time to ask Mr. Gates to leave the ship?

NATO Sending Additional 7000 Troops

NATO has pledged to send an additional 7000 troops to Afghanistan with “more to come.”   The pledge came from NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.  It’s 3000 less than the U.S. requested.

‘At a news conference, Mr. Rasmussen said the injection of a total of 37,000 American and allied forces into the fight against the Taliban next year would have a “powerful effect” and he pledged that Afghanistan would not be allowed to “fall back into the hands” of what he called terrorists and extremists. “That is not going to happen,” he said.’  –NY Times

Vike’s Running Back Running A Little Too Fast

 Adrian Peterson

            Peterson at 2008 Pro Bowl  

Viking’s running back Adrian Peterson was nailed by police for allegedly doing 109 mph on a suburban Minneapolis highway.  The AP reports that Peterson was pulled over just before 8:30 PM on Saturday on “crosstown” State Highway 62, which connects Minneapolis with suburbs to the south and west.   According to the Edina Police Department,  it was a “very routine” traffic stop.   Peterson was given a citation and allowed to drive away.  Peterson, who was driving his BMW in a 55mph zone, says he wasn’t going that fast.  The next night he sprinted out an 85 yard touchdown in the Viking’s win over Chicago.  No BMW necessary.

Obama Locked In “Feud” With The CBC

congressional black caucus

  photo: u.s. house 

Glenn Thrush reports in “Politico” that the White House and the Congressional Black Caucus are locked in a “family feud.”  The report says that Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) went nose to nose in a contentious meeting with Rahm Emanuel.

“Waters suggested the CBC’s 43 members could vote with the GOP to scuttle a variety of Democratic bills if Obama and Emanuel don’t address what she thinks is a lack of understanding of the CBC’s wide-ranging goals of reducing urban unemployment, home foreclosures and bank failures.” -Politico

Tiger And Wife Renegotiate Prenup?

 Tiger Woods

photo: wiki commons

Gerald Posner in the Daily Beast reports that Tiger Woods “is negotiating an immediate $5 million payout to his wife—and revising her prenup to give her as much as $55 million more to stay with him two more years.” 

Posner reports that Woods’ wife,  Elin Nordegren,  signed a prenup when the couple married in 2004  thought to be worth $20 million after ten years of marriage.   Tiger Woods is expected to become a billionaire sometime over the next year or two.

A report in the New York Daily News suggests that Woods has three “alleged mistresses.”  The paper reports that;  “So far he has been linked to three women: Kalika Moquin, a Las Vegas nightclub executive; Los Angeles cocktail waitress Jaimee Grubbs, 23; and club promoter Rachel Uchitel, 34.”

Obama’s Date For Troop Withdrawl Not Firm

Less than 24 hours after the President’s speech and already his people are backpedaling.   Defense Secretary Robert Gates just told a Senate Committee that the date Mr. Obama announced to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan could change.  The Administration, Gates testified, will examine the situation in  December of 2010 and decide then whether the withdrawal should begin as scheduled in July of 2011.

So Mr. Obama is sending in another 30,000 troops on the advice of the Pentagon, but says he has a plan to begin withdrawing troops in 18 months.  Now his defense secretary is saying the scheduled withdrawal may not happen at that time, or, who knows?  Maybe it won’t happen at all?    This is sounding more and more like the Bush Administration.

Obama’s Folly?

 Barack Obama

                      photo: wiki commons

For a split second I thought I was listening to George W. Bush and not Barack Obama talking about sending in more troops based upon the advice of his military leaders.   And then there’s the “exit plan” to start bringing our troops home after 18 months and getting them home when?   When the transfer of responsibility for securing the country can be completed?  And when might that be?  Is that what he said?  Or did he mean something else?  Will the withdrawl be completed while Mr. Obama is still in office?

It’s exactly the kind of open-ended non-decision decision I would have expected from the Bush Administration.    It was a speech that undoubtedly left any number of progressives and moderates walking around in a politically induced stupor while they try and sort out exactly what happened.

I’ll tell you what happened.  Mr. Obama has decided to send additional troops to Afghanistan, an area where apparently, the al Qaeda is not.  There are estimates that around 300 members of  al Qaeda are in Pakistan, not Afghanistan.  Others, are scattered globally.  It’s an international criminal conspiracy, not an army.  Mr. Obama, could have decided to attack the problem both overtly and covertly, using the CIA, the FBI and every bit of law enforcement and military intelligence  cooperation he could garner from any nation willing to offer support including the government of Pakistan.

