Free Markets, Free People

Quote of the day – forget what I said the first time edition

Coinciding with and probably as a result of the McChrystal firing, a lot of questioning has been directed toward the Obama administration about its previously announced decision to begin the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in 2011. That was originally announced by the President when he outlined his new strategy about a year ago. Since then, as administration officials have been questioned about the date, mixed messages have been the result. VP Joe Biden has said the date is “firm”. SecDef Robert Gates has said it would be based on “conditions on the ground”.

Critics have rightfully said that announcing a firm withdrawal date is a strategically self-defeating thing to do. It gives the enemy a finish line they simply have to survive long enough to make. It also isn’t great for the morale of those US soldiers there now fighting in this war.

So it was interesting to hear the president – who originally announced the withdrawal date for next year –deny it was what he said it was:

“We didn’t say we’d be switching off the lights and closing the door behind us,” Obama said. “We said we’d begin a transition phase that would allow the Afghan government to take more and more responsibility.”

Well that’s not exactly how it was interpreted then (light switching and door closing were certainly implied). Nor was that interpretation of the date then ever denied by the president or his staff – until now.

The announcement above is actually a change. White House spinmeisters will most likely characterize it as a “clarification”. But the bottom line is, the “firm” July 2011 withdrawal date announced by the president last year is much less “firm” with this “clarification”.

And, if I know my wars, the ANA and Afghan government are far from being ready to “transition” into taking “more and more responsibility”.

That, in fact, is why critics in the Senate are telling the president that the problem lies not with the military side of the house, but with the civilian/State Department (and other Departments) side of the house.

Until a credible and competent diplomatic staff is assembled in Kabul and is able to begin to do what was done in Iraq, there will be nothing to which to hand this “transition” off.

Yes, there’s corruption. Yes, we don’t like it. But Afghanistan isn’t the US and corruption and the like have been an integral part of their lifestyle for centuries. Is our goal to make them a mini-US, or to have them develop a functioning government and security apparatus that can hold the country and keep terrorists from basing there and threatening the US?

Two things to take from this – this is a mild presidential rebuke to the “this is a firm date” crowd (*cough* Biden et al *cough*). That may have further implications down the road. And it is also a case where strategic ambiguity – at least in this specific area – is a help and not a hindrance.



9 Responses to Quote of the day – forget what I said the first time edition

  • “Is our goal to make them a mini-US, or to have them develop a functioning government and security apparatus that can hold the country and keep terrorists from basing there and threatening the US?” –
    that literally depends on who’s in charge of the country here.   A Democratic Congress under a Republican President would tell you anything less than a mini-US was a failure.  Under a Democratic President, anything that gets us out of there will be fine, even if it has to end up looking like Saigon did in spring of  ’75.   The Media will be carrying the water for Congress in both cases so you’ll know where you can find them.
    As for the US, hell, this is the first time we’ve ventured into Afghanistan other than our role supporting an insurgency.  Like every other world power that’s ever gone in there, we could come out with our head in our hands, I’d like to hope not, but I have to say I don’t hold a lot of hope for Afghanistan.  They don’t really WANT to be in the 21st century.

  • It’s kind of how the administration is together on how many jobs the stimulus created: between 50,000 and 2million.

  • Henry Kissinger weighed in yesterday on Afghanistan strategy.

    If you read through it he gets to his central point, which is that central government is unlikely to work in Afghanistan. He recommends working toward regional non-jihadist governance. It’s a let Afghanistan be Afghanistan hypothesis.

    I would add: Decentralize but modernize.

  • Listen, I’m a politician which means I’m a cheat and a liar, and when I’m not kissing babies I’m stealing their lollipops. But it also means I keep my options open. — Jeffrey Pelt

    The shoe fits

  • You dense righties just don’t understand post-modernistic multiple truths. If you did, you would see that there’s no contradiction at all in what Obama said at different times.

    That’s because his intentions are good and he has a Christlike visage, and thinks like me. Thus by post-modern holy writ, he cannot be dishonest in any way. I decree it.

    Besides, he’s going to go down in history as a great president, and is almost certain to be re-elected, and has great pecs, and gumpalumbagum…. Oops, sorry, I’m multi-tasking here and let an obstruction get in my mouth for a few moments. So let me spit, and I’ll carry on.


    Ah, now, where was I?

    Oh, yes, he has brought back Petraeus, who is a great choice because of the excellent work he did in Iraq which is the biggest failure in American foreign policy in history. Remember, now, no contradiction there. Nope, all the stuff I said about how disastrous Iraq was when Petraeus was carrying out his mission are all completely true, but also completely irrelevant now that he’s on Obama’s team. I decree it.

    You thick righties are out of touch and delusional about Obama. I decree it. History will show you are wrong, as you have been wrong about everything before, whereas I’ve been right about everything. So don’t you bring up the Sadr thing. I told you, it’s irrelevant, because by post-modernistic multiple truths, nothing I say can have a contradiction or mistake in it.

    To understand this better, you guys just need to read my book when I get done with it, “Righties in the Mist: They’re always wrong and we wise leftists are always right because I decree it.”

    Of course, you guys just insult me and you never offer any counter-arguments, which proves that I’m right. Yes, you must carefully offer detailed, lengthy counter-arguments to every single thing I say, no matter how delusional you think they are. Then I can handwave them aside and get on with lecturing you on how wrong you are in an atmosphere of mutual respect. And for goodness sake, stop asking me for links to support my own arguments. I already told you that because I’m a wise leftist, my arguments are always correct and never contradictory. Geez, it’s like I have to explain even the simplest things to you guys.

    So won’t somebody come back and respond to me and go back and forth with me a thousand times? Please? Not because I need to do that to feel some shred of self-worth, oh no. It’s research for my book.

    Which I have to get back to working on as soon as the purple cows finish walking out of my closet into the bathroom and flush themselves down the toilet.