Can we call Afghanistan a quagmire yet?

I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever see another Fourth of July that doesn’t feature a general promising what seems to be an increasingly elusive victory in the nearly 9-year-old war in Afghanistan.

This year it was Gen. David Petraeus pledging “we are in this to win,” as he took over command of the war following President Barack Obama’s parting of ways with Gen. Stanley McChrystal for poor-mouthing the administration.

The problem is that the victory Petraeus speaks of is getting difficult to define as the Afghan government remains shaky, the Taliban gains strength despite our years of sacrifice and U.S. public support for the war wanes.

Here’s how Petraeus describes the task: “We must demonstrate to the Afghan people — and to the world — that al-Qaida and its network of extremist allies will not be allowed to once again establish sanctuaries in Afghanistan from which they can launch attacks on the Afghan people and on freedom-loving nations around the world.”

In practical terms, this seems to mean propping up a hopelessly corrupt Kabul regime that is only suspicious of us against a repressive rival that is openly hostile to our efforts to enforce our will in a part of the world we don’t understand and where we’re not welcome.

It’s highly unlikely that the regime will find its legs in time to meet Obama’s July 2011 goal to start withdrawing U.S. forces in a war that he’s too eagerly made his own after inheriting it from George W. Bush.

It was ironic that as a sign of progress, Petraeus noted that 7 million Afghan children are in school compared with fewer than 1 million a decade ago.

That’s nice for them, but improving public education in Afghanistan wasn’t the reason we went to war, and you’ve got to wonder how much the billions we’ve spent could have helped our own miserably lagging public schools.

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21 Comments on “Can we call Afghanistan a quagmire yet?”

  1. Michael Says:

    Took 10 years in Afghanistan for Russia to go bankrupt.

  2. Kolea Says:

    Yes, it’s a quagmire. Even Michael Steele said so a few days ago, trying to find a way for Republicans to capitalize upon growing public frustration with the lack of progress in what appears to be an endless war.

    I think Steele was onto something. It was not long ago that Republicans tended to be very skeptical of war. “Isolationism” came to be regarded as a dirty word, akin to “xenophobia” or “provincialism.” But a reflexive skepticism about the ability of the US government to solve problems through overpowering military force is a healthy skepticism.

    As you say, we know almost nothing about Afghan culture. And what little we do know about Afghan history should cause us to try to find an exit ASAP, regardless of whether we are Republicans, Democrats or anarchists.

    We may have started to tire of the saying: “Afghanistan is a place empires go to die,” but we do not have a reasonable refutation of it to offer.

    What risks being lost in the McChrystal interview brouhaha is that the war is going very badly. Even the stage-managed PR stunt that was the battle for Marjah–a battle in a time and place of the Pentagon’s choosing with the world press being urged to watch and witness the effectiveness of the new “counter-insurgency” strategy–even this battle ahs turned out to be a flop.

    Obama was trapped, not only by his campaign promise, but by the dilemma facing many Democrats determined to look “tough” on foreign policy. This war is unwinnable. Rehnquist used to like “metrics.” What “metrics” can we use to quantify “victory” OR even progress in Afghanistan. (Oooops, “Af-Pak”. Should we include Uzbekistan in the equation yet?)

  3. WooWoo Says:

    Yes, we can call it a quagmire.

    And I will disagree with Kolea’s statement that “we know almost nothing about Afghan culture.” We know plenty; the problem is that our governmental system makes us unable to adjust our actions to their culture.

    Our system of democracy makes it impossible for Afghanistan to remain a priority for us in the medium-term. The average voter (rightfully) asks why our blood and treasure is being sacrificed in this distant wasteland. So we will inevitably bring our people home. And, inevitably, we will have to go back in 10 or 20 years in some way or form. And by leaving today, we will ensure that we will also fail again in 20 years. The Afghan people are not stupid; we only go there when we want something from them, and we leave when we’re done with them (or we give up). They do not trust us today because we left in ’89, and in another generation, Afghan leaders will tell the latest four-star general that they don’t trust us because we left in ’89 and ’11.

