Stephen Harper is leaving the door open once again to extending Canada’s military participation in the costly Afghanistan war.
When the Official Opposition NDP pressed the Prime Minister on Wednesday about reports the United States has asked Canada to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014, Mr. Harper said the government would “examine all options.”
If the Prime Minister extended Canada’s military deployment beyond 2014, it would be the fourth time he has prolonged the soldiering commitment to Afghanistan – including 2006, 2008 and 2010.
Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, Mr. Harper denied reports the United States has asked Canada to keep special forces soldiers in Afghanistan past 2014, his latest promised date for withdrawal.
As our new Leader of the Official Opposition aptly noted during Question Period yesterday, Canadians “want this mission to end. It was supposed to end in 2006. It was supposed to end in 2009. It was supposed to end in 2011. It is supposed to end in 2014. When will it finally end?””
Oh, and that last excerpted bit I highlighted, where the PM denies reports that Uncle Sam is trying to keep Canada in the Great Game for another Friedman or three? Methinks Mr. Harper is being a little coy. Mealsothinks that it’s a damn good thing Afghanistan is (for now, anyway) almost completely under the Campaign 2012 Village radar.
Because, considering the collective combat exhaustion of the USian polity, the last thing the Obama team needs are ill-timed reports that it’s secretly planning to continue America’s excellent (and highly unpopular) imperial Central Asian misadventure past it’s latest expiration date.
(Originally posted at Agonist.org)
Der Spiegel runs down W’s “tragic legacy” in the long, long, looooong decade of U.S. decline that followed 9/11:
America was trapped in Iraq for years, where a victory was a long time coming and was never a real one. It is currently trapped in Afghanistan, where victory no longer even seems possible. And it is trapped in an embrace with his its ally Pakistan, which it does not trust and yet cannot release.
These are costly defeats for America and the rest of the world. According to a conservative estimate of Brown University, there have been almost 140,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq. The massive retaliation cost more than $3 trillion (€2.2 trillion) — dollars that would have been better used in America’s schools or in the wallets of US citizens.
For a short time after the attacks, the country seemed united. Americans embraced each other. Even the cold city of New York suddenly seemed warm. But instead of cultivating public spirit, President Bush sought to find a pretext — any pretext — to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. This is his most tragic legacy, the fact that America can no longer even mourn its victims properly — because Americans have long been not just victims, but also perpetrators.
Hey, at least Chimpy managed to pull things together after 2006, making his “one of the more successful [presidencies] in U.S. history” [sic].
[Insert pregnant pause/needle scratch here.]
Ahem, yes, well, as they say, read the whole damn thing — and pray that abumuqawama only temporarily took leave of his senses (wait — he’s one of those CNAS Pollyanas who still think COIN is somehow going to Underpants Gnome a NATO victory in Afghanistan; all hope = lost.)
(Image: smiteme, Flickr)
State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland called the photo book of Condoleezza Rice found in Gadhafi’s compound “bizarre” and “creepy” even though she hasn’t seen pictures of it. “I think I don’t need to see the photos, but bizarre and creepy are good adjectives to describe much of Gadhafi’s behavior,” Nuland said and went on to say, “It doesn’t surprise me. It’s deeply bizarre and deeply creepy, though, if it is as you described.”
Resolved: Moammar Gadhafi is the Barney Stinson of post-colonial despots.
Cosign with Thomas H. Johnson and M. Chris Mason, who incisively and cooly slice away the bullshit surrounding Obama’s Afghanistan escalation:
Obama’s new “strategy” is no strategy at all. It is a cynical and politically motivated rehash of Iraq policy: Toss in a few more troops, throw together something resembling local security forces, buy off the enemies, and get the hell out before it all blows up. Even the dimmest bulb listening to the president’s speech could not have missed the obvious link between the withdrawal date for combat troops from Iraq (2010), the date for beginning troop reductions in Afghanistan (2011), and the domestic U.S. election cycle.
The only conclusion one can reach from the president’s speech, after eliminating the impossible, is that the administration has made a difficult but pragmatic decision: The war in Afghanistan is unwinnable, and the president’s second term and progressive domestic agenda cannot be sacrificed to a lost cause the way that President Lyndon B. Johnson’s was for Vietnam. The result of that calculation was what we heard on Dec. 1: platitudes about commitment and a just cause; historical amnesia; and a continuation of the exact same failed policies that got the United States into this mess back in 2001, concocted by the same ship of fools, many of whom are still providing remarkably bad advice to this administration.
