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July 10, 2013

Whistling Past the Graveyard

How does anyone write nonsense like this with a straight face?

Obama’s election in 2008 was a clear repudiation of the reckless interventionism of the recent past; his re-election in 2012 cemented the shift toward a global American role that is more attuned to our balance sheet and our actual security threats. Leaving remnants of empire behind in places like Iraq and Afghanistan undermines that shift, re-legitimizes the notion that the US must somehow control every nook and cranny of the globe (we can’t and it corrupts us when we try).

In what sense could tripling the number of troops in Afghanistan possibly be considered more "attuned to our balance sheet", much less "to our actual security threats"? Remember the timing here - in February of 2009 the nation was reeling from what the President kept calling the worst recession since the Great Depression.

This is one problem Obama can't pretend he inherited from Bush. Obama explicitly campaigned on the promise to step up our involvement in what he called The Good War - the one we supposedly couldn't afford to lose. And as troop levels increased from 34,000 to over 100,000 at the peak of Obama's surge, the press have remained largely silent about the cost, whether measured in human lives or in tax dollars.

Can someone - anyone? - tell me what we gained from almost tripling the number of troops in Afghanistan? Other than twice as many dead Americans in about half as many years, that is:


Source data.

Granted, the reporting on Obama's Great Afghanistan adventure has been anything but informative. Back in September of 2012, the White House was busily telling America that troop levels were back to "pre-surge levels". But that wasn't really true, was it?

When Obama took office in 2009, the U.S. had about 34,000 troops in Afghanistan. Obama has initiated two major troop increases in Afghanistan: about 20,000 additional troops were announced in February 2009, followed by the December 2009 announcement that an another 33,000 would be deployed as well; other smaller increases have brought the total to 100,000.

The surge that is "ending" today refers to the 33,000 that were sent in December. But the [20,000] troops that were sent in the earlier Obama surge are still there. As the USA Today article notes, there are still 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, roughly double the number that were in the country when Obama took office.

Only in Obama's America can "double" be described as a return to pre-surge levels.

Anyone care to guess how many troops are over there now? How does the NY Times get through an entire article with no mention of the vastly increased cost of Obama's Afghan strategy? How can they discuss a "zero option" without bothering to ask why, if pulling completely out of Afghanistan is an acceptable (if formerly "worst case") option, it was ever necessary to send so many troops over there in the first place?

Posted by Cassandra at July 10, 2013 12:58 PM

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Other than twice as many dead Americans in about half as many years, that is:

Whose names will never be read on-air as a "tribute".

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at July 10, 2013 04:11 PM

After all those years of writing about the war, I can't find the words any more. Sometimes there are no words.

I've avoided writing about it for so long, and this is totally inadequate. But I just couldn't say nothing.

Posted by: Cass at July 10, 2013 04:39 PM

Kinda of beating a dead horse to criticize Obama's foreign policy now . . . even NYT & WaPo columnists have observed his abject failure(s).

He has managed to disappoint friends and encourage malicious regimes so consistently it amazes me; I didn't think it was possible to be worse than Carter.

Posted by: CAPT Mike at July 10, 2013 07:48 PM

I think sending Americans off to fight and die for something you're not willing to exert even minimal effort for, yourself goes far beyond inept foreign policy.

I should probably continue to keep my mouth shut on this particular issue. I can't be dispassionate about it.

Posted by: Cass at July 10, 2013 08:13 PM

After all those years of writing about the war, I can't find the words any more.

Sadly Mr. Sullivan lacks your sobriety, as well as apparently any memory of anything said or done on this subject since 2008.

Posted by: Grim at July 10, 2013 09:44 PM

Down the memory hole...

Posted by: Cass at July 11, 2013 08:15 AM

I don't have words anymore, either. I guess the only thing I really have words for on this subject is what I feel like I have room to have an effect on--the way that Obama's lies and distortions about Afghanistan have led people to believe there are no longer deployed troops there who need support. I tell everyone I can, every chance I get, and their jaws always hit the floor. It just infuriates me, in a way I can't even describe, that Obama's political actions are contributing to a lack of support for the troops at a time it is desperately needed (large numbers believe they have been forgotten, and thanks to our President, they have).

(In re-reading those words, the anger and frustration just don't come through. I guess I just don't have as much words as I thought... Emotion, though.. I've got that it bundles).

Posted by: FbL at July 11, 2013 11:20 AM

I don't get the impression these people have any sense of cause and effect. The president's speeches aren't about particular things we should do because we can expect particular results. The recurrent phrase is "working with so-and-so to achieve such-and-such." As long as we're "working," and it's "with" someone, and we have an idea of some terrific result, it's all good. What are we actually doing? Who knows? It's just process and good thoughts. Hopes and dreams. So if tens of thousands of servicemen are thrown into the meat grinder to no apparent purpose, well . . . at least they weren't pursuing Evil Bush's goals! Really, any specific goals at all would be suspect, because they would imply that we have a right to decide what's best and use force, if necessary, to achieve it. That would be self-interested! Better to be feckless and reserve judgment on everything except the general notion of harmony. I mean, not harmony with Republicans, of course. There's a limit.

Posted by: Texan99 at July 11, 2013 03:16 PM

Tex, you ignorant slut...

Killing Osama is a *clear* case of cause and effect: Obama personally directed the raid in Abottabad (and even had the foresight to have pics taken!) therefore Osama is dead.

On the otter heiny, he cannot be held responsible for the actions of any of the other federal agencies theoretically under his leadership :p He's a busy man - how could he possibly personally oversee (or even be aware of) their actions?

Posted by: Cass at July 11, 2013 03:53 PM


I'm glad to hear you're still reminding people. We all need to be reminded.

Posted by: Cass at July 11, 2013 05:25 PM