    What do we need to do to succeed in Afghanistan? We need to establish a long-term commitment. A US president needs to say in public, “We will be in Afghanistan for 100 years. We will work with you, your children, and your grandchildren. You will not deal with a different military commander every 2 years. We will name one with a 20-year mandate.” Of course, this won’t, can’t and shouldn’t (in the case of the 20-year war commander) happen. If we can’t do this, we can’t succeed, and if we can’t succeed, we should leave.

    In a perfect world, both sides of the political aisle should agree to this and refrain from political attacks over the issue. Obama should order the withdrawal, and the republicans should not call him a wimp or a loser. And the democrats should not say, “I told you so,” or “It’s Bush’s fault.”

    Nah, it’ll never happen.

  4. Scott Goold Says:

    Aloha ~
    Afghanistan isn’t a quagmire … it’s a lesson in INSANITY!

    This would be a hilariously funny situation if not for the sacrifice of blood and life by our most courageous. My deepest apologies to those who give so much in light of the stupidity of those allowed to play decision makers in our society.

    Nine years ago we sent troops to Afghanistan to capture or kill Usama bin Laden. REMEMBER??? This was the mission. Well, UBL is gone. GW Bush could have done a lot of things … he didn’t. Cooperation and momentum are now lost. This can’t be regained.

    Kolea is correct when he says we do not understand Afghanistan. First, Afghans DO NOT want us there. Doesn’t anyone get it? While they do not dislike Americans, they do not like nor do they trust our government. We cannot liberate a people or help them build a “western-style” democracy when they want us to GO HOME!!!

    Second, the people of Afghanistan are not a homogeneous culture. They do not want nor will they trust a strong, central government. We cannot change hundreds of years of proud culture; we cannot force our brand of government on them.

    And, why would they want what we have? We’ve demonstrated complete incompetence these past nine years and abandoned them previously. Each of us knows this … don’t you think EVERY Afghan knows this as well? Americans ignorantly and falsely believe Afghans want what we have. How stupid can we be?

    In light of RNC chair Steele’s immature but typically uber-partisan Republican cheap shots, Lindsey Graham, McCain and Bill Kristol rallied for continued war … as they always do.

    Afghanistan is our graveyard. The three neo-con Mouseketeers want us to defeat the “Taleban” – a title which means students. Apparently our mission is to kill every student in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Of course as Americans are so clueless, we are unable to comprehend that each day we are there encourages more students to hate us; each student we kill (or wedding party we bomb) with droid planes and missiles allows extremists to recruit ten more to fight against us.

    We should leave – immediately. Yet Obama and Democrats cannot … because Republicans will label them cowards and soft on terror. National Republicans don’t mind being there because this policy rewards their crony campaign contributors in the military industrial complex, continues massive defense budgets and furthers their squeeze on progressive social programs.

    HaHaHa!!! Yeah, real funny …

    A*L*O*H*A

  5. Michael Says:

    Understand the person and one knows the culture.
    Cowboys of the Wild East, with one intention and that is to be free and do as they please.

    Not liking the fact they are being controlled by a Nation considered to be a Baby among Elders Nations of thousands of years. Americans are still in diapers compared to the Afghanistan people.

    After Afghanistan, Pakistan or India and on and on till Osama bin Laden is captured. War will never end and if does, so many more will become unemployed.

    Do I see total bankruptcy?

  6. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Yes, I agree with Kolea, Scott & WooWoo. The war is unwinnable unless and only if we blanket the entire country with nuclear bombs. But then there will be multiple nuclear holocausts spreading out around the world since Pakistan is on one side and Ruussia & China are but a quick air flight away.

    Currently, we have only one realistic option as a country: To pack up & leave as promised. If the GOP gets a kick out of this, then it’s time to get down and make the GOP responsible.

    Hold a roll call vote in both the Senate & the House. Shall the United States withdraw its troops completely no later than June 30, 2011. Give each member 30 days to get feedback from his/her constituents and then hold the vote on prime time television after selecting three people in support or in opposition to the proposal to speak on behalf of each chamber – total 12 speakers.