Instead, he has done exactly what George W. Bush would have done.  After asking the Pentagon for advice, he continues to do what?  Eliminate the al Qaeda by attacking the Taliban in Afghanistan?  We already defeated the al Qaeda in Afghanistan.  Under the Bush Administration, we drove them back into Tora Bora and then let them slip across the border into Pakistan.  Not Mr. Obama’s fault.  Anyway, that still leaves the Taliban and the question of the ongoing stability of Afghanistan.  It’s another mess the Bush Administration left for Mr. Obama to clean up.  However, we cannot kill every member of the Taliban.  They will still be there once we withdraw.  It is highly unlikely that another 30,000 troops for another couple of years will secure a nation that has been in an almost constant state of civil war for the past 40 years.  Defeating the Taliban in any conventional sense is highly unlikely, regardless of General McChrystal’s assessment.

Generals, are trained to win wars, not calculate the geopolitical complexities involved in attacking an international criminal enterprise.   Beyond that, unless you consider nuking the Middle East to be a viable option, the situation no longer calls for a strictly military solution.   JFK, had to turn a deaf ear to his generals and take on the Joint Chiefs during the Cuban missile crisis to prevent a nuclear war.  The decision lies with the President, not the Pentagon.

And now, after taking General McCrystal’s advice,  the President is sending another 30,000 troops to a place where the al Qaeda is not.  A place governed by a corrupt puppet government being propped up by our presence, not unlike the puppet governments we propped up in Vietnam.   And he is directing this massive effort at an area driven by the economics of the heroin trade and ruled by warlords who will side with whomever they believe will provide them with the greatest advantage from one moment to the next?   Are you kidding?  We move in and they back off and pretend to play by our rules.  We leave, and they return to play by their own rules.  They’ve been playing this game for hundreds of years.

The President could have announced that after 8 years, we’ve done what we went into Afghanistan to do.  Without tipping our hand and laying out any timetable, we could have started the process of bringing our troops home and turning the responsibility of securing Afghanistan over to the Afghans.   If Hamid Karzai wants the country, let him have it.  The far right would have condemned the move but the far right isn’t going to be satisfied with anything Mr. Obama does.  It’s time to forget about the far right and think about the American majority, those millions of people who are less concerned with Afghanistan than with putting food on their tables and the availability of affordable health care.

As things now stand, Mr. Obama has chosen a course of action that will require billions of additional dollars and untold numbers of American lives.   Yes, the al Qaedal will probably slip back into Afghanistan once we leave.  So what?  Are we prepared to make the kind of commitment the British made in India and leave our military in place until the region becomes stable?  You know, a commitment of say…the next 90 years and maybe longer?

Instead of bringing the troops home and stopping the flow of dollars into an unwinnable war, Mr. Obama and his party will now be heading into 2010 facing the prospect of more American lives lost abroad and fewer jobs created here at home.  It appears to be a “lose-lose” scenario for both the country and the Democratic Party.

The other possibility is that the President struck precisely the right balance by upholding our national responsibility to the Afghans.  It could be argued that we had to beat back the Taliban long enough to give the Afghan Government ample time to beef up their security to the degree that they can maintain control once we leave.    This way, in 18 months we can begin the withdrawal and nobody can say we “cut and ran.”  Except for the far right.   There is nothing Mr. Obama can do that will satisfy them.  Either way, it’s a very high price to pay for image control and the Democrats may be in trouble as they head into the mid-term elections.

Barack Obama And The Ghost Of Vietnam

 Vietnam War

photo: wiki commons

The speech will be delivered tonight but a key element has already been released.  30,000 more American troops will be sent to Afghanistan.   England’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced yesterday that he’s sending in another 500 troops from the UK.  500 is better than nothing.  At least they aren’t pulling out.  When you’re stuck in the mud, it’s nice to have friends who are willing to try and get you unstuck.

Beyond that, as important, and possibly more important than this new “surge” is the question of an exit plan.   Apparently President Obama is going to tell us that he has one.   We can only hope.   If he doesn’t,  it could very well signal the end to much of his credibility as the agent of change he promised to be.  Looked at his popularity ratings lately?  His approval numbers are crashing along racial lines.

If Americans are becoming increasingly conflicted about our 8-year long involvement in Afghanistan, those concerns are only heightened for those of us who went through that season in hell known as the Vietnam Conflict.   I’m referring particularly to the men and women who enlisted or were drafted and who then fought in Vietnam.  However, I refer also to those Americans who were simply alive at the time.   When it gets to the point that your troops and police are killing your own people on your own ground over someone else’s civil war, you’ve got a real problem.

