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  #1  
Old 06-25-2011, 05:58 PM
Bloggingheads Bloggingheads is offline
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Default The Endgame in Afghanistan (Michael Cohen & Daniel Serwer)

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  #2  
Old 06-25-2011, 09:20 PM
Hume's Bastard Hume's Bastard is offline
 
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Default Re: Reconciling the Irreconcilable

Props to both Michael Cohen and DANIEL (thanks, Stapler Malone) Serwer for talking so passionately and knowledgeably about reconciliation and also bringing up the border, i.e., Durand Line, issue. From my seat here in Busan, I just continue to marvel and gnash my teeth continuously over conservative reluctance to allow negotiations of any kind over any issue with any rival when military resources are involved.

Speaking of creating the ultimate means of milking the taxpayer for one's employment!

Last edited by Hume's Bastard; 06-26-2011 at 06:20 PM..
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  #3  
Old 06-26-2011, 11:47 AM
Stapler Malone Stapler Malone is offline
 
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Default Re: Reconciling the Irreconcilable

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Originally Posted by Hume's Bastard View Post
Props to both Michael Cohen and Adam Serwer ...
Wrong Serwer HB
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  #4  
Old 06-26-2011, 03:45 AM
rfrobison rfrobison is offline
 
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Default Re: The Endgame in Afghanistan (Michael Cohen & Daniel Serwer)

This was the best DV I've heard in a very, very long time, despite Mr. Cohen's back-lighting. Note to the discussants: Don't have the sun streaming through the window and straight into your webcam, please!

Mr. Cohen's harping on "reining in the military," I find disturbing, to say the least. Is the president not the Commander-in-Chief? He's been nominally in charge of the Afghan war for over 2 1/2 years now. If the military needs to be reined in, whose fault is that?

I think there's only one thing driving U.S. policy in Afghanistan at the moment: the 2012 presidential election. It looks to me like we're in 1989 all over again: Leave the country to its fate and hope for the best.

I doubt it will work out well for us.
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Last edited by rfrobison; 06-26-2011 at 04:09 AM.. Reason: deleted extraneous "the"
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  #5  
Old 06-26-2011, 05:07 AM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: The Endgame in Afghanistan (Michael Cohen & Daniel Serwer)

I gather that Daniel Sewer spent most of his life in the State Department. That explains no doubt why he fears "destablization" (o favorite word of US diplomats!) and why he expresses such extreme scepticism about a precipitous withdrawal from a country that has never been stable, and moreover that barely mattered to anyone, including the US, before 9/11..... It also explains why he hasn't the foggiest idea about what should be done now. So much for the wisdom of Foggy Bottom.

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/370...1:49&out=42:39

Last edited by Florian; 06-26-2011 at 05:11 AM..
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  #6  
Old 06-26-2011, 05:38 AM
rfrobison rfrobison is offline
 
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Default Re: The Endgame in Afghanistan (Michael Cohen & Daniel Serwer)

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Originally Posted by Florian View Post
I gather that Daniel Sewer spent most of his life in the State Department. That explains no doubt why he fears "destablization" (o favorite word of US diplomats!) and why he expresses such extreme scepticism about a precipitous withdrawal from a country that has never been stable, and moreover that barely mattered to anyone, including the US, before 9/11..... It also explains why he hasn't the foggiest idea about what should be done now. So much for the wisdom of Foggy Bottom.

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/370...1:49&out=42:39
So what would the Quai d'Orsay recommend, do you think?
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  #7  
Old 06-26-2011, 09:51 AM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: The Endgame in Afghanistan (Michael Cohen & Daniel Serwer)

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So what would the Quai d'Orsay recommend, do you think?
I have no idea. I do know that Sarkozy announced that France would follow the US and withdraw its NATO troops. 63 men dead, and for what?

Few people in Europe ever thought that making Afghanistan stable, whatever that means, was crucial to European defense because few people ever thought that Bush's "war on terrorism" made any sense.
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Old 06-26-2011, 10:34 AM
rfrobison rfrobison is offline
 
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Default Re: The Endgame in Afghanistan (Michael Cohen & Daniel Serwer)

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Originally Posted by Florian View Post
I have no idea. I do know that Sarkozy announced that France would follow the US and withdraw its NATO troops. 63 men dead, and for what?

Few people in Europe ever thought that making Afghanistan stable, whatever that means, was crucial to European defense because few people ever thought that Bush's "war on terrorism" made any sense.
It could be worse: The U.S. count is something like 1,600 dead.

In hindsight it's easy to criticize, but the U.S. invoked Article 5 of the NATO Treaty and the members of that organization endorsed the military response. What else could they have done with the 3,000 dead and the wreckage of the World Trade Center still smoking?

