The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Consistently Bad

To much fanfare by most of the trained hamsters in the media, Barack Obama announced that he would have all troops out of Afghanistan by 2016. His speech gave the clear implication, not challenged by the media, that he had dramatically reduced troop levels that were put in place by George W. Bush.

In fact, the former president made many mistakes in Iraq, believing incorrectly, that we could nation-build in a country that is far from ready for democratic governance.  But Bush had the wisdom to keep troop levels in Afghanistan low, correctly recognizing that there was no chance of saving the Afghans from themselves.

It was Barack Obama who escalated troop levels from 30,000 to a peak on 111,000—a mistake in my view. Three quarters of all combat deaths in Afghanistan occurred on Obama's watch.The Islamist Taliban remains strong and will likely reclaim control of portions of the country once we exit. Given that, why not exit now, rather than 2016?  The results will be exactly the same, but lives and taxpayer dollars will be saved. Opponents of the president suggest that the 2016 presidential elections might have something to do with it, but who knows?

The Washington Post editorial board comments:
YOU CAN’T fault President Obama for inconsistency. After winning election in 2008, he reduced the U.S. military presence in Iraq to zero. After helping to topple Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi in 2011, he made sure no U.S. forces would remain. He has steadfastly stayed aloof, except rhetorically, from the conflict in Syria. And on Tuesday he promised to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.

The Afghan decision would be understandable had Mr. Obama’s previous choices proved out. But what’s remarkable is that the results also have been consistent — consistently bad. Iraq has slid into something close to civil war, with al-Qaeda retaking territory that U.S. Marines once died to liberate. In Syria, al-Qaeda has carved out safe zones that senior U.S. officials warn will be used as staging grounds for attacks against Europe and the United States. Libya is falling apart, with Islamists, secularists, military and other factions battling for control.

We hope Afghanistan can avoid that fate. But the last time the United States cut and ran from there, after the Soviet Union withdrew, the result was the Taliban takeover, al-Qaeda’s safe havens and, eventually, the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, after which everyone said, well, we won’t make that mistake again.
The Washington Post has been a consistent defender of this president, but now even they are beginning recoil from the president's abysmal results. Consistent defense of "consistently bad" policy is even too much for WaPo.


Richard Fernandez discusses the significant logistics challenges facing the US military as they attempt to execute Barack Obama's "strategy" for withdrawal. Unimpressed with Obama's approach, Fernandez writes:
A president who flies to Afghanistan on Memorial Day for what is essentially a photo-op; who is unable to meet the Afghan president and then announces a plan to leave 10,000 men in country — to do God knows what — ‘if the Afghans agree’ is thinking more like Axelrod than the Napoleon he affects to be. For Obama it’s politics, talking points and optics all the time. Times, distances, relative forces — all the mental baggage of strategy — seem absent from his mind. There is nothing American troops can achieve between 2015 and 2016 except to cover the incumbent president’s political behind.

Obama is approaching the problem of withdrawal with the same vapid incompetence that seems to infuse everything he does. The press should call him on the specifics of his withdrawal. But given that Jay Carney will give the answer, what’s the use?