In office less than a year, the Obama administration has already been seduced by the old beltway calculus that sometimes a little wrong must be done to get re-elected and achieve a greater good.
As they say, read the whole damn thing.
(Photo: Peter Casier, World Food Program, used under a Creative Commons License)
As I’ve said before, Americans have come to believe that spending government revenues on U.S. citizens here at home is usually a bad thing and should be viewed with suspicion, but spending billions on vast social engineering projects overseas is the hallmark of patriotism and should never be questioned. This position makes no sense, but it is hard to think of a prominent U.S. leader who is making an explicit case for doing somewhat less abroad so that we can afford to build a better future here at home. Debates about foreign policy, grand strategy, and military engagement — including the current debate over Obama’s decision to add another30,000-plus troops in Afghanistan — tend to occur in isolation from a discussion of other priorities, as if there were no tradeoffs between what we do for others and what we are able to do for Americans here at home.
Thankfully, E-Mart has proposed a modest solution to one particularly contentious domestic issue currently mired in the US Senate:
Maybe we can set up an efficient health insurance delivery system in Iraq or Afghanistan and then import it to the States. Call it a part of our COIN strategy, get Petraeus to endorse it and then ship it home under cover of night.
Wow. That’s so crazy, it just might work.
What was that about Afghanistan not being even remotely analogous to Vietnam?
Implementing the McChrystal plan will perpetuate the longstanding fundamentals of US national security policy: maintaining a global military presence, configuring US forces for global power projection, and employing those forces to intervene on a global basis. The McChrystal plan modestly updates these fundamentals to account for the lessons of 9/11 and Iraq, cultural awareness and sensitivity nudging aside advanced technology as the signature of American military power, for example. Yet at its core, the McChrystal plan aims to avert change. Its purpose – despite 9/11 and despite the failures of Iraq – is to preserve the status quo.
If the president assents to McChrystal’s request, he will void his promise of change at least so far as national security policy is concerned. The Afghanistan war will continue until the end of his first term and probably beyond. It will consume hundreds of billions of dollars. It will result in hundreds or perhaps thousands more American combat deaths – costs that the hawks are loath to acknowledge.
Bah — costs, shmosts. Remember, kids: Failure is not an option; No end but victory; Clap harder, etc. Positive reinforcement is like the platinum card of force projection — and one can always refinance the mounting debt if the interest proves too great.
Obama deserves some credit for at least refusing to capitulate immediately to the military’s demands without taking time to consider alternative options. Russ Feingold just wrote another Op-Ed arguing for a withdrawal timetable from Afghanistan, but that option is not even part of the Washington debate. The only issue is whether to escalate and, if so, by how much. The Washington Post today reported that as part of Obama’s March order for 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan, “the White House has also authorized — and the Pentagon is deploying — at least 13,000 troops beyond that number.” With Democrats like Feinstein controlling the U.S. Senate, is it any wonder that our status as a perpetual war nation appears to continue indefinitely?
Ah well, if we can’t actually be granted meaningful Change™ in the direction of US foreign policy, at least we can vicariously cling to the imperial hopes and dreams of those who profit from the expansionist state.
Yes, we can.
Oh, and for us Canucks, the prospect of US forces committing to a protracted, NATO-lead COIN campaign in Afghanistan combined with soaring Tory poll numbers would appear to put Harper’s long-promised 2011 exit date for Canadian combat troops in serious question.
Ok, I guess there are some differences between Afghanistan and Vietnam — at least Canada knew enough to stay out of that tar pit.
Related: First Van Jones, now Joe Biden?! Seriously, Arianna Huffington (or her ghost-writer, natch) desperately needs to get over the notion that being out of power somehow magically imparts one greater influence (and PONIES!)
The young women stepped off the bus and moved toward the protest march just beginning on the other side of the street when they were spotted by a mob of men.
“Get out of here, you whores!” the men shouted. “Get out!”
The women scattered as the men moved in.
“We want our rights!” one of the women shouted, turning to face them. “We want equality!”
The women ran to the bus and dove inside as it rumbled away, with the men smashing the taillights and banging on the sides.
But the march continued anyway. About 300 Afghan women, facing an angry throng three times larger than their own, walked the streets of the capital on Wednesday to demand that Parliament repeal a new law that introduces a range of Taliban-like restrictions on women, and permits, among other things, marital rape.
