During the Bush years, we constantly heard how escalating violence was just Ba’athist or al-Qaeda “dead-enders” mounting their last desperate attempt to crush Democracy. This was proof America’s initial occupation or the “surge” was working, Rumsfeld et al said, so we had to stay the course. Even toward the end of the last administration, we heard that we could not leave Iraq while violence spiraled — that would condemn it to civil war or somehow to Osama bin Laden as mullah-in-chief.
Now that Obama has to make good on at least one of his promises if he ever hopes to be reelected, anything at all that happens in Iraq is proof we have to leave for good and that our enlightened Dear Leader was Right All Along about ending that war (well, eventually). Iraqis have shown they can swing it, Gates or Clinton or whomever blathers, shoring up presidential talking points. Now Obama is the Peace Laureate once again! Never mind all that other stuff.
In Afghanistan, however, more attacks means we have to stay. Oh of course, everyone knows “Afghanistan is not Iraq” and various other places are not still other places, but there must be some metrics by which to assess a situation. It seems like “spiraling violence” or at least “sustained violence,” would be one of those universal parameters by which we can judge the usefulness of an occupation. And not just any violence, but that by a native, domestic population that has no plans to emigrate en masse. It’s cliche, but just ask the Soviets.
Obama is likely to say he wants to “withdraw” some troops in his speech on the war tomorrow. But we haven’t forgotten he naively sent thirty thousand of them himself to Afghanistan in Dec. 2009, a huge escalation that lead to more violence and left the country no closer to “stability.” This also was one of the first validations of terrible Bush logic (The Surge Worked!) of the Obama presidency; of course many more followed. This “withdrawal” is simply a return to the numbers we saw before Obama upped them — that is, if he removes the full 30K men and doesn’t just weasel out at Gates’ recommended and insignificant 3,000 (out of 100,000). Gates, of course, would prefer we remove zero troops.
The Afghanistan withdrawal date, like the Iraq one before it, has been pushed back several times over the many years of America’s longest wars ever. It now stands at 2014. A LOT of room for things to change, and if experience is a guide — and it is — we know a pullout date that far in the future shows a desire to keep the occupation going indefinitely. And there will be lots more bombings and attacks to justify staying. Unlike in Iraq, where it proves we need to leave even faster. Even if only to shift resources to Libya — Iraq’s oil is already accounted for, right?
Anything means anything in Obamaland. Nothing new in the world.