Afghanistan: Back Door to War on Iran (by Dr. Stephen Sniegoski)

Afghanistan: Back Door to War on Iran

Monday, September 7, 2009 5:40 AM
From: “Stephen Sniegoski”

The Obama administration has made Afghanistan the focus of its foreign
policy, significantly escalating the war effort there. (Though there is
division within the administration regarding the degree of escalation
sought. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/04/us/politics/04military.html)
Obama’s motive for expanding the war in Afghanistan seems to be a desire to
appear strong in foreign policy combined with the idea that war in
Afghanistan is much safer than a war on Iran-the primary target of Israel
and its Lobby.

Since campaigning for the presidency, Obama has felt a political need to
demonstrate that his professed opposition to the war in Iraq did not mean
that he was an “isolationist” or afraid of using American military power in
the world. To illustrate this position he has been consistently supportive
of an effective war in Afghanistan.

Stephen G. Rademacker writes in the “Washington Post” of Sept. 5: “As a
candidate for president, Barack Obama correctly sensed that to win the
Democratic nomination he needed to portray himself as more opposed to the
Iraq war than any of his opponents, but that to win the general election he
needed to be able to reassure the American people of his determination to
defeat terrorism.

“Afghanistan offered a convenient solution: Obama held it up as the ‘good’
war that he was determined to win, unlike the ‘bad’ war in Iraq that he
would end. He promised a military surge in Afghanistan, and he dared John
McCain and the outgoing administration to get to his right on the issue.

“On a political level this strategy worked brilliantly, enabling Obama to
deflect any suspicion that he was a McGovernite ready to surrender to
Islamic extremism. But now that he is president, events are testing his
professed commitment to victory in Afghanistan.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/04/AR2009090403345.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Other factors also currently shape Obama’s Afghanistan policy. The security
situation has deteriorated and the US military does not want to lose a war.
General Stanley McChrystal, Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, is
preparing to tell President Barack Obama that thousands of more troops are
needed to defeat the insurgents. Oil interests and some American
geostrategists have been interested in Afghanistan (See “The Transparent
Cabal,” pp. 130-36, 148-50), but it appears that at the present time the
American traditional foreign policy establishment is wary of a major
increase in American troops and an escalating war there.

For example, Zbigniew Brzezinski (author of “The Grand Chessboard” ( 1997)
which claims a critical need for American power in Eurasia) has been
opposed to an American escalation of the war in Afghanistan for some time,
though he is also not supportive of a significant troop withdrawal.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/07/25/brzezinski-warns-against_n_114999.html

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,3715692,00.html

A similar view is expressed by former Secretary of State Lawrence
Eagleburger; former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger and former
National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft.

http://www.51voa.com/voa_standard_english/VOA_Standard_English_27133.html

In short, the general position of the foreign policy establishment is
against a major increase of American troops in Afghanistan but also opposed
to a withdrawal. The foreign policy establishment believes that American
imperial interests are involved in Afghanistan but that overall American
global interests are not helped by a larger war. It seeks international
support to stabilize Afghanistan-including Iranian involvement.

But this establishment balancing act is very difficult and some diplomatic
options would be nearly impossible in the current political atmosphere in
the US–such as allowing for Iranian participation. Obama thus faces a
serious problem since the military commanders on the scene are saying that
if the US does not escalate the war it will be lost.

The major domestic supporters of an accelerated war in Afghanistan are the
neoconservatives. As Ben Smith writes in a recent piece in “Politico”
(Sept. 4, 2009), “Prominent conservative foreign policy thinkers and
activists who backed the Iraq war are circulating a letter to President
Obama supporting his engagement in Afghanistan against criticism from left
and right, and urging him to stay the course.”

http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0909/Conservatives_back_Obama_on_Afghanistan.html?showall

Of course, these “conservatives” actually are neoconservatives. Signatories
of the pro-war letter include such prominent neocons as: McCain’s major
foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann, “Commentary” editor John
Podhoretz, Gary Schmitt, Iraq surge architect Fred Kagan, Robert Kagan, Max
Boot, “Weekly Standard” editor Bill Kristol, former Coalition Provisional
Authority spokesman Dan Senor, Eliot A. Cohen (who coined the term “World
War IV”), Eric Edelman, John Hannah, and Joshua Muravchik. These neocons
have been intimately involved in the neocon Middle East war agenda and are
discussed in my “The Transparent Cabal.”

