Afghanistan and Obama's surge

President Barack Obama gave a fantastic, marvelous, thoughtful, middle-of-the-road speech last night on Afghanistan. Barack Obama, in spite of his critics, looks for common ground in almost every debate. This is why he became president. He was able to appeal to a wide variety of people. So on the Afghanistan debate, there are clearly two camps. On the progressive side of this debate, bring all the troops home, now. On the conservative side of this debate, we cannot leave until the job is done.

Barack Obama had to try to avoid some of President Clinton’s pitfalls. Remember, President Clinton lost support from members of the military extremely early in his presidency by pushing gays in the military. President Obama does not want to make that mistake. Therefore, he doesn’t want to be seen as upsetting the military by an early withdrawal or by taxing the military so much that it breaks (more than it is already broken).

Markos Moulitsas on Countdown.

Barack Obama chose the middle ground. He increased troop strength by 30,000 troops. (Conservatives cheered.) He set a timetable for when to get out of Afghanistan. (Progressive sort of cheered.) He set out specific goals. (The military cheered.) The president’s speech had something that everybody could hate and that everybody could. (Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld took issue with part of the speech. Oh, that’s a surprise.)

Personally, I don’t know. I liked the speech. I’m not sure if he convinced me that sending in more troops would attain our objective. (Glenn didn’t like the speech at all.) It seems to me that a small reactionary force of approximately 5000 to 10,000 men could respond to any threat that the Taliban or Al Qaeda posed in the region. This force… will it be big enough to deter random attacks and small enough not to leave a large footprint in Afghanistan?

If we think that it is important to have a viable Afghan government which supports the Pakistani government in fighting the Taliban then there were a few things that I thought President Obama needed to say:

  • needed to establish a flexible timeline for withdrawal of US troops
  • the mission needed to be shared with international colleagues
  • Pakistan needs to be encouraged to continue its battle against extremists
  • need to create and fix the Afghan government
  • need to figure out how to pay for all this

For the most part, President Obama did these things. I’ll have more to say in the coming days and weeks. This weekend, on the radio show, I will be interviewing Brian Katulis from the Center for American Progress, talking about the situation in Afghanistan and the troop increase.

0 Responses

  1. Take this to the bank:

    We will lose the war in Afghanistan. Just as in Iraq, every serviceman or woman who has died there has died for no reason. Russia and merrie old England learned this lesson a long time ago. You would think….Never mind.

    Suffice to say, on my best day I do not receive one tenth of the information that President Obama receives. I don’t read any of the Presidential Daily Briefings that are placed on his desk every morning. Obviously he is in possession of a wealth of intelligence that you and I are just not privy to. Maybe we should be giving him the benefit of the doubt – and I have been doing just that, I promise you. But from my vantage point it appears to me that this president has failed to learn the lessons that have been passed onto us down the decades by the administrations of Franklin Delano Rossevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson – lessons involving bold action in times of economic crisis (more on that another day) and the utter folly of waging wars that cannot be won.

    Let this be etched in stone:

    Any country that would view its women as inferior beings not entitled to basic human rights is not worth one drop of ANYBODY’S blood.

    I want to believe in this president. He is the chief executive I worked harder to elect than any other in my lifetime. I realize that it is simply far too early in this administration to write a final assessment of his term of office. That being said, my confidence in the Obama White House is ebbing rapidly. Where in the hell is all of this change I could believe in? Is the Bush Mob still in charge? What gives?


    No, I am still exceedingly grateful that John McCain and Gidget von Braun did not win the election last year. Have another sip.

    Tom Degan
    Goshen NY

  2. Tom wrote:

    “Any country that would view its women as inferior beings not entitled to basic human rights is not worth one drop of ANYBODY’S blood.”

    Sounds like you might’ve sat on your hands when the colonies fought for their independence from England in ’76.

    Just think about this: When you fail to support something that is ‘bad’, you may have opted to settle for ‘worse’.

    Women in Afghanistan and Iraq have the right to vote for their leaders now.

    Is this right being suppressed? Yes in many instances it is and it is not fully recognized by any stretch.

    But it’s a start.

    More of a start than would’ve been if GWB had sat on his hands.

    The women of Afghanistan have a long road of struggle ahead of them to full political equality.

    But at least that road is being trod, one slow step after another. You can thank the former president (the one you hate) for that.

    Go ahead and say that their freedom is not worth supporting if it doesn’t burst full bloom in a day.

    Liberals — all hat and no cattle.

  3. “The Surge”

    December 6, 2009 by
    <img src=”″ title=”af-map”/>
    “The Surge”
    The war in Afghanistan is also a continuation and expansion of the corporate welfare policy of the Bush administration, which interestingly is not only wholly accepted by President Obama, but is raised to a higher level (surge). The more private contractors sent to Afghanistan, the better for the bottom line (surge) (profit). The more the merrier. Bush or Obama, as always, the interest of the corporate elite is paramount.

    The decrease in violence in Iraq was not a result of President Bush’s strategy of sending 30,000 more troops to Iraq (surge), that President Obama is so desperately trying to duplicate, but it was mainly a result of the U.S. government’s payment of about $10 a day to about 70,000 Sunni insurgents.

    During his speech to the nation explaining his reasons for the Afghanistan “surge”, the president said:

    “So, no, I do not make this decision lightly.  I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda.  It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak. …   In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror. And this danger will only grow if the region slides backwards, and al Qaeda can operate with impunity.  We must keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region.”

    I thought I was listening to President Bush. Word for word the same message, but, a different messenger, one who is more articulate. He also used Bush’s tactic of scaring the American public, the danger to America “is no idle danger, no hypothetical threat”. The only thing missing from his speech was that, he didn’t use the threat level colors. It is too early in his presidency; we might still see him use the threat levels in the future.

    The president’s troop” surge” in the Afghanistan war has made his Conservative Republican friends temporarily happy, but members of his own political party and the American citizens at large are not supportive of his so-called “surge”. While America is facing a massive unemployment, millions of citizens without health insurance, the country burdened with cumbersome and chocking growing debt, to say the least, the president’s choice of the Afghanistan “surge” at this particular moment, seems to be unwise.
    Professor Mekonen Haddis.

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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