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Lets All Go to Afghanistan
December 1, 2009 3:29 PM   Subscribe

Advance reports indicate 30,000 are headed to Afghanistan. In addition, President Obama is seeking a commitment of more troops from allies. The apparent broad plan is to make a short and intense deployment of some 40,000 troops against the Taliban, with pullout beginning in 2011. The most intense troop engagements are expected next year.
posted by bearwife (242 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
John McCain is already complaining that this comes with a time frame for the pullout.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:32 PM on December 1, 2009


short and intense deployment

I am shocked and awed by this tactic.
posted by fire&wings at 3:33 PM on December 1, 2009 [9 favorites]


It worked out for the British, the Russians, Alexander the Great, and a host of others.

It'll go fine.
posted by Danf at 3:34 PM on December 1, 2009 [18 favorites]


This is going to make the president's trip to Oslo next week kind of awkward.
posted by EarBucket at 3:38 PM on December 1, 2009 [7 favorites]


.
posted by brundlefly at 3:38 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nobel Peace Prize my ass.
posted by gman at 3:40 PM on December 1, 2009 [49 favorites]


I've got the same feeling of perfectly obvious impending FUBAR that was the run up to invading Iraq. I'm done with Obama. I regret spending effort and money and hope on him.
posted by wrapper at 3:41 PM on December 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


Sure, just because Afghanistan has never had a stable central government doesn't mean we shouldn't try to engineer one.

One of the things that Matt Yglesias has been talking about lately is how our obsession with terrorism and whatnot has really caused us to spend a lot of time caring about places that don't really matter at all. Afghanistan, Somalia, etc. Iraq matters because of the oil, but beyond that?

Meanwhile, we lose focus on our foreign policy with respect to the places that do matter, like our relationship with Europe and China.
John McCain is already complaining that this comes with a time frame for the pullout.
God, McCain is such a idiot.
posted by delmoi at 3:42 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Olbermann is PISSED. Really articulately pissed.
posted by hermitosis at 3:44 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Barack Obama: Bush's third term
posted by munchingzombie at 3:46 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Great! At least I don't have to worry about my brother going back to Iraq now.
posted by caution live frogs at 3:47 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


So he's motioning toward the extinguisher while shaking the last drops out of the gascan.

This is the perfect strategy if you believe the war is absurd and that the American people will see you as a wuss if you just withdraw. So to maximize your electoral chances, you superficially send more troops to get a big news splash out of it and to lay the groundwork for a narrative of Victory while getting ready to yank us out of this dumb thing.

As a supporter Team Democrat, I'm thrilled. As a human being, I'm disappointed.
posted by phrontist at 3:47 PM on December 1, 2009 [16 favorites]


How DARE he do what he said he would do a million times during the campaign.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:48 PM on December 1, 2009 [71 favorites]


After months of waiting, President Obama is about to announce the new US strategy for Afghanistan. His speech may be long awaited, but few are expecting any surprise: it seems clear he will herald a major escalation of the war. In doing so he will be making something worse than a mistake. It is a continuation of a war crime against the suffering people of my country. ...

Like many around the world, I am wondering what kind of "peace" prize can be awarded to a leader who continues the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and starts a new war in Pakistan, all while supporting Israel? ...

Instead of hope and change, in foreign policy Obama is delivering more of the same. But I still have hope because, as our history teaches, the people of Afghanistan will never accept occupation.

posted by Joe Beese at 3:48 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


It is shocking that Obama is doing what he said he would during his campaign.

Surely he should be doing what I imagined he would because he said 'change' and 'yes we can' a lot.
posted by sien at 3:49 PM on December 1, 2009 [10 favorites]


I haven't read any of the latest round of conservative political cartoons, so I really don't know: why should I be against this? It seems that Afghanistan was probably the right move after 9/11, as the Taliban was protecting bin Laden, right? It also seems like all we've really done there since the whole OH LOOK IRAQ push is tread water at best.
posted by graventy at 3:50 PM on December 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


It is shocking that Obama is doing what he said he would during his campaign.

But back then, it was "Relax guys, he's only saying this to make sure he gets elected!"
posted by hermitosis at 3:51 PM on December 1, 2009 [7 favorites]


Before the election (before the primaries, even) I predicted that if I Republican won, we would have four more years of war in the Middle East -- and if a Democrat won, we would still have four more years of war in the Middle East, but we would be able to feel really bad about it.
posted by Avenger at 3:52 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


It worked out for the British,

The British were trying to stay. At times too incorporate Afghanistan into India and at times as an sphere of influence so there would be a buffer with the Russians.

The British, or Bush for that matter, were not trying to leave in 18 months, like Obama is. Those of you who are "done with Obama", that's fine, he wasn't for you to begin with. His message was always contrasting the war in Afghanistan as needed, as opposed to the unneeded war in Iraq. He clearly wants to withdraw, but wants to do so in a way that will not kill him domestically, and leave some reduced level of chaos in the country. He never cared that if he didn't withdraw the second you wanted him to, you'd hold your breath until you turn blue and die.
posted by spaltavian at 3:53 PM on December 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


delmoi: "One of the things that Matt Yglesias has been talking about lately is how our obsession with terrorism and whatnot has really caused us to spend a lot of time caring about places that don't really matter at all."

It matters to Those Who Matter.

At present Europe is dependent on the supply of gas via Russia from the Caspian Sea, principally from Turkmenistan. This gives Moscow enormous political leverage when it comes to such matters as NATO’s decision to admit Georgia or Ukraine. U.S. policy has been to build pipelines from the Caspian avoiding Russia or Iran. Construction of the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline which will pump the gas straight to the Indian Ocean and on to world markets has been long delayed due to the fighting in Afghanistan.

The pipeline will run through Helmand province, then into Pakistan’s Balochistan. If it all works out, this will represent a highly significant improvement in the geostrategic position of the U.S. in the region, including in the event of another world war (such as might be provoked by a U.S. attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities and unpredictable repercussions of such action).

posted by Joe Beese at 3:53 PM on December 1, 2009


Barack Obama: Bush's third term

Yeah, I remember how Bush was all ready to push for health care reform. Oh, wait...
posted by wildcrdj at 3:53 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]



But back then, it was "Relax guys, he's only saying this to make sure he gets elected!"

No, I'm pretty sure for everyone but pacifists it was, "Unlike Iraq, this war is actually relevant to the 9/11 attacks and other acts of terrorism against us."
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:53 PM on December 1, 2009 [10 favorites]


Where does the pipeline figure into all of this?
posted by Burhanistan at 3:53 PM on December 1, 2009


It seems that Afghanistan was probably the right move after 9/11, as the Taliban was protecting bin Laden, right?

Even assuming you think a retributive war against one guys is worthwhile, no one for a moment thinks he's still in Afganistan. He's almost certainly in Waziristan (Pakistan).
posted by phrontist at 3:54 PM on December 1, 2009


Saudis who trained in Afghanistan blew up the WTC so America invaded Iraq. And you're upset about this? Obama isn't just cleaning up Bush's fuck-ups, he's cleaning up Reagan's too. You are aware of how fucked up American foreign policy has been since, well, forever, right?
posted by GuyZero at 3:56 PM on December 1, 2009 [15 favorites]


hermitosis: " back then, it was "Relax guys, he's only saying this to make sure he gets elected!""

Yep.

Turned out it was everything else he was lying about.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:57 PM on December 1, 2009


Olbermann is PISSED . Really articulately pissed.

God I hate those "Special comments" The, cloying, style full of self-satisfied literary tricks while discussing serious issues drives me nuts.

I don't read too much sports writing, but when I do, it often takes the same form. Olbermann used to be a sports writer, so it's not surprising. I think it's often used to try to take sports out of the mundane and elevate it to some kind of transcendental experience. But whatever, ultimately sports writing isn't about things that actually matter.

That's enough literary criticism for this thread though. Here's something glenn greenwald had to say:
The most bizarre defense of Obama's escalation is also one of the most common: since he promised during the campaign to escalate in Afghanistan, it's unfair to criticize him for it now -- as though policies which are advocated during a campaign are subsequently immunized from criticism. For those invoking this defense: in 2004, Bush ran for re-election by vowing to prosecute the war in Iraq, keep Guantanamo open, and "reform" Social Security. When he won and then did those things (or tried to), did you refrain from criticizing those policies on the ground that he promised to do them during the campaign? I highly doubt it.
posted by delmoi at 3:59 PM on December 1, 2009 [7 favorites]


It seems that Afghanistan was probably the right move after 9/11, as the Taliban was protecting bin Laden, right?
The Taliban asked for evidence of Bin Laden's complicity in the terrorist attack, which if furnished they would hand him over to an international tribunal. They weren't suspected of any direct (operational) collaboration with Al Quaeda. This is why much of the later argument involved the constructing of a post hoc case as to why the Taliban had to be toppled (medieval, women's eduction etc) but none of that was the issue at the time.
posted by Abiezer at 4:01 PM on December 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


It worked out for the British,

Another note on the British...they suffered their worst defeat in Afghanistan due to idiocy at the command level. After most of a British force was wiped out, the British got pissed off, marched in from what is now Pakistan and pretty much laid waste to any opposition. The "graveyard of empires" nickname is kind of misleading, but fun to say.
posted by Atreides at 4:01 PM on December 1, 2009


furiousxgeorge: "How DARE he do what he said he would do a million times during the campaign."

Wrong.

In major foreign policy speeches in August 2007 and July 2008, Obama did talk of sending “at least two” more U.S. combat brigades — made up of between three thousand and four thousand troops each — to Afghanistan. However, the 21,000 troops he has already sent far exceed any troop increase he discussed publicly before the election, even before the 30,000 or so more he’s expected to announce he’ll add to that number in Tuesday’s speech.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:02 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


It seems that Afghanistan was probably the right move after 9/11, as the Taliban was protecting bin Laden, right?

It seems amazing that intelligent people swallow the narrative that the US can just go and drop bombs wherever it pleases simply by divine fiat. The Taliban were the ruling government, like it or not. It wasn't like Bin Laden was hiding in the basement of a government ministry building in Kabul. The Americans made demands of Mullah Omar to hand over a suspect without going through usual international tribunal channels. Now, the Taliban are no angels and they certainly couldn't manage a modern civil government for shit, but where do you draw the line at sovereignty? Going in and unleashing wholesale destruction and regime change was not at all the "right move". Perhaps the Battle of Tora Bora was called for and did actually wipe out much of the originally branded Al Qaida, but what did it accomplish overall?

Anyway, we're already there so lamenting the bad decision is not very productive. But, just as quickly as we invaded and occupied we can withdraw. There can be a remainder force that can play war with drones and jets if they feel the need, but a huge occupation will not help the country heal. Get them out yesterday.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:02 PM on December 1, 2009 [24 favorites]


Before the election (before the primaries, even) I predicted that if I Republican won, we would have four more years of war in the Middle East -- and if a Democrat won, we would still have four more years of war in the Middle East, but we would be able to feel really bad about it.

I'm not sure what that has to do with anything since Afghanistan is not in the Middle East.

Of course, we'll probably still be in Iraq in four years...
posted by delmoi at 4:02 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


What does the current war in Afghanistan have to do with 9/11? As far as I can tell, fuck all. America is getting pretty good at killing civilians with airplane drones. I guess that should count for something? And seriously, just because he promised to keep the war going when campaigning doesn't make the idea less stupid. Maybe the US should pull out of Iraq or Afghanistan (or both) and start paying for some mother fucking health care.
posted by chunking express at 4:04 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


"He promised he's unicorn-beam the Taliban and make them love kitties instead of war! WTF Obama???"
posted by Artw at 4:06 PM on December 1, 2009


But back then, it was "Relax guys, he's only saying this to make sure he gets elected!"

I believe that may have been only the voices in your head.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:09 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


He clearly wants to withdraw, but wants to do so in a way that will not kill him domestically,...

I respect Obama. I really do. Voted for him.

But if this is true...

If he's really prolonging a war to either directly or indirectly increase his odds of a second term, then he's lost me.

I'm a pragmatic, realpolitik kind of guy. I really am. I'm willing to make compromises and strike bargains. Sometimes with the Devil Himself. But there are just some things in life that you just do. Ending an unjust and pointless war is one of them. There are just some things in life that you just don't do. Sending American men and women to their deaths to score political points and to "save face" is one of those things.

It's disgusting on so many levels, I'm not even sure I have the words.
posted by Avenger at 4:10 PM on December 1, 2009 [7 favorites]


chunking express: "What does the current war in Afghanistan have to do with 9/11?"

Since our own National Security Advisor says there are less than 100 al-Qaeda in Afghanistan now, not a whole hell of a lot.

Still, I'll be timing the speech to see how quickly Obama says "9/11". I'm guessing between 30 and 45 seconds.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:10 PM on December 1, 2009


We should all go there to watch. Just to make sure they really 'engage' and fight and stuff.
posted by grounded at 4:11 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


God I hate those "Special comments" The, cloying, style full of self-satisfied literary tricks while discussing serious issues drives me nuts.

You know who else had a television show with special moments? ">This guy ... and ... and ... and it worked out fine for ... everyone.

Wait, wait, I did the irony dismount all wrong...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:12 PM on December 1, 2009


THIS GUY

damn, I can't even be sarcastic right
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:13 PM on December 1, 2009


Folks that are "done with Obama" now, it's okay. I suspect you'll feel differently if, in three years, we're substantially out of Iraq and out of Afghanistan with the exception of some residual forces. If that's the situation on the ground as we head into 2012, folks will be singing Obama's praises from the rooftops, particularly given the crap sandwiches Bush handed him when he left office.

If we've averted the Great Depression II, have put in place an imperfect yet significant health care reform, have the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Shepard/Bird Hate Crimes Act and have made some progress, however marginal, on climate change, then Obama's first term will be a resounding success.

If he's able to appoint one or two more SCOTUS Justices and signs a bill getting rid of either DOMA or DADT, we can all just laugh and point at people who call the Obama administration Bush's 3rd term or suggest in 2012 that "there's no difference between the Republicans and Democrats".
posted by darkstar at 4:13 PM on December 1, 2009 [48 favorites]


What Avenger said.
posted by wrapper at 4:16 PM on December 1, 2009


chunking express: " Maybe the US should pull out of Iraq or Afghanistan (or both) and start paying for some mother fucking health care."

You'll notice that, unlike health care, Obama isn't insisting that his escalation be deficit neutral.

But don't be a tight-ass, Wen... you know we're good for it.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:16 PM on December 1, 2009


The British, or Bush for that matter, were not trying to leave in 18 months, like Obama is.

Interesting phrasing. Instead you might want to consider aligning the approaches of Disraeli with Bush and then Gladstone with Obama.
posted by i_cola at 4:18 PM on December 1, 2009


What chunking express said. What good is any of this when our domestic issues are so catastrophic? A million dollars a day to keep one soldier overseas? Christ, I'd settle getting off the damn dole and making even 30K right now.

Fuck these wars and these surges. There won't be anything left of America or Afghanistan by the end of all this.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 4:21 PM on December 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


What's stupid is that no matter what he does here, it still won't be enough for whoever the fuck represents the opposition in the US. All he seems to be doing is alienating the people who elected him. And this idea that pulling out is going to hurt him domestically is equally ridiculous. Don't most polls have 'getting the fuck out' as a pretty popular sentiment of the real-live American people.
posted by chunking express at 4:23 PM on December 1, 2009


Jesus Christ, I wish we could stockpile favorites so that I could drop about 50 of them on Burhanistan's comment right now.

I can think of only one good thing to say about the Obama Plan for Afghanistan: the Palin Plan would undoubtedly be even worse.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:24 PM on December 1, 2009


I thought Rory Stewart spoke about this most eloquently two months ago on Bill Moyers.

RORY STEWART: I'd say President Obama has no choice. If he's not going to send the troops, he should have stopped the General from sending in the report. He's now completely boxed in.
posted by birdie birdington at 4:25 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


There actually is a strong connection between 911 and Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda were under the protection of the Taliban (who won their place by violent overthrow and whose legitimacy was recognized by exactly 3 countries) when they declared war on the US, trained to attack, and launched 911. The Taliban's resurgence in Afghanistan, if successful, will again give Al Qaeda a haven. Likely the President will talk about these issues tonight.
posted by bearwife at 4:26 PM on December 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


If he's really prolonging a war to either directly or indirectly increase his odds of a second term, then he's lost me.

He's not prolonging the war. Do you believe there was any time frame that would actually get the broad approval of Congress, the military and the public that would have us leaving sooner than 2011? I do not. If Obama made the "opposite" decision, and sent no more troops and told everyone we're headed home, when do you think it would have been? Now? The spring? No, it would have been, at earliest, a year from now. This is after the mid-terms, but also a realistic time frame for the logistical issues any large withdraw would occur.

What Obama is doing in the meantime, is sending a bunch more troops. This will increase the military's tactical effectiveness, though it may increase, decrease or have no effect on America's strategic success. Hopefully it will bring stability to more of Afghanistan.

It's absolutely a political calculation, but it isn't solely a political one. Either way, my mind is boggled at the concept that anyone thought we'd be leaving less than 12-18 months from now, regardless of what Obama decided.
posted by spaltavian at 4:37 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Fill in the blank:

the _________ (who won their place by violent overthrow and whose legitimacy was recognized by exactly 3 countries [or fewer])

A. American revolutionaries
B. French revolutionaries
C. Sandinistas
D. all of the above
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:40 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


bearwife: "The Taliban's resurgence in Afghanistan, if successful, will again give Al Qaeda a haven."

