On Analogy and Imperial Ambition

by matttbastard

What was that about Afghanistan not being even remotely analogous to Vietnam?

Andrew Bacevich:

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.

Glennzilla (h/t):

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!)

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“Dry Language, Dry Bones”

by matttbastard

Tom Hayden:

Antiseptic language is sometimes necessary in journalism and law to make objective evaluations. But it also can suppress moral and emotional responses to suffering and serve as a sedative in managing public opinion. Riveting stories of torture dungeons don’t rate much in the media in comparison to domestic violence between white Americans. For instance, clear evidence that Sunni children were being murdered by the Shi’a captors, persuasive to a top US military investigator, made it into the Salt Lake Tribune, but not much further. The US Judge Advocate happened to be from Utah, making it a local story.

Counterinsurgency often is framed as winning hearts and minds, not as crushing the alleged insurgents to protect the civilian population. In South Vietnam, that led to “strategic hamlets” and the Phoenix program. In Central America, it was death squads who killed priests, nuns and thousands of civilians. In both cases, American and world opinion was shocked.

In the case of Iraq, there is silence in the West.

h/t Nell in comments @ ObWi

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Quote of the Day: John McCain and “the Power of War”

by matttbastard

John McCain has been said to have neoconservative inclinations; to critics, this suggests a commitment to the unilateral deployment of military force to bring about a democratic transformation in once-hostile countries. The question of whether he’s a neocon, however, is not entirely relevant; McCain has advisers from both the neocon and realist camps, and he’s too inconsistent to be easily labeled. In one area, though, he has been more or less constant: his belief in the power of war to solve otherwise insoluble problems. This ideology of action has not been undermined by his horrific experience as a tortured POW during the Vietnam War, or by the Bush administration’s disastrous execution of the Iraq War. All this is not to suggest that McCain is heedlessly bellicose or reflexively willing to send U.S. soldiers into danger; he is the father of a marine and a Naval Academy midshipman, James McCain and John S. McCain IV, whose service he rarely mentions. And he opposed, presciently, keeping the Marines in Beirut in 1983, just before their barracks were bombed. But his willingness to speak frankly about the utility of military intervention sets him apart from his opponent. Senator Obama, though certainly no pacifist, envisions a world of cooperation and diplomacy; McCain sees a world of organic conflict and zero-sum competition.

– Jeffrey Goldberg, The Wars of John McCain

Related: Matt Bai takes a deeper look at how Vietnam has affected McCain’s view of international relations; Matthew Yglesias believes that, contra conventional wisdom, Obama holds an advantage over McCain in the foreign policy arena, and should, accordingly, campaign from a position of strength; former US Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke says whomever comes out on top in November will, come January, “inherit a more difficult set of international challenges than any predecessor since World War II.”

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Gone Till November

by matttbastard

Cliff Schecter dissects The Maverick’s shoddy record on veterans’ affairs legislation:

In 2005, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), now chair of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced legislation that would have increased veterans’ medical care by $2.8 billion in 2006. He also introduced another bill that would have set aside $10 million for “readjustment counseling services” — a program to provide a wide range of counseling, outreach and referral services for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, to ease their readjustment back into society. (This program was started in 1979 for Vietnam veterans, so one would think McCain is quite familiar with it.)

But McCain — and other Republicans who are more concerned with using government funds for tax cuts for multimillionaires or for corporate subsidies to oil and gas companies — voted this effort down.

The following year, Akaka requested $1.5 billion for veterans’ medical care and an additional $430 million for the Department of Veteran Affairs for outpatient care and treatment for veterans. But, once again, McCain voted against these proposals, while offering no measures of his own, and without pushing his party to help U.S. veterans.

In 2005, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) saw their respective veteran amendments killed. These amendments would have funded additional medical care and readjustment counseling for Iraq veterans with mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse disorder. McCain voted “no” on both.

In 2005, and again in 2006, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) proposed legislation that would have indexed veterans’ healthcare benefits to take into account the annual changes in inflation and veterans’ population. She proposed paying for the indexing by restoring the pre-2001 top tax rate for income more than $1 million, closing corporate tax loopholes and delaying tax cuts for the wealthy. One guess as to how McCain voted.

In early 2006, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) proposed an amendment for additional funding to shore up the collapsing infrastructures at veterans’ hospitals around the country. The bill would have mandated a minor rollback in the capital gains tax cuts that the Bush administration has given to the richest one-fifth of 1 percent of Americans. McCain, presumably more concerned about the 100-plus lobbyists associated with his campaign than the health of veterans, opposed this amendment.

Not long after, in February 2007, the Washington Post exposed horror stories about the crumbling infrastructure at Washington, D.C.’s Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

In February 2006, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) sponsored an amendment that would have rolled back capital gains tax cuts so that much-needed equipment for troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan could be purchased. McCain and the Republican leadership made sure those tax cuts stayed in place, and, as a result, the troops didn’t get what they needed.

Finally, in June 2006, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) authored a bill — S. Amdt. 4442 — “to require the redeployment of United States Armed Forces from Iraq in order to further a political solution in Iraq, encourage the people of Iraq to provide for their own security, and achieve victory in the war on terror.”

It received 13 votes. Needless to say, McCain’s wasn’t one of them.

McCain was also noticeably absent on two measures that members of both parties should be able to embrace.

The Homes for Heroes Act — which Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) introduced in April 2007 — would have helped provide housing for low-income veterans and helped tackle the problem of homelessness among America’s military veterans. The bill died, though the House overwhelmingly passed a similar bill in July; its companion version still awaits a new vote in the Senate.

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007 — introduced by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) — restores the old GI Bill and provides returning troops with the more robust educational benefits enjoyed by the men and women who served in the three decades following World War II. Although this bill did not initially make it to vote, it was incorporated into the new GI bill that the Senate — absent McCain, who was at a fundraiser in Caliornia — passed in May.

(Read the whole damn thing or the terrorists Russians win.)

Now, wait a minute. I’ve got news for you and your lyin’ eyes–John McCain loves veterans more than a rap kid loves breaks (and they crush on him MSM stylez, too):

Yeah! Fuck y’all and your so-called “facts”, hippies–McMaverick has the American Legion on his jock! PS: noun! Verb! POW!

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Kathleen Frydl – Is Iraq Another Vietnam?

by matttbastard

Dr. Kathleen Frydl, Assistant Professor of History at U.C. Berkeley, draws parallels between the Vietnam War and the current war in Iraq.

Related: Der Spiegel interview with Lawrence F. Kaplan: “Before the war, Iraq was an abstraction, an idea. Once you have seen the place you can’t help but be much more cautious with the ideas that you put on the table.”

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Popcorn Sunday: The Fog of War

by matttbastard

This is an amazing film that opens the door into what was really going on when the Kennedy Administration handled the Cuban Missile Crisis… as well as how Vietnam policy dramatically changed once Kennedy was no longer in office. Robert McNamara gives us 11 lessons that America needs to learn so that we don’t make the same mistakes twice.

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