“Obama Defends Strategy in Afghanistan”

BronzeChessPieceofCaliphHarunalRashidAM0098 "“We must never forget,” he (Obama) said. “This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which Al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans.

“So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is fundamental to the defense of our people.”

The speech, to an audience of 5,500 members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and their families, was in pointed contrast to Mr. Obama’s frequent criticism of the war in Iraq as “a war of choice.” The president on Monday repeated his pledge to withdraw all troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, saying, “And for America, the Iraq war will end.”"   NY Times


So, how is this different from the deluded propaganda that the Bush Administration served up about Iraq for years and years?

The sub-text in these remarks is the fantasy that has been circulating among minimally informed senior officers and staffs, a fantasy that insists that the Muslim fanatics of the Al-Qa'ida network are a credible existential threat to the United States.  As the fantasy goes, the yearning of the very small number of dangerous zealots to restore the medieval empire of the 'umma on a global basis has some chance of realization.  Power Point presentations have been written by shady consultants that support the idea that "the Muzlims" want to restore that supposedly theocratic "uber" state under the name of the "Caliphate," (khilafa) and to reduce such existing countries as Pakistan, Egypt, Denmark, etc. to mere commanderies (emirates) of the "Muzlim" world empire.  An example of such a briefing for the JCS is at the bottom of this post.

Well, people in Hell want ice water, too.  The yearning of the zealots does not equate with capability now or in the future.  The Bush Administration did not like Husni Mubarak's  "pharonic democracy" in Egypt, but his insistence on suppressing Islamist groups has kept these people from power in that country.  Hopefully, the Danes can do as well.  The idea that this small group of crazies is an existential threat to the US would be funny if it were not so very clear that the same kind of nonsense was "sold" to the American people before and during Iraq.

Park your own propaganda influenced fantasies at the door and let's remember – Iraq did not have WMD.  Iraq did not have a working relationship with the Sunni crazies.  Iraq did not participate in 9/11.  We are leaving Iraq without having changed anything there except that we put the Shia Arabs in charge of whatever parts of the country that they can hold.  We improved the security situation in Iraq by applying the age old method of "divide and conquer" to the qalaxy of leaderless (in terms of central command) insurgent grops that we faced.  It had nothing to do with the purple thumbs.

Now we have the same kinds of propaganda fantasies being sold to the American people and to a malleable executive branch.  We are now told by the president himself that governance and development in Afghanistan are vital American national interests.  We are told that the plight of Afghan women is a vital interest of the United States.  Such statements imply a long term commitment to the "modernization" of Afghanistan.  Such statements imply an ever moving process of "mission creep" no matter what sort of reception McChrystal's "strategic review" receives in Washington.

And, lastly there is the theocratic police state in Iran.  It is being suggested to Americans that; the government of Iran (Shia), the Pushtun dominated Taliban melange (Sunni), and Al-Qa'ida (Sunni) are all really the same thing.  I heard Hillary say that a few months ago.  Obama implied it yeasterday.  What rot!  But, it is selling.

Ask yourself.  Where is this foolishness of "caliphates" and "existential threats" coming from.  THINK!!  pl

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53 Responses to “Obama Defends Strategy in Afghanistan”

  1. Abu Sinan says:

    It’s coming from people who have a vested interest in keeping us in the Middle East and wider Islamic world, and not because they want American to be loved by the “ummah”.
    These people want America invested in these countries to help promote their own issues.
    These are the same people who after 9/11 said that their enemies were our enemies when that isnt the case.

  2. Bill Wade, NH says:


  3. JohnH says:

    It would be interesting to compare this rhetoric to the rhetoric used against the Navajos and Apache 125 years ago. I’m sure those were not wars of choice, either, but instead wars against savages who threatened the American way of life and settlers who put themselves in harm’s way. Of course, we all know now that the wars against Native Americans was simply a land and resource grab.
    Are the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan really all that different?

  4. Hannah K. O'Luthon says:

    Thanks to Colonel Lang for
    once again making the difference between clear headed analysis and “crackpot realism” evident. Unfortunately the crackpots have strong political support from the usual suspects, both other nations and domestic lobbies, so one can’t expect reason to prevail even in the presence of bitter experience of the consequences of moving down such primrose paths in expectation of being greeted by a rejoicing indigenous populace offering flowers and sweets.