So to deny these less than 100 anti-American fanatics a "haven" - as if they couldn't organize an attack from anywhere with cell phone reception - we should continue to occupy a Muslim land and kill their civilians. Seems to me that this would produce a lot more anti-American fanatics. But I'm a DFH, so what do I know.

There's also that little $1,400,000,000,000 deficit we're running for this year.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:40 PM on December 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


chunking express wrote: "Don't most polls have 'getting the fuck out' as a pretty popular sentiment of the real-live American people."

As I recall, polls show strong support for withdrawal from Iraq, but opinions are much more divided regarding Afghanistan.
posted by wierdo at 4:45 PM on December 1, 2009


Critically American public opinion for the war is dropping.

The NYT reports that roughly 4 in 10 people want fewer troops, 2 in 10 want to keep the numbers the same and only 3 in 10 want more troops.

If what appears to be a trend of lower and lower support continues hopefully after 2010 Obama can, with reasonable support, beginning pulling out.
posted by sien at 4:47 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's a rare occasion that money and morals point the same way: the US should not prolong this war by deploying yet more soldiers.
posted by Sova at 4:48 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wrong.

In major foreign policy speeches in August 2007 and July 2008, Obama did talk of sending “at least two” more U.S. combat brigades


You don't seem to understand the phrase, "at least."
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:51 PM on December 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


sien: "Critically American public opinion for the war is dropping."

The fantasy that the American public represents Obama's constituency seems to die particularly hard.

The American public wants single payer. The insurance industry wants millions of captive new customers.

Guess who's getting what they want?
posted by Joe Beese at 4:52 PM on December 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


Now that's change more of the same that I can believe in!
posted by fuq at 5:00 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


How do we make a profit just making change?

The answer? Volume.
posted by darkstar at 5:02 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


It seems that Afghanistan was probably the right move after 9/11

Asking a 14-year-old girl out was the right move after my 14th birthday.
posted by dirigibleman at 5:06 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


FellliniBlank, the American revolution was supported by France, was resolved by a peace treaty with Britain, and led to a new government that was recognized by multiple sovereign powers, not three. It was also founded on philosophy of human rights very alien to the Taliban . . . who 5 years after they took power were recognized by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, very likely from well founded fear, and no one else. I see some differences.
posted by bearwife at 5:08 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yep. He got 9-11 in there pretty fast.
posted by wrapper at 5:10 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I just don't understand why the U.S. thinks it can "win" in any significant way in Afghanistan when no one ever has.

Al Qaeda? Made up bogeymen, conveniently used as an excuse. Essentially strawmen. They are mean to women? So are many many countries whom we have not yet chosen to bomb. They play polo with goat heads? OK, maybe, but ugly sports are really no excuse for a war when we are dealing with real issues on a local level.

Out, out now. End the bleeding. Don't throw good money after bad. It really is that simple, IMHO.
posted by Invoke at 5:11 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


quote: Jesus Christ, I wish we could stockpile favorites so that I could drop about 50 of them on Burhanistan's comment right now.

I can think of only one good thing to say about the Obama Plan for Afghanistan: the Palin Plan would undoubtedly be even worse.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:24 PM on December 1 [+] [!]

Screw the link to the original comment......

Funny how we can all post our thoughts here without regard for the thinking part of the equation.....

What, exactly, was, or is, the "Palin Plan"?......Any facts, or quotes, to back your dim vision?

re: Burhanistan's comment: "Now, the Taliban are no angels...."

Maybe you were referring to the Taliban's softer, and more cuddly side. Maybe I missed something......

Or, maybe you were commenting on this deep theological insight: "but where do you draw the line at sovereignty?"

quote: "Anyway, we're already there so lamenting the bad decision is not very productive. But, just as quickly as we invaded and occupied we can withdraw. There can be a remainder force that can play war with drones and jets if they feel the need, but a huge occupation will not help the country heal. Get them out yesterday."

What's the point, then? Troops kill people, drones help find enemies, jets kill people..........

Anti-American sentiment? I'm not concerned.........

$12 trillion dollar debt......I'm also not concerned......I won't have to pay it, nor will our country.

Obama.......?.......A new puppet in this recurring game?......

Call him for what he is.

A puppet.

There will be wars, and visions of wars.

"Getting the fuck out" of Afghanistan is what we're not doing tomorrow. "Getting the fuck out" of Iraq is what we're also not doing tomorrow.

We'll still be in those places.....term, after term, from here on out.

The louder you scream, the more silenced you will be......

I'll consider that, and fight against that, if I have a say in it........

Regards,
Gottfried
posted by Gottfried Mind at 5:14 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


God, McCain is such a idiot.

Is he? If you were an insurgent fighting an enemy who promises to leave in 18 months if you just sit tight and keep a low profile, what would you do? The Taliban's communication technology doesn't consist of tin cans and bits of string strung between cave openings. They have teh internets and they pay attention to what the White House says. Obama should just pull the troops out. This strategy is the worst of both worlds, which is what happens when you cobble together a face-saving compromise for political reasons. Hopefully the Europeans refuse to go along with it.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 5:15 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Surely this.....
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 5:16 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


The text of tonight's speech
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 5:18 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


posted by Gottfried Mind at 5:14 PM on December 1 [+] [!]

.........
posted by shen1138 at 5:20 PM on December 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


Is he? If you were an insurgent fighting an enemy who promises to leave in 18 months if you just sit tight and keep a low profile, what would you do?
I agree; they have an entirely different set of strategic goals and timeline. The last pronouncement I recall from a UK general was that we had to prepared to be in there for 30 years (I think it was) if we expected to achieve anything, but I also agree with you latter too, this is the worst of both worlds.
To those above listing the many sins of the Taliban, do recall that none of these were considerations when the coalition went in, as they weren't when we backed their predecessors against the Soviets and the previous, pro-women secular socialist regime.
posted by Abiezer at 5:21 PM on December 1, 2009


If you were an insurgent fighting an enemy who promises to leave in 18 months

From the speech:
After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.

Taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground.
I don't see any promises to be out in 18 months.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 5:27 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know who else had a television show with special moments? ">This guy ... and ... and ... and it worked out fine for ... everyone.

First of all, how often did Murrow have "Special moments" Second of all, how did the language of his "special moments" compare to other TV broadcasters of the time? Olberman is not Edward R Murrow.

I'm not saying that anything isn't going to "Work out" I'm just saying the way Olberman delivers these special comments is cloying, portentous, and annoying.

Is he? If you were an insurgent fighting an enemy who promises to leave in 18 months if you just sit tight and keep a low profile, what would you do? The Taliban's communication technology doesn't consist of tin cans and bits of string strung between cave openings.

Yeah, it is certainly true that the Taliban can just wait us out if they think we're going to leave by a fixed date, which is actually a reason to avoid bothering with all of this entirely. But it seems like what McCain actually wants is for us to stay there forever. I mean, he said we should stay in Iraq for "100" years (later amended to 10,000) during the campaign.
posted by delmoi at 5:30 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just don't understand why the U.S. thinks it can "win" in any significant way in Afghanistan when no one ever has.

Actually, the USSR would have "won" if the US hadn't armed the Mujahadeen with Stinger missiles. The Soviets had the right idea going in -- overwhelm any possible insurgency and use your military advantage on slash 'n' burn attacks to cut off the resistance's supply lines. The problem was the US, its middle man Pakistan, and a largely undefendable border that allowed US arms and training to move easily into Afghanistan.

Arms and training, mind you, that led to the Taliban, Osama Bin Laden, and the initial iteration of Al-Queda (vs. the post-Iraq Al-Queda, which is more like independent terrorist/insurgent franchises).

But yeah, the "Graveyard of Empires" moniker is marketing. Consider that the Assyrians, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Ottomans, and British have all at one point or another held Jerusalem. Every one of those empires is gone, but no one calls Jerusalem "the City Of Lost Empires."
posted by dw at 5:35 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you were an insurgent fighting an enemy who promises to leave in 18 months if you just sit tight and keep a low profile, what would you do?

Depends: The risk of an insurgent keeping a low profile for 18 months is that the people actually start to trust the government at something like maintaining a reasonable peace. If I was the government and knew you were going to keep your head down for 18 months, I'd launch a huge security and PR offensive aimed at shoring up my legitimacy and doing something for the people that I can point to if things go badly.

18 months is a long time in which to win hearts and minds if the terrorists are planning to go away. You can pave a lot of roads and build a lot of schoolrooms and hospitals in 18 months. Insurgencies live or die by being present, by being impossible for the government to get rid of. If they voluntarily absent themselves, they lose.

In short, this is a lousy argument against announcing a timetable.
posted by fatbird at 5:37 PM on December 1, 2009 [7 favorites]


I find it interesting that almost no one in this discussion has talked about the actual effects of a surge/withdrawal on Afghanistan itself. All the talk has been about OUR soldiers, OUR money, and OUR voters. How selfish is that?

I am not asserting it is so as I don't know enough to say, but I am putting forward the possibility that our presence there can have a positive effect, such that perhaps all three of those things must be sacrificed.

I think it disingenuous to talk about "prolonging the war", as if we are sending troops into Vietnam or the Somme, into a full-on trench war meat-grinder. There are troops fighting, dying, and there are Afghans (including civilians) getting killed, but I imagine that in some places, high concentrations of troops provide a good deal of civil order. I also understand they are supervising and protecting the vast undertaking of improving Afghan infrastructure, roads being the main focus.

I think it is these kinds of very basic elements, like roads, that can help Afghanistan emerge from being an impassable, tribal, war-torn place. Is there any proposal for how these things will develop if we withdraw? Is there a contingency plan? Did the Taliban do this before us, and is there any indication they will do so after we leave? If we leave and simply invest resources from afar, will the Taliban use it to improve the country or prolong the cycle? Hell, what's to prevent the civil war going on before we arrived in 2001 from continuing? It's been going since fucking 1978.

If we just up and stop the "war", it's not gonna make Afghanistan all better again because of some kind of philosophical evil associated with the word. You may argue that Afghanistan will be a better place under the Taliban. You may be right, but for fuck's sake use that argument and not "But Obama PROMISED". (unless the real point here is we're not BFF with Obama anymore) I can only assume, because I like to think Obama's a human being, that he has at least considered this stuff in addition to his 2012 prospects.

None of this addresses whether we should have gone there in the first place, but it's a little late for that anyway. We're there, and it matters, one way or another.
posted by Badasscommy at 5:37 PM on December 1, 2009 [7 favorites]


I don't think 30K more troops will do it. 300K, maybe, but what really needs to happen is the Afghani people need a reason not to go back to where they've been. That means economic reconstruction and a system that's intolerant of corruption. Until those things start to happen, until the Afghanis start trusting that the way forward isn't a mirage, they're just a Taliban offense away from their lost decade.

What turned things in Northern Ireland was realizing it was the sectarian violence that was holding them back from the prosperity the rest of Ireland was experiencing. What sent things spiraling downward in Yugoslavia and Iraq was realizing that once the authoritarian power was gone it was every person and tribe and people group for themselves. If at the end of the day 30K more troops is just about holding ground and not about winning hearts and minds, nothing the US or NATO can do will prevent the collapse that will follow the moment they leave.
posted by dw at 5:43 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think it is these kinds of very basic elements, like roads, that can help Afghanistan emerge from being an impassable, tribal, war-torn place.

Just about any infrastructure project gets attacked and/or stalled by corruption from all sides. If you want to play the long game like that then you have to work with the Taliban to improve the infrastructure and then find HUMINT ways of destabilizing them over time. Direct military assaults against them just make craters and enrage family members of the fallen.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:43 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


18 months is a long time in which to win hearts and minds if the terrorists are planning to go away. You can pave a lot of roads and build a lot of schoolrooms and hospitals in 18 months. Insurgencies live or die by being present, by being impossible for the government to get rid of. If they voluntarily absent themselves, they lose.
Hardly serious; what little you could achieve in that time could be thrown into chaos and blown up in short order on re-emergence - look at the timelines of previous conflicts, or read Mao's guerilla classic On Protracted War (accused of being a strategy for not fighting at the time, by the side they beat in the later civil war); should imagine Taliban commanders have.
posted by Abiezer at 5:44 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Regardless, he's not going to squeeze much more out of NATO besides those 500 British troops. Obama only mustered an extra 3,000 troops from the other 27 NATO countries in April, bringing the non-USA contribution to ISAF to about 35,000.
posted by furtive at 5:48 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Greenwald Quote: Bush ran for re-election by vowing to prosecute the war in Iraq, keep Guantanamo open, and "reform" Social Security. When he won and then did those things (or tried to), did you refrain from criticizing those policies on the ground that he promised to do them during the campaign?

Oh. For fuck sake, Greenwald. Yes. I criticized Bush. Because I didn't VOTE for him. Because I was against those fucking policies.

Look. If any of you are shocked because Obama didn't announce he was gonna pull out of Afghanistan you are smoking crack.

He said he was gonna escalate throughout his entire campaign. And if you voted for him you either were drunk during those lengthy policy discussions or drunk when you voted for him.

If you didn't vote for him? Blast away. But none of you should be stomping your feet. We all knew he was gonna do this in October of 2008.
posted by tkchrist at 5:49 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


God, McCain is such a idiot.Is he? If you were an insurgent fighting an enemy who promises to leave in 18 months if you just sit tight and keep a low profile, what would you do? The Taliban's communication technology doesn't consist of tin cans and bits of string strung between cave openings. They have teh internets and they pay attention to what the White House says. Obama should just pull the troops out. This strategy is the worst of both worlds, which is what happens when you cobble together a face-saving compromise for political reasons. Hopefully the Europeans refuse to go along with it.

Except that won't happen. Insurgencies are about momentum. Just stopping fighting will sap them of momentum. Remember how the Bushies screamed setting a date certain for the pullout would allow the "terrists" to win? Didn't happen.

I wish very deeply that we didn't have to fight anywhere. I wish we could disarm safely.

Unfortunately, we are not there yet. Like it or not, in my city one September morning, a huge terrorist attack took place. It was total chaos. A lot of people died. A lot of others were hurt. I knew people who were killed and hurt. A friend drove into the Pentagon parking lot and saw the plane hit the building and ducked to avoid a wave of heat and pressure washing over her car.

The people who committed the attack were based in the country of Afghanistan. Al Qaeda. The Taliban helped them--they were part and parcel of one another. In short, the country of Afghanistan committed an act of war against the United States.

The United States did right in helping the Afghani people throw out the Taliban. But the collasally stupid war against Saddam meant that troops were taken away from getting the job done.

But the job has to be done. It is a known threat--one that has struck before--struck where I live and killed people I know. To leave this threat unaddressed has known, proven consequences.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:56 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Now, the Taliban are no angels and they certainly couldn't manage a modern civil government for shit, but where do you draw the line at sovereignty?

When a "government" prohibits girls from attending school, organizes public executions for alleged adulterers, destroys timeless monuments and works of art as illicit idols, creates an opium-based kleptocracy, and gives comfort to terrorists responsible for murdering thousands of American civilians, I am totally ok drawing the sovereignty.

In fact, a chinese take-out menu of even a few of those things would probably do the trick for me.
posted by Slap Factory at 5:59 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]



I don't think 30K more troops will do it. 300K, maybe, but what really needs to happen is the Afghani people need a reason not to go back to where they've been.

The effective number of troops to stabilize Afghanistan is zero. Becuase a military solution will never work there. Sure you need troops there to protect civilian leaders and to act as cops for a while but if the Afghans want the Taliban back then that is what they want. But we are waaay past the point where troops can make a whit of difference now. It's too late.

There is nothing to "win" there. A stable Afghanistan? What does that even mean? Most of the country is barely out of the 13th Century and still exists in a semi-feudal state. Fuck. Leave those people alone.

"We must maintain American Prestige?" What prestige. Over the last century our track record on prestige has been pretty slim. We got won WWII and inherited a mess of proxy wars that didn't reinforce our prestige much.

I don't agree with Obamas decision. It's a tragic mistake. But it's a mistake I expected.
posted by tkchrist at 6:00 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


The people who committed the attack were based in the country of Afghanistan. Al Qaeda. The Taliban helped them--they were part and parcel of one another. In short, the country of Afghanistan committed an act of war against the United States.

This a total leap in logic, which was augmented by your exposure to 9/11. Look, I have a good friend who is a civilian contractor who would have been certainly killed by the attack on the Pentagon if he hadn't been called across the way for a meeting that morning (his coworkers were killed). It sickens me. But don't let that tear holes in your critical thinking process about what should be done with Afghanistan as a whole. How many civilians have we killed there already?

I was sickened by 9/11 but even more sickened by the media and politically sanctioned bloodlust that raged in the weeks afterwards. If we're going to be better than people like Al Qaeda then we have to respond with real thinking, not with anger and vengeance. Otherwise, the cycle just keeps on going.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:02 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


How much easier it is to blame the centrist president for doing what he said he'd do...

and not the Congress that went along with war as the solution for terrorism at the start
and not the country of civilians that bought into it
and not the media that promoted it along the way
and not the corporate contractors making profit all the way

Yes, he's guilty! Let's hide those tiny US flags from 5 years ago! Let's peel off the last glue of the "Support the Troops" bumper sticker!

Millions got together to build the engine of war, now we expect him to deconstruct it for us overnight.

You know y'all could have voted for Cynthia McKinney, right?
posted by yeloson at 6:08 PM on December 1, 2009 [8 favorites]


When a "government" prohibits girls from attending school, organizes public executions for alleged adulterers, destroys timeless monuments and works of art as illicit idols, creates an opium-based kleptocracy

Oh pleeeeeese.

Do you how many states out there do that much and worse? Let's invade all of them.