The Vietnam problem, it turned out, was that we had been told we were fighting a war we could win if only we would increase the number of troops and then stick it out for just a little longer.  Sound familiar?   We really could win the “Vietnam Conflict” General Westmoreland kept saying,  as the daily body count kept pointing to more Vietnamese than Americans dying on the field of battle.   It turned out of course,  that the body count was bogus.  A lie.  The truth was that it was an open-ended war of attrition that was not winnable and our political leaders knew it.  And they lied to us about it.  Repeatedly.  Robert S. McNamara, the father of military “metrics” knew it.  He left the Johnson Administration because he could not persuade LBJ that the only reasonable course of action in Vietnam was to get out.

It was a war the Vietnamese had been fighting for generations.  First against the Chinese and then against the French.  Then it was the Japanese during World War II.   Then the French returned following WW II.  When they left, the United States moved in.  We were there because we were seized by anti-communist paranoia.  We also thought we could win even though no one else had.  We were there even though Ike Eisenhower had advised against getting involved in a land war in Southeast Asia.  We were there because we did not understand the culture and the history of the Vietnamese people.  They weren’t going to just submit to our overwhelming force, give up and go along with a foreign occupier’s grand plan for their country.    They never had, but we ignored Eisenhower and history.   We left ourselves open to be doomed to repeat the mistakes of others.

Fast forward to 2001, when the United States did what any country would have done after coming under attack.  We sought justice.  However, as with Vietnam, we again went to war with no viable exit strategy.  Again, we were going into a country with a long history of refusing to knuckle under to foreign invaders.  The British, sent their troops there in 1838, but were driven out of Kabul by an onslaught of civilian attacks.  The entire country has been in an almost constant state of civil war since the 1970’s, interrupted only by occasional foreign invasions.  The Soviet Union sent its troops in 1979, but were driven out by the Taliban with our support.  Some referred to the incursion as “the Soviet Union’s Vietnam.”  And then of course, we went in, following the attacks of 2001.

This time though, and subsequently in Iraq, we were going to war without the draft, making it a relatively painless process for those who were in no way connected to the military.  The Neocons, thoughtless about so much of what they were doing, did have that part of it figured out.   Scare the populace half to death and then tell them you have a plan to go out and get the bad guys without drafting their sons and daughters.  It would have been far more difficult to convince the nation that an invasion of Iraq was a good idea if getting Saddam meant subjecting the country’s kids to the draft.  But that wasn’t going to happen  Not this time.

Some of those who had been in Vietnam, those who had served there,  advised against going to war in Afghanistan, without first determining what we wanted to accomplish, how long it would take to get the job done and then how we would get our people the hell out of there.   The calls for a defined exit strategy continue.  Clearly, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and company weren’t thinking along those lines.   There’s a body of evidence indicating that for Cheney,Rumsfeld and their fellow “Neocons,”  Afghanistan was just a stepping stone on the way to a broader war with Iraq.

They apparently had little trouble convincing George W. that their grand vision would work.   All of it, as we now know, led to the President having grandiose dreams of democratizing the whole of the Middle East.  At least, that’s what he said.  The “end of days” was coming anyway, so what did it matter?  Things can get pretty dicey when you have a President with a reputation for being something less than intellectually powerful,  apparently mixing his religious beliefs with someone else’s war strategy.

“George W. Bush is among the most openly religious presidents in U.S. history. A daily Bible reader, he often talks about how Jesus changed his heart. He has spoken, publicly and privately, of hearing God’s call to run for the presidency and of praying for God’s help since he came into office.” –The Washington Post

And so we went into Afghanistan and then Iraq, with no viable exit plan for either one.  The whole mess was eventually  dumped on Barack Obama,  after winning an election based in part on his promise to end the war and bring our people home.

And now we wait for the speech.  We wait for President Obama’s plan for untangling the United States from the mess the Neocons handed the American people.

He had better have an exit strategy that’s more than just “something we might be able to do…eventually….if things go a certain way for a given amount of time…after we send in another 30,000 troops….after the Afghans are able to secure their country for themselves….”   If that’s all he’s got, then it will be nothing more than a continuation of something that already failed to work in Vietnam.

Comcast Dealing For Majority Ownership in NBC/Universal

Meg James in the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Comcast is going after the majority ownership of NBC/Universal.

“Under the terms of the planned merger deal, Comcast would contribute its entertainment cable channels, including E and Style; nine regional sports networks; and about $6 billion in exchange for 51% ownership of the new venture.

GE would contribute NBC Universal and receive a 49% stake in the joint entity. It would also get about $9 billion, which the new venture would provide by taking on debt.” -Los Angeles Times

The Times reports that the deal with Comcast should close once NBC cuts a deal to buy out its current partner, Vivendi.