Incidentally, I have no idea what should happen, either. I have only a deepening sense of foreboding.
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Last edited by rfrobison; 06-26-2011 at 06:53 PM.. Reason: punctuation
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  #9  
Old 06-26-2011, 06:52 PM
bkjazfan bkjazfan is offline
 
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Default Re: The Endgame in Afghanistan (Michael Cohen & Daniel Serwer)

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Originally Posted by rfrobison View Post
It could be worse: The U.S. count is something like 1,600 dead.

In hindsight it's easy to criticize, but the U.S. invoked Article 5 of the NATO Treaty and the members of that organization endorsed the military response. What else could they have done with the 3,000 dead and the wreckage of the World Trade Center still smoking.

Incidentally, I have no idea what should happen, either. I have only a deepening sense of foreboding.
And 12,000 wounded - for what?
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  #10  
Old 06-26-2011, 07:46 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: The Endgame in Afghanistan (Michael Cohen & Daniel Serwer)

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And 12,000 wounded - for what?
Al Qaeda substantially weakened and its brand damaged - apparently far less able to take advantage of the Arab Spring chaos than it might otherwise have been, e.g.. A deeply flawed but better-than-the-Taliban quasi-democracy making decisions in Afghanistan. Dead Osama. I'm not sure how much more we could have asked for. I'm certain we couldn't have avoided taking action, and just as sure that, having done so, we had to follow through and provide direct military support for the Taliban's successors.
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  #11  
Old 06-26-2011, 10:51 AM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: The Endgame in Afghanistan (Michael Cohen & Daniel Serwer)

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Originally Posted by Florian View Post
a country that has never been stable, and moreover that barely mattered to anyone, including the US, before 9/11
really?
Quote:
The Soviet war in Afghanistan was a nine-year conflict involving the Soviet Union, supporting the Marxist-Leninist government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan[15] against the indigenous Afghan Mujahideen and foreign "Arab–Afghan" volunteers. The mujahideen found military and financial support from a variety of sources including the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Egypt, China and other nations. The Afghan war became a proxy war in the broader context of the late Cold War.
I guess it depends on what barely mattered means.

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In the mid-1980s, the Afghan resistance movement, assisted by the United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, the People's Republic of China and others, contributed to Moscow's high military costs and strained international relations. The US viewed the conflict in Afghanistan as an integral Cold War struggle, and the CIA provided assistance to anti-Soviet forces through the Pakistani intelligence services, in a program called Operation Cyclone.
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  #12  
Old 06-26-2011, 11:27 AM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: The Endgame in Afghanistan (Michael Cohen & Daniel Serwer)

Yes, really, really, really. Read your quotes and you will understand why. Afghanistan was "a proxy war" of the Cold War, i.e. it was just another war in a string of wars between the US and the USSR fought mainly by others. If the Soviet Union hadn't invaded Afghanistan and if the United States hadn't supported the Muhajideen in order to undermine and weaken the Soviet Union, Afghanistan would not have mattered much to anyone, except of course to the Afghanis.
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  #13  
Old 06-26-2011, 08:08 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: The Endgame in Afghanistan (Michael Cohen & Daniel Serwer)

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Yes, really, really, really. Read your quotes and you will understand why. Afghanistan was "a proxy war" of the Cold War, i.e. it was just another war in a string of wars between the US and the USSR fought mainly by others. If the Soviet Union hadn't invaded Afghanistan and if the United States hadn't supported the Muhajideen in order to undermine and weaken the Soviet Union, Afghanistan would not have mattered much to anyone, except of course to the Afghanis.
OK, this is a matter of semantics. Your sweeping statement that Afghanistan barely mattered until 9/11 wasn't at all accurate because it has been the site of strategic conflict for many decades.

Now the way it mattered could be discussed but it surely mattered.
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  #14  
Old 06-26-2011, 05:08 PM
chamblee54 chamblee54 is offline
 
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Default Re: The Endgame in Afghanistan (Michael Cohen & Daniel Serwer)

Very few people have heard about the Durand Line. In our rush for revenge after 911, we have gotten mixed up in something we know very little about.
Whenever you see conflict in the world, there is a good chance that Great Britain had a part in creating it.
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  #15  
Old 06-27-2011, 12:02 AM
rfrobison rfrobison is offline
 
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Default Rolling the dice?

Interesting post from an "Economist" blogger about the risks of Obama's announced drawdown.

Not saying I agree, necessarily. All the choices look pretty unappetising to me.
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Last edited by rfrobison; 06-27-2011 at 12:03 AM.. Reason: punctuation
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  #16  
Old 06-27-2011, 03:45 AM
sugarkang sugarkang is offline
 
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Default Re: Rolling the dice?