    If the two bodies agree with the process, then start it up the day after the vote. If they do not, then use the nuclear option.

    Maybe the few people who survive will do things right the next time aroud.

  7. WooWoo Says:

    You see? Too many people like Goold can’t take the politics out of this.

    “We should leave – immediately. Yet Obama and Democrats cannot … because Republicans will label them cowards and soft on terror. National Republicans don’t mind being there because this policy rewards their crony campaign contributors in the military industrial complex, continues massive defense budgets and furthers their squeeze on progressive social programs.”

    Emotion and idol worship vs. empirical facts. There’s no possible way a guy like Goold can hold Obama accountable for anything. If bad things happen, its only because of republicans. If we are still in Afghanistan, its because those dastardly republicans are MAKING Obama do it. All statements and actions in support of the war in Afghanistan by Pres. Obama are automatically disregarded.

    As I said, let’s agree to come home, agree that a lot of people on both sides of the aisle had good reasons to give Afghanistan a shot, agree that it does no good to point fingers.

    Also, if anybody has read “The next 100 years” by George Friedman, the battle with radical forces in the Islamic world will be a brief footnote in history. By 2020, we will have moved on to bigger problems.

  8. Shaloha Says:

    I am thrilled that the Democrat Amen corner in this forum agrees with each other! How refreshing it is to know that all Democrats agree on the defeat of American forces. But wait, didn’t Democrats always advocate against American interests in any conflict?

    And now for a bit of reality:

    The war was lost with an electuion of BHO. Telegraphing the withdrawal date to the Taleban was an obvious clue.

    Firing Genral Betray-Us and smearing him in the process in the most vile terms(Hillary R. Clinton, I recall, called him a liar to his face during his Senate testimony) and then hiring a Democrat General (McCrystal openly declared voting for BHO in the past elections) was a recipe for defeat since the Democrats by definition were not commited to victory.

    Our fiscal position is precarious indeed (I disagree wwith Dave on “our schools” being fixed by another infusion of money – elemination of HSTA control over our education is the only remedy to our dismal performance).

    As an advocte for austerity at this juncture, we need to reduce our footprint around the world, including current conflicts. Since Obama is commited to allow Iran to go nuclear which will destabilise the entire Middle East anyway and cause potentially nuclear conflict in the region, the attempts to play games in Afghanistan are simply a form political Kabuki theater.

    The end result of the Obama policies and lack of experience will be the pullout of Iraq and Afghanistan anyway and collapse of the Middle East as whole.

    Mr. Netanyahu is visiting Washington as we speak. I guess Pres. Obama will get another chance to humiliate and abuse our only ally in the region which will destabilise the region even more.

    It was reported that the Administration was meeting with Hamas in secret. Is anyone doubting that the Obama administration is seeking to empower the terrorists and thus precipitate another round of violence in Gaza?

    Why prolong the agony and sacrifice lives of the patriotic Republican kids so that President may pretend to be a Commander in Chief?

    On the lighter note – I just read that the White House hired a beekeeper! Our priorities are in order.

  9. Scott Goold Says:

    Aloha WooWoo ~
    You wrote, “You see? Too many people like Goold can’t take the politics out of this.” You wrongly criticize me when I know how the neo-con right will respond and politicize this issue.

    Please read vile falsehoods spewed by Shaloha, who wrote, “I am thrilled that the Democrat Amen corner in this forum agrees with each other! How refreshing it is to know that all Democrats agree on the defeat of American forces.”

    Not one Democrat on this page blamed our courageous U.S. troops. But WE ALL agreed – along with you – that a war cannot be won in Afghanistan.

    It is clear Shaloha knows nothing of military strategy and even less about the history of Afghanistan.

    Shaloha writes, “It was reported that the Administration was meeting with Hamas in secret.” HaHa!!! An alleged secret meeting although Shalola knows about it (how can it be a secret meeting???) This is what happens when people rely on Faux News.

