Wednesday, October 21, 2009

On the Road to Hell – Afghanistan

If you press button A and button B always pops up and you hate the result, why keep pushing button A? The New Yorker magazine did a recent feature article on Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, President Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, as the US man of the hour. My conclusion after reading it, is that Holbrooke is much more the problem than solution – he is a foreign policy quack and sadly not the only one flitting around Obama’s national security apparatus.

Holbrooke cut his diplomatic teeth as a diplomatic warrior during the Vietnam War in the 1960s. Based on his record there, as projected in the article, the significance of his performance should be measured by his failures. He pretends to have learned through mistakes, but so far it is not apparent in his helter skelter, unfocused, self-absorbed behavior while performing Obama's assigned mission.

His claim to fame is his key role in the Balkan Air War where he, Bill Clinton and Madeline Albright successfully had the US garrison Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia permanently. It is still unclear to me why NATO did not assume this occupation mission in its own back yard. Whether this outcome was good for America or not, Holbrooke deserves credit for closing the deal. He used a mix bombs and tough negotiation to succeed, and the US effectively replaced the Ottoman Turks in the Balkans. For short term security, it protected and encouraged the Muslims in Europe, but in the process brought long-term instability – not too smart.

Holbrooke is the standard bearer for US formulation and execution of US policy in Pakistan/Afghanistan; at least he believes he is. He has plenty of competition with the dope dealers, UN, NATO, US Military Command, greedy contractors, Pakistan, India, China and Russia – the 19thc Great Game is again afoot. I dare you to find anything close to unity of command on a theater level. All these forces depend on a corrupt Karzai government to administer the country once insurgent forces are destroyed or neutralized by foreign military force. Karzai-the-Crook has demonstrated he cannot extend his control much outside of Kabul.

The US military is the locus of military power with flaky NATO participation; NATO is a reluctant tiger that in the main requires an attorney before it engages the enemy. Apart from UK forces, most of NATO is brooding over how it went from a cozy regional alliance to a hair-raising global projection of its forces. Bet now it would prefer tranquil Balkan occupation duties over dying hard in the Hindu Kush.

Obama’s attraction during the election campaign was that he was against the fiasco, the war in Iraq and would end it if elected – he was elected, but 120,000 US troops still remain. On Afghanistan he put on a game face said that he was prepared to fight there – still do not believe his heart was in it, but his position countered criticism from the Right that he was a pacifist. Upon election, he ordered 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan. A few days ago, he authorized another 13,000 troops under the guise that they were combat service troops for the 21,000 he just authorized.

Playing a military version of Can You Top This?, his Afghan military commander General McChrystal has requested another 40,000 troops. Obama must have figured he was being rolled by the US military lobby and called a time-out while he tried to understand the situation strategically. The military-industrial-congressional complex is playing hardball to ramp up the war in Afghanistan. It leaked the McChrystal report and Bomb Bomb McCain tried to get senate hearings with McChrystal before the general conferred with the president. McChrystal brought criticism also when he was cheerleading for the expansion of the war in London recently.

Obama really has three choices: get out; stand and die; or fight the Jihadist off shore with special operations, air and missile attacks. Only the rat-neocons believe you can win a ground war there – and they are never right. Any status quo or reinforcement is short-term jingoist gratification, but long term regret and disaster. It is clear that the military establishment with its expanding contractors is the end rather than a means to an end.

My sense is that Obama will press button A, i.e.: status quo or reinforcement, and he will get button B, i.e.: more carnage and wasted American wealth. His military advice is seriously flawed. As GW Bush stupidly said, BRING THEM ON. You would think after Vietnam and Iraq, the US would have learned something. Colonial Robert E Bartos USA Ret.


Blogger Bob said...

The fifty Sovereign States that are the Union of the United States has learned.

It's the federal government in Washingtion that refuse to learn anything.

Don't confuse the United States - the fifty Sovereign States of the Union - with the federal government.

Anonymous Anonymous said...


I copied your post onto my blob and posted a link. Might get you some more traffic.



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