Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Spare me the pretense of surprise

Here's a quote for those who claim to be surprised at President Barack Obama's announcement of a "surge" in Afghanistan:

We have seen Afghanistan worsen, deteriorate. We need more troops there. We need more resources there. Senator McCain, in the rush to go into Iraq, said, you know what? We've been successful in Afghanistan. There is nobody who can pose a threat to us there.

This is a time when bin Laden was still out, and now they've reconstituted themselves. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates himself acknowledges the war on terrorism started in Afghanistan and it needs to end there.

But we can't do it if we are not willing to give Iraq back its country. Now, what I've said is we should end this war responsibly. We should do it in phases. But in 16 months we should be able to reduce our combat troops, put -- provide some relief to military families and our troops and bolster our efforts in Afghanistan so that we can capture and kill bin Laden and crush al Qaeda.

And right now, the commanders in Afghanistan, as well as Admiral Mullen, have acknowledged that we don't have enough troops to deal with Afghanistan because we still have more troops in Iraq than we did before the surge.

That's Barack Obama -- more than a year ago, before he was elected, in debate with GOP presidential nominee John McCain.

And no, that statement wasn't an anomaly, a miscue or a stumble. It was fully in line with his position as of July 2008:

If elected, Obama says, he would immediately withdraw thousands of ground troops from Iraq and send them to Afghanistan to help undermanned US forces defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

"It's time to refocus our attention on the war we have to win in Afghanistan," Obama said in a speech last week.

In other words, the difference between Obama's words then and his actions now are that it took him a little longer to get to it than he expected it would in July of 2008, but not quite as long as he expected it to by that October.

Anybody who voted for -- or against -- Barack Obama last year because they thought of him as "the peace candidate" simply wasn't paying attention. The 2008 presidential election, as fought out between the "major party" nominees, was a contest in who could be the most bellicose and the most convincingly hawkish. Obama won that contest, and he's keeping the promises he made while winning it.

What will be the ultimate impact of Obama's "Afghan surge?" I have to concur with the assessment of Victor Yermakov, a former Soviet general who commanded the USSR's 40th Army in Afghanistan:

Asked what difference the latest troop surge will make, the 74-year-old former deputy defense minister says, "I can see only one: Obama will be more often going to the airport to pay his last respects to the [airlifted U.S.] soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

"That's the only difference that I can see, whatever the size of the task force."

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