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Old 08-10-2010, 05:57 AM
ledocs ledocs is offline
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: France, Earth
Posts: 1,165
Default Re: Secrecy and Transparency (Julian Sanchez & Stewart A. Baker)

Ohreally said:

Wars are always immoral, but sometimes they must be fought. Which is why in the end it all boils down to one's judgment about the justness of the war. What right after 9/11 began as a justifiable operation of self-defense has long since morphed into a typical exercise in western imperial control -- with all the attendant lies that go with that sort of power struggle.
What is "a typical exercise in western imperial control?" I think the problem in Afghanistan is precisely that no one, prominently including Barack Obama, believes that imperial control of Afghanistan is possible. What this is is a typical exercise in damage control. First, Obama positions himself on Afghanistan in his presidential campaign in order to have something to say about Iraq that won't make him sound like a left-wing peacenik, while still getting him large portions of the Democratic peacenik vote. He knows that George McGovern was a genuine war hero who ran against a goddam chicken hawk, and he knows how that worked out for McGovern. OK, Obama wins the election, now he's there, ostensibly trying to rid Afghanistan of terrorists who could directly harm the US. But wait. Now he gets into a battle with the US military, who are ready to accuse him of running away from a winnable war, of causing irreparable damage to vital US interests if the US does not show resolve in Afghanistan. And who will win that PR battle?

So now Obama has to choose between the real risk of being a one-term president, because the military and Republicans in Congress portray him as a spineless peacenik, or the somewhat lower risk of being a one-term president because a lot of Americans get killed in a war that cannot possibly be won and the strategic purpose of which, namely concerns about who will control Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, is mostly hidden from public view.

So the issue to me is the insubordination of the US military, it is the willingness of the top military brass to fight political wars in the media and to call into question the patriotism and strategic prudence of any Democratic president who does not want to invest in ground wars in far-off places of very dubious military-strategic importance to the survival of the USA or to such military-economic-cultural-strategic hegemony as the USA can be said to have enjoyed at any time since 1962. LBJ inherits a war, it's not the war he's really interested in, he's got a domestic war on poverty that he cares about, but he can't buck the military, or he won't, I'm not sure which it is.

This guy Baker was a complete and utter bore, and Sanchez was a pin-cushion for a lot of obscurantist, bureaucratic crap being hurled at him. The only issue that came up that was of any enduring interest whatever was Baker's "epistemological" concerns about declassified intelligence falling into the hands of the enemy, who then connects dots by cross-referencing databases. Not a single example of a seriously compromising incident along these lines was cited by Baker, and he had all of post-WWII history to work with. Had he cited such an example, the harm done to actual lives and US interests would have to be weighed against any benefits derived from declassification. I agree that the topic of classification/declassification is serious, I agree that foreign policy cannot be conducted by the populace at large, I agree that there will always be espionage, intelligence-gathering, secrecy, and deception (of other governments and of the US populace), but I do not agree that this discussion contributed jack shit to anyone's understanding of anything. It's more Eli Lake-style apologetics for not just some lies and some deception, but for anything the government decides to do.

My general view would be that the military was not, on balance, very keen on invading Iraq. That was the idea of the Bush Administration, who had to scrounge around for a suitably obsequious and incompetent general in Tommy Franks to lead the charge. But now we get a Democratic president, and things are changed, now suddenly the military is anxious to get involved in a messy guerrilla war without end and is willing to go public in order to try out its theories. And just as we won't know if the Obama stimulus would have worked much better had it been much larger, we will never know if counter-insurgency would have worked much better had it been much larger, because there is not a chance in hell that the USA is going to put at risk the number of American lives that would have to be put at risk in order to "win" a ground war in Afghanistan and to establish a stable centralized government with stable military control, by an Afghan central government, of all the Afghan territory. It's so completely preposterous as a political matter that it's laughable. Because just as in Iraq, when cumulative US military deaths hit the 3,000 level, the US is more or less out of there, one way or the other. The only way a concerted war effort lasts beyond that point is if there is credible evidence of a serious and successful terrorist attack against US interests outside of Afghanistan that originates from within Afghanistan or if the war can be prosecuted by robots and unmanned drones (which is not possible). A car bomb in Argentina, masterminded in Afghanistan, that kills five Americans will not do the trick.

I was not happy about Obama's stated position on Afghanistan during the campaign. I said then that my attitude to the war would depend upon how many people were being killed there. What Obama needs to do is to declare victory over Al-Qaida in Afghanistan and get out, ASAP, where ASAP means with as little public resistance from the military as possible. I believe that this is the Mickey Kaus position, essentially. If he wants to leave a residual force along the Pakistan border to help keep radical Islamist elements in Pakistan in check, that might be OK, I would need to read enough about such an idea to perform a cost-benefit analysis. But let's end the fantasy of a successful COIN campaign in Afghanistan. Any successes the US has along those lines will be short-lived and illusory.

Last edited by ledocs; 08-10-2010 at 11:58 AM.. Reason: changed pre-2008 election concern from one about American deaths to one about deaths generally. I think the new wording is more accurate.
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