Website: http://home.comcast.net/~transparentcabal/

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Transparent-Cabal-Neoconservative-National-Interest/dp
/1932528172/ref=pd

In fact, neoocons have been supporting Obama on Afghanistan for some time.
Neocon Max Boot wrote in late March in a “Commentary” blog: “The new
Afghanistan policy that President Obama unveiled at the White House today
was pretty much all that supporters of the war effort could have asked for,
and probably pretty similar to what President McCain would have decided on.”

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/boot/60232

And Barron YoungSmith observed in a “New Republic” blog at the beginning of
April:

“Kristol and Robert Kagan–the same duo who founded the Iraq War-boosting
Project For the New American Century–decided to create FPI [Foreign Policy
Initiative] in order to beat back what they perceive to be creeping
isolationism and domestic fecklessness (defined by them as military budget
cuts and troop drawdowns) in the face of existential threats. Ordinarily,
one would expect a group like this to oppose President Obama, but since he
unveiled his strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan last week, they have
become some of his biggest cheerleaders.”

http://www.tnr.com/blog/the-plank/obama-kristol-foreign-policy-alliance

Jacob Heilbrunn titled an article on this neocon support for Obama’s
interventionist foreign policy, “The New Neocon Alliance with Obama.” (May
1, 2009)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jacob-heilbrunn/the-new-neocon-alliance-w_b_181411.html

One can ask why neocons have been so enthusiastic about Obama’s focus on
Afghanistan since Afghanistan has not been one of their primary concerns.
After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the neocons pushed for an
immediate attack on Iraq rather than Afghanistan. Temporarily they lost
this fight, but they were soon able to divert the US war from Afghanistan to
Iraq. ( “The Transparent Cabal,” pp. 141-150)

Since the occupation of Iraq, the neocons have targeted Iran for attack.
Iran is seen as Israel’s major enemy-even, allegedly, a threat to Israel’s
very existence. So why do the neocons identify so strongly with Obama’s
Afghanistan policy? Won’t that divert attention from the issue of Iran? I
think there are fundamentally two reasons-one defensive and the other
offensive-that explain the neocons support for an expanded war in
Afghanistan, which they believe will facilitate their broader Middle East
war agenda.

If the US were to abandon a military solution in Afghanistan, it probably
would, as an alternative, seek to bring about stability in that beleaguered
country through diplomacy. To be effective, this would involve broadening
Iran’s role in Afghanistan. If Iran were working to bring about stability
in Afghanistan, it would be virtually impossible for the US to treat it as
an enemy. American policy toward Iran thus would be decoupled from that of
Israel. Moreover, abandonment of the war in Afghanistan could likely begin
a chain reaction that would end American involvement in the entire Middle
East/Central Asian region. This would mean that the US would abandon any
effort to destroy Israel’s enemies. The neocons’ entire Middle East war
agenda would be completely undermined.

In an offensive manner, an accelerated war in Afghanistan could provide a
back door to initiating war with Iran. As the American military became
bogged down in a no-win war in Afghanistan, Iran could provide a convenient
scapegoat. One can envision the neocons trumpeting allegations that
American problems in Afghanistan are caused by covert Iranian support for
the Taliban insurgents, and that the only way to an American victory in
Afghanistan would be by eliminating the Taliban’s Iranian sponsors. Various
intelligence reports citing evidence of Iranian weapons and advisors in
Afghanistan would be highlighted in the media. The US government has, in
fact, already made these claims. General Petraeus, for example, has
publicly claimed that Iran was supporting the Taliban. As it becomes more
apparent that the American military is unable to pacify Afghanistan, US
military commanders will have a vested interest in blaming their failure on
the alleged involvement of the Iranians.

More than just providing a rationale for an attack on Iran, Afghanistan
also can provide the physical opportunity to start a war. In pursuit of
insurgents, American troops could enter Iranian border regions leading to
incidents that could usher in all-out war. In short, it is quite
conceivable to see the United States going to war with Iran by way of
Afghanistan. This would provide a back-door to war with Iran without any
real consideration of the ramifications of such a war.

In short, the United States could be involved in a war with Iran without
Obama actually intending to bring about such a conflagration. It would
simply develop as a result of the expanded war in Afghanistan.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/04/AR2009090403345.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Washington Post

Barack Obama As Charlie Wilson?