There is nothing occupation-wise you can do that doesn't involve killing a whole bunch of people, wasting a whole shit-ton of money, and make people hate you anyway.

If we have credible evidence a that a state is harboring a serious credible threat we bribe them to knock it off. Or, when we are attacked, we retaliate and bomb the ever-loving fuck out of them from 8000 miles away and kill as many mother fuckers as we can. Men. Women. Children. Dogs. Goats. Everything. It's total war or no war. That is the modern conundrum.

But otherwise we stay the hell out. Occupation doesn't work.
posted by tkchrist at 6:10 PM on December 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


I think that there are stable equilibria for violence levels in a society. The surge in Iraq worked because it provided the when the militants had the momentum, it was in the self-interest of the locals to cooperate with them (i.e. leave town if instructed, don't provide intel to coalition forces, pay bribes). This is a self-reinforcing situation. By temporarily forcing militants to keep a lower profile, the surge allowed citizens in particular areas to contribute to their community's stability in ways the couldn't have before, helping to create a new equilibrium.

This is much less likely to work in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is much less interconnected, both in terms of population density and the various kinds of physical and institutional infrastructure that help people integrate into their societies. In addition, while the most violent areas in Iraq were mostly the major cities, in Afghanistan it's the rural areas. There are few ways for the Afghan people to contribute to equilibrium of a stable, peaceful society, because there isn't as much of a society. Essentially, Afghanistan is simply naturally less governable and less easy to organize. This is partially good- it makes it harder for terrorists to organize (recruit, obtain supplies, communicate abroad)- but unless we commit to building much more infrastructure than currently exists, it means that a surge will only amount to pushing a ball somewhat farther uphill before releasing it.
posted by dickensian at 6:10 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm so glad that, apparently, if you want to entirely erase 7 years of bad policy and dangerous decisions, all you have to do is put your fingers in your ears and pretend like you never invaded a country.

We as a nation have a responsibility to the Afghan people not to leave their country so much more fucked up than when we showed up, whether or not the original mission was correct. We as a nation have a responsibility to ourselves to make Afghanistan better (because we're already there) so that 30 or 40 years down the line we haven't created another mass murderer. If all the military strategists in charge of this situation believe that the way to make this country better is to commit 30,000 more troops, that is the right thing to do for us right now.
posted by TypographicalError at 6:14 PM on December 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


The surge in Iraq worked because it provided the when the militants had the momentum, it was in the self-interest of the locals to cooperate with them
posted by tkchrist at 6:14 PM on December 1, 2009


Except that won't happen. Insurgencies are about momentum.

This true for most insurgencies but the Taliban is different. Traditionally they take a break during the winter and return in full force during the spring. All through the Soviet invasion and much of the US invasion insurgents used this tactic. Many Afghan civilians will never trust anyone who claims the insurgency can't return after hiatus because they have repeatedly shown that they are capable of regaining control. Do you really think that a local Afghan community leader will believe an elected official or soldier when he is told that the Taliban won't come back this time? They have been coming back for decades. The Afghan government is really corrupt. I seriously doubt they can accomplish anything that an average civilian can believe in over the course of 18 months.
posted by Procloeon at 6:14 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]



Crap. Accidentally hit post on that last one.

The surge in Iraq worked because it provided the when the militants had the momentum, it was in the self-interest of the locals to cooperate with them

You assume the surge "worked." It didn't. Not in the sense of bringing the Sunni into the government. What the surge did is temporarily reduce the amount of violence between factions with us caught in the middle. The factions don't need to bomb each other as much now. Becuase the Shia faction consolidated power and WON. The death squads in southern Iraq now continue with out interruption.
posted by tkchrist at 6:18 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Except that won't happen. Insurgencies are about momentum. Just stopping fighting will sap them of momentum.
The war against the Soviets went on for a decade or more; Mullah Omar fought in that, in the wars since the mid-90s to wrest control of the country and in the resistance post coalition invasion and he's still going. I don't see your assertion as marrying with the history.
The people who committed the attack were based in the country of Afghanistan. Al Qaeda. The Taliban helped them--they were part and parcel of one another. In short, the country of Afghanistan committed an act of war against the United States.
The people who committed the attack were in Germany. A group of Al Qaeda leaders and fighter were, in the local traditions of hospitality, tolerated in a marginal mountain region on the wild border with Pakistan. There's been allegations of support for the Taliban given by Al Qaeda but those are contested, and I'm not aware of any accusations that the Taliban aided Al Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks.
Personally, I would love it if international brigades roamed the world toppling despots and tyrants, but for that to work you'd have to have an alternative ready to replace them and the active support of the people you were liberating. neither of which the coalition had when it invaded Afghanistan.
posted by Abiezer at 6:19 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Badasscommy: "I think it is these kinds of very basic elements, like roads, that can help Afghanistan emerge from being an impassable, tribal, war-torn place. Is there any proposal for how these things will develop if we withdraw?"

Your whole comment was a thoughtful and articulate contribution to this painful conversation, so I say this with all due respect: I have to call White Man's Burden on this.

Tell yourself whatever story you prefer about why why there will be 100,000+ American men inflicting "regrettable" civilian casualties in Afghanistan for the rest of Obama's time in office - whether that's 3 or 7 more years. To the Afghans, we're just the latest in a long line of assholes slamming them up against the school locker.

So when Obama said Afghanistan isn't Vietnam because there isn't a broad based native insurgency against us, I wondered how he thought would get away with such a blatant lie. Then I reminded myself that, in the official narrative, as soon as an Afghan fires a weapon at an American soldier, he instantly becomes "Taliban".

furtive: "Regardless, he's not going to squeeze much more out of NATO besides those 500 British troops. Obama only mustered an extra 3,000 troops from the other 27 NATO countries in April, bringing the non-USA contribution to ISAF to about 35,000."

You forgot Poland!
posted by Joe Beese at 6:19 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


We as a nation have a responsibility to the Afghan people not to leave their country so much more fucked up than when we showed up

This not possible in our lifetimes. Afghanistan has been fucked up for a long, long, time.
posted by tkchrist at 6:19 PM on December 1, 2009


And further on the infrastructure - I've worked in rural development in Asia in a far less harsh environment, in peace-time, with a strong central government, and projects took forever. My suspicion is you'll get nine-tenths of fuck-all accomplished in 18 months in somewhere like Afghanistan as it is now.
posted by Abiezer at 6:22 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Personally, I would love it if international brigades roamed the world toppling despots and tyrants, but for that to work you'd have to have an alternative ready to replace them and the active support of the people you were liberating. neither of which the coalition had when it invaded Afghanistan.

The Chuck Norris Brigade. That's what Rumsfeld thought he could turn the entire US military into simply making everyone where a beret.

I am for the prudent and judicious use of violence when absolutely necessary. And sometimes it is necessary. But military occupations inevitably become imprudent very quickly.

Bombing them with Butter won't really work either since all that will do is enrich the corrupt oligarchs.

Change has to come from with-in. And it will if we just walk away and give the place some time. You know. It's crazy. But hows about leading by example.
posted by tkchrist at 6:24 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


ARRRG! "wear a beret"
posted by tkchrist at 6:24 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Regards,
Gottfried
posted by Gottfried Mind at 5:14 PM on December 1 [+] [!]


Wow. A portal just opened, and I appear to be on USENET in 1996. Can... can anyone point me to alt.kooks? Because I just saw this post...
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:25 PM on December 1, 2009


This is why much of the later argument involved the constructing of a post hoc case as to why the Taliban had to be toppled (medieval, women's eduction etc) but none of that was the issue at the time.

Huh? I remember caring about it at the time. Many people, particularly feminists, made a big issue of the Taliban's brutality even before the September 11 attacks.

I'm not sure what you mean when you say it wasn't "at issue." Do you mean it wasn't the main reason Bush decided to invade? Uh, yeah, that's pretty obvious. That doesn't mean it's not still important.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:30 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


“I just don't understand why the U.S. thinks it can "win" in any significant way in Afghanistan when no one ever has.”

I’ve never heard of Alexander the Great so I can say anything I want about history. Or the Persians. Or the Madai. Or Turks or Mongols. Or indeed, that the British who “lost” there who are responsible for the Durand Line and the ultimate creation of conflict in the region. Nope. Those guys are just superpowerful bad asses.
The Brits didn’t think that it was not worthwhile to bother with, they just lost. It’s not about the fact that it sits at a geographic crossroads of religion, trade, ethnic conflict, and that it has always been thoroughly dominated by a multitude of different powers and external influences using the place as a proxy battlefield (India and Pakistan, even the U.S. and the Soviets) and that this is why occupation is such a chore, achieving unity. No, they’re just all kick ass motherfuckers there. Naturally. (Not because they've always been armed and trained by outside interests. That'd just be crazy).

“Now, the Taliban are no angels and they certainly couldn't manage a modern civil government for shit, but where do you draw the line at sovereignty?”

Er, the Taliban overthrew Najibullah, the elected political leader who had acquired power after the Soviets left and hung him on a public street. Not really a mandate by the people per se.
Even before they flexed their muscle there were people training in terrorist camps in Afghanistan. Khaled Shaikh Mohammed was living there and sent his nephew Ramzi Yousef to bomb the WTC.

After they took over Afghanistan, the (affiliated) Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Islam political party in Pakistan helped organize terrorist training camps in Afghanistan where bin Laden set up (outside Jalalabad) and further organized al Qaeda international operations.

Then the Taliban massacred thousands of Hazara and Shiites near Mazar-i-Sharif.

Then bin Laden (et.al.) declared a jihad. Then 7 U.S. troops were killed in Riyadh and 19 in Dharan – just as y’know an example of the jihad, not that he had anything to do with that *cough*
Then some U.S. embassies blowed up killing hundreds of people.

We targeted OBL (et.al) with tomahawk missiles. He escaped. Some folks say we didn't do enough. *shrug*

Then some people busted in to (Afghan political moderate) Abdul Haq’s house and murdered his wife and kids. Oh and his brother’s secretary was assassinated a bit later. They were anti-Taliban organizers.
And, just generally, the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations condemned the Taliban government for ongoing human rights abuses and imposed sanctions and the UN security council officially demanded they turn over bin Laden.

Then the U.S.S. Cole was suicide bombed at Aden in Yemen killing 17 and wounding 37 others and bin Laden (et.al.) claimed responsibility.

Just before 9/11 (almost no one remembers this) the Taliban arrested (perfectly legally – because hey, they’re sovereign right?) 24 international humanitarian aid workers in Kabul (they were freed by anti-Taliban rebels and transported by U.S. choppers, none of them were U.S. citizens)

And then there’s 9/11. Yeah, they were mostly Saudis. That means so much to terrorists, y’know, their home country. They sure don’t change passports like other folks change their underwear. Clearly their nationality had so much to do with their beliefs in the jihad and not their training and indoctrination in Afghanistan.
Ramzi Yousef must have loved us for liberating Kuwait. That’s probably why he wanted to bomb the WTC back then.

Looking at those highlights - yeah, they’re just saying that: “To kill Americans and their allies, civilians and military, is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it, in any country in which it is possible to do it."
Clearly, we leave these guys alone, we’re not going to have any problems.

That said, doesn’t mean I agree with the current plan. But let’s be clear, there are people who want to kill as many Americans as they can, by any means they can. And I don’t think we should be using as much beef as we are (and I’ve quoted analysis elsewhere that I agree with), but this “let’s just leave and forget the whole thing” isn’t going to work.

Now, I’m not optimistic about Obama’s plan. Afghanistan has been dichotomized by India and Pakistan with the U.S. sort of leaning with India and Saudi Arabia sort of leaning with Pakistan and Russia and China sort of dithering.

Tactically, yes it’s terrain. Strategically it’s culture yeah. But politically it’s finding a solution that nearby countries can live with. That’s not going to happen any time soon, and not with just more guys. At best this is a holding action.

On the other hand, I’m hard pressed to come up with something better. If we split, we give up any chance at resolution. If we stay, maybe we can get the international community on board, ease India and Pakistan into a solution that doesn’t put them at each other’s throats for another century.
It’d be nice to finish it once and for all.

On the other hand, might be in some powerful folks interests to keep it going. I mean, it’s been in everyone’s interests since the Mongols that the Afghans not have control of their own destiny. The U.S. might be facing a lost cause if no one (including forces within the U.S.) wants that.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:31 PM on December 1, 2009 [17 favorites]


The people who committed the attack were based in the country of Afghanistan. Al Qaeda. The Taliban helped them--they were part and parcel of one another. In short, the country of Afghanistan committed an act of war against the United States.

The people who committed the attacks were based in Saudi Arabia, the United States of America, Germany, Afghanistan, the Philippines and probably other places.

The 9/11 attacks were dramatic and scary but more people die every year in traffic accidents in the United States. If Osama, or anyone else, was really interested in killing Americans on a long term basis rather than a one-off attention grabbing attack they could simply invest heavily in Ford or GM.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:36 PM on December 1, 2009


Just today, a friend pointed me to a recent Foreign Policy article by Stephen Walt in which he notes:

[[ I heard a different take on this subject at a recent conference on U.S. relations with the Islamic world. In addition to hearing a diverse set of views from different Islamic countries, one of the other participants (a prominent English journalist) put it quite simply. “If the United States wants to improve its image in the Islamic world,” he said, “it should stop killing Muslims.” ]]

Using the most conservative estimates possible, Walt goes on to provide a breakdown of Muslim deaths caused by American actions over the last 30 years:

[[ Even so, the United States has killed nearly 30 Muslims for every American lost. The real ratio is probably much higher, and a reasonable upper bound for Muslim fatalities (based mostly on higher estimates of “excess deaths” in Iraq due to the sanctions regime and the post-2003 occupation) is well over one million, equivalent to over 100 Muslim fatalities for every American lost. ]]

posted by Joe Beese at 6:39 PM on December 1, 2009


I'm not sure what you mean when you say it wasn't "at issue." Do you mean it wasn't the main reason Bush decided to invade? Uh, yeah, that's pretty obvious. That doesn't mean it's not still important.
In short, I think that was added to sell the war. The decision to invade wasn't made with any of the evils of the Taliban in their rule of Afghanistan as a factor. There were indeed critics of the Taliban prior to 9/11 but no-one anywhere near power was listening much, and they'd have been left to it if the terrorist attack hadn't happened. Agree that's fairly obvious, but some comments above seemed not to think so.
posted by Abiezer at 6:40 PM on December 1, 2009


I wouls SO be into eating me some King Tutburgers.
posted by darkstar at 6:50 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Er...wrong thread, sorry.

Damn you tabbed browsing!
posted by darkstar at 6:51 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


He said he was gonna escalate throughout his entire campaign.

Heh. Thank god he is making good on at least one of his campaign promises.
posted by nola at 6:51 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Er...wrong thread, sorry.

Damn you tabbed browsing!

No, you're here now, stay and develop your point. Don't withdraw early with the job unfinished and the thread in turmoil.
posted by Abiezer at 6:53 PM on December 1, 2009 [15 favorites]


I would like to hear one significant criticism of the Taliban that isn't equally true of the US's very, very good friends the House of Saud.

Also, when it comes to making Afghanistan better, Americans tend to define "better" as "more like the US" or "more amenable to what the US wants" whereas the people being occupied tend to define "better" as "containing fewer foreign occupiers" or "less likely to result in my children being blown up."

I mean, really, ask the diaspora Hmong how much "better" their lives are now as compared to 40 years ago when they were living in an impassable region with no modern infrastructure, a tribal/clan-based culture, and a lifestyle that hadn't substantially changed in centuries.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:58 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I didn't vote for Obama largely because of war in Afghanistan, healthcare, gay rights, reproductive rights, and bad farm subsidies.

At the time a lot of Obama supporters on the internet were using pretty strong peer pressure and bullying tactics. Basically I remember hearing a lot of how you're self-marginalizing, crazy, don't understand the very complex political chess of Obama's campaign, and how everything he says that seems right-wing or centrist is really awesome doublespeak for "I'm actually a progressive!". And if that didn't work, well James Carville totally said Nader ruined the 2000 election so that must be true and do you want that to happen again? No. You don't. Shut up. Vote Obama.

It was maddening at the time. I remember feeling angry...kind of a lot. I know I stopped participating. Whatever. My choice.

But I'm with Greenwald. You don't relinquish your right to criticize when you cast a vote. The old cliche says quite the opposite. I'm not at all comfortable with all this peer-policing we do politically. We all go around posturing on the internet like we're the greatest political analyst ever. Who cares. No we're not. We're the people who have to live in this country and under its rule. And if I don't want to feel complicit by being silent about a shitty war in Afghanistan then I don't think it matters whether I voted for the man or not.

Because if I had, maybe I'd done it believing my peers, that it was all super clever political chess wizardry.

And we all have the right to feel voter's remorse. Maybe the candidate got damaged in shipping or just didn't live up to the very clever photography.
posted by birdie birdington at 7:14 PM on December 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


Afghanistan is so vital to America's security that some of the young soldiers in that audience need to be sent to their deaths.

But apparently not vital enough to justify raising taxes.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:20 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


But I'm with Greenwald. You don't relinquish your right to criticize when you cast a vote. The old cliche says quite the opposite. I'm not at all comfortable with all this peer-policing we do politically. We all go around posturing on the internet like we're the greatest political analyst ever. Who cares. No we're not. We're the people who have to live in this country and under its rule.

Public participation is our duty. You want to vote for Nader, don't be ashamed of it. In a free society, that peer pressure will always exist. Its a feature, not a bug.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:21 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Afghanistan is so vital to America's security that some of the young soldiers in that audience need to be sent to their deaths.