    Second, in case anyone here wants peace, one must negotiate with the conflicting parties … again, Shaloha demonstrates her lack of experience in world affairs. It is my HOPE that the Obama administration is meeting with Hamas – while simultaneously meeting with Israeli leaders – this is how peace is achieved.

    Returning to the issue of politicizing the war, the neo-con right says we are blaming the troops when expressing this opinion and claims we are thrusting defeat on our national name. This is the same strategy employed by Beck, Palin, Limbaugh and other right wing loudmouths – most who have never faced live fire!

    It is this political stupidity that ensures this quagmire, another Vietnam, will continue.

    And, in a final slap at all Americans, the elitist Shaloha suggests “why prolong the agony and sacrifice lives of the patriotic Republican kids” – because Democrat, independent and kids of other political persuasion do not fight, bleed or die for America – in her warped opinion.

    Now, WooWoo, do you understand why I wrote what I did?

    A*L*O*H*A

  10. WooWoo Says:

    Goold-

    Shaloha’s words unfairly blame the failure on Pres. Obama. I believe that McCain might have made some better moves, but the end game would have been the same in Afghanistan: Come home with a draw. From that standpoint, no one can blame Obama.

    But your words are equally unfair in casting republicans as pawns of the military industrial complex and being happy to be in Afghanistan just to deny funding to social programs: “National Republicans don’t mind being there because this policy rewards their crony campaign contributors in the military industrial complex, continues massive defense budgets and furthers their squeeze on progressive social programs.” Any cursory examination of facts will show that democrats cash checks from military contractors just the same as republicans (ask the people in Mufi’s camp, who are no doubt ready to highlight Abercrombie’s connections to the military industrial complex.)

    In other words, both of you guys are pointing fingers. ‘Nuff with that already. It doesn’t get us anywhere.

  11. Scott Goold Says:

    Aloha WooWoo ~
    Republicans aren’t pawns of the military industrial complex … it’s their bread and butter. Nobody could survive in politics without playing both sides of the political fence. Democrats recognize we have security needs that require police and military forces.

    Yet Democrats also understand there must be balance … and David pointed out. Of the trillion plus we’ve wasted on failed military adventures in both Iraq and Afghanistan, we could have shored up needed public programs, invested in Ma & Pa small businesses and launched an Apollo renewable energy program here at home.

    You want to erase the failed ideology of the conservative right. We must NEVER forget. Everyone in Hawai’i suffers greatly due to these failures. Most Americans will suffer for decades.

    William Kristol, Cheney, Rumsfeld and others signed the PNAC documents. They prayed for a Pearl Harbor type attack; they sought a war(s) in a far off land; they conspire today to end FDR programs. These are facts. They have trapped us in the quicksand of Afghanistan and Iraq. Anyone who tries to remove us is labeled a coward.

    How long must we play these games? To escape this trap, we must be honest with each other and not tolerate the rewriting of history.

    A*L*O*H*A

  12. Shaloha Says:

    Thanks Scott for not addressing a single point. Touche, my friend.

    So, Neo-Cons (which is Democrat euphemism for a “Jew”) and Bushhitler “conspire” to create 9-11 tragedy which got us into the wars?

    How rational is that?

    They also “conspired” to “end FDR programs”. Really? I thought that was an obvious and stated goal by the Republican party. Republicans would not care a bit if the entire FDR edifice (except the safety net programs for the truly needy) will dissapear into the sunset.

    Where is the conspiracy?

    People in Hawaii “suffer” under one party dictatorship of the Democrat party. Who else is responsible for crumbling roads and failed education system? Jews or Republicans, Scott?

    Stop the rubbish – the Democrats are responsible for every social problem in America, including Poverty, Inequality, Racism, Anti Semitism, Destruction of the Family, etc.

  13. Kolea Says:

    I confess I am not a big fan of the word “Shaloha.” Think it’s an insipid hybridization, though I appreciate the desire to see the overlap of “shalom” and “aloha.”