  5. Patrick Lang says:

    No problem on the Indian Wars stuff. I had ancestors in both sides of that. (Army, not settlers)
    These two little wars are really not subject to a marxist analysis. There is nothing there that we could not have had without all the effort.
    There might be an argument to be made that the usual third party were foolish enough to think that they might gain something in that way from a US invasion. pl

  6. Pat Lang,
    Having looked at the briefing, I find it hard to believe that it was actually presented to the JCS. How embarrassing! I’d observe that it consists of a collection of out of context facts, purported facts, false statements of fact, and false analogies leading a concoction of of faulty conclusions.
    The path being taken by the Obama administration might be conclusive evidence that this country is unable to function without “existential threats”, even if we have to make them up. I wonder if our national ethos has such a dominant manichean component that an evil enemy is necessary? We, of course, would, in this perpetual arrangement, always be the force for good. That certainly fits the “long war” program.

  7. Redhand says:

    Power Point presentations have been written by shady consultants that support the idea that “the Muzlims” want to restore that supposedly theocratic “uber” state under the name of the “Caliphate,” (khilafa) and to reduce such existing countries as Pakistan, Egypt, Denmark, etc. to mere commanderies (emirates) of the “Muzlim” world empire. An example of such a briefing for the JCS is at the bottom of this post.
    The PPT file was horrifying: Strategic policy presented in a color scheme that gives it the look, feel and substance of a Superman Comic. Tom Ricks mentioned PPT presentations as a substitute for analysis in Fiasco. My guess is that they were in the same league as this.
    Please don’t tell me that such garbage is still being used to influence the Obama Administration!? What the hell happened to Obama once he got into office? (Shakes head sadly.)

  8. VietnamVet says:

    Unlike you, I cannot speak for Virginians though I work in Virginia. But, because humans fight wars, there are observations from the American Civil War that pertain to the current war in Afghanistan.
    I have no doubt one reason the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered at Appomattox besides the death and starvation was that there was no more of Virginia left to defend. Only enough boots on the ground to deny Taliban access to their families and tribes will end the Afghanistan War. Killing religious fanatics one by one is pointless as long as the occupied can reproduce new warriors and leaders.
    Myths and Legends abound afterwards to explain the defeat and rejoining the Union and how General Robert E Lee prevented a guerrilla war. Except, there was an underground war fought by Nathan Bedord Forrest and the KKK against Yankee Carpetbaggers. Only, with Congressional approval of the 1877 Compromise withdrawing Federal Troops from the South and agreeing to spur industrialization, did the American Civil War really end.

  9. Patrick Lang says:

    “Only enough boots on the ground to deny Taliban access to their families and tribes will end the Afghanistan War.”
    And how many would that be? pl

  10. Patrick Lang says:

    The resistance of the 1st Klan to military occupation and government was nothing compared to what would have happened across the whole of the former Confederacy if Davis, Lee and Judah Benjamin had called for a general levee en massee. pl

  11. Walter says:

    PL, its not a marxist anaysis; its a financial analysis. The wars are costing hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars. The money is sucked out of the taxpayer and much of it deployed to private industry well connected to government (the revolving door between government and industry). The companies making all the money fund the political campaigns. I believe that money is a huge part of this game.
    You keep saying that we would have had access to the oil whether or not we went in to Iraq is false in my view. Its much safer, more secure and lucrative to have pro-American puppets in Iraq than a Saddam who threatened our access.
    Sure, Israel has a lot to do with this also. Seems like a perfect storm for right wing Christian and Jewish Zionists for religious reasons and Capitalists for financial reasons…..none of which respected the life or liberty of the Arabs who live there for centuries.

  12. jonst says:

    PL wrote: “So, how is this different from the deluded propaganda that the Bush Administration served up about Iraq for years and years?”
    Easy. It is not different.
    Did anyone watch the Newshour on Monday? The piece about those poor souls at the FOB? Just sad…f’in sad.