But apparently not vital enough to justify raising taxes.


I'm sort of halfway supportive of this: I don't like it, but I recognize that the president's been left in an impossible position by a spectacularly incompetent predecessor. It occurred to me tonight, though, that I'd probably support a Constitutional amendment to require all wars to be paid for by tax increases. It'd pretty much guarantee, I suspect, that we'd only go to war upon actually being attacked by a foreign power.
posted by EarBucket at 7:25 PM on December 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


And because I've just seen the link elsewhere: Movement for reform in Arabia "We seek regime change and reform in Saudi Arabia. We have a comprehensive plan for power and we are ready to govern." Well, they seem to fit my Chuck Norris Brigade criteria.
posted by Abiezer at 7:31 PM on December 1, 2009


Do you how many states out there do that much and worse? Let's invade all of them.

So invade none of them? There is zero role for humanitarian intervention? That's a perfectly reasonable viewpoint if you are willing to be consistent about it. I don't agree with it, and I think I could probably come up with hypotheticals where you depart from it, but fine.

I still don't read your comment as disagreeing with my point that we need to be solicitous of the "sovereignty" of the Taliban government, as if Mullah Omar signed the Treaty of Westphalia. You seem to be making the different point that occupation is a bad idea because it has not worked in practice (even though it has, many times, but lnot as often in recent history).
posted by Slap Factory at 7:37 PM on December 1, 2009


Tactically, yes it’s terrain. Strategically it’s culture yeah. But politically it’s finding a solution that nearby countries can live with. That’s not going to happen any time soon, and not with just more guys. At best this is a holding action.

On the other hand, I’m hard pressed to come up with something better.


what he said.
posted by matteo at 7:41 PM on December 1, 2009


Between 9/11 and the time Bush left office, his approval rating among Republicans went from the 90s to the 50s. The most principled among them would have turned against him after Iraq. Another wave would have left after Katrina. Towards the end, more would have given up from sheer embarrassment. And some will go to their graves saying he was a good man done in by his enemies.

You can see the same progression occurring at Daily Kos right now.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:44 PM on December 1, 2009


Reinstate the draft and we'll see how long the American people will put up with this bullshit.
If it's so god damned important we fight and die over there then send the middle class.
posted by nola at 7:44 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Christ, there's a lot of projection and selective amnesia up in this bidness.
posted by joe lisboa at 7:45 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


And the big fool said to push on.
posted by serazin at 7:49 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Slap Factory: Did you just equate a military invasion with humanitarian intervention?
posted by odinsdream at 7:50 PM on December 1, 2009


There is zero role for humanitarian intervention?

Humanitarian intervention is great. Blowing people up with robot planes? Not so much. Maybe there is a better way to 'win' in Afghanistan. Attempting to blow more of it up is probably not the way.
posted by chunking express at 7:53 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


As Joe Beese points out the bill for this is a problem. You have to wonder how long the Chinese will fund an American military adventure in Central Asia.
posted by sien at 7:55 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Personally...I've been active against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for years. I'm for removing the troops as quickly as they can, and have been for years. I don't think we had a right to be there in the first place, regardless of what you think about the Taliban. I voted for Obama knowing full well that he intended to do this. I'm not surprised, although I have to say I'm disappointed. But – that doesn't excuse people on the left who make excuses for him today or tomorrow. What Obama hasn't faced yet is significant pressure from the left. This is a problem, because that's the only thing that keeps centrist and right-wing forces from dominating the discourse. This should be the first stage of that: actual opposition, inside and outside of the Democratic Party, to get the hell out. Bush could afford to ignore everyone to the left of him. I'm not sure that Obama can.
posted by graymouser at 7:57 PM on December 1, 2009


Ugh, these wars are never going to end, are they? My daughter was on 5 years old on 9/11. Next year she starts High School.
posted by milarepa at 8:10 PM on December 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


This is reaching back some twenty years since I've read anything about Alexander The Great, but in my hazy recollection - maybe wrong - his Afghanistan adventure can hardly be called a failure. He came. He conquered. He left of his own volition, having established some kind of structure in Afghanistan that had his imprint, and that was not "overthrown" during his lifetime (not that he lived that much longer). So how is this a failure? Compared to all the other failures, like the Soviets, it's a raging success - or at least as much of a success as there's ever been in such situations. Or heck, maybe I'm remembering things all wrong.

Anyway, there's no sense in superstitious hand wringing and dark mutterings about "nobody has ever won". Today's tools and tactics are very different from times past. The technological gap between the NATO troops and the Taliban is greater than at any time in the past struggles in Afghanistan, certainly greater than between the Brits and their Afghan enemies. I'd argue that's even true (to a lesser extent) between the Soviets and the Afghans - and this time there is no advanced power that's helping the Taliban. Indeed technology is not the only factor, and cannot by itself resolve this conflict, but it certainly points to the fact that we have completely new tools and a lot more intel and tactical/strategical insight than the powers past, and that this demands that we perform a fresh analysis of the options rather than falling back on fatuous folk wisdom of "all empires fail in Afghanistan".

I certainly thought it was the right decision to go into Afghanistan - unfortunately that's as far as I got - pretty much everything that followed was monstrously bungled by Bushco. At this point, I think it's been so botched that perhaps leaving is the only sensible option. Sadly, there is no one right answer here - every option is bad. The job seems to be "find the least bad". It'll suck regardless.
posted by VikingSword at 8:18 PM on December 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm not totally against helping Afghanistan - but it strikes me as completely insane to still be allied with Karzai, who is now openly corrupt and not even pretending to be elected. That's the pillar of democracy we are trying to stabilize? Does anyone honestly believe we can win this one... or do we even want to?
posted by mek at 8:27 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


would it be naive of me to suggest that the proper way to win in afghanistan is to turn everyone there into opium farmers? Wikipedia suggests that over a third of the GNP of A'g'stan is from poppy harvests - approximately $3 billion. The people know how to grow the stuff. They're apparently good at it. The U.S. could buy the whole of the (illicit) opium crop and more for a fraction what we're spending on the war, and simultaneously deprive the terrorists of a major funding source. Suddenly afghanistan has a viable industry besides... um... well, shit, apparently poppy growing is their only viable industry.

or is the point that I'm missing that the war on drugs is part and parcel of the war on terror?

or am I going too far in assuming that their ever actually was a purpose in invading Afghanistan other than to have a perpetual U.S. presence in the area?


posted by logicpunk at 8:36 PM on December 1, 2009


mek: "I'm not totally against helping Afghanistan - but it strikes me as completely insane to still be allied with Karzai, who is now openly corrupt and not even pretending to be elected. "

It's hard to find good help these days.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:39 PM on December 1, 2009


Fun fact: The Taliban had effectively eliminated the Afghan poppy industry in 2001. We paid them $40 million to do it, they claimed they were on board for religious reasons, and they got the job done.

And then we invaded, and the Taliban decided they needed money to fund a guerilla war, so they turned to.....well, I'm sure you can guess. Add to this the fact that we are suffering a global shortage of legitimate opium supplies, and you have quite an absurd series of events. So, to answer your question - yes, legitimizing the opium industry in Afghanistan would be a damn good start.

(And I appreciate that's a bit of a joke there Mr. Beese, but all it would have taken was a little pressure from the Obama administration for a redo of elections with actual, proper international monitoring - he did have a challenger, after all. But they clearly had little interest in that.)
posted by mek at 8:45 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Screw linking to the original comment...

Yeah, that post wasn't vitriolic enough without a little splash of disdain for the way a lot of folks like to facilitate communication here. Way to dis the entire community a little bit.

It's not like one can't just copy/find quoted text pretty easily. The reason to link to original comments is just to save a ton of people from taking that easy step by taking one that is only incrementally more challenging yourself. In a utilitarian way, it saves a lot of effort in the long run.

That said, I rarely do it, but I don't understand why anyone would want to hate on a practice that is only designed to help others and make your argument more accessible.

You don't have to be a dick to get your point across. Why not let folks form an opinion on the merit of what you have to say rather than eliciting preemptive annoyance by pointing out how you choose not to say it?

Regards,
--Todd Locken
posted by solipsophistocracy at 8:48 PM on December 1, 2009


Actually, I believe my recollection re: Alexander The Great and Afghanistan was quite accurate. He did not fail in Afghanistan - he succeeded, though it was a long and hard war. From wikipedia:

"Bactria had a special position in old Afghanistan, being the capital of a vice-kingdom. By the fourth century BCE, Persian control of outlying areas and the internal cohesion of the empire had become somewhat tenuous. Although distant provinces like Bactriana had often been restless under Achaemenid rule, Bactrian troops nevertheless fought in the decisive Battle of Gaugamela in 330 BCE against the advancing armies of Alexander the Great. The Achaemenids were decisively defeated by Alexander and retreated from his advancing army of Greco-Macedonians and their Iranian allies. Darius III, the last Achaemenid ruler, tried to flee to Bactria, but was assassinated by a subordinate lord, the Bactrian-born Bessus, who proclaimed himself the new ruler of Persia as Artaxerxes, but was unable to mount a successful resistance to the growing military might of Alexander's army. Fleeing to his native Bactria, Bessus attempted to rally local Aryan tribes to his side, but was instead turned over to Alexander who proceeded to have him tortured and executed for having committed regicide.

It had taken Alexander only six months to conquer Iran, but it took him nearly three years (from about 330 BCE–327 BCE) to subdue the area that is now Afghanistan. Moving eastward from the area of Herat, the Macedonian leader encountered fierce resistance from the local tribes of Aria (West Afghanistan), Drangiana (now part of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Eastern Iran), Arachosia (South and Central Afghanistan) and Bactria (North and Central Afghanistan). In a letter to his mother, Alexander described his encounters with the western and northern tribes (Afghans) thus: "I am involved in the land of a 'Leonine' (lion-like) and brave people, where every foot of the ground is like a wall of steel, confronting my soldier. You have brought only one son into the world, but everyone in this land can be called an Alexander.” Local resistance and the difficult terrain made it difficult for Alexander's forces to subdue the region as many invaders have found the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan similar to a maze that often trapped outside invaders. Alexander also met his Bactrian/Sogdian bride, Roxana—who was reportedly born in Balkh—while trying to consolidate his rule over ancient Afghanistan and adjacent regions in Central Asia. Their union reportedly produced one sole heir, Alexander IV, who was later killed in Greece by Cassander. Although Alexander's expedition through ancient Afghanistan was brief, he left behind a Hellenic cultural influence that lasted several centuries.
Upon Alexander's death in 323 BCE, his empire, which had never been politically consolidated, broke apart as his companions began to divide it amongst themselves. Alexander's cavalry commander, Seleucus, took nominal control of the eastern lands and founded the Seleucid dynasty. Under the Seleucids, as under Alexander, Greek colonists and soldiers colonized Bactria, roughly corresponding to modern Afghanistan's borders. However, the majority of Macedonian soldiers of Alexander the Great wanted to leave the east and return home to Greece. Later, Seleucus sought to guard his eastern frontier and moved Ionian Greeks (also known as Yavanas to many local groups) to Bactria in the third century BCE."


Bottom line: you cannot count Alexander The Great as among the failed conquerors of Afghanistan. He was quite successful in that endeavor.
posted by VikingSword at 9:01 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't know if Obama's plan will work, though I have great respect for his smarts, thoughtfulness and judgment. I do have problems with comments on this thread that sanitize or minimize the Taliban, whose policies included stripping women of all rights, the most rigorous imaginable educational and religious indoctrination of children, open genocide against the Hazara people, and other murders.
posted by bearwife at 9:04 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Reinstate the draft and we'll see how long the American people will put up with this bullshit.
If it's so god damned important we fight and die over there then send the middle class.
posted by nola at 9:44 PM on December 1 [2 favorites +] [!]


That is the way to end all wars. Bring back the draft, with no student deferments. Except for those that depend on the military for a financial or educational boost or those from families/regions that have the military as a legacy, the politics of war is nothing but an intellectual exercise.
I've got a son coming up on 18 and I would support a draft for the major dose of reality it would bring. People talk about terrorism, but is anyone really afraid of being personally attacked? The misery that these wars make in Iraqi and Afghani lives is easy for Americans to ignore.
posted by readery at 9:09 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]



At the time a lot of Obama supporters on the internet were using pretty strong peer pressure and bullying tactics. Basically I remember hearing a lot of how you're self-marginalizing, crazy, don't understand the very complex political chess of Obama's campaign, and how everything he says that seems right-wing or centrist is really awesome doublespeak for "I'm actually a progressive!".


Could someone actually fucking cite someone arguing at the time that he did not mean it when he said he was committed to Afghanistan?

There was a ton of "You want Palin and McCain instead?" as far as I recall and not much, "NO GUISE HE IS LYING ABOUT BEING A CENTRIST!"
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:15 PM on December 1, 2009


That is the way to end all wars. Bring back the draft, with no student deferments.

I would even just start with: If you want to wage a war, you have to pay as you go.

So here's the war plan--and here's the plan for tax increases to pay for it.

Don't want the tax increase--then you don't get the war, either.
posted by flug at 9:31 PM on December 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


furiousxgeorge: "Could someone actually fucking cite someone arguing at the time that he did not mean it when he said he was committed to Afghanistan?"

I cross my heart and hope to die that no one at Daily Kos thought Obama would order the tripling of American troop levels in Afghanistan before his first year in office was over*.

Or that he'd keep Bush's Secretary of Defense. Or continuing doing business with Blackwater. Or maintain a torture regime in Bagram...

* He said "at least two divisions", didn't he? Ha ha! Read the fine print next time, sucker!
posted by Joe Beese at 9:34 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


The United States did right in helping the Afghani people throw out the Taliban. But the collasally stupid war against Saddam meant that troops were taken away from getting the job done.

What "job" is this and when do we know that this "job" is done?
posted by dirigibleman at 9:35 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't regret hoping Obama would be a breath of fresh air, because hoping is one of those activities that don't make me into an asshole. But that particular hope is shelved as of now. Now I will be working towards real democracy, direct democracy, people's democracy, because the current model is clearly borked.

Oh, and how will I work towards my little pipe dream? By talking about it. With other people. Face to face, even. Yes, I'm a genius, I've discovered communication.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 9:46 PM on December 1, 2009


We're waste deep in the big muddy, and the big fool says to push on.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 9:50 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is there any way the Senate can block this from happening, the way they blocked sane health care?
posted by dirigibleman at 10:07 PM on December 1, 2009


I do have problems with comments on this thread that sanitize or minimize the Taliban

Just because comments here (mine included) have condemned the Taliban's offenses in the strongest possible terms does not make it acceptable to conflate their rule of Afghanistan with attacking and occupying it. If you're going to play that game then it's an easy dismissal to hold you up to the same standards with dozens of African countries, island nations, groups in large countries like Russia and India, etc etc. They're bastards but it using their abuses as justifications for the US invasion is pretty weak sauce.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:09 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


^ comments here have NOT condemned...
posted by Burhanistan at 10:09 PM on December 1, 2009



I cross my heart and hope to die that no one at Daily Kos thought Obama would order the tripling of American troop levels in Afghanistan before his first year in office was over*.


I'M at dailykos. This is not surprising to me in the least. He said over and over he would withdraw from Iraq and intensify Afghanistan where we should have been focusing on in the first place.

There are plenty of people at DailyKos right now that will tell you the same thing.

Or that he'd keep Bush's Secretary of Defense.

It's not like he kept Rumsfeld. He kept the guy who somehow helped repair the Iraq clusterfuck.

Or continuing doing business with Blackwater.


A senior foreign policy adviser to leading Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told me that if elected Obama will not "rule out" using private security companies like Blackwater Worldwide in Iraq.


Maybe you should have paid attention to the things he actually said? It was funny how much I argued with righties who said the left was brainwashed by Obama and the YES WE CAN stuff, when it has become clear to me once he was elected that a ton of you were.

Or maintain a torture regime in Bagram...

Shit can happen, but in contrast to Bush no torture that occurred was authorized or defended as legal and proper by Obama and the prison is closing, as is Guantanamo. But damn we should have elected Palin instead and we wouldn't have this problem!

* He said "at least two divisions", didn't he? Ha ha! Read the fine print next time, sucker!

Umm, no, that would be "You should read what he fucking clearly said."
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:12 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Going in to Afghanistan in the first place is one thing, but Bush screwed the situation up so badly that I don't think it's salvageable. All we're doing now is trying to put up an expensive barn door after the horses are gone.

You assume the surge 'worked.' It didn't.

It did what it was supposed to do: let Bush run out the clock on his second term so he could kick the can down the road to the next guy.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:16 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]



Reinstate the draft and we'll see how long the American people will put up with this bullshit. If it's so god damned important we fight and die over there then send the middle class.


Yes!! ... and draft WOMEN, too. Everyone should be more personally responsible for this decision. Enough of this "3rd-4th deployment" crap.
posted by Surfurrus at 10:17 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Reinstate the draft and we'll see how long the American people will put up with this bullshit.

Probably not long enough to report to preliminary screening for service. I might be wrong, but I think the genie is pretty much out of the bottle regarding the military draft in the US. It's been a volunteer force for almost two generations of eligible adults and the idea of a draft is like someone else's forgotten bad dream. If it was made compulsory again the rate of no-shows and dodgers might be many times higher than in the early 1970's.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:23 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


There is nothing to "win" there. A stable Afghanistan? What does that even mean? Most of the country is barely out of the 13th Century and still exists in a semi-feudal state. Fuck. Leave those people alone.