It was an extraordinary scene. Women are mostly illiterate in this impoverished country, and they do not, generally speaking, enjoy anything near the freedom accorded to men. But there they were, most of them young, many in jeans, defying a threatening crowd and calling out slogans heavy with meaning.
The women who protested Wednesday began their demonstration with what appeared to be a deliberately provocative act. They gathered in front of the School of the Last Prophet, a madrasa run by Ayatollah Asif Mohsini, the country’s most powerful Shiite cleric. He and the scholars around him played an important role in the drafting of the new law.
“We are here to campaign for our rights,” one woman said into a loudspeaker. Then the women held their banners aloft and began to chant.
The reaction was immediate. Hundreds of students from the madrasa, most but not all of them men, poured into the streets to confront the demonstrators.
“Death to the enemies of Islam!” the counterdemonstrators cried, encircling the women. “We want Islamic law!”
The women stared ahead and kept walking.
A phalanx of police officers, some of them women, held the crowds apart.
As Spackerman (h/t) rhetorically asks, “What have you done recently that’s half as brave?”
Related: In an interview with Afghan women’s rights activist Soraya Pakzad, Jean MacKenzie puts the controversy surrounding the Afghan ‘rape law’ in context:
The reality is that no Afghan woman, Shi’ia or Sunni, has the right to object to her husband’s advances. The international outcry, while well meaning, misses the point: It is not a single law that is the problem, it is the overall status of women.
As they say, read the whole damn thing.
Pale just sent me this link, which has me right back to asking ‘what the fuck are we doing in Afghanistan again?’ Is it to promote civil society, install democracy and fight for women’s rights, as the Harpercons and the Bushies liked to go on about? Yeah, right; Joe Biden recently gave an interview on CNN where he basically said that it was too effing bad that Afghan women are still getting shat upon, but the primary reason why the US (and NATO) is in Afghanistan is to keep America safe.
Ok, fine–I get that the US isn’t in the democracy promotion business any more.
I get it.
But, whether we like it or not, for all intents and purposes, NATO is the goddamn Afghan government–we (Canada included) are occupiers, with all the legal responsibilities that go along with that designation. Karzai (aka The Mayor of Kabul) is a puppet; we pick and choose when and how we are going to pull his strings. And the way the Obama admin is framing this? As I’ve said before, it’s pure Brzezinski realpolitik. We’ve swung from Utopian idealism to cold, amoral realism.
There is no balance.
Also, the manner in which some have been objecting to the ‘surge’ — the fact that Obama is putting in more troops, period–is the wrong complaint. There’s no point in putting in an additional 17,000 US combat troops because it’s JUST NOT ENOUGH. Afghanistan needs several hundred thousand additional troops to provide adequate security and allow reconstruction to move forward. And even then it’s gonna be a 30-40 year project. Long. Term. So, if anything, Obama deserves to be spanked for trying to lazily emulate the Bush compromise surge in Iraq — a symbolic act to show that we are Doing Something, even if that Something is, ultimately, futile.
In other words, Obama’s Afghan strategy is a political gesture designed for domestic consumption that will do nothing to advance the stated mission in Afghanistan, nor measurably improve conditions on the ground.
So, we (as in ‘countries that make up NATO forces in the region’) face a decision: do we want to do the Marshall Plan thing — go big, go hard, remake and rebuild Afghan (and, to a certain degree, Pakistani) society, long-term, FOR REAL–or mop up enough juuust enough to declare victory and get the fuck out before the shit hits the fan? I mean, post-WWII Germany, Japan? Decades-long projects, taken seriously without the half-assed measures and mixed messages about what exactly the mission and its desired outcomes were. IF we are going to take the former route we need to do it RIGHT–or don’t do it at all. Because we are investing priceless commodities–lives, money, and political capital–into this endeavor.
Problem is, many on the left are still acting like it’s 2002 and Afghanistan is Iraq, arguing about whether the war and its stated goals (haphazard as they may have been) was the right thing to do. Newsflash, kiddies: it’s already been done–we broke it (oh, how we fucking broke it) and are once again the proud owners of another failed fucking state. Now we need to decide what the fuck we’re going to do with it.
And, unfortunately, sometimes there are no ideal options–merely the least-bad of a truly rotten bunch.