  13. I’ve said this over and over. Neocons want war all the time. They and their cronies at the Pentagon and in the
    military/industrial complex, guess that’s a redundancy, know that arms manufacturing is a source of huge employment and profits to the companies which contribute large to politicians. Always, it’s about following the money trail.
    Obama has drunk their Kool Aid, just like all presidents since Ike.

  14. Farmer Don says:

    Col. Lang,
    Obama is not doing anything that he did not promise during the election campaign. If you watched the debates you will remember he promised to pull out of Iraq, and put more troops into Afghanistan.
    He is doing exactly that.
    I found it odd, that he would see the two wars in such a different light.
    The people who voted for him, probably chose not to believe his statements about Afghanistan at the time.

  15. nightsticker says:

    Colonel Lang,
    General Lee himself gave the reason why the Army of Northern Virginia yielded. They were “compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources”. It is impossible to imagine the US fielding a force that the Afghan resistance fighters would find to be overwhelming numbers and resources. Some several dozen of my ancestors rode with the 7th and 12th Virginia Cavalry. They would not have yielded to any sort of COIN blandishments offered by the Northern invaders of the Commonwealth. I anticipate that the Afghan resistance fighters will, for many of the same sentiments, continue fighting till the foreign invaders depart. We know how this war started; we know how it will end. What we don’t know is how much more blood and treasure our leaders will waste in between.
    USMC 1965-1972
    FBI 1972-1996

  16. My guess is that it will take a shock from outside to keep the US from being regarded as a dangerous “Joke” as long as speeches are being given by Obama like that described. He clearly is poorl advised and does not get “it”! There is no existential threat to the US from AQ at this point in time.

  17. If Afghanistan is a “war of necessity,” then by virtue of the exact same logic, Somalia certainly and Yemen, quite plausibly, should also be.
    Meanwhile, any serious calculus of actual threats to the United States right now would highlight the Mexican drug lords.
    And here’s a new development: Canada: The new global drug lord: Canada is a leading producer, and exporter, of illegal synthetic drugs

  18. Cloned Poster says:

    Nato’s announced its forces would halt offensive military operations on election day and would undertake missions only if they were “deemed necessary to protect the population.”
    This is so obtuse from NATO, they should be doing this all the time.

  19. VietnamVet says:

    The diseased, aged, infirmed and white boys were all that were left for the South to fight the Battle of Petersburg. If Blacks were conscripted, Jeff Davis would have to have granted them their Civil Rights, a Century earlier. A million Union troops were required to conquer and occupy the South. The brilliance of the American leaders of the Civil War and WWII is that they recognized what total war requires and how to make peace with the conquered.
    Today our leaders’ only concern is where the next re-election dollar comes from. Instead of focus groups and creating their own reality; real leaders would cobble together a million soldiers and policemen (significantly fewer if they are Afghans) and force a political settlement with the Taliban and get the hell out of there. Since Washington DC is not doing what is required to end the war, lining one’s pocket and avoiding being labeled as a Loser have to be the primary motivations for the Long War.

  20. Patrick Lang says:

    Hey, you know that the WB the S is “my thing.” A lot of my second novel, DPH is set in the events of which you speak.
    When “Spoons” Butler landed around City Point and then approached Petersburg there were no “regular” troops” in the town because you can’t be everywhere in strength all the time. The A of NV was rather tied up at Spotsylvania just then and it took Beuregard, the department commander (with headquarters in Charleston, SC) a while to assemble a force with which to drive Butler back. Nevertheless, the state militia, convalescents, old boys and a few officers who happened to be there, managed to frighten Butler into pulling back from the town. This provided enough time for Beauregard and company to arrive. What followed was the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff and Butler’s withdrawal into the Bermuda Hundred lodgement NE of Petersburg. pl

  21. Patrick Lang says:

    Ah. The “Laurel Brigade.” a fine outfit.
    Jubal Early (my favorite WBS man) used to joke that “The Laurel is a running vine,” or that they were “buttermilk rangers.”
    But then, his dilike of cavalrymen was general.