By Stephen G. Rademaker
Saturday, September 5, 2009

Twice in 25 years, Afghanistan has been cast in American politics as the
“good” war, worthy of American support, and contrasted with a “bad” war that
allegedly was not. The first time, this worked out reasonably well for
America and its Afghan allies. It is unclear whether that will be true this
time around.

Twenty-five years ago, Afghanistan was the setting for “Charlie Wilson’s
War,” chronicled in George Crile’s book and the movie of the same name. At
the heart of that story is a seeming paradox: A Democratic congressman from
Texas leads Speaker Tip O’Neill’s Congress to stake out a position well to
the right of Ronald Reagan on whether America should try to defeat the Red
Army in Afghanistan. Urged on by Wilson for the better part of a decade,
Congress brushes aside the qualms of the Reagan administration and regularly
increases U.S. support for the Afghan mujaheddin, leading ultimately to the
Red Army’s defeat, the collapse of Soviet communism and victory in the Cold
War.

This is the same Ronald Reagan whose policy of arming anti-communist rebels
came to be known as the “Reagan doctrine,” who famously labeled the Soviet
Union the “evil empire”? The same Tip O’Neill who ferociously opposed
Reagan’s military buildup and his support for the anti-communist contras in
Nicaragua? How could this be?

The answer is tucked away in Crile’s book. He quotes Wilson as saying that
to persuade members of Congress to vote with him on Afghanistan, Wilson told
“the liberals it would prove that they were against communism even if they
didn’t support the contras.” Wilson, of course, was passionately committed
to the mujaheddin and cannot be faulted for using the foil of a “bad” war to
advance the cause he believed in.

To O’Neill and his lieutenants in the congressional leadership, however, the
question of Afghanistan was never more than an afterthought to their desire
to defeat Reagan’s policies in Central America. Crile quotes a defensive
Tony Coelho, then House Democratic whip, explaining that the “only reason
the political institutional atmosphere would permit something like this to
develop was because of the cover of Nicaragua. . . . No one paid any
attention to it, and they would have had it not been for Nicaragua.”

There was nothing paradoxical, therefore, about Charlie Wilson’s success. He
didn’t succeed despite the congressional leadership’s hostility toward the
contras but, rather, because of it. And even after the contras receded as a
political issue in Congress, Wilson persisted and saw his cause to victory.

For the past two years, Afghanistan has been at the center of a remarkably
similar story. As a candidate for president, Barack Obama correctly sensed
that to win the Democratic nomination he needed to portray himself as more
opposed to the Iraq war than any of his opponents, but that to win the
general election he needed to be able to reassure the American people of his
determination to defeat terrorism.

Afghanistan offered a convenient solution: Obama held it up as the “good”
war that he was determined to win, unlike the “bad” war in Iraq that he
would end. He promised a military surge in Afghanistan, and he dared John
McCain and the outgoing administration to get to his right on the issue.

On a political level this strategy worked brilliantly, enabling Obama to
deflect any suspicion that he was a McGovernite ready to surrender to
Islamic extremism. But now that he is president, events are testing his
professed commitment to victory in Afghanistan.

By all accounts the war is going badly. August was the deadliest month ever
for Americans in Afghanistan. Obama has already ordered 21,000 additional
troops to Afghanistan, and our military commanders are calling for even
more. A Washington Post-ABC News poll last month found that a majority of
Americans no longer support the war, and the president’s former supporters
in Code Pink and similar antiwar organizations have declared that they will
turn their sights on him if he doesn’t wind down U.S. involvement.

Will President Obama prove to be the Charlie Wilson of this story, confident
of what he has been saying all along about Afghanistan and committed to
victory over the Taliban? Or will he turn out to be the Tip O’Neill, willing
to exploit Afghanistan to help end the “bad” war he really cares about, but
ultimately indifferent to what happens in Afghanistan? As the U.S.
withdrawal from Iraq proceeds and the challenges in Afghanistan mount, it
won’t be long till we learn the answer.

The writer, senior counsel of BGR Government Affairs LLC, was an assistant
secretary of state from 2002 to 2006, with responsibility for arms control,
nonproliferation and international security.