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Originally Posted by rfrobison View Post
Not saying I agree, necessarily. All the choices look pretty unappetising to me.
Did you see the first comment? This is the only way of "covering up defeat" it says. Why do people think that we've been defeated ever since Vietnam? If we wanted to, we could nuke everyone to oblivion and it'd be over tomorrow. It's not like we're "weak."

I wish Obama would just lay down a Godfather I, Marlon Brando ultimatum.
We won't be the first to breach the peace, but if anything happens to us, we will come back with nukes.
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  #17  
Old 06-27-2011, 04:20 AM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: Rolling the dice?

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Did you see the first comment? This is the only way of "covering up defeat" it says. Why do people think that we've been defeated ever since Vietnam?.
Because there have not been many significant American military victories since Vietnam, unless you think that crushing the insignificant army of Iraq--twice---counts as a significant military victory. Or perhaps you are thinking of Grenada, Panama? Formidable enemies indeed.

It is rather early to declare victory in Afghanistan.

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If we wanted to, we could nuke everyone to oblivion and it'd be over tomorrow. It's not like we're "weak." .
That is the paradox of nuclear weapons. They create the illusion of strength. No one believes that the US, or any of the other nuclear powers, will ever use them, so no one takes them altogether seriously. They are an unreal threat. That was already the case at the height of the Cold War, except among a few rightwing American crackpots.

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I wish Obama would just lay down a Godfather I, Marlon Brando ultimatum. We won't be the first to breach the peace, but if anything happens to us, we will come back with nukes.
Surely you jest. Or are you crazy?
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  #18  
Old 06-27-2011, 10:13 AM
rfrobison rfrobison is offline
 
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Default Re: Rolling the dice?

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Originally Posted by Florian View Post
Because there have not been many significant American military victories since Vietnam, unless you think that crushing the insignificant army of Iraq--twice---counts as a significant military victory. Or perhaps you are thinking of Grenada, Panama? Formidable enemies indeed.

It is rather early to declare victory in Afghanistan.



That is the paradox of nuclear weapons. They create the illusion of strength. No one believes that the US, or any of the other nuclear powers, will ever use them, so no one takes them altogether seriously. They are an unreal threat. That was already the case at the height of the Cold War, except among a few rightwing American crackpots.



Surely you jest. Or are you crazy?
Kang: On a purely emotional level, I sypathize, but I'm forced (?) to agree with my French-American friend. I'm afraid "victory" in Afghanistan is going to look like victory in the Imperial British fashion: Declare victory and go home.

While I wouldn't say Afghanistan represents a defeat for the U.S., it certainly rates no better than a stalemate...Which is as bad as losing if we return to the status quo ante: Afghanistan as a failed state where any two-bit Islamist nut can plan his next attack against the U.S.

As for threatening to push the button, that only works if the people on the receiving end have a state whose people they feel at least somewhat responsible for. If President Sarkosy, for example, fell on his head and said, "You know, I'm tired of those Americans. I'm gonna (what's French for "gonna," Florian?) frappe those Yanks with my Force de Frappe!" (France's nukes), the U.S. would hit back 100 times harder and could maybe declare itself the victor -- minus a few big American cities, assuming France has missiles that could reach across the Atlantic--sub-launched, maybe?

But al Qaeda and the Taliban have no state to defend and no citizens to protect; they would probably enjoy having Afghanistan nuked --martyrdom and all that. But the majority of Afghans surely didn't ask for the jihadis to take over their country. Such nuclear retaliation would fail to meet the test of a Just War. Presumably we do not want to operate on quite that level of depravity.
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Last edited by rfrobison; 06-27-2011 at 10:16 AM.. Reason: typos
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  #19  
Old 06-27-2011, 10:58 AM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: Rolling the dice?

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Originally Posted by rfrobison View Post
As for threatening to push the button, that only works if the people on the receiving end have a state whose people they feel at least somewhat responsible for. If President Sarkosy, for example, fell on his head and said, "You know, I'm tired of those Americans. I'm gonna (what's French for "gonna," Florian?) frappe those Yanks with my Force de Frappe!" (France's nukes), the U.S. would hit back 100 times harder and could maybe declare itself the victor -- minus a few big American cities, assuming France has missiles that could reach across the Atlantic--sub-launched, maybe?
I think the idea is retaliation, not pre emption. That's the only way it works.
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Old 06-27-2011, 11:32 AM
sugarkang sugarkang is offline
 
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Default Re: Rolling the dice?