  22. Patrick Lang says:

    “than a Saddam who threatened our access.”
    Come now. The old b—–d never did any such thing. WE restricted the export of Iraqi oil endlessly. We did that. They wanted to sell the oil in the world market. They needed the money. It got to be a major shady international business trying to get the UN sanctions committee and the State Department to approve wavers in the sanctions for the sale of the limited oil allotments that were allowed for humanitarian reasons (money to pay for medecine, etc.)
    I am sorry to say it, but you are utterly wrong about this. I was in business in the ME at the time working around people who struggled to get some of these oil allocations. pl

  23. wdd says:

    I am not a military man but understand intentions and capabilities have to be considered in analyzing threats. Saddam wanted WMD. Bin Laden wants WMD. I want to be young, handsome and rich. I’m old, balding and just getting by. Wishing doesn’t make it so.
    It is hard to believe nonsense such as the PowerPoint you linked to is shown to adults. Does anyone read anymore or has ADHD infected everyone?
    My Confederate people were Georgia yeomen farmers and SC textile mill hands, yes even in 1860. My impression is that Southern white men had voted with their feet. They were used up and ready to get back home. I should read your CW books.

  24. Vanasek says:

    Col Lang,
    I never thought I’d see someone give Doug Feith a run for being the dumbest guy in the room….
    I have to say that I don’t know whether to be shocked, or dumbfounded that such an idiotic analysis could be presented to our military leadership without it being laughed out of the room. How in the hell does someone like this get to influence policy makers?
    I mean, c’mon… the expanding green blob signifying Muslim conquest of northern Africa, Turkey, the Middle East, India and Indonesia is just like those old rediculous 1950’s flims showing an expanding red menace flowing all over the globe accompanied by creepy music.
    The various Shia and Sunni sects can’t figure out how to live on the same block, much less govern a country so how are they going to unite to accomplish this regional domination???
    The only thing more laughable (and sadder) is that much of America is swallowing this s*** sandwich being served up by pro-Israeli neo-cons and their allies in the defense industry. Didn’t we just vote to get rid of this gang who couldn’t shoot straight.
    Maybe, just maybe there are some rational people at the NSC, State and Defense departments who can steer our policy down the correct path.

  25. JohnH says:

    Interesting that I get accused of marxist thinking for suggesting that the US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have economic motivations.
    Hmmm–so what are the motivations? Why won’t anyone provide a credible rationale? Are we to believe–as politicians and the media seem to suggest by their silence on the matter–that these are simply Jerry Seinfeld wars–about nothing? Are we to believe that the US government wastes trillions for no reason whatsoever?
    Or is it really believable that otherwise sane leaders are simply broadcasting the national treasury, tilting at ideological windmills. I have a really hard time believing that. And I shudder at the thought.
    So someone please give me a non-economic justification for piling up the national debt, raiding the Social Security Trust Fund and borrowing from China, Japan and oil producers.
    Of course, economic reasons abound, though they are never mentioned. “Control a nation’s oil supply and you control the nation,” a statement attributed to Henry Kissinger. Controlling the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea would give the US control of virtually everybody’s oil supply and provide a convenient fueling stop for the airplanes policing the oil sources.
    And Afghanistan? The historical gateway to South Asia, sitting close to the Silk Route between East and West Asia, as well as an area critical to controlling pipeline routes from West Asia to East and South Asia.
    No economics involved here? Maybe first you should try to convince me that oil is not the industrialized world’s life blood.

  26. Cieran says:

    PLEASE stop posting such insipid Powerpoint presentations!
    Kagan’s “surge” presentation was bad enough, but this “Long War” version was so completely inept, I had do quit half-way through just to keep from doing permanent damage to my IQ. I think that my brain wants to take a shower now. Aarrgh!
    Do decision-makers at DOD actually make policy based on this kind of faux “analysis”? The presentation is little more than a collection of hopelessly strained analogies and scary bad graphics. You’d think that audiences would figure out that once the ghost of Neville Chamberlain shows up on a slide, they’re about to be asked to do something stupid!
    I did enjoy the “U.S. Strategy” page, tho — it was good for a belly laugh. Three elements, none of which were supported by much else of import in the presentation content. Element #1: Protect and defend the Homeland… well, duh! Maybe we could handle that by insisting that our CIC carefully read the briefings with pithy titles like “Bin Laden determined to strike within U.S.”? Think that might help?
    And how on earth does that particular “strategic element” map to invading and nation-building plumb over on the other side of the globe? Doesn’t anybody at the Pentagon have a map of the world handy? Isn’t geography still a required course for admirals?
    Heaven help us if this is what is being used to form national defense policy. The only silver lining I can see is that now that I’ve had a chance to read this brand of fatuous nonsense, I can begin to appreciate why my days in the national security apparatus periodically involved having to deal with directives that were patently insane.
    Those probably arrived in my corner of the security universe courtesy of some fool in DC, armed with Powerpoint and with way too much time on his hands.