______________________________________________________________________

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/04/us/politics/04military.html

New York Times September 3, 2009

Advisers to Obama Divided on Size of Afghan Force

By PETER BAKER and ELISABETH BUMILLER

WASHINGTON – The military’s anticipated request for more troops to combat
the insurgency in Afghanistan has divided senior advisers to President Obama
as they try to determine the proper size and mission of the American effort
there, officials said Thursday.

Even before the top commander in Afghanistan submits his proposal for
additional forces, administration officials have begun what one called a
“healthy debate” about what the priorities should be and whether more
American soldiers and Marines would help achieve them.

Leading those with doubts is Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has
expressed deep reservations about an expanded presence in Afghanistan on the
grounds that it may distract from what he considers the more urgent goal of
stabilizing Pakistan, officials said. Among those on the other side are
Richard C. Holbrooke, the special representative to the region, who shares
the concern about Pakistan but sees more troops as vital to protecting
Afghan civilians and undermining the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been vocal in favor of more
troops, and while some officials said she had not shown her hand during the
current deliberations, they expected her to be an advocate for a more robust
force.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has voiced concern that putting so many
troops in Afghanistan would make the United States look like an occupier,
but during a news conference on Thursday he sounded more supportive of the
prospect.

“There is a unanimity of opinion about what our objective is, and the
objective is to disable and destroy Al Qaeda and remove that threat to our
national security,” said David Axelrod, the president’s senior adviser.
“Obviously, there are a variety of opinions about how best to achieve that
objective, and it’s valuable and important to hear those views.”

The emerging debate follows the delivery Monday of a new strategic
assessment by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who took over all American and
NATO forces in Afghanistan in June. Mr. Gates has now forwarded the
general’s report of about 25 pages to Mr. Obama.

Although General McChrystal included no specific force proposals in his
review, officials expect him to send a separate request in the coming weeks.
Military strategists, including one who has advised General McChrystal, said
he might offer three options. The smallest proposed reinforcement, from
10,000 to 15,000 troops, would be described as the high-risk option. A
medium-risk option would involve sending about 25,000 more troops, and a
low-risk option would call for sending about 45,000 troops.

Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, cautioned that talk about troop
levels was speculation. “Anyone who tells you that they know how many troops
the commander is going to ask for and the options he may or may not present
doesn’t know what he’s talking about, because that has not been determined
yet,” Mr. Morrell said. He said that Mr. Gates had not made up his mind
about what he would recommend to the president.

Mr. Gates could be the key adviser on this decision, and some military
analysts predicted that he might recommend what Pentagon officials call the
“Goldilocks option” – the medium-risk one in the middle. Because he was
first appointed by President George W. Bush, Mr. Gates could provide
political cover for Mr. Obama should the president reject the biggest
possible buildup.

Mr. Gates has long been worried that a large number of American forces would
alienate the Afghan population. But at a news conference with Adm. Mike
Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mr. Gates said Thursday
that his concerns about the American “footprint” had been mitigated by
General McChrystal, who has indicated that the size of the force is less
important than what it does.

“Where foreign forces have had a large footprint and failed, in no small
part it has been because the Afghans concluded they were there for their own
imperial interests and not there for the interests of the Afghan people,”
Mr. Gates said. But he said that General McChrystal’s emphasis on reducing
civilian casualties and interacting more with Afghans “has given us a
greater margin of error in that respect.”

Mr. Obama has already ordered 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan this
year for a total American force of 68,000, on top of 40,000 NATO troops.
Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Holbrooke pushed for those reinforcements, while Mr.
Biden resisted. “It is true that Hillary was very forceful; I had some
disagreement in degree with her,” Mr. Biden later told USA Today. “The
president ended up landing on a spot that was where she was.”

Mr. Biden has argued that a sizable increase in resources for Afghanistan
invariably means less for Pakistan, a concern born out of his frustration as
a senator during the Bush administration pushing for more aid to Islamabad.
In some ways, he has told colleagues, Pakistan is more important than
Afghanistan because extremism is on the rise there, Al Qaeda has operating
room and the government of Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation, remains
vulnerable.

Other American officials said they worried that General McChrystal simply
did not have enough forces to turn around Afghanistan. Mr. Holbrooke just
returned from Afghanistan, where he heard from military officers who said
they needed more help to execute General McChrystal’s strategy of protecting
the population from the Taliban, rather than just hunting militants.