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Originally Posted by rfrobison View Post
While I wouldn't say Afghanistan represents a defeat for the U.S., it certainly rates no better than a stalemate...
i agree, but let me rephrase. Some people, that aren't you and I, are caught up with the idea of winning and losing and what it says about the state of our nation's power. I'm just saying that we haven't "lost" a war because we lacked power. I'm pretty sure you'd agree with this.

Quote:
As for threatening to push the button, that only works if the people on the receiving end have a state whose people they feel at least somewhat responsible for.

...

But al Qaeda and the Taliban have no state to defend and no citizens to protect; they would probably enjoy having Afghanistan nuked --martyrdom and all that. But the majority of Afghans surely didn't ask for the jihadis to take over their country. Such nuclear retaliation would fail to meet the test of a Just War. Presumably we do not want to operate on quite that level of depravity.
I was being facetious due to frustration. However, in game theory terms, the innocents have no incentive to take care of themselves. The cost burden needs to shift from us to them. One way to do it would be to have a credible threat of nuclear attack. I'm absolutely not saying we should do this. That doesn't mean it wouldn't work. We just wouldn't do it because even bigger problems would follow afterward.
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  #21  
Old 06-27-2011, 10:53 AM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: Rolling the dice?

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Originally Posted by sugarkang View Post
I wish Obama would just lay down a Godfather I, Marlon Brando ultimatum.
We won't be the first to breach the peace, but if anything happens to us, we will come back with nukes.
Unlike Florian, I don't think this is at all crazy, and in fact was practiced pretty successfully with the Soviet Union.
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Old 06-27-2011, 12:09 PM
rfrobison rfrobison is offline
 
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Default Re: Rolling the dice?

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Unlike Florian, I don't think this is at all crazy, and in fact was practiced pretty successfully with the Soviet Union.
I disagree. Non-state actors possessed of an apocalyptic ideology that elevates martyrdom to the highest moral good cannot be deterred in this way. Afghanistan is too weak a state to see off the threat the al Qaeda/Taliban by itself. Hence our dilemma.

Who would you drop the bomb on, exactly? Nuking terrorists, even assuming you could find them, would be akin to swatting flies with a sledgehammer: Even if you smash one fly (unlikely), you're going to do more damage to the house than is warranted. And there are plenty more where that one came from.

Egad, I'm starting to sound like Wonderment. It's just an analogy...
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Old 06-27-2011, 12:20 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: Rolling the dice?

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Originally Posted by rfrobison View Post
I disagree. Non-state actors possessed of an apocalyptic ideology that elevates martyrdom to the highest moral good cannot be deterred in this way. Afghanistan is too weak a state to see off the threat the al Qaeda/Taliban by itself. Hence our dilemma.

Who would you drop the bomb on, exactly? Nuking terrorists, even assuming you could find them, would be akin to swatting flies with a sledgehammer: Even if you smash one fly (unlikely), you're going to do more damage to the house than is warranted. And there are plenty more where that one came from.

Egad, I'm starting to sound like Wonderment. It's just an analogy...
I said this before but I'll say it again. It's the threat that makes the thing work, not the bomb dropping. I would say that we missed a golden opportunity when we took out Bin Laden's lair. We should have said nothing. And let the threat of our intelligence operations and what forces like our Navy seals can accomplish stand as a reminder of what it's like when you mess with us.

We talk too much.
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Old 06-27-2011, 12:55 PM
sugarkang sugarkang is offline
 
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Default Re: Rolling the dice?

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Originally Posted by badhatharry View Post
I said this before but I'll say it again. It's the threat that makes the thing work, not the bomb dropping.
Yep. Playing chicken and throwing your steering wheel out as McArdle pointed out. "What do you mean you threw out your steering wheel too? Fuck!"
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Old 06-27-2011, 03:52 PM
rfrobison rfrobison is offline
 
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Default Re: Rolling the dice?

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Originally Posted by badhatharry View Post
I said this before but I'll say it again. It's the threat that makes the thing work, not the bomb dropping. I would say that we missed a golden opportunity when we took out Bin Laden's lair. We should have said nothing. And let the threat of our intelligence operations and what forces like our Navy seals can accomplish stand as a reminder of what it's like when you mess with us.

We talk too much.
Yes, but for the threat to be credible, you have to have a demonstrated willingness to carry out the threat. Unless you consider Hiroshima and Nagasaki sufficient to make that threat credible, you're not going to persuade anyone.

And the threat of drone strikes or commando raids or whatever is quite different than threatening to nuke somebody, as Kang was talking about earlier (which he later said was facetious).

In any event, I'm not arguing that we do nothing in the face of terrorism from jihadis. Indeed, I think if Obama is smart and does not let himself be driven by electoral politics (fat chance!), he'll find a way to keep significant forces in Afghanistan and/or Pakistan indefinitely. Just throwing out a number, here, but say on the order of 20,000 to 30,000 troops to do training and special ops.