Except for they didn't leave us alone.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:29 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Just because comments here (mine included) have condemned the Taliban's offenses in the strongest possible terms does not make it acceptable to conflate their rule of Afghanistan with attacking and occupying it. If you're going to play that game then it's an easy dismissal to hold you up to the same standards with dozens of African countries, island nations, groups in large countries like Russia and India, etc etc. They're bastards but it using their abuses as justifications for the US invasion is pretty weak sauce.


I agree. It was the allowing of Al Qaeda to build up to attack us and giving them the greenlight to attack us that provides the need for me. A known threat--already attacked us.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:31 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


It was the allowing of Al Qaeda to build up to attack us and giving them the greenlight to attack us that provides the need for me.

Please cite credible sources that show the Taliban (the ones who were ostensibly in charge of the government and affairs of Afghanistan in 2001 gave the "green light" for OBL and company to initiate the 9/11 attacks.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:36 PM on December 1, 2009


And speaking of "green lights", here's an article that asserts that the Taliban were given the tacit "green light" to push into Kabul in 1996.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:48 PM on December 1, 2009


^ green light by the US State Department. time for bed
posted by Burhanistan at 10:49 PM on December 1, 2009



Please cite credible sources that show the Taliban (the ones who were ostensibly in charge of the government and affairs of Afghanistan in 2001 gave the "green light" for OBL and company to initiate the 9/11 attacks.


Have any links that show they gave a red light after all the other terrorist attacks launched against American interests before 9/11?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:02 PM on December 1, 2009


Have any links that show they gave a red light after all the other terrorist attacks launched against American interests before 9/11?

That's not even remotely the same, though. And many of the attacks were launched prior to the Taliban's ascendancy.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:04 PM on December 1, 2009


^ green light by the US State Department. time for bed

You get a green light from State to go to bed? Man, that Hillary, she's totally changed that department.
posted by sien at 11:23 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]



That's not even remotely the same, though. And many of the attacks were launched prior to the Taliban's ascendancy.


The taliban took control in 1996. Also in 1996: The following text is a fatwa, or declaration of war, by Osama bin Laden first published in Al Quds Al Arabi, a London-based newspaper, in August, 1996. The fatwa is entitled "Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places."

Any red light?

1998? [T]he ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem] and the holy mosque [in Makka] from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim. This is in accordance with the words of Almighty Allah, 'and fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together,' and 'fight them until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah'.[56]

Any red light?

What followed was the 1998 embassy bombings and the Cole bombings. Any red light?

Nope, in 2001 we had 9/11. Any red light? Nope, just, "Hey guys you have to prove he did this if you want us to give him up!" I guess we can just ignore all the other attacks dating back to the 1992 attacks on hotels in Yemen.

It's willful and ignorant denial to suggest the Taliban did not know EXACTLY who they were sheltering. I have some level of acceptance of pacifist philosophy and pragmatic philosophy that says we can't militarily meet our goals, but don't try and pretend the Taliban were innocent victims. They knew what they were doing. They are fundamentalist Muslims who can't even tolerate ancient statues of a non-Muslim religion that never did shit to oppress them.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:55 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


lotta heated stuff here, I'm always surprised at the number of experts on the internet with all this time to wax roth about complex situations, because that is what this is, a hugely complex situation, and one that will not be summed up with any clarity on any internet message board.

Now, I will play the game and offer my own mindless two cents: I do think just packing up and leaving Afghanistan was never in the cards, there are too many different global forces involved for that, just pulling out would have left a lot of people flat footed and a huge power vacuum, it would have been a unilateral action with repercussions undercutting US credibility with a lot of other world leaders and global institutions. I want us out of Afghanistan, full stop, and what I was hoping for was some indication of when that was going to happen. It sounds like that will start in a year's time, in other words a stated goal to all involved that things are coming to a head and will end, so prepare accordingly. Two years into an administration and they start withdrawing for a decade long conflict. It is not ideal, or perfect but it is at least approaching some level of reasonableness.

A lot depends on if this happens or not, I see a lot of skeptics to that, and perhaps they will be proven right, and will will still be there for a long long time. And those that said so will arise to rub everyone's face in the fact they knew it was going to be this way.... But, then again, no one ever comes back years later to say, "Oh, I was wrong".

Iraq will be winding down pretty soon, and Afghanistan hopefully the year after, but like everything else it is not fast enough or dramatic enough for plenty of people. I sympathize.... but I also think there are a lot of people talking out their ass here, and I acknowledge I may well be one.
posted by edgeways at 2:37 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


We as a nation have a responsibility to the Afghan people not to leave their country so much more fucked up than when we showed up -- TypographicalError
First of all, there's no such thing as non-consensual assistance. If someone doesn’t want you're help you're not helping. That was the same B.S. argument that was made over and over again "We ruined their country, now we have to stay and fix it! By blowing up more stuff!"

Second of all, Afghanistan was fucked up when we go there. It's already better off with government that's not insane, just extremely corrupt.
We as a nation have a responsibility to ourselves to make Afghanistan better (because we're already there) so that 30 or 40 years down the line we haven't created another mass murderer. -- TypographicalError
What about all the other fucked up countries? Should we invade all of them too? And do you seriously think predator drone strikes and killing civilians is a good way to prevent the inspiration of a "mass murderer". Yes, lets prevent mass murder by killing thousands of people. Good plan.

It's an idiotic argument.
That is the way to end all wars. Bring back the draft, with no student deferments. -- readery
Yeah. Which is why they won't do it. I mean, they have all the troops they need.

I would like to see the war tax go through, though (That's a serious proposal from some democrats in congress, btw). It's amazing that health care, which will save countless American lives needs to be "paid for" but George and Barack's excellent Central Asian Adventure, which has been going on forever, gets a blank check.
Is there any way the Senate can block this from happening, the way they blocked sane health care? -- dirigibleman
They control the funding, which they could cut. But they won't, of course, because they love this stuff.
I agree. It was the allowing of Al Qaeda to build up to attack us and giving them the greenlight to attack us that provides the need for me. A known threat--already attacked us. -- Ironmouth
Great, so you're for invading Pakistan then? Since that's where they are now. And of course they can go wherever they want. Yemen. Somalia. You name it. Are we supposed to invade the entire world while China and the EU provide social safety nets and reasonable healthcare and grow rich and prosperous?
Think about how much money we're spending on this shit. Chasing down phantoms. Al-Qaeda is estimated to have something like ten thousand members And we're spending trillions of dollars trying to remake the world into a place that's slightly less hospitable to them. It's insane. That's 100 million dollars spent per Al-Qaeda member.
--
Anyway, I wouldn't leave Afghanistan entirely if I were president, but I would scale down my operations quite a bit, maybe 20k troops, and concentrate on building relations with all the actors involved. We shouldn't be trying to reform their society, but it makes sense (IMO) to be present and keep up to date with what's going on and influencing things.
posted by delmoi at 3:10 AM on December 2, 2009


"Winding down" and "withdrawal" are relative terms. When people say we will be there forever, they are simply referring to the fact that a military force will be maintained there for the foreseeable future. US military bases will continue to exist in Iraq and Afghanistan, just as they do in Cuba, Germany, Japan, Italy, the UK, Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, Greece, South Korea, Guam, Israel, Kuwait, Kosovo, Turkey, the Netherlands, Greenland, Kyrgyzstan, etc.

Regardless of when withdrawal occurs, none of this is going away. And I'm sure they'll find someone else to invade in a couple years' time.
posted by mek at 3:21 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Taliban did not represent the people of Afghanistan any more than the current corrupt government do. Abdul Haq always said that if meaningful support were provided the people of Afghanistan would oust the Taliban. Instead we have succeeded in galvanising the people of Afghanistan behind the Taliban and against the foreign invaders. This should surprise no one.
The reason for the presence of western military in Afghanistan is to safeguard the pipeline. The quality of life of the people of Afghanistan is inconsequential. As long as the puppets in the government appear to do what they are told they will be supported by the west.
posted by asok at 5:32 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's willful and ignorant denial to suggest the Taliban did not know EXACTLY who they were sheltering.
From everything I've seen, the ignorant thing is to project some model of the all-seeing, coherent Western state onto the pre-modern theocracy of the Taliban rooted in specificities of Pashtunwali and how they controlled who was or wasn't criss-crossing the notoriously porous and wild border with Pakistan. Similarly as to their relationship with the global ideology/network we now call Al Qaeda.
I don't think there's anyone in the thread who supports or downplays the former Taliban regime. The question is whether releasing the horrors of modern air war was the appropriate response to the 9/11 attack. It wasn't, as the subsequent meat-grinder has shown, and I think the decision will have been swayed by the fact that wars against states are what the Pentagon is geared up to fight, rather than it being the most enlightened response either tactically or morally. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 people wanted something more than to be told a long-term ongoing policing, intelligence and political operation was going to deal with a terrorist enemy.
posted by Abiezer at 6:09 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I should add that the latter is the failure of leadership by the then Bush administration, because a more appropriate response could have been sold with the right leadership and backing.
posted by Abiezer at 6:12 AM on December 2, 2009


We'll stand down when they stand up, eh?

In fact, say many U.S. officers, the Afghan mindset works against building a military force. Afghans have a "God-willing mentality" that "delays progress for all routine and major actions," U.S. Army Colonel Scot Mackenzie wrote in a study for the Army War College last year. Information is power, and senior leaders hold on to it tightly. They prefer faxes to e-mails because they like "paper in their hands, as opposed to data on a disk," Mackenzie said. Such tendencies freeze "subordinates into doing nothing until specifically ordered," he added. "Taking risk or initiative has historically been seen as a good way to wind up in prison or dead."

Joint U.S.-Afghan operations are plagued by mistrust, with the living quarters of allied and Afghan troops separated by walls, razor wire, guarded gates and machine-gun nests. "Currently, coalition forces eat, sleep and play in separate spaces from the people they are trying to train," U.S. Marine Captain Jason Moore noted in a report earlier this year for the Corps' Command and Staff College at Quantico, Va. In part, that's because Taliban sympathizers in the Afghan military have shot and killed U.S. troops. "Intentional or not, it conveys a sense of distrust, hostility and disrespect to their hosts."

While President Obama is setting timetables for Afghanistan, hoping to start bringing U.S. troops home by 2011, Mackenzie's words note that the very concept of deadlines is largely foreign to Afghans. "Time is not seen as a valuable resource in Afghan society," he wrote. "Correspondingly, the use of calendars at all levels is virtually nonexistent."

posted by Joe Beese at 6:45 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Any red light?

I did get my timeline wrong there. But the Taliban giving the "green light" to 9/11 (which obviously was not the case) is not the same as them posting a "red light" to prior Al Qaeda activities. As Abeizer ably noted, the Taliban didn't have the same kind of administrative model as a developed Western nation has, so it isn't like they had much control over what OBL and friends were doing anyway. But, at the risk of sounding like an apologist for the Taliban (who I think were screwed the moment they laid down with the Saudis), I'll back out of this argument. At any rate, it's not like anyone except for scoundrels has fared much better in Afghanistan since the US dropped in, so I don't understand why people are so gung ho about the fact that the Taliban was removed.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:51 AM on December 2, 2009


How DARE he do what he said he would do a million times during the campaign.

You mean he made good on 'pulling troops out of Iraq will be my first priority'? Do tell!
posted by mattholomew at 6:54 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Funny how Obama forgot to mention that one of the largest sources of financial support for the Taliban is ourselves. Relevant to an honest assessment of the situation, don't you think? Maybe he didn't want to discourage the young soldiers in the audience.

Now that I think about it, didn't we used to give W. a hard time for using the military as set dressing for his codpiece moments?
posted by Joe Beese at 7:14 AM on December 2, 2009


Now that I think about it, didn't we used to give W. a hard time for using the military as set dressing for his codpiece moments?

I was also a bit surprised that he was at West Point rather than speaking from the Oval Office. It can be interpreted as a bit more of a sincere gesture than W's maneuvers since he's up against a backdrop of lambs to the slaughter rather than turkey dinners and aircraft carriers, though.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:19 AM on December 2, 2009


How DARE he do what he said he would do a million times during the campaign.

You mean he made good on 'pulling troops out of Iraq will be my first priority'? Do tell!


The premise of his opposition to the Iraq war, as he consistently said during the campaign, was that it diverted our attention and resources from Afghanistan. He's set a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq. And, of course, he's devoting more attention and resources to Afghanistan. So, he actually seems to be doing a pretty good job of following through on what he said in 2008.

Is it that you don't think he's withdrawing from Iraq soon enough? Well, you should have watched the Democratic primary debate where all the candidates were asked if they'd pledge to have all troops out of Iraq by the end of their first term. The 3 top candidates -- Obama, Clinton, Edwards -- all said no. Dodd raked them over the coals for this and made a campaign ad out of the fact that he would pledge to have all troops out by 2012. Remember back when the Democratic base was swept by Dodd-mania over this bold stance? Uh, me neither.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:05 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Some Simple Questions After Obama's Afghanistan War Speech.
posted by chunking express at 8:25 AM on December 2, 2009


Afghanistan: The quagmire deepens.
posted by chunking express at 8:41 AM on December 2, 2009


he's not going to squeeze much more out of NATO

NATO Chief: Allies Will Give 5,000 Troops

also btw, here's an interesting take on the emerging 'narrative'...
posted by kliuless at 8:53 AM on December 2, 2009


Some Simple Questions After Obama's Afghanistan War Speech.

- What percentage of those kids in the audience will die because of this decision?

Extremely limited compared to other combat units. Those are West Point grads, not IED patrol fodder.

- Where's the antiwar movement and the marches and the organizing and the protesting?

Too busy deleting Obama 08 apps off of their iPhones to notice their activist spirit has been obliterated.

- " Is the media really that soulless, or did my eyes betray me?

His eyes must have been betraying him since at least the first Gulf War then.

- Which is worse - a stupid person like George W. Bush starting a dumb occupation, or a smart person like Barack Obama following the lead of that stupid person, but actually escalating that occupation?

Stupid is as stupid does.

- Like, is the public really looked at like we're that stupid? And a follow-up question: Are we really that stupid?

Yes, and of course yes.

- I'm confused: Is this hope or change?

Is this guy seen as a serious writer?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:56 AM on December 2, 2009


I thought Rory Stewart spoke about this most eloquently two months ago on Bill Moyers.

Oh, I should check that out. For anyone not so keen on spleen-venting and more curious about the milieu this all takes place in, Rory Stewart knows his shit.
posted by kittyprecious at 9:22 AM on December 2, 2009


I see that several pedants have been disputing my simple statement that no one has ever won in Afghanistan by pointing out Alexander the great.

OK, I'm sorry pedantic folks. I should have said "No one in over 2000 years have won in any significant way, with any lasting effect, in Afghanistan." Sheesh.

Also, Obama is no Alexander.

Also, if we did (at extremely long odds), "win", what would we get? What would that look like? Can we even agree what winning looks like? Is it worth all that money? Is it worth the lives of our citizens? Would we be measurably safer? I think the answer is clearly no.

I simply don't don't care about the "we broke it we fix it" justification. We don't belong there and we need to get out now. We can't afford it, and we can't get anything from the war that is worth anywhere near what we are paying for it.
posted by Invoke at 9:34 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


So to deny these less than 100 anti-American fanatics a "haven" - as if they couldn't organize an attack from anywhere with cell phone reception - we should continue to occupy a Muslim land and kill their civilians. Seems to me that this would produce a lot more anti-American fanatics. But I'm a DFH, so what do I know.

There's also that little $1,400,000,000,000 deficit we're running for this year.


This is an interesting criticism.

All the big lefty economists (Krugman, et al) have been saying that this year the stimulus package is not large enough to produce good job growth. Therefore it should be a goal of us on the left to support higher deficits at the moment to try and gain full employment. So maybe this escalation in Afghanistan is a secret plan of Obama's to support employment back at home!

Anyway, despite any objections any of you Americans may have to Obama, Please Please Please vote for the democrats next year. Right now it isn't a choice between left or right, it's a choice between competently run government or outright incompetence and corruption. If we can wait it out ten years perhaps enough demographic changes (i.e. old people dieing off) then we can have a real grown up political discussion. But until then we need most is a steady hand at the tiller, and Obama's got that.
posted by afu at 9:49 AM on December 2, 2009


Please cite credible sources that show the Taliban (the ones who were ostensibly in charge of the government and affairs of Afghanistan in 2001 gave the "green light" for OBL and company to initiate the 9/11 attacks.

The death of Massoud on September 9, 2001. Coincidence that the greatest muajahdeen fighter, a national hero, the one person most responsible for Soviet defeat, and the greatest enemy of the Taliban was killed in a Al Qaeda suicide attack 2 days before 9/11? Nope. Quid pro quo.

From his Wikipedia page:

The timing of the assassination, two days before the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, is considered significant by commentators who believe Osama bin Laden ordered the assassination to help his Taliban protectors and ensure he would have their protection and co-operation in Afghanistan. The assassins are also reported to have shown support for bin Laden in their questioning of Massoud. The Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Mujahideen leader Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, an Afghan Wahhabi Islamist, have also been mentioned as possible organizers or collaborators of the Massoud assassins.[31] Massoud was a strong opponent of Pakistani involvement in Afghanistan. The assassins are said to have entered Northern Alliance territory under the auspices of the Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and had his assistance in bypassing "normal security procedures."[31]

The Wikipedia page cites the following: Anderson, Jon Lee (June 10, 2002). "The assassins", The New Yorker, Vol.78, Iss. 15; p. 72.

Good enough for you?

The Taliban refused to turn over Bin Laden, thus starting the war.