While holding a press conference the NATO summit in France, Obama was just asked a tough question from Fox News’ Major Garrett (I know, even a stopped clock is right twice a day) regarding the absolutely disgusting Afghan marital rape law and what steps the US intended to take (if any).
Obama sputtered out some mealy mouthed diplo-speak about how the law is “abhorrent” and that “the views of the administration have been and will be communicated to the Karzai government.”
Not satisfied with this non-response, Garrett followed up, asking for clarity.
The subsequent statement from the POTUS absolutely floored me:
“We have stated very clearly that we object to this law. But I want everybody to understand that our focus is to defeat al Qaeda… .” [statement clarified based on transcript--mb]
Ok, reality check time.
Canada’s government? It sucks. Big time.
And yet Parliament is publicly putting pressure on the Afghan government to roll back this despicable proposed legislation (even if the Harpercons could be a bit more muscular in expressing their ‘deep concerns’).
President Barack Obama? He basically said that the war effort trumps human–women’s–rights–in other words, “screw the wimminz, our primary interest is rootin’ out terrorism!” Yeah–the amoral influence of Brzezinski on the Obama admin’s foreign policy (to paraphrase, “winning the war on terror is more important in the long run that a few violated women”) is definitely shining through like a lighthouse beacon.
Update: Video and transcript of the exchange, courtesy Think Progress:
Q Thank you, Mr. President, and good afternoon. I’d like to ask you about a law that’s recently been passed in Afghanistan that affects the 10 percent of the Shia population there. A summary of it says it negates the need for sexual consent between married couples, tacitly approves child marriage, and restricts a woman’s right to leave the home. The United Nations Development Fund for Women says this legalizes the rape of a wife by her husband. I’d like your assessment of this law, number one. Number two, will you condition future troop movements of the U.S. to Afghanistan on the basis of this law being retracted or rewritten? And if not, sir, what about the character of this law ought to motivate U.S. forces to fight and possibly die in Afghanistan?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, this was actually a topic of conversation among all the allies. And in our communication — communiqué, you will see that we specifically state that part of this comprehensive approach is encouraging the respect of human rights. I think this law is abhorrent. Certainly the views of the administration have been, and will be, communicated to the Karzai government. And we think that it is very important for us to be sensitive to local culture, but we also think that there are certain basic principles that all nations should uphold, and respect for women and respect for their freedom and integrity is an important principle.
Now, I just want to remind people, though, why our troops are fighting, because I think the notion that you laid out, Major, was that our troops might be less motivated. Our troops are highly motivated to protect the United States, just as troops from NATO are highly motivated to protect their own individual countries and NATO allies collectively. So we want to do everything we can to encourage and promote rule of law, human rights, the education of women and girls in Afghanistan, economic development, infrastructure development, but I also want people to understand that the first reason we are there is to root out al Qaeda so that they cannot attack members of the Alliance.
Now, I don’t — those two things aren’t contradictory, I think they’re complementary. And that’s what’s reflected in the communiqué.
Q But do you object to the law –
PRESIDENT OBAMA: We have stated very clearly that we object to this law. But I want everybody to understand that our focus is to defeat al Qaeda and ensure that they do not have safe havens from which they can launch attacks against the Alliance.
Hooray for shock therapy in Afghanistan:
Senior British, US and local aid workers have described a number of problems [with reconstruction in Afghanistan] including bribery, profiteering, poor planning and incompetence. The overall effect has been to cripple the development effort structured under the Bush administration’s insistence on an unregulated and profit-driven approach to reconstruction.
“The major donor agencies operate on the mistaken assumption that it’s more efficient and profitable to do things through market mechanisms,” a senior American contractor working in Afghanistan told the Guardian on condition of anonymity. “The notion of big government is a spectre for American conservatives and this [the reconstruction process] is an American conservative project.”
The contractor said the “original plan was to get in, prop up Karzai, kill al-Qaida, privatise all government-owned enterprises and get out. It wasn’t a development project, that wasn’t a concern. Development was an afterthought.
The Graun calls this “poor planning and incompetence.” Sorry, but “an unregulated and profit-driven approach to reconstruction” may be indeed reflect willful indifference and a shoddy understanding of what proper reconstruction of a failed state actually entails. But it goes well beyond ‘poor planning and incompetence;’ This is outright criminal negligence on the part of pathologically obsessive free-market ideologues who didn’t give a good goddamn about cleaning up the mess they made.
In other words, textbook disaster capitalism.