Whether our "allies" in the region would accept that is another matter.
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Old 06-27-2011, 04:21 PM
piscivorous piscivorous is offline
 
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Hasn't he just proven that it is pure politics driving his decision on troop withdrawals. No mention of conditions based decisions just the 30,000 troops are leaving by the month of what convention?
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Old 06-27-2011, 06:38 PM
rfrobison rfrobison is offline
 
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Hasn't he just proven that it is pure politics driving his decision on troop withdrawals. No mention of conditions based decisions just the 30,000 troops are leaving by the month of what convention?
I'm afraid you're right.
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Old 06-27-2011, 06:46 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: Rolling the dice?

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I'm afraid you're right.
What does it mean to be driven by politics?

It seems to me that there's a large number of people in the US -- both on the left and right -- who have decided that obtaining a greater success than we've managed in Afghanistan is not worth the cost in money and lives. That the promise of successful nation building, say, is slim and the cost of a longterm substantial presence there is something the US is not willing to bear.

This does not mean that we accomplished nothing by going there in the first place or that we could have avoided it. I agree with Jeff above.

It seems like you are going to interpret any choice to acknowledge the views of Americans on these issues as giving in to politics, and sure, I suppose that's fair, but the question is why that's bad. You are assuming that in the absence of these views or this pressure Obama would prefer to spend more money and time and lives than he's giving it, and I'm not so sure. More importantly, I'm not so sure I think that would be good. At the least, he'd have to be able to justify it, and while you seem to think there's a justification, I'm not convinced that Obama would agree with yours. I don't.
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Old 06-27-2011, 07:28 PM
piscivorous piscivorous is offline
 
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Originally Posted by stephanie View Post
What does it mean to be driven by politics?

It seems to me that there's a large number of people in the US -- both on the left and right -- who have decided that obtaining a greater success than we've managed in Afghanistan is not worth the cost in money and lives. That the promise of successful nation building, say, is slim and the cost of a longterm substantial presence there is something the US is not willing to bear.

This does not mean that we accomplished nothing by going there in the first place or that we could have avoided it. I agree with Jeff above.

It seems like you are going to interpret any choice to acknowledge the views of Americans on these issues as giving in to politics, and sure, I suppose that's fair, but the question is why that's bad. You are assuming that in the absence of these views or this pressure Obama would prefer to spend more money and time and lives than he's giving it, and I'm not so sure. More importantly, I'm not so sure I think that would be good. At the least, he'd have to be able to justify it, and while you seem to think there's a justification, I'm not convinced that Obama would agree with yours. I don't.
So you mean the One's good war is useless but the One's evil war in Iraq, which has resulted in the establishment of representative governance in the Arab world is a resounding foreign policy success for the One. I can almost laugh at the irony.
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Old 06-27-2011, 10:06 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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So you mean the One's good war is useless but the One's evil war in Iraq, which has resulted in the establishment of representative governance in the Arab world is a resounding foreign policy success for the One. I can almost laugh at the irony.
Perhaps you should translate this from RW-ese into English, so that I can follow and respond to it.

Also, perhaps you should refrain from pretending you know what I think and claiming "what I mean" about things I have not commented on.

Or maybe this is that good faith conservative engagement in the forum that Bob is so hoping for.
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Old 06-27-2011, 08:00 PM
rfrobison rfrobison is offline
 
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Default Re: Rolling the dice?

To be clear, I don't claim to know what should happen in Afghanistan. Obama has a tough choice to make. And of course presidents do and should listen to public opinion.

My fear is, however, as Mr. Cohen said, that President Obama has no clear idea what success should look like--at least he hasn't articulated one--or how he intends to bring it about.

As the election looms larger, he's going to be under increasing pressure to pull the troops out, come what may. And what may come is a reversion to Afghanistan circa Sept. 10, 2001.

I'd hate for that to be the best we can do. Otherwise, all those deaths will indeed have been in vain. Personally, it's hard to imagine a President McCain letting that happen, whatever his other flaws.

I admit I'm biased, though.
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Originally Posted by stephanie View Post
What does it mean to be driven by politics?

It seems to me that there's a large number of people in the US -- both on the left and right -- who have decided that obtaining a greater success than we've managed in Afghanistan is not worth the cost in money and lives. That the promise of successful nation building, say, is slim and the cost of a longterm substantial presence there is something the US is not willing to bear.

This does not mean that we accomplished nothing by going there in the first place or that we could have avoided it. I agree with Jeff above.

