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Could Afghanistan become Obama’s Vietnam?

Watch for the far right to start claiming the President has not managed this war effectively


 

090902_obamaOne thing about American conservatives, they can get away with opposing a war when circumstances change. Imagine a liberal opposing a war or changing his views on a war when the context changes. One recalls Bobby Kennedy’s turnaround on Vietnam and, later, John Kerry’s after he returned from his combat mission. In both cases, conservatives portrayed them and liberals in general as weak on national security. Democrats have always been sensitive to that label, which may explain their initial support for the Iraq war. While the wars are very different, there is a growing perception that the war in Afghanistan could become Obama’s Vietnam, especially since Obama seems committed to pursuing the mission. Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan is “a war of necessity” and not of choice according to Obama. However, polls are showing a growing disenchantment within the American public over this war. Casualties are mounting and, despite a new strategy and the deployment of more troops to Afghanistan, there are doubts the war can ever be won. America could very well face a similar fate as the Soviet Union in the 1980’s.

Respected conservative George Will published a column today arguing for an end to the combat mission in Afghanistan. If it has the same effect as Walter Cronkite’s declaration that Vietnam had become unwinnable, Will’s piece could mark the beginning of the end for the mission in Afghanistan. He blames the reluctance of NATO nations to commit the number of troops necessary to defeat the Taliban. We know, for example, that Canada has set a deadline on its current involvement and no NATO member states have shown any interest in picking up where we’ll be leaving off.

This is not just another column. Conservatives and Republicans have mounted well-orchestrated campaigns against the Obama administration, opposing the stimulus package, opposing health-care reform, opposing climate-change legislation, attacking the nomination of a special prosecutor on torture, opposing Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. All of these are examples of a wider scheme to derail the Obama agenda. This may be expected from the opposition. But while I believe Will is opining in good faith, watch for the far right to start claiming that Obama has not managed this war effectively and that it has become hopeless as a result. Both the mainstream right and the far right will conveniently coalesce and forget that they endorsed both wars and supported “enhanced interrogation techniques” from the start.

This being said, Will’s arguments merit attention. All western powers concur that a nuclear-armed Pakistan is the single most important threat to U.S. security and maybe the world. Still, while gradually shifting troops from Iraq to Afghanistan in order to contain the threat from Pakistan may appear to be a viable strategy, the chances of success remain uncertain. France’s General De Gaulle once said that knowing when to leave a war can be as important as winning it. It is clear that the Republicans are trying to turn Bush wars into Obama wars. The current president seems to have the favour of the American public for his Iraq strategy, but he may be standing on shakier ground when it comes to Afghanistan if NATO members don’t step up their commitments. At the height of U.S. casualties in Vietnam, Senator George Aiken of Vermont suggested his country “declare victory and leave.” We are not yet at that point with Afghanistan. But after what seems like an election debacle in Afghanistan, a product of both election fraud and Taliban terror, Will’s column cannot be dismissed as another conservative rant. After all, the American electorate has been known to become impatient quickly.


 

Could Afghanistan become Obama’s Vietnam?

  1. It is my view that Obama will not be able to win this war and will pay a price for it politically . Will is a defeatist but he has a point if no one else is going to bat . The tragedy is that Bin laden is still alive and could someday get a hero's welcome in Kandahar like the bomber got in Libya last week.

    • It's unknowable, of course, but I would be stunned if Bin Laden were still alive. But his agenda is very much alive. How can the USA withdraw from Afghanistan when Mullah Omar is still committed to supporting international terrorism? Or could one simply withdraw, give Al Qaeda free rein there, and strike at their camps and leadership with Special Forces? According to Steve Coll's Ghost Wars, the Clinton administration was considering such action but didn't have the political capital to act. Perhaps the USA, which has unlimited anti-terrorism political capital now, could strike where Clinton hesitated; and perhaps that would be enough to discourage Al Qaeda from mounting further terrorist strikes?

      • If, as we were repeatedly told after 9/11, Bin Laden was on hemodialysis it's very unlikely
        that he is alive at this point. Even assuming he survived the pummeling of Bora Bora.

        On the other hand I understand kidneys are going for about $7 in Calcutta these days.

      • If, as we were repeatedly told after 9/11, Bin Laden was on hemodialysis it's very unlikely
        that he is alive at this point. Even assuming he survived the pummeling of Bora Bora.

        On the other hand I understand kidneys are going for about $7 in Calcutta these days.
        Of course, that's on the Dalit exchange.

  2. The gall of the Republicans. THey scewed the 2 wars and they are trying to pin it on Obama. They are through practically wishing for an attack to blame Obama . I believe the media is playing into the hands of the Becks and Limbaughs by equating vietnam and Afghanistan . Two different circumstances . One was containment , the other is using a state to launch terror attacks on a civilian population . America has to stay the course and NOT GIVE UP !

  3. And, of course, we seem to be required to take George Will seriously.

    I don't see any reason to start now.

