Although I have written a couple of commentaries on the Afghanistan war, mainly illustrating the complexity of that conflict, I will be the first one to admit that I am by no means an expert on that issue and that I have no relevant suggestions on how to proceed. The real experts are hard at work, hopefully to come up with a successful strategy, corresponding troop levels, etc.
However, when I say “real experts,” I would not include those who have taken our country and our troops into disastrous military adventures in the recent past.
In “Two Wrongs Make Another Fiasco,” in today’s New York Times, Frank Rich makes exactly the same point, albeit he does it much better and in a much more colorful way.
Perhaps the most surreal aspect of our great Afghanistan debate is the Beltway credence given to the ravings of the unrepentant blunderers who dug us into this hole in the first place.
Rich points out, blunder by blunder, miscalculation by miscalculation, misrepresentation by misrepresentation, exactly why those who gave us Iraq and those who “demanded that America divert its troops and treasure from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2002 and 2003 — when there was no Qaeda presence in Iraq,” bear full responsibility for the present situation in Afghanistan.
He is aghast, as many of us are, at how these same actors now “have the nerve to imperiously and tardily demand that America increase its 68,000-strong presence in Afghanistan to clean up their mess…”
Rich focuses on this crowd’s “noisiest standard-bearer, John McCain,” and the other two of the “Three Amigos,” Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, and blasts their Wall Street Journal Op-Ed where the trio asserts that “The U.S. walked away from Afghanistan once before, following the Soviet collapse,” and “The result was 9/11. We must not make that mistake again.”
According to Rich:
This shameless argument assumes — perhaps correctly — that no one in this country remembers anything. So let me provide a reminder: We already did make that mistake again when we walked away from Afghanistan to invade Iraq in 2003 — and we did so at the Three Amigos’ urging.
Rich further ridicules the Amigos’ and “their fellow travelers’” criticism of the Obama administration’s alleged lack of urgency on making troop levels decisions for Afghanistan: “Two years after 9/11 [McCain] was claiming that we could ‘in the long term’ somehow ‘muddle through’ in Afghanistan. He now has the chutzpah to accuse President Obama of wanting to ‘muddle through’ there.”
Lots more from Frank Rich on his views of the war and strategies, troop levels, corruption in Afghanistan, and on costs of the war.
On the latter:
Those demanding more combat troops for Afghanistan also avoid defining the real costs. The Congressional Research Service estimates that the war was running $2.6 billion a month in Pentagon expenses alone even before Obama added 20,000 troops this year. Surely fiscal conservatives like McCain and Graham who rant about deficits being “generational theft” have an obligation to explain what the added bill will be on an Afghanistan escalation and where the additional money will come from. But that would require them to use the dread words “sacrifice” and “higher taxes” when they want us to believe that this war, like Iraq, would be cost-free.
While I do not necessarily agree with Rich on everything in his extended critique, I must admit that I would not go back for surgery to the same surgeon who had botched up a previous procedure.
Image: Courtesy crooksandliars.com
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.