  27. Jackie says:

    The other day a friend and I were watching the “American Experience” on PBS. It was about Jimmy Carter’s presidency. The narrator said something like…inflation after a war. That war would have been Vietnam, which had been over a while by the time of Carter. Is that why we are getting out of Iraq, but staying in Afghanistan? Ecomonically, it could be worse if we got out of the war business all together? Just curious?
    Thank you.

  28. Fred says:

    “War is alien to the peaceful nature and desires of our nation” Ha, ha, ha, ha…… What planet does the Admiral live on?
    A quote from Ayatollah Komeni from 1942? When he was a lecturer at either Najaf or Qum. I wonder what that other “Time Magazine Man of the Year’ Newt Gingrich (1995, Komeni 1979) was doing as a lecturer at that bastion of knowledge, the University of West Georgia? (I couldn’t resist as Newt was a history professor and this dog and pony slide show date’s to ’06 or prior.)
    “If their economy is destroyed, they will be busy with their own affairs rather than enslaving the weak peoples. It is very important to concentrate on hitting the US economy through all possible means.” – Usama bin Laden …. My God he’s hiding on Wall Street! Which hedge fund is he running, certainly not the one paying out $100 million to Andrew Hall?
    Just as “the state militia, convalescents, old boys and a few officers who happened to be there, managed to frighten Butler into pulling back…” Too bad so many were frightened by a PowerPoint presentation and guilt over failing to defend America on 9-11 even though repeatedly warned of possible attacks.
    How easy to change slide 6, just replace ‘Muslim’ with Christian and Islam with ‘Christianity’ and you have a different group of fundamentalists. “The road of Providence is uneven and unpredictable—yet we know where it leads: It leads to Freedom.” George W. Bush, second inaugural.
    “ When Franklin Roosevelt stood before the Congress in his 1941 State of the Union Address he spoke of four essential freedoms we should fight for: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear.” (quoted for convenience http://www.house.gov/mcdermott/issues_socsec.shtmlence from Congressman Jim McDermott’s speech on Social Security in 2005.) Those trying to exercise freedom of speech were thrown out of Bush’s town hall meetings, now others carry automatic weapons to Obama’s. Yet it is still terrorist condition yellow in every square inch of America; I would say we have a long way to go for Freedom from Fear; and to think that once upon a time ,when we had a liberal Democrat in a wheelchair as president, all we had to fear, was fear itself.

  29. Patrick Lang says:

    Cieran et al
    No. That is what they are feeding themselves. You need to know that. pl

  30. Patrick Lang says:

    You still dom’t get it. This was all about Israel. pl

  31. Patrick Lang says:

    Wanting means nothing. pl

  32. Okay diversion from the forthcoming “Siege of DC by Islamic Forces’ updating the “Siege of Vienna” and let’s focus on Taliban forces capability. I understand significant upgrades have occurred in Taliban Weaponary and Tactics in last 18 months and wonder what readers of blog have heard or know? What is Taliban night-fighting capability?

  33. jonst says:

    I’ll take a crack at it. Of course oil, and economics were, and are omnipresent factors. But they have been there a long time, and we did not seek to invade Iraq when we had great chance to do. Or, more succinctly, occupy Iraq. There was a line drawn in the sand, in the Gulf War, that the US would not cross. Oil was industrialized world’s life blood back then. But our leaders, oil barons they be, too, Bush from Texas, Baker from Texas, Cheney, et al, lovers of oil and big finance they all, held back.
    So something had to change to push us (them?)’over the line’.
    I would put my money on the following: Utopian religious fervor, End-Timers, Apocalyptic believers, combined with secular Neo-liberals who wanted to bring ‘democracy’ to all the world. This latter group bring as much secular fervor as the religious group. The Neo-liberals, drunk on believing that history is a teleological process. And the ‘end destination’, Francis Fukyama’s ‘end of history’, was liberal democracy for all. Everywhere.
    This wacko bunch came together under Bush. Not conspiratorially, but just a ‘perfect storm’, albeit lacking a trigger to set it all off. 9/11 was that trigger.