As the president’s senior uniformed adviser, Admiral Mullen has said he
worries about the impact of a buildup on the nation’s already stretched
armed forces. In July, Mr. Gates announced a temporary increase of 22,000
troops in the size of the Army.

Mediating the debate will be Gen. James L. Jones, the national security
adviser. “My job is to make sure the process works the way the president
wants and everybody is at the table,” he said. “I try to be open-minded and
not prejudice anything.”

He said he would ensure that dissidents got to voice their views to Mr.
Obama. “He encourages vigorous debate,” General Jones said. “The thing not
to do in a meeting with the president is to sit on your hands and hope you
don’t get called on, because that’s a guarantee that you’re going to get
called on.”

________________________________________________________________

http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0909/Conservatives_back_Obama_on_Afghanistan.html?showall

Politico
Ben Smith,
September 4, 2009

Conservatives back Obama on Afghanistan

Prominent conservative foreign policy thinkers and activists who backed the
Iraq war are circulating a letter to President Obama supporting his
engagement in Afghanistan against criticism from left and right, and urging
him to stay the course.

The letter responds in part to a widely-circulated column by conservative
columnist George Will, headed “Time to Get Out of Afghanistan.” The letter
is a mark of the longstanding rift in conservative foreign policy circles on
the use of American power abroad, and it echoes divisions on the right over
the Iraq war.

It also backs those of Obama’s aides and military officials who support
increasing American troop numbers in Afghanistan.

The letter quotes President Obama at length and approvingly.

“We congratulate you on the leadership you demonstrated earlier this year
when you decided to deploy approximately 21,000 additional troops and
several thousand civilian experts as a part of a serious counterinsurgency
campaign,” write the signatories to the letter, whose organizers include the
Foreign Policy Initiative’s Jamie Fly, Iraq surge architect Fred Kagan,
authors Robert Kagan and Max Boot, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, and
former Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor.

“There is no middle course,” write the letter’s authors, who are “troubled
by calls for a drawdown” in troops in Afghanistan.

They conclude:

Mr. President, you have put in place the military leadership and sent
the initial resources required to begin bringing this war to a successful
conclusion. The military leadership has devised a strategy that will reverse
the errors of previous years, free Afghans from the chains of tyranny, and
keep America safe. We call on you to fully resource this effort, do
everything possible to minimize the risk of failure, and to devote the
necessary time to explain, soberly and comprehensively, to the American
people the stakes in Afghanistan, the route to success, and the cost of
defeat.

With the continued bravery of our troops, and your continued full
support for them and their command team, America and our allies can and will
prevail in Afghanistan.

The letter is still being circulated, but other early signers include former
Iraq ambassador Ryan Crocker, Republican foreign policy hands Steve Biegun
and Randy Scheunemann, and Cliff May, John Podhoretz, and Gary Schmitt.

The letter and a preliminary list of signatories are after the jump.

Continue reading Conservatives back Obama on Afghanistan

The Honorable Barack Obama

President of the United States

The White House

Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President:

The situation in Afghanistan is grave and deteriorating. This is in part the
legacy of an under resourced war effort that has cost us and the Afghans
dearly. The Taliban has retaken important parts of the country, while a
flawed U.S. strategy has led American forces into secondary efforts far away
from critical areas. However, we remain convinced that the fight against the
Taliban is winnable, and it is in the vital national security interest of
the United States to win it.

You’ve called Afghanistan an “international security challenge of the
highest order,” and stated that “the safety of people around the world is at
stake.” Last month you told a convention of veterans, “Those who attacked
America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban
insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would
plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This
is fundamental to the defense of our people.”

We fully agree with those sentiments. We congratulate you on the leadership
you demonstrated earlier this year when you decided to deploy approximately
21,000 additional troops and several thousand civilian experts as a part of
a serious counterinsurgency campaign. Your appointments of General Stanley
McChrystal as top commander and David Rodriguez as second in command in
Afghanistan exemplified the seriousness of purpose you spoke about during
the campaign. We are heartened to see that the much needed overhaul of our
military operations has begun.

Since the announcement of your administration’s new strategy, we have been
troubled by calls for a drawdown of American forces in Afghanistan and a
growing sense of defeatism about the war. With General McChrystal expected
to request additional troops later this month, we urge you to continue on
the path you have taken thus far and give our commanders on the ground the
forces they need to implement a successful counterinsurgency strategy. There
is no middle course. Incrementally committing fewer troops than required
would be a grave mistake and may well lead to American defeat. We will not
support half-measures that repeat the errors of the past.