I hate Bush more than everybody, but he got this one call right.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:10 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, except he really seems to have done it because he couldn't plausibly invade Iraq without doing it first.
posted by Artw at 10:12 AM on December 2, 2009


Also, if we did (at extremely long odds), "win", what would we get? What would that look like? Can we even agree what winning looks like? Is it worth all that money? Is it worth the lives of our citizens? Would we be measurably safer? I think the answer is clearly no.

Yes. The people we are fighting protected and nurtured Osama bin Laden. You may not have heard of him, but he has been attacking American citizens for some time now. He was able to initiate an attack against the U.S. that killed 2,900 people. It wasn't really that big in the news.

A real threat. A known danger that has already struck at the U.S. We know they protected him both before and after the attack. They allowed him to attack us. They allowed him to have camps, airfields and everything else. They supplied him with money. They must be stopped. This isn't Saddam "he might attack us." This is--they did attack us. For fucking real.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:14 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, except he really seems to have done it because he couldn't plausibly invade Iraq without doing it first.

Nope. Iraq was on the table long before this. This needed to be done. Harboring and substantially aiding terrorists who attacked the U.S. and killed 2,900 people in one morning is an act of war. Frankly, we should have declared war on Afghanistan. It would have made the circumstances much clearer. But it wasn't to our advantage in the battle for Afghanistan. But these fuckers hit us, hit the city I was living in.

I remember a cab ride to school that morning. Literally they were announcing bomb attacks everywhere, State Dept., White House you name it. No calls in or out, everything was jammed. For me, the attack wasn't pictures on CNN, it was really impacting me.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:17 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


What I want to know is, number one, what are the specific benchmarks... How can we examine them?

Number two, why would we not want to explicitly condition, in whatever supplementals or appropriations or whatever it is that you are doing, that these benchmarks be met, so that the American people and legislators who are voting on them have some understanding of what it is that we expect...

Number three, what are the consequences if these benchmarks are not met? What leverage do we have that would provide us some assurance that six months from now, you will not be sitting before us again saying, 'Well, it didn't work ... we have lost an additional hundred or 200 or 300 or 400 American lives; we have spent an additional hundred billion dollars; but we still can't afford to lose, and so we're going to have to proceed in the same fashion, and maybe we'll have to send more troops in" ? What leverage do we have six months from now?


- Barack Obama, asking the questions he has no answers for now
posted by Joe Beese at 10:23 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Taliban did not represent the people of Afghanistan any more than the current corrupt government do. Abdul Haq always said that if meaningful support were provided the people of Afghanistan would oust the Taliban.

Agreed. If Dostum hadn't pulled out his support, the Soviet puppet government would have whipped the Taliban. That's what put the Taliban into power.

Remember, these aren't the guys who fought the Soviets. They aren't super wonderful fighters. Ahmad Shah Massoud was the guy who fought the Soviets. And he was the Taliban's enemy. They aren't fucking invincible. All of this talk of who succeeded and failed in Afghanistan is pointless. The Taliban is not a particularly powerful force. They are truly hated by the people of Afghanistan, who had to live under their brutal rule. They can be defeated. Conflating the Taliban with the Muajahdeen is a major factual error in this thread. The Soviets sought communist domination. We seek no such thing. We seek the elimination of the Taliban as a potential government of Afghanistan and the elimination of the Pakistani taliban.

We've allowed them to grow by turning away to invade fucking Iraq. But they can be defeated.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:24 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nope. Iraq was on the table long before this.

Well, yes, and 9/11 was the excuse they needed. And at one point Bush was all for invading Iraq and not Afghanistan, but because Iraq made fuck all sense as a response to 9/11 and Afghanistan actually did, and they still thought they could get international support, they backtracked and did Iraq first.
posted by Artw at 10:27 AM on December 2, 2009


Afghanistan first, duh.
posted by Artw at 10:28 AM on December 2, 2009


And at one point Bush was all for invading Iraq and not Afghanistan, but because Iraq made fuck all sense as a response to 9/11 and Afghanistan actually did.

I'm glad we agree that our actions against the Taliban and Afghanistan made sense as a response to 9/11.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:29 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good enough for you?
No. It's certainly a plausible narrative and I'm not pretending to be anything more than someone who reads the papers, but your own link notes that fingers have also been pointed at the Pakistani ISI as Massoud opposed their involvement in Afghanistan.
The Taliban refused to turn over Bin Laden, thus starting the war.
Again, apparently not the case. They said they'd hand him over to an international tribunal if evidence to support extradition was presented. maybe a lie, a stalling tactic or whatever. In the rush to respond, no-one seemed to think a week or two to find out was worth it against the prospect of a decade-long war.

In your later comment you again point to a strong, operational link between Al Qaeda and the Taliban that I still don't think was there. I get this view from commentators such as Prof Paul Rogers, e.g.:
the stated motive for the war has moved on from building a new democratic state in the western mould to preventing Taliban control of much of the country and the reappearance of al-Qaida training-camps. Thus, the Afghan war is about the western states's domestic security, and preventing more attacks.

This does not add up. The diffuse al-Qaida movement does not rely on a large network of training-camps, now that its cellular influence spreads in Yemen, Somalia, and north Africa. In any case, it is often forgotten that the bases operated by the movement in Afghanistan in the late 1990s had very little to do with transnational jihadist actions and much more to do with training foreign volunteers to aid the Taliban in completing their civil war against the Northern Alliance.
posted by Abiezer at 10:30 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Slap Factory: Did you just equate a military invasion with humanitarian intervention?

Yes, some humanitarian interventions involve military invasions.
posted by Slap Factory at 10:32 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Should clarify my last comment because I wrote "a strong, operational link between Al Qaeda and the Taliban that I still don't think was there" - as I recall they did cooperate, but on matters relating to internal conflicts in Afghanistan plus some across the Pakistan border; I meant not in the terrorist attacks on the US.
posted by Abiezer at 10:38 AM on December 2, 2009


Again, apparently not the case. They said they'd hand him over to an international tribunal if evidence to support extradition was presented. maybe a lie, a stalling tactic or whatever. In the rush to respond, no-one seemed to think a week or two to find out was worth it against the prospect of a decade-long war.

Puhleeze. An international tribunal? They wouldn't turn him over when phone and e-mail intercepts demonstrated his involvement in the embassy bombings. Do you think that was an acceptable response to the deaths of 2900 people? Is it your position that it would have been acceptable to let them protect him? No. They refused to turn him over, point blank, then made their half-hearted offer once it was clear that the result was going to be the US helping their enemies.

It was the greatest terrorist attack in history. Bar fucking none. No, he needed to be turned over to us ASAP. So do you think that it would have been acceptable that he be tried by an "international tribunal?" I certainly don't. He was a criminal who needed to be punished.

Worth a decade-long war? Certainly. This guy did attack us. They did support him and give him tons of help and money. If we hadn't invaded, do you think he would have stopped? He needed to be stopped.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:52 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


the stated motive for the war has moved on from building a new democratic state in the western mould to preventing Taliban control of much of the country and the reappearance of al-Qaida training-camps. Thus, the Afghan war is about the western states's domestic security, and preventing more attacks.

Mr. Rogers seems to think that this goal is somehow a bad one. I disagree. The Taliban provided financial, basing and operational support for Al Qaeda. That is an act of war in itself.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:55 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth, what's the Afghan death toll for this war now? When does the blood for blood balance out? Apparently the only solution to conflict is flexing some military might, ignoring that it hasn't worked out too well for the US several times over now.
posted by chunking express at 11:09 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Puhleeze. An international tribunal? They wouldn't turn him over when phone and e-mail intercepts demonstrated his involvement in the embassy bombings. Do you think that was an acceptable response to the deaths of 2900 people? Is it your position that it would have been acceptable to let them protect him? No. They refused to turn him over, point blank, then made their half-hearted offer once it was clear that the result was going to be the US helping their enemies.
This is the reductive rhetoric that allowed the US public to be rushed into the war. That such rhetoric was deployed, rather than exhausting the possibility that the offer was genuine to me only supports my view that there was never any serious intent to avoid the planned invasion. With hindsight and even the slightest amount of foresight at the time, it would have certainly been a better response to the deaths of 2.900 people to come up with an effective strategy that caught the perpetrators, rather than embarking on a course that killed thousands more without achieving its stated aims.
Libya was a known sponsor of terrorism over decades but bar the '86 airstrikes it was always deemed appropriate to respond using non-military means. I suspect what had changed in 2001 was the end of the Cold War and so less restraint on the use of full-scale invasion coupled with the rise to prominence of the PNAC types. Same people who made the bad decisions over Iraq oversaw the invasion of Afghanistan.
posted by Abiezer at 11:10 AM on December 2, 2009


Puhleeze. An international tribunal? They wouldn't turn him over when phone and e-mail intercepts demonstrated his involvement in the embassy bombings. Do you think that was an acceptable response to the deaths of 2900 people? Is it your position that it would have been acceptable to let them protect him? No. They refused to turn him over, point blank, then made their half-hearted offer once it was clear that the result was going to be the US helping their enemies.
This is the reductive rhetoric that allowed the US public to be rushed into the war. That such rhetoric was deployed, rather than exhausting the possibility that the offer was genuine to me only supports my view that there was never any serious intent to avoid the planned invasion. With hindsight and even the slightest amount of foresight at the time, it would have certainly been a better response to the deaths of 2.900 people to come up with an effective strategy that caught the perpetrators, rather than embarking on a course that killed thousands more without achieving its stated aims.
Libya was a known sponsor of terrorism over decades but bar the '86 airstrikes it was always deemed appropriate to respond using non-military means. I suspect what had changed in 2001 was the end of the Cold War and so less restraint on the use of full-scale invasion coupled with the rise to prominence of the PNAC types. Same people who made the bad decisions over Iraq oversaw the invasion of Afghanistan.


Condeming the "reductionist rhetoric" isn't the same thing as answering the question posed. Do you think an "international tribunal" is an acceptable response to 9/11?
posted by Ironmouth at 11:14 AM on December 2, 2009


Ironmouth, what's the Afghan death toll for this war now? When does the blood for blood balance out? Apparently the only solution to conflict is flexing some military might, ignoring that it hasn't worked out too well for the US several times over now.

This isn't about "blood for blood." Were we to stop going after our enemies in the Second World War when we had killed more of them than they had killed of us?

No this is about security--it is the perfect counterpoint to Iraq, which was about stupidity and money. Did an attack originate from there? Yes. Were 2900 people killed? Yes. These people made themselves our enemies. Bush is a screaming asshole, but I agree with Obama, this was a just war.

Get rid of the Taliban and Al Qaeda and we can get out.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:17 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


If we hadn't invaded, do you think he would have stopped? He needed to be stopped.

Honestly, you're really seeing this issue through a red lens. We already had special forces there. We could have sent more without a full scale occupation by the regular army. The special forces were the ones who smashed most of the original Al Qaeda at Tora Bora. This operation could and should have been handled by limited tactical engagements, not this mess that you're cheerleading for now.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:19 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


An international tribunal to ascertain his guilt or otherwise? That's my recall as to what was on offer - if found guilty at that wasn't the next step extradition to the US for incarceration.
So absolutely it would have been the acceptable response if the true purpose was to apprehend the chief perpetrators of the attack - the invasion failed to do that. Naturally even if Bin Laden were taken the US would have wanted to continue to act against whatever was left of Al Qaeda, but again that would be an intelligence and police operation give the loose network structure of the organisation.
Do you find the war to date has been a useful response to 9/11?
posted by Abiezer at 11:21 AM on December 2, 2009


I have a computer glitch today which is preventing me from favoriting Ironmouth a zillion times as I would wish . . . .but what he said. Though as I have said before on this thread, I myself am unsure if this plan for Afghanistan will work.

Now that we all seem to have agreed on not minimizing how awful the Taliban are - which is not the same thing as saying their awfulness alone is a good reason to invade -- let me ask that we also not minimize Al Qaeda's daunting list of led or inspired terrorist actions -- from 1993 and onward, well after the 911 attacks.
posted by bearwife at 11:25 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Uh, who is minimizing Al Qaeda?
posted by Burhanistan at 11:26 AM on December 2, 2009


bearwife - again, I take the fact that Al Qaeda has continued to perpetrate attacks in the years since the invasion as further evidence that the military response was not the correct one - you can see from the page you linked that they are a global network not in the slightest reliant on training bases in Afghanistan. What successes have come against them since have been due to intelligence and limited 'policing' strikes (executed by the military).
posted by Abiezer at 11:33 AM on December 2, 2009


Well it's a good thing America is now more secure than ever thanks to it's military escapades.

No wait, that's not right.
posted by chunking express at 11:36 AM on December 2, 2009


Do you find the war to date has been a useful response to 9/11?

Yes, but not as useful as it could have been without the Iraq disaster. We need to get bin Laden.

As for the international tribunal, do you have any credible links that purport to say that the Taliban was really going to hand over bin Laden? Because we have him on phone and e-mail for world trade I and the embassy bombings, but the Taliban refused to turn him over. Remember that they completely refused to turn him over at first. Perhaps you see them as honorable? I do not. I am pretty confident based on past performance that they wouldn't do so.

It is undeniable that we were attacked. We do know that now bin Laden doesn't have training camps and a secure base of operations. These are all important goals given the large number of people that he killed. You cannot deny the reality of the threat.

But what would be your alternate plan? Both for a response to 9/11 and now.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:52 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nothing to do with seeing them as honourable - despite their religious underpinnings I just suspect they'd have been realist enough to comply with some process that could avoid war (they had something to lose then - their regime; now they can fight on indefinitely in a guerilla campaign which doesn't present the same fixed targets for the coalition) while allowing them some minimum of face-saving. Will have to read up on the whole offer/tribunal thing to say anything more definite - I concede I may be remembering it incorrectly.
But what would be your alternate plan? Both for a response to 9/11 and now.
To continue the intelligence and policing efforts that have been the only operations to register any successes against Al Qaeda to date. This is not to even touch on the vastly different foreign policy goals and practices that I think would truly drain the swamp, as I accept those are utopian given where we are now.
As to now, you feel that since we are in Afghanistan it would only be right to do whatever it takes to bring some sort of stability there before leaving, but again the evidence appears to be that as time goes on the presence of foreign military is a destabilising factor in itself.
posted by Abiezer at 12:07 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here we go, 'Pakistan blocks bin Laden trial':
A SECRET plan to put Osama bin Laden on trial in Pakistan has been blocked after President Musharraf said he could not guarantee his safety, it was disclosed yesterday.

Suggested by the Taliban's closest allies in Pakistan, it was a last-ditch attempt to satisfy Western demands for bin Laden's surrender while averting a war and ensuring the fanatical regime's survival.

A high-level delegation led by Qazi Hussain Ahmad, head of Pakistan's most important Islamic party, the Jamaat-i-Islami, met Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, in secret on Monday. Omar agreed that bin Laden should be taken to Pakistan, where he would be held under house arrest in Peshawar.

The proposal, which had bin Laden's approval, was that within the framework of Islamic shar'ia law evidence of his alleged involvement in the New York and Washington attacks would be placed before an international tribunal.

The court would decide whether to try him on the spot or hand him over to America. The secret deal was agreed after a meeting in Islamabad on Saturday at which Mulla Abdus Salaam Zaeef, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, and Hamid Gul, former director of Pakistan's inter-service intelligence, and Qazi were present.
posted by Abiezer at 12:17 PM on December 2, 2009


And a bit more background from a more polemic anti-war site.
posted by Abiezer at 12:19 PM on December 2, 2009


Get rid of the Taliban and Al Qaeda and we can get out.

"Get rid" of an organization that literally anyone anywhere in this or any other world can call themselves a member of? We are never leaving Afghanistan, then.

We need to get bin Laden.

He's not in Afghanistan, most likely. What other countries do you want to invade and bomb to hell and back, apparently for eternity, to get him?
posted by dirigibleman at 12:25 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Robert Dreyfuss (who disagrees with the policy, btw) discusses President Obama's decision in the Nation in a way that effectively summarizes my own view:
After reviewing all of the evidence, I don't agree that the president was acting out of a lack of courage. I think that his decision to surge US forces in Afghanistan reflects a mature, considered decision on his part to do what he thinks is the right thing. (Unfortunately, it's wrong.)

...Still, the point is, unless you've been blinded by the celebrity glare that has surrounded Obama since he burst onto the scene, there's no excuse for being surprised at what he decided. He told us what he thinks many times, he told us what he'd do, and then he did it.

Which brings me to the 2011 issue.

It's easy to be cynical about that date.... Still, for the first time -- and it's not nothing -- the United States has set a sell-by date for its Afghan policy. Obama has declared that the US effort in Afghanistan must show clear signs of success by 2011, or else it's time to pick up the ball and go home. At the same time, if by some miracle the success that the president says he seeks in Afghanistan is achieved by then, as unlikely as that seems, well, then it's time to declare victory and go home, too. So write down that date: July, 2011, and let's hold the president to it. By then, for certain, politics will be a major factor, since Obama will be facing reelection. (And, very possibly, running against General Petraeus.)

So Obama wasn't lying to us in 2008, when he called the war in Afghanistan the "right war." He wasn't lying to us in March, 2009, when he sent the first reinforcements. And he wasn't lying in August, 2009, when he said that the war in Afghanistan was, in his view, a vital national security concern... If he wasn't lying then, why should we be cynical about his July, 2011, date?
posted by saulgoodman at 12:30 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Get rid of the Taliban and Al Qaeda and we can get out.

