Let me be perfectly clear about this. I do not support the war, nor do I support escalating the war.
However, I do support making an attempt to repair one of the most colossal fuck-ups in the history of American foreign policy, and I only support this fix with very limited parameters and very significant caveats, most of which I outlined in the column.
I have no idea if 30,000 troops makes sense as a means to that end, or if entirely bugging out tomorrow will do the trick. That's the conundrum. No one knows for sure. I do know, however, that we kind of owe it to the Afghan people to at least try to clean up our mess before we bail out -- since, after all, we rushed in there guns blazing and nearly destroyed whatever crappy resources they had in the first place. And one of the potentially horrific and unintended consequences was driving the Taliban and al-Qaeda into neighboring Pakistan: an unstable nation with nuclear weapons.
To that point, this blogger writes:
Let’s deal with this ridiculous argument that if we don’t send in the Marines the "terrorists" will somehow steal away Pakistan’s nukes and explode them in the middle of Manhattan.
That's absolutely not what I wrote or implied. Clearly, the danger is the Taliban or another radical Islamic group overthrowing Pakistan's government and thus seizing its nukes. I thought this possibility has been mostly accepted by even anti-war liberals. Pakistan's nuclear weapons aren't speculative. They're real. And the Taliban wants them. Haven't we talked about this?
This blogger also writes:
...Bob Cesca, the Huffington Post’s bearded-progressive-in-residence, who starts off with the most familiar of the White House talking points: don’t be surprised, you knew this was coming – that is, you would have known if you had listened during the campaign, because Obama always said Afghanistan had to be dealt with, etc., ad nauseam.
You know, presenting a fact in a snarky tone doesn't make the fact less real. Fact: the president never promised to withdraw. How is repeating this fact an unfair or out of bounds point to make? In fact, the only 2008 candidates who promised to withdraw were Dennis Kucinich and, I think, Ron Paul.
The progressive favorite for most of the primary campaign was John Edwards, who supported "finishing the job" in Afghanistan. Four years earlier, both nominee John Kerry and 2004 progressive favorite Howard Dean supported finishing the job in Afghanistan. Many progressive supporters also repeated the familiar mantra: Bush took is eye off Afghanistan in order to invade Iraq.
So in an admittedly general sense, Afghanistan has never been seriously opposed by mainstream progressives -- until, that is, President Obama opted to do what he always intended to do (with the addition of a 2011 withdrawal pledge). Would this apparent progressive backlash/backpedal on Afghanistan have taken place if it was President John Edwards or President Howard Dean? I have no idea. But my entire Af-Pak-speech reaction shouldn't come as any surprise, since I was one of those progressive supporters cheering candidate Obama (also candidates Kerry, Dean, Clinton, Edwards) whenever they spoke of "finishing the job."
But it's become easy, for some reason, to bolster one's progressive cred by attacking and misrepresenting anyone who even faintly endorses the president's agenda, regardless of the endorser's nuance or caution. I mean, I've been repeatedly clear about my opposition to the war and my opposition to an open-ended escalation -- and I was very clear that my very faint support could vaporize in a heartbeat if the situation cascades out of hand, politically or strategically. Yet to read some of these reactions, you'd think I had suddenly transformed into a Brundlefly chimera of Dick Cheney, Ted Nugent and R. Lee Ermey.
Adding... Guess the candidate who wrote this:
After the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 awoke America to the danger of terrorism, making Americans more secure should have been our nation's top priority. [...]
Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mohammed Omar remain at large. Far from being destroyed, terrorist network al-Qaida has dispersed and been reconstituted - with Osama bin Laden reported to have convened a terrorist summit in the Afghan mountains just last April. The Taliban is again on the move, threatening the safety and security of whole swaths of Afghanistan. [...]
Before it is too late, we must take the steps that most agree will make us truly safer. This will require forcefully challenging terrorism in a united effort with other nations, improving domestic security and enlisting Arab and Muslim countries' support for the war on terror.
We're not in this alone
To win the war on terror, we must be prepared to use the iron fist of our superb military. These efforts must be aggressive and make better use of special-operations forces and CIA operatives.
That was Howard Dean from his official campaign website in 2004.
Danger of terrorism? September 11? Iron fist? CIA operatives? Winning the war on terror? I don't recall progressives lining up to condemn Howard Dean's hawkish position five years ago. Today, President Obama is condemned as being Just Like Bush for daring to repeat the phrases "war on terror" and "September 11" in a speech.
I just don't get it.