This is, as you have said, a war that we cannot afford to lose. Failure to
defeat the Taliban would likely lead to a return of al Qaeda to Afghanistan
and could result in terrorist attacks on the United States or our allies. An
abandonment of Afghanistan would further destabilize the region, and put
neighboring Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal at risk. All our efforts to
support Islamabad’s fight against the Taliban in Pakistan’s tribal regions
will founder if we do not match those achievements on the other side of that
country’s porous northwestern border.

As you observed during the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, “You don’t
muddle through the central front on terror and you don’t muddle through
going after bin Laden. You don’t muddle through stamping out the Taliban.”
We completely agree. Having “muddled through” in Afghanistan for years, this
is no longer a politically, strategically, or morally sustainable approach.

Mr. President, you have put in place the military leadership and sent the
initial resources required to begin bringing this war to a successful
conclusion. The military leadership has devised a strategy that will reverse
the errors of previous years, free Afghans from the chains of tyranny, and
keep America safe. We call on you to fully resource this effort, do
everything possible to minimize the risk of failure, and to devote the
necessary time to explain, soberly and comprehensively, to the American
people the stakes in Afghanistan, the route to success, and the cost of
defeat.

With the continued bravery of our troops, and your continued full support
for them and their command team, America and our allies can and will prevail
in Afghanistan.

Sincerely,

[a subset of the early signatories]

Steve Biegun, Max Boot, Eliot A. Cohen, Ryan C. Crocker, Eric Edelman, Jamie
M. Fly, Abe Greenwald, John Hannah, Frederick W. Kagan, Robert Kagan,William
Kristol, Tod Lindberg, Clifford May, Joshua Muravchik, Keith Pavlischek,
John Podhoretz, Randy Scheunemann, Gary Schmitt, Dan Senor, Marc Thiessen,
Peter Wehner, Kenneth Weinstein

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/boot/60232
Contentions Commentary
A New Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan

Max Boot – 03.27.2009 – 12:11 PM

The new Afghanistan policy that President Obama unveiled at the White House
today was pretty much all that supporters of the war effort could have asked
for, and probably pretty similar to what President McCain would have decided
on.

The major difference between what McCain probably would have said and what
Obama did say is that this president never used the word “surge” and – more
importantly – never cited the success of the surge in Iraq as evidence that
we can succeed in Afghanistan where the situation is far less perilous. He
only mentioned Iraq as an unnecessary drain on resources, saying that “for
six years, Afghanistan has been denied the resources that it demands because
of the war in Iraq.”

That’s only partially true. The reality is that the U.S. has the theoretical
capacity to fight in both Iraq and Afghanistan but President Bush made a
huge mistake by not enlarging our armed forces after 9/11, thereby forcing
us to shortchange the war in Afghanistan to win the one in Iraq. It would
have been better if we did not have to make such compromises, but given the
unnecessary resource constraints which Bush and Rumsfeld imposed on the
armed forces – and which Obama is not lifting – there was really no other
choice.

It would be nice if Obama had speaken a bit more positively about the
outcome in Iraq now that that it has become, like Afghanistan, “his” war.
But that’s a minor quibble about rhetoric. The substance of policy is more
important, and on that ground Obama is solid.

The big news – though it had been apparent for some time – is that Obama is
eschewing those who argue for a major downsizing of our efforts to focus on
a narrow counter-terrorism strategy of simply picking off individual bad
guys. Instead, Obama is embracing a more wide-ranging counterinsurgency
strategy focused on enhancing “the military, governance, and economic
capacity of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

__________________________________________________________________________

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jacob-heilbrunn/the-new-neocon-alliance-w_b_181411.html

Huffington Post

Jacob Heilbrunn
May 1, 2009

The New Neocon Alliance with Obama

This morning leading neoconservatives such as William Kristol and Robert
Kagan held a meeting at the Mayflower Hotel — in support of President
Obama’s Afghanistan policy. Kristol and Kagan, as Foreign Policy’s Laura
Rozen has reported, have formed a successor organization to the Project for
the New American Century, which came into disrepute for its advocacy of the
Iraq War. The new one is called the Foreign Policy Initiative. Its
contention is that America remains, in the words of Madeleine Albright, the
“indispensable nation”and, furthermore, that neocons can play a valuable
role in coming years in ensuring that it remains one.