It seems like you are going to interpret any choice to acknowledge the views of Americans on these issues as giving in to politics, and sure, I suppose that's fair, but the question is why that's bad. You are assuming that in the absence of these views or this pressure Obama would prefer to spend more money and time and lives than he's giving it, and I'm not so sure. More importantly, I'm not so sure I think that would be good. At the least, he'd have to be able to justify it, and while you seem to think there's a justification, I'm not convinced that Obama would agree with yours. I don't.
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Old 06-27-2011, 10:15 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Originally Posted by rfrobison View Post
My fear is, however, as Mr. Cohen said, that President Obama has no clear idea what success should look like--at least he hasn't articulated one--or how he intends to bring it about.
This has been a problem with the war in Afghanistan from the beginning, probably. It's why we should have had clear objectives that were actually obtainable and sustainable, and that's a criticism of Obama as well as Bush. And not a particularly harsh criticism of either.

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As the election looms larger, he's going to be under increasing pressure to pull the troops out, come what may. And what may come is a reversion to Afghanistan circa Sept. 10, 2001.
I don't totally agree -- I wouldn't say the same situation as 9/10/2001, especially with regard to US security -- but I think the likelihood that we successfully nation build in Afghanistan is small and has always been small. I don't see this as a justification for us continuing as is with no end, which seems to be the only option you are suggesting.

I don't think the US has the stomach for this, no matter who gets elected in '12 or '16. And I don't see why it's a good policy even if we did.
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Old 06-27-2011, 10:36 PM
rfrobison rfrobison is offline
 
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Originally Posted by stephanie View Post
This has been a problem with the war in Afghanistan from the beginning, probably. It's why we should have had clear objectives that were actually obtainable and sustainable, and that's a criticism of Obama as well as Bush. And not a particularly harsh criticism of either.



I don't totally agree -- I wouldn't say the same situation as 9/10/2001, especially with regard to US security -- but I think the likelihood that we successfully nation build in Afghanistan is small and has always been small. I don't see this as a justification for us continuing as is with no end, which seems to be the only option you are suggesting.

I don't think the US has the stomach for this, no matter who gets elected in '12 or '16. And I don't see why it's a good policy even if we did.
It's hard to say, isn't it? And I agree that we don't have the stomach for unending war--and that's no bad thing. The real question is whether we have the stomach for any protracted military campaign.

What I think should happen, in an ideal world, is for the U.S. to sign some sort of long-term security agreement with the government in Kabul under which the U.S. would pledge assistance to Afghanistan and the Afghans, in turn, would commit to political reforms. If people want to call this "reconciliation with the Taliban," that wouldn't bother me too much. I think this could be done, while at the same time drawing down U.S. troop levels significantly, and it may in fact be what Obama has in mind--though I suspect he won't say so.

But we're going to need to remain involved militarily in the region in some form for many, many years. Or we can simply leave and hope for the best. I should hope our memories aren't that short.

Obama would do the American people a favor by laying out those facts.
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Last edited by rfrobison; 06-27-2011 at 10:57 PM.. Reason: punctuation
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Old 06-28-2011, 09:09 AM
Simon Willard Simon Willard is offline
 
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Originally Posted by rfrobison View Post
What I think should happen, in an ideal world, is for the U.S. to sign some sort of long-term security agreement with the government in Kabul under which the U.S. would pledge assistance to Afghanistan and the Afghans, in turn, would commit to political reforms. If people want to call this "reconciliation with the Taliban," that wouldn't bother me too much. I think this could be done, while at the same time drawing down U.S. troop levels significantly, and it may in fact be what Obama has in mind--though I suspect he won't say so.
This reminds me of the "agreement" that ended the Vietnam war, what one wag called a "transparent fig-leaf". Such an agreement to political reform is likely meaningless.
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Old 06-28-2011, 10:08 AM
rfrobison rfrobison is offline
 
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This reminds me of the "agreement" that ended the Vietnam war, what one wag called a "transparent fig-leaf". Such an agreement to political reform is likely meaningless.
You have a better idea? And the Vietnam analogy is not apposite, for a number of reasons. First, the belligerents: Unlike the government in Hanoi, the Taliban are not recognized as the legitimate sovereign by any other government that I am aware of. They were only ever recognized by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and if memory serves, Sudan, even when they ruled in Kabul.

They certainly have some popular support among Pashtuns, but I doubt they command majority support among even them, and certainly not among the country's other ethnic/tribal groups. In fact, they are not a government at all. In their current form, they are little more than an amalgam of groups opposed to the Western presence in the country, for a variety of reasons.

Second, they do not have significant support from a state, unlike the North Vietnamese. Such international support as they receive comes from insurgent groups in Pakistan and perhaps elsewhere in Central Asia. In that sense, the diplomatic stakes attendant to the conflict are a great deal lower for the United States.

