Liberty & Power: Group Blog
David T. Beito
"I disagree with the Obama administration on that,” the former Alaska governor told interviewer Barbara Walters. “I believe that the Jewish settlements should be allowed to be expanded upon because the population of Israel is going to grow. More and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead. And I don’t think that the Obama administration has any right to tell Israel that the Jewish settlements cannot expand.”
David T. Beito
David T. Beito
David T. Beito
Obama's speech writers were apparently unable to find a more meaningful quotation from Eisenhower than the unremarkable: “Each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs." Of course, had they googled for a few minutes they would have found the above. Then again, given the nature of Obama's speech, they probably made the right choice.
Hardly anybody has real enthusiasm for the plan. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are both lukewarm, at most; some are stridently opposed. The military bigwigs apparently support it, but, again, it seems that the president can appease this powerful interest group just as readily in alternative, less politically risky ways.
We might go out on a limb and assume that the president is telling the truth about his reasons for sending the additional troops: he believes, as he declares in his speech today, that “we must deny al-Qaida a safe haven. We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum. … And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government.” Why? Because “”it is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted.” If these statements express the president’s actual thoughts, then he is much less astute than he is usually given credit for. These reasons are so weak as to seem almost far-fetched.
Al-Qaida, if such an organization may actually be said to exist as anything more than a sprawling, loosely articulated collection of hyper-zealous, anti-American Muslims, does not need Afghanistan to plan and mount attacks against the United States and U.S. allies. Such terrorists may spring, as they have sprung, from many places in Asia, Africa, and Europe. They have emerged in Indonesia, Turkey, Spain, and Germany, just as they have emerged in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern venues. Even if U.S. forces held Afghanistan in an iron grip – an unachievable condition — the security of Americans in America would not thereby be appreciably enhanced. In short, subduing U.S. opponents in Afghanistan is a low-yield investment, at best.
Worse, it is almost certainly a losing investment. Opposition to the U.S. forces and their Afghan puppets arises for the most part from the deeply entrenched tribal character of the Afghan people and their implacable desire to rid the country of any and all foreign occupiers. One need not have studied the history of the place for a lifetime to have learned this lesson.
To make his Big Push idea even more impenetrable, the president promises that eighteen months after the buildup is complete, troops will begin to be withdrawn. Does anyone really imagine that the Taliban and other anti-American groups in Afghanistan are too stupid to sit tight and wait for the foreign devils to depart? If these groups are anything, they are in the fight for the long haul. They can afford to be patient.
As they have in other occupied countries, U.S. authorities declare that they will accomplish their mission by building up “legitimate” government troops and police, by training and equipping them until they are strong enough to whip the insurgents. This plan is no more promising in Afghanistan than it was in Vietnam – indeed, I would venture that it makes even less sense in Afghanistan than it did in Vietnam. The problem is not that the “legitimate” side is not strong enough or trained well enough to defeat the “bad guys.” The problem is that hardly anybody wants foreign forces in the country. The insurgents will keep fighting until the occupiers lose their stomach or their economic or political support for remaining, and as soon as the foreign forces take their leave, their local puppets will get themselves to Switzerland or another remote refuge to distance themselves from their countrymen’s vengeance. The problem is not that the pro-U.S. forces, such as they are (and nearly all of them are in their places for the money), do not know how to fight – in Afghanistan nearly every adult male knows how to fight. The problem is that nearly all of them — even in their heart of hearts those who have been tempted by the money to join the pro-U.S. side – want the Americans and the other foreign occupiers out of their country. U.S. policy makers talk as if they lack the wit to comprehend this elementary fact.
Which suggests, of course, that the president and other top U.S. decision makers are not telling us the truth about their reasons for their decisions, especially this Big Push, which seems like the military analogue to the basic economic mistake of throwing good money after bad. Bygones, economists insist, are bygones. The costs already born are not recoverable; the more than 800 American servicemen who have already died in Afghanistan cannot be brought back to life. The vast sum of money expended, so far with absolutely nothing of genuine worth to show for it, represents forgone opportunities forever sacrificed. The idea that because so much has been committed already, the U.S. forces must remain until they “win the war” is foolish in the extreme, indeed, irrational.
He ends his essay by quoting the president’s talk: "We are passing through a time of great trial. And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering. We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might, and with the commitment to forge an America that is safer, a world that is more secure, and a future that represents not the deepest of fears but the highest of hopes."
Raimondo then answers with: “The resolve of fanatics and fools is perpetually ‘unwavering.’ Aggressors and bullies are always ‘going forward.’ And the mighty are always supremely assured of the rightness of their cause. They claim to want only ‘security,’ and their appeal is invariably to the ‘highest of hopes.’ And it always ends in oceans of blood.”