  34. Patrick Lang says:

    This particular PPT has been used over and over again since ’05.
    There have been many more such briefings since then. The themes of the “Caliphate” and the “Existential Struggle” against militant Islam is very wide spread in the government.
    WRC’s reference to the Islamic “Siege of DC” is apt. Unfortunately, most of those being briefed are unaware that the Ottomans twice besieged Vienna so the humor in the remark would be lost on them. pl

  35. Patrick Lang says:

    All of that is true but the desire of the Israeli Right and its American friends to put paid to the imagined Iraqi nuclear program underlay everything. pl

  36. Dan says:

    Great post Pat. Did you see Cordesmann’s latest? As far as I can make out he wants us to give up on building the “central govermnent” and “institution” build local parliaments and parallel government structures all across the afghan countryside. What fun

  37. Cieran says:

    That is what they are feeding themselves. You need to know that.
    Then they are dining very much, but being nourished very little.
    I think you should start using a rating system for any Powerpoint presentations you post here. That one could be a “PG-13”, meaning that “Presentation Guaranteed to insult the intelligence of anyone over the age of 13”

  38. David Habakkuk says:


    ‘This wacko bunch came together under Bush. Not conspiratorially, but just a ‘perfect storm’, albeit lacking a trigger to set it all off. 9/11 was that trigger.’

    Absolutely. But some of us had hoped that the disappointment of the absurd hopes associated with the project of ‘regime change’ in Iraq would lead to a sobering up, at least among parts of the ‘wacko bunch’. Some sobering up there clearly has been. But increasingly it looks insufficient to prevent the Obama Administration heading in disastrous directions in relation to Afghanistan — and, I very much fear, Iran as well.

  39. Pat Lang and others,
    First, John H. on the “Marxist theory” bit. I’ve observed that whenever oil is mentioned in conjunction with reasons for invading Iraq, Lang brings up Marxist theory or Marxist professors as the probable source. This happened to me a few weeks ago and I’ve been awaiting a chance to rebut. Pat, I’ve never met an actual Marxist professor, though I’ve heard that there are such.
    As with (apparently) John H. I have a difficult time with reconciling the high-priced and highly educated help in Washington with the notion that “wackos”, religious fanatics, neo-conservative enthusiasts and the like were the sole, or even primary, cause for the (2nd) Iraq War. This leads to the belief that, surely, there must be pragmatic geo-political reasons for the whole thing. Perhaps oil or perhaps the theories of Halford Mackinder, who, in the 19th century, wrote : “Who controls the heartland controls the world island, who controls the world island controls the world.” So, are our policies the result of sober and rational calculation of our national interest? The answer seems to be No. I agree with Habbakkuk’s analogy of a perfect storm of ideologues, political hacks, economic interests,and religious fanatics all coming together at he right time and under the right president. And, I agree with Lang that Israel’s interests, working through the ever-persistent lobby are the motivating force and catalyst. Is that a correct statement of your view?

  40. Babak Makkinejad says:

    In regards to Afghanistan and her importance to the Silk Road etc. you are inaccurate.

  41. dilbert dogbert says:

    Col. Lang,
    Please a bit of warning when you post a link like that. I had to wash my brain out with soap after viewing a couple of slides.

