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MAY 21, 2012 11:25AM

Why Does The Left So Betray Obama on Afghanistan?

Rate: 4 Flag

When President Obama began campaigning for office, as to national security policy, he could have hardly been more clear as to his premises, agree with them or not, or what mix of agreements and disagreements one could take from that.

The premises were totally stated upfront.

As to the premises that matter in the context of war and peace, President Obama promised to withdraw from Iraq, as to achieving the second premise, which was to wage war more effectively on Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and in Pakistan too.

That is exactly what he had done. We don't have troops in Iraq, but only contractors in a large embassy complex. One could argue if that was optimal, but one can't argue that he didn't do what he told the Left, his supposed supporters, what he said he would do.

As to Afghanistan, the President clearly stated long before he took office that he thought the real problem after 9/11 was in Afghanistan, not Iraq.

Reasonable people could disagree about how to approach this problem, as some would see Great Power proxy wars as more important, but, one cannot deny that the President did exactly what he told his supporters before the election he would do, which was intensify American-NATO efforts in Afghanistan.

Moreover, as to this weird betrayal on the Left, and this is from someone who's pretty much a Republican, after Bin Laden was killed, President Obama announced a winding down of the war in Afghanistan.

Some people in the military thought that was a little premature, others thought that it would force certain issues front and center to be solved, and there isn't really a great way to tell who's right.

As to what the President has achieved in Afghanistan, through of course the efforts of the U.S. Armed Forces, he's given the people of Afghanistan a chance to not be a menace to eacgh other or their neighbors and peace in general, and a menace of Afghanistan as a failed state was the one clear implication of 9/11.

Moreover, if the President succeeds in drawing down forces over the next two years in a responsible fashion, he forces the regime to bargain over its future with who will be part of that future, to some extent the Taliban and other regional actors, in which the interests in play are really obvious.

As to the interests, Afghanistan has long been understood to have vast mineral wealth, iron ore in particular, if also Rare Earth minerals. India and China are growing rapidly, and need such minerals, just as they need the oil and gas from Central Asia too, just like the world needs the Rare Earth minerals of Afghanistan present in large quantities.

The cynics make this out to be some sort of neo-imperialist project, and it is to a point, but, it's also necessary for Afghanistan to have a viable state.

Without a revenue source, opium is it for the Afghan state, hardly in our interests here to be the case.

But as to all this complaining on the Left, give the man a chance.

Many in the professional military wouldn't have wished to totally leave Iraq, at like two brigades, but, that's worked out better than expected. The same thing could be said as to Afghanistan and withdrawals, but, we are lowering our presence both places, so why does the Left eat their own President, when he's doing what he said he would do?


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Good question. As someone who thinks picking which fights to get involved in can also be a bi-partisan position, I almost prefer the Bill Clinton lob-missiles-at-a-tent approach.
Donny, what the hell do you think will happen in Afghanistan after the strike on Iran? You yourself envision a US strike on Iran soon, yes? You do expect tremendous economic fallout from the state of increased tensions in the Middle East after such an attack, whether by the US or Israel, yes? And huge revulsion around the world, and/or fear and trepidation in the US, yes? So, under those conditions, where the US military, the Navy and Air Force, must be at a high state of readiness in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, which is an Army/Marines war, becomes a FORGOTTEN BACKWATER, fades into complete INSIGNIFICANCE. That's the fate of the US project/adventure in be completely eclipsed by the unfolding super-drama in the Persian Gulf...hugs
The latest reports I've seen make clear Obama felt certain not long after the surge that the "objectives" of the military weren't possible, and the real problem was and is Pakistan. With nuclear weapons, and such instability, it is going to continue to be the threat, not Afghanistan, which more than likely will return to its prior condition in short order after the pullout.

The saddest part is how little a legacy the US will probably leave. Have you heard about any schools being built--any infrastructure other than the so-called army. I'll bet Karzai ends up living out his life down the block from the Ayatolla's old place in the South of France.

Obama simply could not afford to be blindsided by the right on military matters given the perfidy of the faux liberals. They are proving him right, but he also managed to defuse the issue at the exact right time, before the re-election campaign.

He's already shown "his" wars will be different.
My recollection is exactly the same Don. Obama was pretty clear that the focus should be on Afghanistan and that he'd wind up Iraq as soon as he could. That is pretty much how it's gone. For the last couple of years I've thought it was time to get out of Afghanistan but I don't see Obama as having reneged on some commitment.
I think he was quite serious on Afghanistan, and there are reasons to do that, for example, to be able to make devastating forays into various places, in which if that has occurred, we won't be asking for permission for logisitics, if Iran is the one that is the main deal.
I find it ironic that one of the few campaign promises Obama kept was that he would ratchet up the war in Afghanistan, yet it's also one of the things he's most reviled for by the Left. Maybe if he'd closed Gitmo and not signed civil rights-destroying legislation such as NDAA 20o12, and if he'd fought for genuine reform of our insane financial sector or for genuine health care reform (as opposed to a giant subsidy to the for-profit insurance industry) liberals would be willing to give him a pass in Afghanistan. Then again, probably not. I used to be a hawk on the Af/Pak situation, and I used to think that with Obama in office we'd finally devote enough resources (and skill) to wind things down there successfully, but the last couple years have shown that, militarily and strategically speaking, we're a musclebound imbecile of a nation without the finesse or institutional dexterity to prevail against illiterate medieval villagers and their ISI backers, and once we pull out we'll be viewed with the same amount of respect in that part of the world as the Soviets after their own embarassing retreat, following which Karzai will meet the same fate as Najibullah in '96. USA USA USA!
Pardon the typo; that should read "NDAA 2012" not "20012."
You raise good point. I agree that President Obama is doing what he said he would do, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think he issue is people are impatient. They want it done now. He doesn't have a magic wand to make this happen. It takes time and planning to orchestrate a graceful exit from Afghanistan that will leave the country in a somewhat stable condition.

Sustainable development is the key to Afghanistan's future, if it is to have one. You can't have development without a fairly stable political situation.
Excellent essay, Don. Since you mentioned that you are "pretty much a Republican," some of the observations you shared must bite a bit, but you have the guts and willingness to say them anyway. Not much of that kind of personal character and moral compass going around in our country right now…I love seeing it.

The disgruntled left has lots of good points, but they are allowing their anger and frustration to move them in the wrong direction. I hope they wake up in time to stop this effort to throw the Obama train off the tracks. If they do not wake up…and if they are successful, the train wreck will be a horror to deal with.

One last thought: Yes, we are throwing our weight around way, way too much. I guess the same could be said for every great power that has ever existed on planet Earth when each was in its prime. I think it would be good if the disgruntled left could see that it makes much more sense to consider it a fault of human nature and humanity in general—rather than make it a “worth mentioning” fault of Obama.
I believe we can achieve our objectives in Afghanistan, and must do so to be safe Nana, because like Frank said, Great Powers always go to the limit.
In defense of doing that, if you don't someone will make you do that, or, interpret you as weak, and try to kick your ass.
The bureaucracies involved are imperfect, but, they are many dedicated professionals in them. It's also not the easiest place to do things, hence all the bad past experiences.