Third, the Taliban "government," when they were in power, harbored an international terrorist group that committed an act of war against the United States. They never foreswore their ties with al Qaeda. The U.S. has a legitimate casis belli , and until such time as a formal cessation of hostilities is agreed, that will not change. I refer here to the Taliban, not al Qaeda, which is even less a "government" than it is.

I could go on, but you get the idea. None of this, of course, means the war can or should continue forever, but to imply that all that remains is for the U.S. to "surrender" or to simply pack up amd go home, is profoundly shortsighted at best.
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  #36  
Old 06-28-2011, 12:10 PM
Simon Willard Simon Willard is offline
 
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Originally Posted by rfrobison View Post
You have a better idea?
Better ideas are hard to come by. It's just easier to criticize yours -- I'm sure you understand.

Rereading your post, I see that you prefixed it with the phrase "in a perfect world", This covers up a multitude of problems, since the Afghanistan mess is very far from a perfect world.

I guess my biggest criticism is not with your logic, but with the assumed precision of the concepts. I wonder if groups like Qaeda, Taliban, Afghan government, insurgents, etc are sufficiently well-defined to support this kind of reasoning. My impression is that these groups are fluid and can morph rather quickly. Agreements with Kharzai are pretty meaningless, unless someone is standing over his shoulder to enforce them. Perhaps that's the way to go, but it's the very definition of a puppet government.

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And the Vietnam analogy is not apposite, for a number of reasons.
Yeah, I didn't say it was analogous. I just said that an "agreement" would be a fig-leaf for US domestic purposes.

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Originally Posted by rfrobison View Post
The U.S. has a legitimate casis belli , and until such time as a formal cessation of hostilities is agreed, that will not change. I refer here to the Taliban...
"Formal cessation of hostilities" is a concept that is not applicable in Afghanistan.

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Originally Posted by rfrobison View Post
I could go on, but you get the idea. None of this, of course, means the war can or should continue forever, but to imply that all that remains is for the U.S. to "surrender" or to simply pack up and go home, is profoundly shortsighted at best.
That's unclear. It's only shortsighted if we can see into the future and know that it will hurt us. Spending money also hurts us. I don't like spending huge sums of money to play whack-a-mole.

My approach would be to withdraw substantially (but not completely), and be ready to respond to big problems when they arise -- problems that would mandate a regime change in Kabul, for example. In other words, I'd rather shoot a bear than whack a mole.
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Old 06-28-2011, 01:07 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Originally Posted by Simon Willard View Post
My approach would be to withdraw substantially (but not completely), and be ready to respond to big problems when they arise -- problems that would mandate a regime change in Kabul, for example. In other words, I'd rather shoot a bear than whack a mole.
This is what I'd prefer also, although what it actually entails and how feasible it is I don't know enough to say.
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Old 06-28-2011, 07:43 PM
rfrobison rfrobison is offline
 
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Thoughtful post. Not much to take issue with. The only question is "How much engagement and what kind?" The glib (non-answer) is, I suppose, "As little as little as possible."

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Originally Posted by Simon Willard View Post
Better ideas are hard to come by. It's just easier to criticize yours -- I'm sure you understand.

Rereading your post, I see that you prefixed it with the phrase "in a perfect world", This covers up a multitude of problems, since the Afghanistan mess is very far from a perfect world.

I guess my biggest criticism is not with your logic, but with the assumed precision of the concepts. I wonder if groups like Qaeda, Taliban, Afghan government, insurgents, etc are sufficiently well-defined to support this kind of reasoning. My impression is that these groups are fluid and can morph rather quickly. Agreements with Kharzai are pretty meaningless, unless someone is standing over his shoulder to enforce them. Perhaps that's the way to go, but it's the very definition of a puppet government.



Yeah, I didn't say it was analogous. I just said that an "agreement" would be a fig-leaf for US domestic purposes.



"Formal cessation of hostilities" is a concept that is not applicable in Afghanistan.



That's unclear. It's only shortsighted if we can see into the future and know that it will hurt us. Spending money also hurts us. I don't like spending huge sums of money to play whack-a-mole.

My approach would be to withdraw substantially (but not completely), and be ready to respond to big problems when they arise -- problems that would mandate a regime change in Kabul, for example. In other words, I'd rather shoot a bear than whack a mole.
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Old 06-28-2011, 01:28 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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The real question is whether we have the stomach for any protracted military campaign.
This was a valid question at one point. I think we've shown we do, and hand waving that withdrawing from Afghanistan means we are unwilling to do what is necessary isn't very compelling. If anything, continuing military engagements the country as a whole doesn't support and which are unlikely to end well -- and I don't see how we achieve anything in Afghanistan much better than we have, no matter how long we stay -- hardly helps the cause if you are worried about it.