Are you going to blow up Pakistan next? Or do they get a pass because of the nuclear weapons? What about Saudi Arabia, since that country looks to be the source for most of Al Qaeda's money and personnel, at least with respect to 9/11. They have oil though, and are America's best buds. This was looks to be entirely arbitrary. It was totally about going somewhere and blowing shit up to show the world America was bad ass, and to show the American people the government was doing something, no matter how poorly thought out that something was.
posted by chunking express at 12:37 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


“"No one in over 2000 years have won in any significant way, with any lasting effect, in Afghanistan." Sheesh.”

Uh, again, it’s been a multitude of forces using Afghanistan as a cats paw against other occupying forces. No lasting effect? Durand line? England? Hello? Is this even on? History. Book. Pick one up.

“Again, apparently not the case. They said they'd hand him over to an international tribunal if evidence to support extradition was presented. maybe a lie, a stalling tactic or whatever. In the rush to respond, no-one seemed to think a week or two to find out was worth it against the prospect of a decade-long war.”

Yeah, NATO didn't agree to that and the Taliban didn’t back off from it saying they wanted him tried under Sharia law. Nope. Never happened.
...if they weren't connected why the hell would the Taliban have any say in turning OBL over or not?

“In any case, it is often forgotten that the bases operated by the movement in Afghanistan in the late 1990s had very little to do with transnational jihadist actions and much more to do with training foreign volunteers to aid the Taliban in completing their civil war against the Northern Alliance.”

Foreign volunteers who were, y’know, al Qaeda and or Harkat, etc. Yeah, I agree with Rogers on the more general issue of fighting terrorism (see below) but no, he’s wrong on that.

“Please cite credible sources that show the Taliban (the ones who were ostensibly in charge of the government and affairs of Afghanistan in 2001 gave the "green light" for OBL and company to initiate the 9/11 attacks.”

Besides maintaining al Qaeda training camps in their backyard and sponsoring Osama bin Laden? Taliban leaders attending madrassas in Kandahar sponsored by Bin Laden’s money? The Taliban putting al Qaeda under the auspices of their defense ministry to fight the northern alliance and the U.S.? Is the New York Times credible?
Those groups aren’t connected? Really? Did the Taliban have to green light the Harkat ul-Mujahadeen killing Danny Pearl or gee, maybe cellular ideologically linked transnational terrorist organizations maybe don’t micromanage?

To be clear – the war on terrorism does not equate to the war against the Taliban.
As it sits, yes the Taliban did provide the ground for al Qaeda to plan, train, and launch 9/11 (U.S. culpability and that whole messy argument aside).

I’ve seen some comments (in the news) from some heavy foreign policy folks and they’re pretty accurate. One former Col. was arguing that our foreign security policy shouldn’t be power projection and we should fight the war on terror with police organizations. I couldn’t agree more. Transnational terror groups are exactly that, trans- national. It doesn’t make much sense to attack the Taliban and Afghanistan to prevent another 9/11 or to eliminate terrorists. I agree.

Where I disagree, where folks who don’t have experience in COIN and counterterrorism fail is thinking of terrorists as criminals and thugs simply because they believe (rightly) that they should not be fought with mainline military troops but with small unit police counterterrorist organizations backed by strong intelligence efforts (again, Germany’s GSG9comes to mind).
Terrorists are very different from Mafioso, or triads or tongs or the bratva, etc. Those groups might leverage political power, but mostly they’re not interested in being the government and enforcing their own ideology (by definition, their only ideology is corruption).

In this case you have the Taliban as the ‘respectable’ wing of the multi-nation Islamic fanatic movement. There, terrorists could get, as they manifestly did, sympathy and room to breathe.
Now, I don’t have any illusions that knocking over such a government will stop terrorism. But there is little question such a government cannot be tolerated by any nation.

I don’t want to get into the ‘but the U.S. does it too’ issue. I’ll table that and even cede some of it with the caveat that the U.S., indeed no government in the world no matter how authoritarian, is interested in chaos.

For that reason alone, the Taliban needs to fall, since that is their major export to anyone who does not hold their ideology, by any means necessary.

(And I’ll grant, the Opium thing is almost exactly what the English did to China back when China was stable and able to chew them up over the price of tea and the East India Company did their thing, blah blah, yeah. Colonialism remains a big demon here. The difference being though they weren’t looking to do that to the world and anyone who thought maybe 12 year old girls shouldn’t be burned with chemicals if they try to go to school and such.)
Theirs is not just a toxic ideology – it’s an all encompassing one.

That said, the way to fight terrorism is to step back a bit, deescalate military confrontations – which, perhaps, more troops might (might) be able to do, and work on problems with Pakistan, et.al. (as I’ve been saying for the last 15 years).
The big problem with these groups is subversion.

The idea of having Afghanistan (the military) stand up on its own two legs and fight its own battles is swell. And it would be a victory. And it’s not going to happen. Even if accomplished spectacularly. It will fall 5, 10, 15 years from now as extremists slowly subvert and infiltrate their way into power.

So what needs to be done is to give folks a better path and that really really needs international involvement and economic development and good governance. Then extremist ideals hold no interest.

Hell, you can see that in the U.S. Folks who have to go to work in the morning lose interest in camping out in the woods, jerking off over their firearms and talking about how they’re harder and more right than whoever they consider the deluded fools and part of ‘the problem’ (blacks or jews mostly, and/or liberals).
Same dance really.

So the U.S. getting out of Afghanistan – I’m for it and against it. I’m for less military involvement. But we sure as hell have to ‘be there’ in order to prevent greater extremism and instability in Pakistan. I’d like less of a full bore military presence, sure.

Most especially I’d like to see the U.S. get more countries on board. It’s their neck too. It’s not like there haven’t been attacks in Spain, France, England and Germany. More money and getting Pakistan and India security agreements, economic incentives, etc. And keep a light foot in counterterrorist operations. I think the world will like us a lot more and we sure as hell wouldn’t have this crushing debt that forces us into sloppy choices.

“Do you find the war to date has been a useful response to 9/11?”

This, I think, is a useful question. No. It’s been completely useless and fucked up. Because of Bush and the years and years spend being an idiot and paying little attention to the far more crucial engagement.
The war Obama is prosecuting is a whole new ball game and I think the deadline date, though counterintuitive, is a solid idea. We can maintain a presence but pull back from heavier military confrontations at a certain date. It sends the signal that our resources and our attention are not endless and that there will be – if nothing else – change and de-escalation.

Is that going to happen? Remains to be seen. So, thus far, under Obama, yes, it’s been more useful than it was. The problem there though is, while the war has been much more useful than it was under Bush, the foreign security policy and projection of power remains the same.

Bit of a catch-22. You’ve got the right firefighting equipment, the right technique, but the Village Board (Gates, Hillary, etc.) demand you fight fire with fire and so they put gasoline in your pump trucks.
No matter how well the war goes, or doesn’t, if the foreign policy remains the same, we’re not going to have any useful or productive outcome from any major engagement we have anywhere.

"Uh, who is minimizing Al Qaeda?"
Bob, from accounting. He's got the Navy SEALs poster on the wall of his cubicle. Thinks he's bad ass. Carries around that Nerf gun at the meetings.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:43 PM on December 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


Are you going to blow up Pakistan next?

that's going on right now.

Having said that--only our strong presence on the border there will encourage Pakistan to fight their own Taliban and win. If they can't escape to Afghanistan, then it is worth Pakistan's while to root them out. The Taliban are now incredibly unpopular in Pakistan too. Hammer and Anvil.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:45 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


if they weren't connected why the hell would the Taliban have any say in turning OBL over or not?
Because he was after all in what was nominally their territory at the time - my honest impression is that while there had been links (with Al Qaeda support for Taliban goals domestic to their war in Afghanistan) the Taliban weren't involved or interested in Al Qaeda's wider international operations. They seem to have hosted Bin Laden and crew as much because of the traditions of hospitality under Pushtunwali as anything else. Again, I'm hardly wired into a global intel network but seems credible enough to me - I don't think the Taliban had the same global outlook in their aims or ideology, though o doubt if they were at all privy to Bin laden's schemes they wouldn't have been calling Interpol either.
posted by Abiezer at 12:57 PM on December 2, 2009


This operation could and should have been handled by limited tactical engagements, not this mess that you're cheerleading for now.

Actually the initial invasion of Afghanistan was quite similar to that plan. While the Taliban were overthrown, the ground fighting was largely done by the Afghans in the Northern alliance, with support from the U.S. Air Force, and CIA and Army special forces. The main focus of our guys on the ground was getting bin Laden. He escaped.

The problem, and the reason were still embroiled in a mess there right now, is that we underestimated the remaining guerrilla forces loyal to al-Qaeda and the Taliban and didn't have enough troops to control the areas. That and the fact that militants could find safe haven in the more lawless regions of Pakistan bordering on Afghanistan. If we had actually engaged in an all out military invasion and occupation from the get-go, the country might well have been largely stable and secure by this point.

What we have to face now is that we have troops there and things are not looking good for a stable and secure Afghanistan. There are a lot of people in Afghanistan who see as occupiers, a lot of disillusioned people who see that we haven't brought them wealth and stability, and a lot of people who still want help building a safer and better country.

The pragmatic option is probably to get the heck out of there fast. But there are people who have been working to help their fellow Afghans and in so doing have made enemies of the Taliban. If we leave, many of them will probably get killed. On the other hand if we remain, our soldiers will continue getting killed, and people who don't deserve it will keep getting caught in the crossfire. It's a bad situation all around. I'm of the opinion that this is tactic is to try to get the Taliban to lay low for a bit, knowing that we'll leave, so we can declare something of a victory and get the heck out of there. Hopefully it'll work, and we can leave, and the Afghan government will take the reprieve to consolidate and stabilize what portion of the country it can. I don't have much hope for that happening, but there aren't many good options right now.
posted by Zalzidrax at 12:59 PM on December 2, 2009


What about Saudi Arabia, since that country looks to be the source for most of Al Qaeda's money and personnel, at least with respect to 9/11.\

(And don't forget the UAE, who own Dubai, which just so happens to be the new HQ for Halliburton and recently sent fear rippling through the economy by deciding not to pay off their Western debt obligations (despite the UAE having plenty of its own money it could chip in to pay the tab).)

The world's a nasty place, and it's not going to get any less nasty just because we beat a hasty retreat from Afghanistan. If it's not death from the skies (ala drone attacks), it'll be heads on sticks and entire villages slaughtered en masse like it was when the Taliban first came to power in the region before the war. (Those horror stories, sadly, weren't just right-wing prevarication.)

But we're really damned if we do, etc., etc. The best we can hope for is that the latest escalation is either successful (and that by this time next year, we'll be coming off of the most peaceful month in Afghanistan since the war began, just as last month was the most peaceful month in Iraq since the invasion) or a complete failure. Either outcome, possibly, now leads to us getting out, which is a better position than we've been in, with an open-ended commitment since practically day one.

I don't care what some say. I was paying close attention to the actual concrete promises he made during the campaign and yet again he's trying to deliver exactly what he promised. As fashionable as it's become to dismiss every move President Obama makes as insincere and calculated, or to simply parse his every move in such excruciatingly bad faith ways that they're written off as worse than nothing, the math still looks pretty simple to me. He said he'd do this. He's doing it. As in many other policy areas, he's trying to follow through on his word and catching hell from all sides. I find the contortions of reality it takes not to see that as utterly bizarre.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:06 PM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


(with Al Qaeda support for Taliban goals domestic to their war in Afghanistan) the Taliban weren't involved or interested in Al Qaeda's wider international operations.

Why not turn him over then? Seriously, the man is an international criminal and terrorist. They paid him money. 9/11 commission report covers that.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:07 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


See my linked articles above that say they had agreed to turn him over. Some insistence on forms that saved them some face (under sharia in Pakistan), and then once that plan was scuppered the invasion had begum and we can't know if they would have shifted further.
posted by Abiezer at 1:12 PM on December 2, 2009


See my linked articles above that say they had agreed to turn him over. Some insistence on forms that saved them some face (under sharia in Pakistan), and then once that plan was scuppered the invasion had begum and we can't know if they would have shifted further.

Fuck saving the Taliban face. The idea somehow that this amorphous process was going to end up with bin Laden being turned over to the US is just laughable. And what then? He would have to be tried again in the US anyway, due to due process issues. Seriously, why should we trust the Taliban? Nope. They supported terrorists who killed 2900 people in one morning. It isn't to our advantage to allow others to actually strike us with impunity. They would do it again.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:22 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


And as I say, that's the kind of thinking that led to a useless response that achieved nothing and got a whole lot more people killed. You did allow yourselves to be attacked with impunity - the perpetrators got away. You also showed the US army to be incapable of successfully prosecuting the war it had chosen against the shattered remnants of a Third World regime. How that enhances American security (setting aside all other considerations) I have no idea.
posted by Abiezer at 1:28 PM on December 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


You also showed the US army to be incapable of successfully prosecuting the war it had chosen against the shattered remnants of a Third World regime.

That's a failure of George W. Bush, not the Army. We will see what comes next. But I support Obama's choice. I'm glad that I voted for him for President. These are the calls I was looking for.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:36 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


The way to fight terrorism is through police work.
posted by mr.marx at 1:42 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


It isn't to our advantage to allow others to actually strike us with impunity. They would do it again.

You're arguing from vengeance whereas others here are arguing from pragmatism and pursuing the path of least harm. I don't think there will be a reconciliation of the two here in this thread.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:04 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Though I hate to agree with the bow-tied bastard, George Will is right on this one:

Although the war is in its 98th month, Obama's "Mission Accomplished" banner will be unfurled 19 months from now -- when Afghanistan's security forces supposedly will be self-sufficient. He must know this will not happen. ...

Tuesday the Taliban heard a distant U.S. trumpet sounding withdrawal beginning in 19 months. Also hearing it were Afghans who must decide whether to bet their lives on the Americans, who will begin striking their tents in July 2011, or on the Taliban, who are not going home, because they are at home. ...

The president's party will not support his new policy, his budget will not accommodate it, our overstretched and worn down military will be hard-pressed to execute it, and Americans' patience will not be commensurate with Afghanistan's limitless demands for it. This will not end well.

posted by Joe Beese at 2:11 PM on December 2, 2009


Though I hate to agree with the bow-tied bastard, George Will is right on this one:

It's too early to know that, as Will and a lot of other self-anointed experts who by now should have learned the lesson that they don't know what the hell they're talking about would do well to remember.

I can't even imagine how hard it would be to get a day's work done if every line of code I wrote made the news and was subject to critical review by a bunch of non-programmers who, for the most part, were just making wild guesses about what would actually happen when the code ran. For a lousy half-mill a year with no stock options, Being President has got to be the worst CEO job on the planet.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:31 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


In less than a year, Obama has set a timeline for the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Where the last Democratic president failed disastrously, Obama has- a great expense to his political capital- championed a massive, unprecedented reform of healthcare and brought it to the brink of passage. He has substantially increased the government's oversight of the economy, in an effort to create jobs, and more than one economist believes the government's actions have prevented a depression. The administration has unequivocally declared the Defense of Marriage Act to be discriminatory and urged Congress to repeal it. He has pledged more aggressive action on climate change than any other previous American administration. He has pulled back from Bush's brinksmanship with Russia and reversed the plans for an unneeded and provocative missile shield in Eastern Europe. He has categorically declared torture to be un-American and forbidden it and also begun the, frustratingly delayed, process of closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

Naturally, the Left is enraged.
posted by spaltavian at 2:55 PM on December 2, 2009 [9 favorites]


You know, while the Commander-in-Chief may come and go, the Army stays the Army. You can blame the last decade of failure on Bush and claim a 30% troop increase will change everything, but that strikes me as extremely naive.

I mean, if we had a time machine to reallocate everything we dumped into Iraq, that could "win it", but this ain't gonna happen now.
posted by mek at 3:23 PM on December 2, 2009


“I don't think the Taliban had the same global outlook in their aims or ideology…”
I see you’re in earnest. I get your position. Playing up the ties between the two groups to support a war effort – solid, I’m on board there that this has/is happening. But you’re wrong about the above statement. I rarely say anyone is flat out wrong, here – your intimations are right, but it's a wrong ultimate conclusion.
The Afghan Taliban was born in the madrassas and honed their vision of Islam there. Those were funded, staffed, etc. by the same al Qaeda players.
So they believe in strict sharia law and have the same ideals and vision that the Base does (granting some competing interest in some places - long boring details about the kind of muslim they each respectively believe themselves to be - suffice it to say they're in the same league if not on the same team).
Even if they weren’t ideologically linked (and I’ll cede it’s not identical) they still have strong bonds steming from the Soviet invasion.

Barbara Elias in Foreign Affairs outlines this well – their legitimacy – their claim to rulership and ‘soverignty’ rests not on legitimate or even popular succession or even territorial control but on their Theocratic vision. So too is al Qaeda’s jihad.

My point, in that statement you refute, is that they knew they were going to take a serious beating flipping off the U.S. and NATO - BUT protecting al Qaeda (and OBL) was more important to them than holding on to power or protecting their people.
They NEVER would have turned him over. They’ve made all kinds of promises in the past and it’s one of their tenets that lying to a non-muslim is no big deal – laudable even (theirs, not all muslims thing, just their screwy take on it).
They acted, ostensibly, against their best influences. If you told me “Smed, take a walk from Metafilter or I’m going to destroy your house and car” I’d walk.
I don’t like being threatened, but screw it, it’s $5. Not worth risking my family or even the hassle of worrying about it.
So what's one diabetic Wahhabi more or less?
In this case, these folks are fanatics. So they would not take a walk. Because they believe their life is only truly in Metafilter. So they would sacrifice their families, themselves, etc.

Picking Mustafa abu al-Yazid (Sheik Saeed) for top leadership (at least according to STRATFOR) is a clear sign that they still want to strengthen those ties.

