Thursday, June 30, 2011

Question of the Night

Could Obama have handled the Afghanistan war better?

I admit, this is a bit of a trick question. During the 2008 election, I felt bad for whoever was handed this shit sandwich after winning in November -- I didn't think there were any good choices then, and I still don't now. Maybe the best choice would have been to pull troops out immediately starting in 2009, but Republicans would have hammered Obama for that choice until Kingdom Come. And while I could criticize Obama for playing politics by setting timetables for troop withdrawls to be completed after the 2012 election, it's not like he had this other, obviously better option to go with.

In fact, any time I try thinking of what Obama is responsible for in Afghanistan, I keep circling back to the Bush Administration. It was Bush who ignored Afghanistan to wage a needless war in Iraq. It was Bush who installed the ineffective Karzai, who has delusions of dictatorship. It was Bush who never built up Afghanistan's defense forces to secure the country before he left office. Bush had six years to do this and he didn't get past square one. Indeed, one has to question how much of a united polity Afghanistan is -- as opposed to a loose federation of tribes who aren't friendly with each other under an arbitrary national border -- yet it was Bush who convinced that we could go "nation building" in Afghanistan. It was also Bush who oversaw a corrupt national rebuilding effort in Afghanistan where the military gave money to contractors, who took a cut and hired other contractors, who took a cut and... Well, you get the picture. Who knows how many pennies were left to build a school after this process, all to have that school destroyed by the Taliban because we never built up Afghan's security forces to protect the country.

And now... Well, Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, and we're in "peace talks" with the brutal Taliban regime our military pledged to defeat; yet cannot defeat because, like bin Laden, the Taliban take refuge in Pakistan. So we're fighting a war we're not sure we can even war in the wrong place.

This is the definition of a "clusterfuck". Obama's crime lies in continuing the Afghanistan war, and he didn't have much choice in the matter when he entered office.

So the blame for this mess lies solely with former President Bush. This $429 billion mistake, funded after Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut in 2001, must be considered a major reason for why our country is broke and discussing austerity measures right now. Indeed, this is how Bush's shameful legacy will effect us for years to come.

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