Why Obama Whistled Past Afghanistan Last Night

The number of words that President Obama expended on the war in Afghanistan during the much anticipated State of the Union address last night:  exactly 92. Considering that the President’s entire speech was 7,308 words, you could have missed his fleeting reference to the foreign land for which some 100,000 American men and women are  pledged to fight if you decided at that very moment to say, sneeze, and then run to the bathroom quickly for a tissue.

Here are the 92 words (and no, quality in this case, does not make up for quantity):

And in Afghanistan, we’re increasing our troops and training Afghan security forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011, and our troops can begin to come home. We will reward good governance, work to reduce corruption and support the rights of all Afghans — men and women alike. We’re joined by allies and partners who have increased their own commitments, and who will come together tomorrow in London to reaffirm our common purpose. There will be difficult days ahead. But I am absolutely confident we will succeed.

The reason why Obama wanted to whistle by the reference to “London” like a man by the graveyard seems obvious. A year ago, Obama pledged to fight “the good war,” committing more troops and a “civilian surge” to rebuild Afghan institutions.   Less than two months ago, Obama stood before an audience of West Point cadets and rambled through a “comprehensive” war strategy that involved, again, a commitment of more troops and a (somewhat vague) notion of a reconstruction component. He also  added an 18-month “soft” timeline for withdrawal, signaling that the “good war” had its limitations. Now, in all reports leading up to “London,” or today’s confab of U.S and international partners over what to do about Afghanistan, the buzz is all about how to raise the dough to pay off the Taliban so we can all get the hell out.

Suddenly, the talk over freeing the Afghan people from the clutches of the Taliban has given way to parsing out or “peeling off” the so-good good Taliban from the bad — the U.S has already been successful in lifting U.N sanctions on 15 members of the former (that happened on Tuesday, in case no one noticed). In the meantime, the latest news is that the 65 member countries in attendance at the London conference could raise upwards of $1 billion for an elaborate “reintegration program” or “international trust fund,” as announced hours ago. The price of admission? Apparently, interested Taliban need only to pledge allegiance — maybe toss in a few conscripts — to Karzai’s government, which everyone knows is as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.

The whole idea is fraught with pitfalls and potholes and not just the antiwar types are saying so. Even the Army’s own social scientists on the ground have warned against the rush to win over “tribes” of which we know nothing about after eight years of war with money and promises. Afghan leaders are already questioning the plan. Taliban are rejecting it out of hand. But the most obvious flaw at this point is that we are initiating these deals from a position of weakness. Everyone knows it. While the “integration” scheme smacks of the “Sons of Iraq” hustle under Gen. David Petraeus, it is not clear whether the U.S and international forces will be demanding the “good” Taliban to fight with us, or whether we are literally just paying them to not make trouble, which would take the current Taliban protection racket to a enormously perverse level.

The sad thing is, this proves that not even the flawed liberal interventionist fantasies of the early Obama era had any heft. Like the rest of Obama’s presidency so far, his foreign policy persona turned out to be pretty reactionary and lightweight — despite all the campaign rhetoric about turning a corner on the catastrophic foreign policies of the previous administration. He could not rise above this bad war and will continue to make bad decisions, to the detriment of all concerned. First, he will have to face the American people and them them why, if paying off the Taliban is such a novel idea, he hadn’t initiated it right away, a year and 342 dead U.S servicemembers ago (not to mention the countless civilian lives and billions in current and protracted war costs).

One can’t blame him for wanting to whistle by the graveyard — but that’s one luxury he won’t be able to indulge in for long.

18 thoughts on “Why Obama Whistled Past Afghanistan Last Night”

  1. "…are pledged to fight if you decided at that very moment to say, sneeze, and then run to the bathroom quickly for a tissue." Tissue? No no no, that's what shirt sleeves are for.
    92 words from the "commander-in-cheese." Sounds about Obama-ish. With a deft presidential sleight of hand, presto, Afghanisurge almost doesn't exist. Can we hyper link quagmire with defeat?
    Well stated Ms. Vlahos. Very well stated indeed.

  2. Obama's other problem is that he's talking about making ordinary Americans pay the cost of the 'deficits' by cutting or freezing the small portion of the budget that might actually help them.

    Even for a liar like Obama, it would be hard to use a major portion of his speech talking about how he's spending about $30 billion or more on freakin Afghanistan while trying to sell the pitch that ordinary workers have to pay for it.

    Besides, he's made the Iraq war disappear, despite the fact that he's done nothing but continue Bush's policies there. Why not Afghanistan as well?

  3. We are a thoroughly corrupt, heartless empire, but we make up for it by being thoroughly gutless.
    Look them in the eye, talk tough and pay them under the table. Only the innocent need get hurt.
    On to Iran, all you Zionist warriors!

  4. EU/Is'real uses USA as a hired hitman. Now USA is running for cover.
    Over 32,000 british troop's body parts lay scattered in/on the sands of Afghastin from the last invasion.( It was reported that the local women were seen slicing/hacking the dead bodies flesh for pig feed.
    Let's hope ,history repeats itself.

  5. Mr. Obama is over his head and under water, and he can't shoot basketball under water. He has yet to show the savvy to be a president of the USA. The year 2009 was a flunk because the government made payouts and nothing came in. We are in far greater debt than ever. We are now in three wars…resources go out and nothing comes in. The government bails out the "bigtime" failures which caused our recession…monies go out and nothing comes in. No balance and then there is the titter totter to a fall. Congress is even a bigger handicap. The constant effort to use money via the government as the panacea for America's problems will be the downfall of the US government. Maybe that will be the time for restart.

  6. To understand Obama, know this.

    He set the new record in fundraising for the last election by raising $750 million. The old record was Bush at around $375. CRP says 1/3rd came in small (>$200) donations. So, he raised $500 million in 'large' donations. See http://www.opensecrets.org for lists of his top contributors … mainly wall street of course.

    Obama and the Democrats would be calling the same people again right now asking for money for 2010, and maybe already for 2012.

    The reason why Obama hasn't been a dynamic leader is because he is so beholden to all this money that got a junior senator with little experience elected. Obama never had his own ideas. All he did in the last election was chant 'hope' and 'change' at every opportunity. So, Obama just waits for the phone to ring and for the big money that backed him to tell him what to do.

    In effect did the same thing with Obama that it did with Bush. It picked an obscure candidate that could never get elected on his own, then backed them with hundreds of millions to push them into the White House. When there, the obscure and inexperienced candidate can now do little on his own, but is merely a servant of those who put him there.

    If you wonder that maybe it isn't the same 'big money' behind Obama that was behind Bush, behold McCain running a Republican campaign on public financing because all the money had deserted him.

  7. There are no such things as "good war". For me war means killing people and including innocent. Still doubt if this world will ever had a true peace some day. Anyway, great blog with lots of useful information. Enjoy reading your blog. Keep it up.

  8. Always great to see our Marines taking the fight to the enemy. The success of this new Afghan offensive will hinge on their ability to engage the enemy while also supporting the Afghans in building a free/secure country.

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