I speak about identity quite a bit when it comes to groups/people like these. Tends to get yawns. But it’s most certainly true when it comes to terrorists.
My objection to the nature of the prosecution of the war in Afghanistan rests partly on that. That this is not a war over territory so it’s not one that can be fought by occupying territory.

While I agree with (former CIA officila) Glenn Carle that jihadists are lethal but miserable, disjointed opponents who’s desire far outstrips their capability – I disagree that their incapacity for direct action renders their influence trivial.
They’re dangerous precisely because they are disjointed. They don’t care about legitimacy or who recognizes their right to whatever, you can’t reason with someone with their world view.

And if they got enough influence, they could leverage power in Pakistan. Al Qaeda’s operations in Pakistan have had more influence on the Pakistani Taliban than on the Afghan Taliban.
Right now the only thing preventing the Taliban in Pakistan from making serious moves is that they are so disjointed and competitive. Essentially, corruption is saving the region from a potential nuclear catastrophe.

So this retribution for 9/11 – not so much. Preventing a crew of miserable disjointed fanatics from accruing enough wealth and power to destabilize Pakistan, yeah, that’s something we should be working on. And that is one potential consequence of us taking a powder. (Again – with the caveat that I agree less military force should be used, especially directly by any foreign powers much less the U.S., but we can’t just leave things to resolve themselves)

“Naturally, the Left is enraged.”
Of course. You can’t just go around accomplishing things.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:22 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Smed: yeah, the threat ofa nuclear, Taliban Pakistan is a legitimate one, and a genuinely scary one. Which is why all the sabre-rattling about Iran and Syria is so tedious and beside the point. It's unfortunate that our foreign policy strategy appears to be "trash two countries to destabilize a third", but ehhh, whatcha gonna do?
posted by mek at 4:35 PM on December 2, 2009


Thanks for the link Smedleyman - there's a paragraph in that that expresses what I was getting at in my 'not the same global outlook' statement that you quote, which I realise might be read as 'different worldview' when I meant narrower geographic focus/ambitions:
The Taliban who governed Afghanistan from 1996–2001 had strong ties to Pakistan, both official and unofficial: they formed their identity in Pakistani schools and refugee camps, received funding and support from Islamabad that enabled their rise, and had close bilateral relations with their patrons after they seized power. Their agenda, however, was primarily a national one, and it remained so even after they were toppled and driven into the wilderness by the United States in 2001–2. Taliban spokesmen claim Mullah Omar has no involvement in militant activities in Pakistan, and that his main goal is to expel American and allied forces from Afghanistan and to reestablish a national Islamic regime. He and his forces aim to outwit, outlast, and outplay yet another alien superpower, replicating the mujahideen’s victory against the Soviets.
My point, in that statement you refute, is that they knew they were going to take a serious beating flipping off the U.S. and NATO - BUT protecting al Qaeda (and OBL) was more important to them than holding on to power or protecting their people.
They NEVER would have turned him over.

This was what I was getting at both when I said it seems from what I've read the Taliban hosted Al Qaeda under the traditional obligations of Pashtunwali and as former comrades-in-arms against the Soviets, and also relates to the need to give them a face-saving out (tribunal under sharia in Pakistan). I think the article you link offers support for that view even where she's constructing a larger argument that is different from other analysis I've seen - in the parts about their "complex issues of legitimacy and identity" that are setting out the Taliban need to be seen as the uncompromising upholders of a certain brand of Islam. Your author reckons they would never compromise; I think the offer that was made suggests that rather they just wouldn't be seen to compromise, which is a commonplace of realpolitik - appearances. Of course, I could well be wrong, but then Elias doesn't deal with those offers to surrender Bin Laden to Pakistan at all.
posted by Abiezer at 4:45 PM on December 2, 2009


Smedleyman: "Of course. You can’t just go around accomplishing things."

Apparently not.

-Guantanamo Bay has not been closed.
-The prison at Bagram is still going strong.
-Blackwater is still employed by the US government.
-The war in Afghanistan is escalating.
-Troops have not been significantly drawn down in Iraq.
-The public option is now the expendable "liberal" option, even though those of us who voted for Obama saw it as the compromise to single-payer.
-Abortion rights are at greater risk as a result of the president's weak leadership on health care.
-DODT is still in place.
-DOMA is still in place.
-The stimulus package was weak and government oversight of financial institutions remains woefully inadequate.

posted by Joe Beese at 6:31 PM on December 2, 2009


If people are trained in your country to hijack airplanes and crash them into buildings in my country and my country has a trillion dollar killing machine then I don't have to give a crap about your cultural norms. The Taliban leadership was full of grown men who'd seen and done all kinds of things in their lives. They'd grown up in a warzone ruled by gang violence and war lords. They knew exactly what was going to happen the moment we figured out OBL was responsible. All the words exchanged afterwards were just for the benefit of revisionist historians who would later be able to write academic papers about lost opportunities for peace. If they had handed over OBL, we would have asked for Omar.
posted by humanfont at 6:32 PM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


-Guantanamo Bay has not been closed...*assorted other whining about things not happening fast enough*



I want a ball
I want a party
Pink macaroons
And a million balloons
And performing baboons and
Give it to me now

posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:50 PM on December 2, 2009


If people are trained in your country to hijack airplanes and crash them into buildings in my country and my country has a trillion dollar killing machine then I don't have to give a crap about your cultural norms. The Taliban leadership was full of grown men who'd seen and done all kinds of things in their lives.
This is to miss the point about the 'cultural norms', which is that the Taliban weren't married to the idea of global jihad and attacking the US in same way that Bin Laden was, and were hosting him for reasons of their own. So the bottom line is, regardless of the truth or otherwise of their willingness to hand him over (claim here they tried to get rid in March-April 2001), the regime itself wasn't sufficient threat to justify the invasion nor once it fell did it mean that Al Qaeda was left with nowhere to hide or an inability to continue its attacks.
posted by Abiezer at 6:59 PM on December 2, 2009


Guantanamo Bay has not been closed...*assorted other whining about things not happening fast enough*

I want an Oompa Loompa now!
posted by kirkaracha at 7:31 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Poor effort, Ironmouth. Yeah, all those poverty-stricken uneducated women living under strict sharia law didn't leave us alone.
posted by tehloki at 8:10 PM on December 2, 2009


So the bottom line is, regardless of the truth or otherwise of their willingness to hand him over (claim here they tried to get rid in March-April 2001), the regime itself wasn't sufficient threat to justify the invasion nor once it fell did it mean that Al Qaeda was left with nowhere to hide or an inability to continue its attacks.

Almost 3000 people died and there was hundreds of billions of dollars in economic damage. The attackers also hit the headquarters of the entire US Military, nearly burning it to the ground. Air travel, the stock market and other vital parts of the economy were just stopped. Do you seriously think that we were going to wait and figure out exactly how OBL and Mullah Omar got along? What kind of crazy threat assessment are you running here? If they were unwilling to hand over OBL they were accomplices. If they were unable then there is no point in negotiating with them as there is nothing they can deliver. A regime that built its reputation on brutal efficiency in executing and terrorizing political enemies and innocents can't suddenly demand justice and process. If they wanted to avoid war they could have sent OBL's by FedEx.
posted by humanfont at 10:51 PM on December 2, 2009


What kind of crazy threat assessment are you running here?
The one that considers whether responses are going to achieve anything other than more death and a decade-long military failure. Are you living in a TV series or the real world of consequences?
posted by Abiezer at 7:54 AM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ideas from The Onion, including: Announce you're raising troop levels by 15,000, then pull everybody out, then come back with a half million soldiers, in the process convincing al-Qaeda that you're loco and not to be messed with.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:55 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Abiezer – ah, I see what you’re driving at. And I agree with your latter point. Seems vs. the reality in politics are often at odds.

I will say, concerning appearances, there’s a lot of tension in a bunch of countries right now. Were I playing the deep game I’d argue that one potential benefit of an external war – for any country throughout history – has been the easing of internal tension. The worth of Afghanistan as a distraction I don’t think should be underestimated in the region.
But that’s bringing my whole head to the table. I’m sure there’s a lot of folks who have read plenty of books who could execute on that level. And Obama’s that smart. But I don’t know if they have that kind of time. Thinking in chess terms there. On the other hand Obama’s a poker player.
And, thinking with my whole head, I underestimated Gore a bit ago in terms of his capacity. He’s certainly a better man than Caesar in that he did not cross the Rubicon. And Bill Clinton is still a major factor, especially with that trip to Korea.
So he might well be playing a deeper game. Which is comforting in a sense.
Doesn’t help folks on the ground going through hell. But living in interesting times has always been a curse.

Joe Beese – I’m sorry, a comment from somewhere else is the reference for your comment?

“Guantanamo Bay has not been closed.”
And yet, he signed an executive order to do that…. DEMOCRATIC congress who?

“The prison at Bagram is still going strong.”

Yeah, closing the core base for CENTCOM operations in Central Asia, that’d be an excellent idea right now. And a prison camp? In an active theater of war? For enemy combatants? Yeah, sounds crazy to me.
That said – yes, the Geneva Conventions should most definitely be upheld. Screenings should be held and the validity of their detainment – overall – should be determined as a matter of course. But closing the prison itself? No, there are actual combatants who are, y’know, enemies who have been captured, etc.

“Blackwater is still employed by the US government.”

They’re the result of a 40 year long ongoing military policy being upheld by every administration since Vietnam and being adhered to by folks like Hillary Clinton and loads of other folks in the administration, strangely, Obama can’t singlehandedly reverse that trend with his own party up his ass about it. Weird. Well hopefully he'll change social security all by himself by this time next month.

“The war in Afghanistan is escalating.”
With a deadline date. For withdrawal. As opposed to McCain who’d like to stay there forever.

“Troops have not been significantly drawn down in Iraq.”
Uh …. What

“The public option is now the expendable "liberal" option, even though those of us who voted for Obama saw it as the compromise to single-payer.”

Yeah. Obama should declare martial law. Put some people up against the wall. Round 'em up. Kill their families if they don’t do what we had in mind when we voted for Obama. That’ll show those fascists.

“Abortion rights are at greater risk as a result of the president's weak leadership on health care.”
I understand the moon is even closer to striking the Earth as a result of the president’s weak leadership.
“DODT is still in place.”
Totally. Even though he said explicitly he’s ending it. And set a time table. Say, who put that in place again…?
“DOMA is still in place.”
Yeah. It’s nice to make things up and blame it on someone.
Especially if you don’t need to worry about things like ‘facts’ and how the whole ‘Republic’ thing works where y’know, congress passes and repeals laws and stuff.
But I can see how after Bush you wanted a tyrant of the left. Good luck with that.

“The stimulus package was weak and government oversight of financial institutions remains woefully inadequate.”

Don’t even know where to start with this one. It’s bad enough that this isn’t even stupid enough to be wrong as laying blame on Obama after 8 years of schizophrenic monkey pulling wires from the financial controls such that we’re lucky the place isn’t literally on fire constantly and people aren’t starving in the hundreds of millions, but it’s not even something you deem worth thinking about, you didn’t even write this, just reposted it. Even zombies have more mental capacity for analytic reasoning.

There’s room for criticism of Obama’s leadership. This is knee jerk crap – literally reflexive reiteration - since it’s a repost of a comment from elsewhere which was bereft of complexity or rational thought in the first place.
Obama’s an obstructionist? Christ, the Democrats can just do no wrong as long as they can get people to self-identify as one. And define that term however they think it means without regard to the practical reality.

They have the majority in congress. So who the hell you think is holding up the works? One guy who’s been in office ten minutes or party hacks who’ve been guzzling corporate money to hold on to their seats for the past ten years?
posted by Smedleyman at 11:46 AM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


Well, I now know for sure I am right: Tom Friedman thinks its a bad idea:

I’d prefer a minimalist approach, working with tribal leaders the way we did to overthrow the Taliban regime in the first place.

Indeed, him of the "Iraq was a good idea" has a lot more dumbassery to add:

4. One of the main reasons the Arab-Muslim world has been so resistant to internally driven political reform is because vast oil reserves allow its regimes to become permanently ensconced in power, by just capturing the oil tap, and then using the money to fund vast security and intelligence networks that quash any popular movement. Look at Iran. . .

To me, the most important reason for the Iraq war was never W.M.D. It was to see if we could partner with Iraqis to help them build something that does not exist in the modern Arab world: a state, a context, where the constituent communities — Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds — write their own social contract for how to live together without an iron fist from above. Iraq has proved staggeringly expensive and hugely painful. The mistakes we made should humble anyone about nation-building in Afghanistan. It does me.


Needless to say, Afghanistan is not a major oil producing state. That this wanker would just group this South Asian state with no Arabs in it with the Middle East is bad enough. But his suggestion that we just "work it out with tribal leaders" makes no sense at all. Seriously, if it could be "just worked out with tribal leaders" then we wouldn't be doing this at all.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:54 AM on December 3, 2009


But I can see how after Bush you wanted a tyrant of the left. Good luck with that.

This. Exactly this. What some of those who are farther to the left of me want is some sort of revenge fantasy where the Republicans have to eat everything. What Obama wants is to move on from these pointless partisan battles and get to governing the country, which requires some sort of consensus.

Especially on domestic issues, they have a selective memory. Jon Stewart asked the other night why the Republicans were able to "get their things passed" without 60 votes in the Senate. The answer is they didn't try to get anything passed. What did they do? Medicare prescription drug benefit and No Child Left Behind. That's all they did, and Dems could support both. It was the GOP who opposed him on those programs. The rest he did by fiat.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:00 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


You're forgetting all those transcendental bipartisan bills, like the Patriot Act and authorizing the Iraq war, tax rebates and TARP. And who could forget immunizing telecoms? And then there's my personal favourite, the Medicare Modernization Act, which fucked healthcare up more than ever before. Motorized scooters for everyone!

Truth is, the Republicans are just that much better at obstruction. There were always some Blue Dogs happy to vote for whatever Bush wanted them to (and, of course, there's Lieberman).

Obama is a pretty terrible poker player, though he does have a bad hand. He needs to take some lessons from Bush. Though, when it comes to guzzling corporate money, he got pretty good, fast.
posted by mek at 1:20 PM on December 3, 2009


Obama is a pretty terrible poker player

Hardly. He's got the Republicans fighting the Public Option, not the whole bill. They are concentrating their fire on the least important and most left-leaning part of the bill. It is brilliant misdirection. He's also letting congress do all the heavy-lifting, making it impossible for the GOP to direct their fire directly at him (unlike Hillary) and forces them to fight over three or four different possible versions of the bill. It is very smart politics, designed for the endgame in the conference committee. Its a power bluff that is certain to work.

Everybody wants him to be the Democratic Bush. Why the hell they want that I have no idea. He's here to govern, not to make people feel good because the GOP is getting politically hammered on TV talk shows. People are literally mad at him for not passing what they thought he was for, rather than what he actually said during the campaign.

How's that Harper character going for you up there? For all the crap on here I see from Canadians about Obama, he's light years beyond that total asshole you have running your country with a minority government. Why can't you get rid of him?
posted by Ironmouth at 1:36 PM on December 3, 2009


the Patriot Act and authorizing the Iraq war, tax rebates and TARP. And who could forget immunizing telecoms?

Dems didn't filibuster those. They didn't have the votes. They are a broader party than the GOP.

As for TARP, that was properly voted for by Dems. Because it was needed. Very needed. Terrible that it had to be necessary, but necessary nonetheless.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:39 PM on December 3, 2009


The one that considers whether responses are going to achieve anything other than more death and a decade-long military failure.

Displacing the Taliban from control over the instruments of state and denying Al Qaeda a safe haven for operations, training and planning is hardly military failure. Maybe your expectations were just too high. We can deny the Taliban operational control over the country for as long as we choose. Obama's strategy will ensure that we can create a self-sustaining government that is able to limit the ability of Al Qaeda to use the resources and protection of the state to further its interests.
posted by humanfont at 5:52 PM on December 3, 2009


Whatever utility Al Qaeda got from the facilities it enjoyed in Afghanistan, the loss of them has hardly proved fatal to the organisation. See the numerous attacks they've carried out since. It's a loose network operating internationally; should imagine it was also able to relocate whatever it had in Afghanistan just across the border in the tribal areas of Pakistan (where Mullah Omar is alleged to be).
I have serious doubts whether the strategy can deliver a stable self-sustaining government in the next eighteen months; let's hope so, but there's a fair chance the Taliban will be back in years to come. In the meantime thousands of Afghanis and hundreds of coalition troops have died and enormous sums of money have been spent without those key goals secured, hence I call it a failure.
posted by Abiezer at 6:10 PM on December 3, 2009


2 semi out of the blue Q's and a ny'er article of topical interest:
will there be enough serious body armour; are there preparations for this expansion that were not there the first time?
Fifth war since The Second World War?
On Armistice Day, at a full-scale meeting of his national-security team, Obama was presented with four options. According to what little has leaked out from under the closed doors, all four options called for more American troops, from ten thousand at the lower end to forty thousand at the upper. Though some in the Administration favor a smaller military footprint instead of a larger one, that was not among the choices offered to the President. For this fifth war, there was no fifth option.

like they need the top of the line armour, taking in all the latest research they've been doing, including protecting better for shocks to brains, because it seems like keeping people alive longer makes more economic/moral/logical/human sense than having to keep teaching new kids. That is, if we must impose things by force (but only in a seeming randomly distributed manner).
posted by infinite intimation at 7:30 PM on December 6, 2009


How the Afghanistan Air War Got Stuck in the Sky
posted by homunculus at 8:44 AM on December 10, 2009


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