Felicia Muftic – Obama’s options: Bad or worse
Grand County, CO Colorado
British author Allan Massie wrote in ” A Question of Loyalties” that: “Blunders are an inescapable feature of war because choice in military affairs lies generally between the bad and the worse.”
Thanks to the legacy of the George W. Bush administration, President Barack Obama was forced to make a choice between the bad and the worse. Whether it is a blunder of the magnitude of our Iraq invasion or whether it will result in dismantling Al Qaida and denying them a base of operation will not be known for a couple of years.
A “worse” choice would have been to walk away, withdraw, giving Al Qaida a guaranteed haven in Afghanistan to command and control and train for terrorist attacks on the West. It would also give the ability for both the Taliban and Al Qaida to wreak havoc on nuclear-armed Pakistan, creating the potential of years of conflict on the Indian sub-continent. Another worse choice would have been to continue the same troop strength and tactics, which were demonstrably failing, allowing the Taliban, host to Al Qaida’s presence, to resurge.
Obama indicated in his Tuesday address that he was convinced by the evidence presented to him that Al Qaida was still a threat to the security interests of the United States and that their command and control existed on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The public does not have access to the same intelligence reports the president had in making those decisions, but the plausibility of Al Qaida’s continuing threat has been underlined by the arrests made both here and abroad since Sept. 11, some quite recently.
The price our country will pay for the bad choice is high – $30 billion per year hit on our national debt – unless expenses can be cut somewhere, or unless taxes are increased, and more loss of our troops’ lives. Many in his political base want that $30 billion to be spent on pressing needs, deficit reduction, job creation, and health care. Those are legitimate concerns, and it is his judgment call to make the Afghanistan surge a priority over full funding of domestic demands.
The cost to Obama’s political future may be even greater. He is gambling that the limited goals he laid out for Afghanistan will be met and that progress will be made before 2012 presidential elections. If he succeeds, the progressive left may be appeased with the troop withdrawal and the winding down of our presence. If troops remain at full strength after the summer of 2011, he may lose his chance for a second term in spite of successful passage of health care reform or improving economy.
The left is feeling a sense of betrayal. As a reminder, Obama never did run on a peace platform. He advocated getting out of Iraq but beefing up the war in Afghanistan. He supported the use of diplomacy as a valid tool that should be tried before fighting, or multi lateral approach to conduct of both diplomacy and war, but he never took military action off the table.
History will note, and hopefully 2012 voters will remember, that Obama was forced to make the choice between bad and worse because that was the hand dealt him by the Bush administration. Early in the conflict U.S. forces had Osama Bin Laden cornered in Tora Bora and withdrew before they finished the job. The diversion of forces to fight the unnecessary war in Iraq allowed the Taliban to regain control of crucial regions.
There are plenty of skeptics who see failure in the tea leaves. Corruption of the Karzai government, a narco-based economy, the difficulties of training Afghan forces to provide security when we pull out, establishing some central authority in a nation of villages, and internal ethnic conflicts are formidable hurdles to jump in a limited timeframe.
Obama’s war has a chance to succeed: His very experienced generals on the ground believe they can deliver; he gave the decision a thorough review that considered all elements; experience in Iraq provided proven and successful counter insurgency techniques we did not posses in either Vietnam or at the onset of the Iraq invasion; greater support from our NATO allies and Japan; short term limited goals which help counter anti-Americanism; a timeframe tied to performance by the Afghans themselves; emphasis on diverting agriculture to non-poppy production and security to make such aid effective; eight years of experience and intelligence gathering in the country; a fragmented, uneducated, and disorganized populace that weakens nationally based organized resistance and civil war.
In short, I am supporting the president’s Afghanistan strategy because I believe it has a chance to succeed and because it presents a better choice than the alternatives.
– See the Muftic Forum blog at http://www.skyhidailynews.com and website at http://www.mufticforum.com for blog postings on Afghan women, decision, pay day loans and high bank/card fees, and CBO scoring on Senate bill impact on health insurance premium costs (nearly 60 percent cheaper to no change on average).
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