Friday, March 27, 2009

Obama's Commitment to Afghanistan

I watched this morning's White House press conference on Afghanistan. President Obama declared that success in Afghanistan represents "an international security challenge of the highest order." The full text of the address is here.

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This is the most encouraging speech I've heard from this president. The U.S. will reinforce the deployment with increased troop contingents and the administration will redouble civilian nation-building efforts and regional diplomacy. But the most important point here is the tone: Obama sounds tough. He speaks of the virtues of hard military power, for example, when he says, "There is an uncompromising core of the Taliban. They must be met with force, and they must be defeated." Although the tough talk was leavened with the language of reconciliation and multilateralism, the president's sense of commitment and urgency is a little surprising for one who was the most antiwar candidate among top-tier Democrats in last year's presidential campaign.

It's thus no surprise that there's already pushback from the antiwar left. Arch-appeaser
Matthew Yglesias exclaims, " I’ve been worried for months now that Obama’s plan might get the administration caught up in the vicious logic of escalation ..." Also responding is Andrew Sullivan, who returns to form:

I haven't had time to absorb the president's decision to double-down on Afghanistan this morning. I am, however, skeptical for two reasons. The first is that pacifying that entire region - the region that defeated the British and the Soviets - is a gargantuan task whose costs do not seem to me outweighed by the obvious security benefits. As long as we can prevent terrorist bases forming that could target the US mainland, I do not see a reason for this kind of human and institutional enmeshment. My fear is that it multiplies our enemies, drags us further into the Pakistan nightmare, and will never Westernize a place like Afghanistan without decades-long imperial engagement. Secondly, I do not believe that Iraq is as stable as some optimists do, and fear that we will not be able to get out as cleanly as the president currently envisages. To be trapped more deeply in both places in a year's time seems Bush-like folly to me.
Sullivan has even stronger words in response to David Brooks' neocon encomium to the renewed project in Afghanistan.

Greyhawk has a roundup of the media's coverage of Obama's Afghanistan plan, accompanied by the appropriate skepticism:

I always wondered how Iraq would have progressed with balanced media coverage and fewer outright declarations of failure from the halls of congress. The next few months in Afghanistan could provide the closest thing to an answer we're ever going to get.

2 comments:

Philippe Ohlund said...

Great post, Donald! :-)

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks Philippe!