  42. Patrick Lang says:

    I guess you never worked in government anywhere near the top. We are governed by ignorant, self serving, poorly educated blockheads who serve a variety of special interests. You clearly do not want to believe that and I can’t seem to convince you. Nevertheless, they are perfectly capable of believing trash like the stuff in that PPT presentation, AND DO!!!
    “marxist” analysis implies a devotion to analysis of all problems in terms of economic determinism. It does NOT necessarily imply that this person is a “Marxist” in the political sense.
    Did we invade Oraq for the oil? No!! No!! We invaded Iraq because our “ignorant, self serving, poorly educated blockheads” managed to convince our people that a lot of nonsense was true. Why did they do it? I give up. believe whatever you want. “Sound geo-politica reasons…” My god, do you really think that decisions on policy are made for “sound geopolitical reasons?” you can’t be that naive.
    You don’t know any “Marxist” professors? Remarkable. pl

  43. JohnH says:

    I’m glad the Colonel clarified what he believes were the motivations for invading Iraq. He is definitely not alone. And I would agree that Israel was a key factor, serving at minimum as an important enabler via the neocons.
    Jonst posed an interesting point when he said: what changed in 2001? My answer: the realization that oil supplies were getting tight. Cheney had made a speech in 1998 noting declining discoveries and the critical role of ME oil to future supplies. (Cheney was immediately put in charge of the “energy security” task force in Feb. 2001. This was an obvious signal of Bush’s priorities.)
    During the election of 2000, oil prices were rising, and Bush promised to convince OPEC to “open their spigots.” HOW he intended to open the spigots was unclear until the invasion of Iraq…
    These are facts that clearly suggest an economic motivation to the Iraq War, if not to supply America, then to control the future allocation of a precious and diminishing resource to friend not foe.

  44. Pat Lang,
    You’re right on a couple of counts. I’ve never served anywhere near the top in government and I’m not that naive about the origins of policy. I do suffer from an irrestible urge to attempt to be facetious from time to time. It doesn’t always work. I truly have never met a “marxist professor”, but am positive that they do exist.
    I’m being summoned to dinner, but would inquire as to whether the motive to acquire access to natural resources constitutes economic determinism in the Marxist sense.
    This is a marvelous discussion.

  45. G Hazeltine says:

    I would like a proponent of the oil theory to explain to me how it is that you ‘control’ the oil, as a foreign occupying force.
    Saddam was the perfect client. He did ‘control’ the oil and was very happy to sell it to very large companies who were very happy to buy it from him.
    At the height of the Iraq conflict, which is to say any time the ‘insurgents’ chose to attack it, we could not ‘control’ the most important road in the country – the few miles from Baghdad to the airport.
    How then to ‘control’ the thousands of miles of pipeline in Iraq?
    The Irgun understood pipelines, and shut them down at will, notwithstanding a hundred thousand or British troops in a much smaller place. And when they decided to send a clearer message they set the Haifa refinery on fire – which burned for weeks.
    You ‘control oil’ through proxies. That we did what we did suggests that oil could not have been a motive.

  46. COL,
    I’d like to point out Rory Stewart’s recent article in the London Review of Books – The Irresistible Illusion.
    It’s an article the nicely doves with the futility of going down the AfPak strategy outlined here. And its filled with more clarity, more common sense that you can ever read in the most thoughtful journals in the US. For example:
    This [AfPak] policy rests on misleading ideas about moral obligation, our capacity, the strength of our adversaries, the threat posed by Afghanistan, the relations between our different objectives, and the value of a state. Even if the invasion was justified, that does not justify all our subsequent actions. If 9/11 had been planned in training camps in Iraq, we might have felt the war in Iraq was more justified, but our actions would have been no less of a disaster for Iraqis or for ourselves. The power of the US and its allies, and our commitment, knowledge and will, are limited. It is unlikely that we will be able to defeat the Taliban. The ingredients of successful counter-insurgency campaigns in places like Malaya – control of the borders, large numbers of troops in relation to the population, strong support from the majority ethnic groups, a long-term commitment and a credible local government – are lacking in Afghanistan.
    After seven years of refinement, the policy seems so buoyed by illusions, caulked in ambiguous language and encrusted with moral claims, analogies and political theories that it can seem futile to present an alternative. It is particularly difficult to argue not for a total withdrawal but for a more cautious approach. The best Afghan policy would be to reduce the number of foreign troops from the current level of 90,000 to far fewer – perhaps 20,000. In that case, two distinct objectives would remain for the international community: development and counter-terrorism. Neither would amount to the building of an Afghan state. If the West believed it essential to exclude al-Qaida from Afghanistan, then they could do it with special forces. (They have done it successfully since 2001 and could continue indefinitely, though the result has only been to move bin Laden across the border.) At the same time the West should provide generous development assistance – not only to keep consent for the counter-terrorism operations, but as an end in itself.
    Stewart was on Tom Ashbrook’s show today. An illuminating conversation and Q&A.