At the Mayflower, the neocon pilgrims huddled around John McCain and other
conservative stalwarts who spoke at the conference. But California
congressman Jane Harman was also a speaker. It’s clear that that
neoconservatives are staking out a new course and want to retain an
influential voice in foreign policy. Their latest strategy is to move closer
to Obama. Kagan has already expressed his admiration for what he sees as
Obama’s determination to ensure that America remains No. 1 around the globe.

The idea that the intellectual champions of the Iraq War are now trying to
reach an alliance with Obama is certainly a tribute to neocon audacity. But
it’s also an inevitable development. The neocons have always been
interventionists first, then conservatives. In fact, many traditional
conservatives argue that there isn’t much that’s conservative about
neoconservatism. In any case, the neocons aren’t going away.

For now, the founding of the Foreign Policy Initiative suggests that there
will be a fierce battle for the soul of the Obama administration between
liberal hawks and neocons, on the one side, and between anti-interventionist
progressives, on the other, over policy towards Afghanistan, Russia, China,
and Iran.

_____________________________________________________________________

http://www.tnr.com/blog/the-plank/obama-kristol-foreign-policy-alliance

The New Republic
The Plank (TNR Blog)

An Obama-Kristol Foreign Policy Alliance?

Barron YoungSmith

April 2, 2009

Bill Kristol has spent much of the past decade warning that Democrats are
dispositionally incapable of protecting the United States. But earlier this
week, he seemed pleased to discover that President Obama and the Democratic
Congress are not actually planning to “surrender” to al Qaeda in
Afghanistan. “I’m thankful for the seriousness of all our elected
representatives,” he told a bipartisan assembly of elected officials and
think-tank types yesterday, at the kickoff event for his new organization,
the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI).

Kristol and Robert Kagan–the same duo who founded the Iraq War-boosting
Project For the New American Century–decided to create FPI in order to beat
back what they perceive to be creeping isolationism and domestic
fecklessness (defined by them as military budget cuts and troop drawdowns)
in the face of existential threats. Ordinarily, one would expect a group
like this to oppose President Obama, but since he unveiled his strategy for
Afghanistan and Pakistan last week, they have become some of his biggest
cheerleaders.

“What’s critical about this new plan is that it’s not a ‘minimalist’
approach,” Kagan said, sitting on a panel with John Nagl and Jackson Diehl.
(Other speakers included Kristol, Fred Kagan, Lt. Gen. David Barno, Dan
Senor, Jane Harman, John McHugh, and–sounding more partisan than the other
panelists–John McCain.) Kagan added that Obama’s definition of
success–which involves preventing al Qaeda from ever returning to
Afghanistan–means the U.S. is committed to building a responsive Afghan
state. “Obama’s is a gutsy and correct decision,” Kagan said,

While a few of the speakers complained that Obama wasn’t expanding the
Afghan national army rapidly enough, and that he wasn’t speaking explicitly
about the effort required to create a functional Afghan government, most
thought Obama’s plan near-perfect. Now, FPI members say, they believe the
danger comes as much from Republicans who want to slam the president for
nation-building as it does from anti-war Democrats. “I want to echo that
this is a courageous and responsible policy,” said former Bush adviser
Ashley Tellis.

Where did this newfound bipartisanship come from? According to Senor, an FPI
co-founder, the decision dates back to an unpleasant informal discussion
with the House Republican leadership. The three FPI founders were promoting
an alternative stimulus bill, based on military spending. “One member told
me, ‘We’re opposing Obama on the stimulus and we don’t want to distinguish
between good spending and bad spending–we want to start making the case
that it’s all bad.’ To say something like that was just incredibly
irresponsible.” That and other conversations with Republicans who plan to
paint Afghanistan as “Obama’s war” convinced the trio that “there’s a huge,
glaring leadership vacuum on the right.” They think populist economic rage
has the potential to affect foreign policy. Senor explained: “Our objective
right now is to give President Obama cover in the eyes of those who would
otherwise be skeptical on the right.”

