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(Part two in this series is here, but this entry can be read as a stand-alone, too.)
"We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority."
-- Barack Obama, October, 2008
Mike Yon: Afghan Quicksand Awaits Obama.
While security in Iraq continues to improve, Afghanistan is drowning in a frothing quicksand. While most of the 2008 fighting season is over, we can be assured that the Afghan national sport — guerrilla warfare — will become the 2009 Taliban Olympics by April. They know this is a marathon.Mike likens Afghanistan to "solving a human Rubik’s Cube during a firefight while the media screams every time you make a wrong move". I'm not certain the media will be screaming. (At least not American media.) No doubt there will be failures and successes, but busy reporters (as we've also learned over the past seven years) rarely have time to report both.
Mike's a war reporter; more specifically a combat reporter - a guy who wants to be with the troops and where the action is. And while many Americans are eagerly awaiting President-elect Obama's explanations of what he really meant in many of his campaign promises, there's at least one he made in concrete terms: when it comes to Afghanistan, there will be blood.
They are plotting to kill Americans right now. As Secretary Gates, the defense secretary, said, the war against terrorism began in that region and that's where it will end. So part of the reason I think it's so important for us to end the war in Iraq is to be able to get more troops into Afghanistan, put more pressure on the Afghan government to do what it needs to do, eliminate some of the drug trafficking that's funding terrorism.As I noted at MilBlogs, Other than who exactly "we" are there's very little room for analysis there.
And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority.
Still, it might just be bluster designed to comfort (or even excite) McCain "national security voters" who would never hear Obama speak outside of a joint appearance with their man. I confess I don't know if this was ever part of an Obama stump speech or not.
But I do know that claims like this one from this past weekend are certainly al Qaeda "boilerplate":
OSAMA bin Laden is planning an attack against the United States that will "outdo by far" September 11, an Arab newspaper in London has reported.One wonders if the next president supports a doctrine of pre-emptive attack. Joe Biden seems to think he's more of a "responder" - and he has already called on supporters to "gird their loins" for an event he fears could cost the administration their support:
And according to a former senior Yemeni al-Qaeda operative, the terrorist organisation has entered a "positive phase", reinforcing specific training camps around the world that will lead the next "wave of action" against the West.
"Mark my words," the Democratic vice presidential nominee warned at the second of his two Seattle fundraisers Sunday. "It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."But Nick Gillespie (in Reason) seems to believe those concerns of lost support are unfounded, and predicts a shift in the demographics of "hawks":
"I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate," Biden said to Emerald City supporters, mentioning the Middle East and Russia as possibilities. "And he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you - not financially to help him - we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right."
America's political and pundit class will go through a clinical bout of ideological amnesia that will be dizzying and appalling for those of us with memories of life before January 2009...For my part, I've been expressing concern for the attraction of war as economic remedy for some time:
On the flip side, expect Democrats to start rattling sabers like the did under the Mad-Bomber-in-Chief Bill Clinton, who was quite happy to dispatch planes and bombs wherever and whenever he felt necessary or threatened by a domestic situation. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is the template here of what reason's Matt Welch identified as "temporary doves," that is, folks whose taste for war is highly dependent on party affiliation.
Obama, who is certainly something of a "stealth candidate" (to use an election-night phrase from Fox News' and NPR's Juan Williams), has never been shy about asserting his bellicosity. He's against "stupid" wars, don't you know, which gives him plenty of latitude to prosecute what he considers smart ones (and conflicts necessary to prove that he's no George McGovern).
And while Afghanistan and Iraq are "back burner" issues to the economy right now (or even seen as a drain on that very economy) anyone with any knowledge of history should be concerned with (or at least aware of) the potential for a "good war" - if it's big enough - to reverse a downward economic spiral.(See also here and here.)
I don't know if that aspect of the situation confronting the world today is covered in the program - but as Nagl points out in the video below, Afghanistan is already "the good war".
Of course, you're certainly not going to hear "for the economy!" as a battle cry when there are others in place.
And while we don't have a big enough Army to fight an economy-boosting goodwar now, the Democrat Party's VoteVets group is encouraging service:
This email was forwarded to me by an Iraq veteran and former Army captain who received it on Wednesday:Which is good, because the President-elect doesn't "agree with the draft", ladies:
The relevant text says:24 Month Mobilization Deferment. A President Elect who says he'll get us out of Iraq. What are you waiting for? Stop taking your chance's [sic] in the IRR and be safe from deployment for 2 years. By that time our new President will have gotten us out of these other countries.I'll be honest: I'd be lying if I said the prospect of an Obama administration hadn't made me consider the possibility of rejoining.
"There was a time when African-Americans weren't allowed to serve in combat," Mr. Obama said. "And yet, when they did, not only did they perform brilliantly, but what also happened is they helped to change America, and they helped to underscore that we're equal.Which, while not as clear a statement as "we will kill bin Laden"certainly must mean something.
"And I think that if women are registered for service -- not necessarily in combat roles, and I don't agree with the draft -- I think it will help to send a message to my two daughters that they've got obligations to this great country as well as boys do."
Meanwhile, the DoD has also announced that the 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, which had been based in northwest Baghdad, will return home six weeks early. The unit that was scheduled to replace them will deploy to Afghanistan instead.
All this might put those who've cried "chickenhawk" in an awkward position - they're going to have a tough time explaining why they've shouted that epithet that at civilian Iraq war supporters for years, but why it doesn't apply to them with regards to Afghanistan.
Or they can enter Alice Walker's warm embrace:
I have sent out a request that Barack Obama, or Michelle Obama, get in touch with me. While waiting for a response (and imagining how busy they must be), I decided to write down my thoughts. After watching the debates between Mr Obama and John McCain, something has leapt out at me. It has now leapt out twice, and I would like to avoid having it appear a third time. It is Mr Obama's statement that, when he is President, he (the US) will pursue al-Qaeda in the hills of Pakistan, find Osama bin Laden and “kill” him. Though I understand that Mr Obama wishes to show himself as “strong”, even “tough”, this is problematic on ethical, moral, and practical levels.Soon enough we might be teaching them to march.
I am not saying the same thing Mr McCain said, about walking and speaking softly and carrying a big stick. We know that during Mr McCain's service to the country there have been countless people assassinated, bombed, disappeared and in other ways destroyed, if not by him directly, then by the system of government that he serves. No, this is about something else: the language we use in leading, and why.
Each time Mr Obama has said “we will kill” Osama bin Laden I have felt a testing of my confidence in his moral leadership. And I support him, and demonstrated that support, to the very limits of my finances and my strength. Could it be that, like millions of children around the globe, who are taught “Thou shalt not kill”, I am reacting with disappointment and shock to someone blatantly declaring their intention to kill a specific person?
This could be it. In a Christian nation, this is what most of us learn. And even if we cease to call ourselves Christians, the notion of non-killing is hard-wired in us. We are not likely to accept the “killer” (even if the killing is done in our defence) with the same open-heartedness and lack of fear that we might have for someone who has not declared for murder. This is why Mr McCain coyly smiled each time Mr Obama made that statement.
We live in a country with a not too distant custom of lynching, particularly in the South. For those of us who are forever aware of this reality, something rises in us whenever there is a manhunt (in my case, even an animal hunt) to demand decent treatment of whoever is captured, and a fair trial. To the surprise of both Mr McCain and Mr Obama, apparently, millions of people in the world don't believe that Osama bin Laden bombed the twin towers and the Pentagon.
But even setting such disbelief aside, we have to think of what we are teaching the youth of the planet.
More to follow.