    But this person posting as “Shaloha” exhibits neither aloha nor shalom. Einstein wanred that zionism would corrupt the soul of Judaism and I guess we are seeing an expression of that when both the Jewish word for peace and the Hawaiian word, are harnessed by a Hawaii-based Jew driven by hatred.

    Shaloha,

    If you want to preach your brand of venom–hey, as Keth Rollman will say– you got your First Amendment rights. But why bastaradize two of the most beautiful words in these languages by using them to identify the author of Hate?

  14. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Kolea:

    As someone who strongly supports Israel & Zionism yet finds myself in strong concurrence with your statements above, I suggest that you might consider doing what I’ve decided to do – don’t read and don’t respond to people for whom hatred is the core way of life.

    I also decided not to read and respond to people who cannot write competently in the English language. I don’t mind the occasional spelling error, but too often trying to understand someone who hasn’t mastered basic writing skills in his/her First Language is something I don’t have to accept.

  15. Earl of Sandwich Says:

    kolea & CapDoc, both of you are right on the money.

    CapDoc, I too have stopped reading some of the posters who just never seem to make sense, either because their ramblings are incoherent, or because they’re just unreasonable folk whose opinions are far to the extreme. When I read something like this: “Stop the rubbish – the Democrats are responsible for every social problem in America, including Poverty, Inequality, Racism, Anti Semitism, Destruction of the Family, etc.” I know the crazy train has pulled into the station.

  16. WooWoo Says:

    Earl-

    I agree that its rubbish that democrats are responsible for every problem in america, and its equally rubbish that republicans are responsible for every problem in america. The fact is that there are brilliant, honest, well-intentioned people on both sides of the ideological aisle. I reject the argument that either side is by definition evil or mal-intentioned (although I acknowledge that both sides have powerful and corrupt influence that may at times be pretty evil).

  17. Earl of Sandwich Says:

    WooWoo, just FYI, I read what you write. Your statement there shows you’re a rational person. World needs more people like you.

  18. Scott Goold Says:

    Aloha ~
    Since we’re discussing political rubbish, I recommend reading Greg Sargent’s The Plum Line today.

    In response to the U.S. House minority leader’s, John Boehner (R-OH), rubbish claim that Democrats are responsible for every problem in America (“snuffing out the America that I grew up in”), Sargent adds a bit of history:

    Boehner was born in 1949. In 1956, he was seven; in 1960 he was 11; and in 1964 he was 15.

    + The Republican Party platform of 1956 called for “broadened coverage in unemployment insurance” and “better health protection for all our people.” It vowed to “continue vigorously to support the United Nations.”

    + The Republican Party pledged support for “progressive programs” to expand workers’ rights. It vowed an immigration policy that ensured that America would remain a “haven for oppressed peoples.”

    + The Republican Party platform of 1960 hailed the GOP’s success in extending unemployment insurance. The GOP counted as an achievement its efforts to raise the Federal minimum wage.

    + The Republican Party platform hailed expanded Social Security coverage and pledged an aggressive Federal effort to help those struggling with health care costs.

    + The Republican Party pledged to continue robust Federal intervention to preserve the environment.

    I used to have a great deal of respect for Republicans and this was a time of broad prosperity; yet the current neo-con version isn’t good for America or our struggling middle class – simple as that.

    A*L*O*H*A

  19. Shaloha Says:

    You are all upset that I could read every one of your thoughts; I can see clearly in your heart starting with a fact you are alltrying very hard to avoid: All of you are Democrats.

    Thsi is a Democrat dominated forum since every one of you is Democrat. As a Democrat you are afraid of every thought differerent for the party supplied, orthodox drivel: Any idea other then generated by the DNC causes cognitive dissonance and the physical symptoms of getting sick.

    I love the lame attack lines: Spelling mistakes, non adherence to the peaceful principles enshrined in the word Aloha, “hater” (OOOOOO! Scary! and finally “crazy”…

    Any substantive responses will await visiting DNC FAQ pages, I guess…

  20. David Shapiro Says:

    Shaloha, wasn’t Carnak the mind reader best known for comic relief?

  21. Michael Says:

    Quagmire the fact
    Civil War never ended.


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