Which means that neocons have uprooted themselves from their post-Iraq
position and planted themselves squarely in the putative political center.
Or at least they’ve gone to lengths to make it seem that way. The FPI has
all the identifiable trappings of Establishment foreign policy centrism:
Gone is the stylized talk about World Domination and a New American Century;
in its place is a nondescript name and a blue globe emblem that makes the
organization appear like the younger cousin of the UN or CFR.

Needless to say, the transformation isn’t totally convincing. Although
Obama’s and Kristol’s interests on Afghanistan do seem to align–and they
may continue to–the organization’s agenda diverges on a whole host of
issues including missile defense, democratization, Russia, and “rogue
regimes” like Iran.

In order for the political center to coalesce around Obama’s plan, the
president will have to convince the American public that his effort is
realistic and legitimate. It’s still an open question whether FPI’s
cheerleading helps or hurts in that regard.

–Barron Young Smith

_______________________________________________

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postpartisan/2009/09/no_will_no_way.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

No Will, No Way

Bill Kristol Sept. 1, 2009

George Will is dismayed by American casualties in Afghanistan, unhappy about
the length of our effort there, dismissive of the contributions of our NATO
allies, contemptuous of the Afghan central government, and struck by the
country’s backwardness.

I share many of these sentiments. But they are sentiments. It would be
better to base a major change in our national security strategy on
arguments–especially if you’re advocating a change from a policy that’s
been supported for eight years by a bipartisan consensus, and that involves
the area that was the staging ground for Sept. 11.

Will does seem to allow that we have a core national interest in
Afghanistan–”to prevent re-establishment of al-Qaeda bases” there. He then
makes a recommendation that would presumably achieve that goal–that “forces
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, air strikes and small, potent special forces units,
concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan.”

But would this succeed in preventing the re-establishment of terror bases?
This “comprehensively revised policy” doesn’t sound much more engaged than
U.S. Afghan policy in the 1990s. Will would have to explain why it would
work better this time–or why the price of failure wouldn’t be higher than
the price of continuing to prosecute the war with a revised counterinsugency
strategy of the sort Gen. Stanley McChrystal has suggested.

Well, perhaps a counter-insurgency strategy simply can’t work. Writes Will:
“Counterinsurgency theory concerning the time and the ratio of forces
required to protect the population indicates that, nationwide, Afghanistan
would need hundreds of thousands of coalition troops, perhaps for a decade
or more. That is inconceivable.”

But as the military historian Fred Kagan explains, counter-insurgency theory
and experience suggest that if the Afghan National Army is expanded, as Gen.
McChrystal proposes to do, and if there is a surge of several brigades of
American forces “to bridge the gap between current Afghan capacity and their
future capacity, while simultaneously reducing the insurgency’s
capabilities,” then we would have roughly the number of forces necessary to
carry out the strategy.

Will acknowledges in passing what seems to be another important national
interest–Pakistan, “a nation that actually matters.” But Will never tries
to show–counterintuitively–that retreat from Afghanistan would increase
rather than decrease the chances of an acceptable outcome in Pakistan. And
this is to say nothing of the broader consequences of defeat in the Afghan
theater in the war against the jihadists. If the United States of America is
driven out of Afghanistan by the Taliban, the group that hosted the Sept. 11
attackers–what then?

Will closes with an appeal to Charles de Gaulle: “Genius, said de Gaulle,
recalling Bismarck’s decision to halt German forces short of Paris in 1870,
sometimes consists of knowing when to stop. Genius is not required to
recognize that in Afghanistan, when means now, before more American
valor…is squandered.”

But let’s be honest. Will is not calling on the United
States to accept a moderate degree of success in Afghanistan, and simply to
stop short of some overly ambitious goal. Will is urging retreat, and
accepting defeat.

As Will says, we have sent America’s finest to fight in Afghanistan. It is
true that we have under-resourced and poorly strategized that fight. The
right way to keep faith with our soldiers and Marines is for our national
leaders now to support a strategy, and to provide the necessary resources,
for victory.

——————————————————————————————

Stephen Sniegoski’s lecture on his book, “The Transparent Cabal”

http://america-hijacked.com/2009/08/16/stephen-sniegoskis-lecture-on-his-book-the-transparent-cabal/

“Operation in Afghanistan is rooted in Israel” (Lt.Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski interview about war with Iran):

http://america-hijacked.com/2009/07/23/operation-in-afghanistan-is-rooted-in-israel/

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