    • Actually no, you don't have to slander the guy, all you have to do is consider the arguments.

    • You got a point . Will likes to portray himself as a thoughtful conservative intellectual but he is a front for the hard right like Cheney and not the crazy right like Palin and Beck.

    • i agree with you and Wills can be self important . But obama has so many problems , he has to avoid adding troops like LBJ . The hope is to arrive to the point he is in Iraq.

  4. The column starts off with another unsubstantiated smear of the Right. Is there any evidence for dwindling support amongst conservatives for the war in Afghanistan versus the dwindling support on the left? None that Parisella provides. Certainly in Canada it has always been the left that wants us to pull out of Afghanistan, not the right.

    I'll posit the contrary: conservatives still see the Afghan war as justified and necessary. The left only supported it in order to avoid the perception of weakness that routinely dogs them politically. Now that they hold all the political cards, they no longer need to support the war.

    It's the same dynamic that had the left vehemently opposing Iraq right up until Bush left office, but being entirely silent on the subject now that Obama is in power and continuing with the same withdrawal timetable that Bush created.

  5. The column starts off with another typical Parisella smear of the Right. Is there any evidence for dwindling support amongst conservatives for the war in Afghanistan versus the dwindling support on the Left? None that Parisella provides. If anything, polls show the opposite: support bleeding from the Left and independents, but not conservatives. Certainly in Canada it has always been the Left that wants us to pull out of Afghanistan, not the Right.

    I'll posit the contrary: conservatives still see the Afghan war as justified and necessary. The American Left only supported it in order to avoid the perception of weakness that routinely dogs them politically. Now that they hold all the political cards, they no longer need to support the war.

    It's the same dynamic that had the Left vehemently opposing Iraq until Bush left office, then going entirely silent on the subject once Obama gained power and continued with the same withdrawal timetable that Bush created.

    • Did you know that 66% of the people better trusted an affirmation that held a percentage in it?

    • How do you explain Will? And buchanan and the late bob Novak who opposed Iraq?
      The Right can be hypocritical on these issues. They flip flop as Will did. Explain Will to me Gaunilon . You`re no fool .

      • Buchanan and Novak were consistent from the start and had nothing to do with Bush or Obama being in office.

        Will has certainly changed his position, but he's the only Conservative I know of who's done so. Nothing wrong with changing one's position due to new information or understanding, but Parisella is arguing asserting that it's a general phenomenon developing on the Right. At least one poll (as I linked above) contradicts that and Parisella offers no evidence for his assertion.

      • Buchanan and Novak were consistent from the start; their positions had nothing to do with Bush or Obama being in office.

        Will has certainly changed his position, but he's the only Conservative I know of who's done so. Nothing wrong with changing one's position due to new information or understanding, but Parisella is arguing asserting that it's a general phenomenon developing on the Right out of a disingenuous attempt to sabotage Obama even if losing a war is the cost. At least one poll (as I linked above) contradicts that and Parisella offers no evidence for his assertion.

        It's a serious accusation: wanting your country to lose a war in order to gain political points is treachery.
        In my experience the Left exemplified it during the Bush years. The leaks to and subsequent publication by the NYT of perfectly legal, classified programs that tracked terrorist cells through their finances were a perfect example of this.

      • All my arguments are on behalf of the fool, you know.

        Buchanan and Novak were consistent from the start; their positions had nothing to do with Bush or Obama being in office.

        Will has certainly changed his position, but he's the only Conservative I know of who's done so. Nothing wrong with changing one's position due to new information or understanding, but Parisella is arguing asserting that it's a general phenomenon developing on the Right out of a disingenuous attempt to sabotage Obama even if the price for doing so is to lose a war. At least one poll (as I linked above) contradicts that and Parisella offers no evidence for his assertion.

        It's a serious accusation: wanting your country to lose a war in order to gain political points is treachery.
        In my opinion the Left exemplified it during the Bush years. The leaks to and subsequent publication by the NYT of perfectly legal, classified programs that tracked terrorist cells through their finances were a perfect example of this.

        There has never, in my opinion, been more hatred and desire for a President's failure in US history than was shown by the Left over the last 8 years. I think most people now see this, although some are trying to forget it, and Parisella is one of those who would like not only to forget it but also to pretend that the Right owns this particular form of treachery.

        • Who wanted his country to lose?Clinton , Kerry and nearly all Democrats gave Bush the permission to invade Iraq. you are an obsessive person blaming the left and being blind to the duplicity of the roght .
          On healthcare , we see the hypocrisy. Creating fear with no alernative propoed. The Right is always in payback mode . Bringing people down like this blogger. Attacking persons . Can you make an argument on merit?The majority of Americans oppose Afganistan now. This means conservatives are starting to change their minds unlike what you say. as for treachery , Abu Graib, lying WMD , torture beyond what was permitted, Chalubi colluding with Cheney and fooling Dumb Bush ,Blackwater , Haliburton , …..must I go on ?That the right and Cheney .

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