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But we're going to need to remain involved militarily in the region in some form for many, many years. Or we can simply leave and hope for the best. I should hope our memories aren't that short.
If we'd stayed involved after the Soviets withdrew, would Afghanistan not have become a haven for al Qaeda or the Taliban taken over in the same way? Probably not. Would it have been a liberal state absent the kinds of human rights violations you are concerned about or even a stable one of the sort you seem hoping we can achieve there? I am skeptical.

Ultimately, this argument seems to come down to the "broke it/buy it" thing -- the idea that we owe it to Afghanistan to build a state somehow, because of our involvement. I don't think that argument works -- we didn't cause the problems, really, there's no consensus there that wants what we would bring them, and it's unlikely it's achieveable. Our engagement in Afghanistan was for a particular purpose -- they were harboring those who attacked us. After that, and apart from our obvious strategic concern with the region more generally, I don't see how you justify a requirement that the US military create the conditions for the kind of Afghanistan we'd all like to see.

I don't think this is realistic as a goal, so saying "well, we have to" doesn't make a lot of sense. It brings up at least two questions. The first (1) being if you are going to try and shame us based on the harm to innocents if we don't stop it, how can you avoid seeing a similar requirement in all the numerous other countries in the world in which human rights violations occur? Basically, pointing to human rights concerns doesn't avoid the remaining calculations about military engagement, including (a) what is the US's direct interest, (b) what is the likelihood of success, and (c) what are the harms to us and to others which would result from our trying to stop this other harm?

And the second (2) being the one both Wonderment and Florian have raised. Is the military really the best way to address the problem? Or might it do more harm than good? I think we have a variety of answers here, from Wonderment's view that force will generally do more harm than good, so we need to focus on other approachs, to a more specific answer by others, depending on the circumstances. I don't think you can respond to this by claiming that people are failing to acknowledge the harms of not doing anything. Those are acknowledged, but we are saying that the harms of the action you would propose also have to be considered. That they are well-intentioned doesn't make that question irrelevant.
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Old 06-28-2011, 07:34 PM
rfrobison rfrobison is offline
 
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Good points. What I'm arguing is that the U.S. can't simply wash its hands of Afghanistan. If we can achieve our goals through exclusively civilian means, fantastic. But isolationism is rearing it's ugly head again and if history shows anything, it's that we end up paying for it in the end. I'm hoping we avoid that dead end.

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Originally Posted by stephanie View Post
This was a valid question at one point. I think we've shown we do, and hand waving that withdrawing from Afghanistan means we are unwilling to do what is necessary isn't very compelling. If anything, continuing military engagements the country as a whole doesn't support and which are unlikely to end well -- and I don't see how we achieve anything in Afghanistan much better than we have, no matter how long we stay -- hardly helps the cause if you are worried about it.



If we'd stayed involved after the Soviets withdrew, would Afghanistan not have become a haven for al Qaeda or the Taliban taken over in the same way? Probably not. Would it have been a liberal state absent the kinds of human rights violations you are concerned about or even a stable one of the sort you seem hoping we can achieve there? I am skeptical.

Ultimately, this argument seems to come down to the "broke it/buy it" thing -- the idea that we owe it to Afghanistan to build a state somehow, because of our involvement. I don't think that argument works -- we didn't cause the problems, really, there's no consensus there that wants what we would bring them, and it's unlikely it's achieveable. Our engagement in Afghanistan was for a particular purpose -- they were harboring those who attacked us. After that, and apart from our obvious strategic concern with the region more generally, I don't see how you justify a requirement that the US military create the conditions for the kind of Afghanistan we'd all like to see.

I don't think this is realistic as a goal, so saying "well, we have to" doesn't make a lot of sense. It brings up at least two questions. The first (1) being if you are going to try and shame us based on the harm to innocents if we don't stop it, how can you avoid seeing a similar requirement in all the numerous other countries in the world in which human rights violations occur? Basically, pointing to human rights concerns doesn't avoid the remaining calculations about military engagement, including (a) what is the US's direct interest, (b) what is the likelihood of success, and (c) what are the harms to us and to others which would result from our trying to stop this other harm?

And the second (2) being the one both Wonderment and Florian have raised. Is the military really the best way to address the problem? Or might it do more harm than good? I think we have a variety of answers here, from Wonderment's view that force will generally do more harm than good, so we need to focus on other approachs, to a more specific answer by others, depending on the circumstances. I don't think you can respond to this by claiming that people are failing to acknowledge the harms of not doing anything. Those are acknowledged, but we are saying that the harms of the action you would propose also have to be considered. That they are well-intentioned doesn't make that question irrelevant.
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