  47. JohnH says:

    G Hazeltine said, “I would like a proponent of the oil theory to explain to me how it is that you ‘control’ the oil, as a foreign occupying force.”
    Ah, the lessons the blockheads (Cheney, Bush) should have learned: you can put a gun to an oil producers head, but you can’t make him produce. And it seemed like such a good idea at the time!
    Back in 2005 or so the US Energy Administration noted that the Iraq war caused the 3rd greatest disruption in the world oil supply, exceeded only by the Arab oil embargo and the Iranian revolution. I don’t know if the disruption ranked #1 by 2008 or not.
    And to believe that lots of our fearless leaders in Washington want to repeat the experience in Iran.
    Blockheads all!!!

  48. batondor says:

    Pat… a correction is in order:
    Hagel and Hamilton were interviewed last Sunday, August on Face The Nation, not MTP as previously stated.
    Here’s a link:

  49. batondor says:

    The comment that I corrected at 8:01 AM apparently got lost in transmission… so here’s an attempt to reconstruct it:
    1) The best retort that I’ve heard to the idea that Iraq and Afghanistan are all about oil was this: stating that the two Iraq Wars were all about oil is the same as stating that the novel Moby Dick is just about a whale or that the movie Jaws is just about a shark…
    2) I am at pains to embrace your suggestion that (1) is just about Israel, as though a cabal of CNAC NeoCons in the 90’s concocted a scheme that would draw the US into the region militarily and politically while not interfering with an incremental land grab in the West Bank and the radicalization of Hamas in Gaza through humiliation and isolation (including the unilateral withdrawal, I might add)… though the greatest pain in it all is that you might be proven correct, if that was in fact your intent, as events continue to unfold… and that this pains me all the more when attempting to discuss these matters with family and friends on both sides of the argument.
    3) I think I also suggested that I hoped (and still believe, though with less confidence) that Obama sees the PPT and other grossly oversimplifying and misguided visions with almost as much distain as you and most of your readers (myself included) but that he’s stuck because the alternatives are equally difficult to formulate. I believe I indicated that I had heard the Rory Stewart interview on NPR and was wondering whether you agreed that his alternative – a smaller international force of about 20,000 (mainly SF) w/ a modest but sustained civilian development component… but without excessive social or political engineering – was viable or whether it was wishful thinking between “all in” and “get out”.
    Finally, and as a postscript, I wondered whether you or your readers had seen the interview of Chuck Hagel and Lee Hamilton on the Sunday talk circuit (I mistook CBS for NBC in my original version…). I thought it was somber, thoughtful, and (not?) surprisingly ignored by the rest of the media. On the other hand, I think McCain’s endorsement of more forces may be countered by Kerry when he makes his trip independently after the election… or at least I hope it will be.

  50. Bill Wade, NH says:

    Could it be that beefing up our forces in Afghanistan is really meant to cause further destabilization in Pakistan? India fears Pakistan’s nukes as do the Israelis. That’s my guess.

  51. Getting analytical (“foreign policy analysis”):
    politically correct “doctrine” informing Holbrooke mission.
    2) http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/08/12/holbrooke_vague_at_cap_event
    convenient list of Holbrooke “advisors”

  52. Gautam Das says:

    Hi all!
    My comments made just awhile ago on Pat Lang’s Koolaid article should actually have been made here.
    Anybody who feels like reading them could go there.
    Gautam Das
    New Delhi, India

  53. From UK Conservative Party spokesman:
    “However, he warned that the end of the war in Afghanistan would not mean the end of the war on Islamist terrorism. “In the cold war we weren’t dealing just with Russia, we had to deal with satellites too. We will have to do the same in this war,” he said. “We will face difficulties on a number of fronts and we will simply have to find the political and the military resilience to deal with it.”
    Public support for the war should be bolstered by explaining that British soldiers were fighting to avoid a strategic defeat for Nato, shattering its credibility as a deterrent force, he added.”
    Avoiding a “strategic defeat of NATO”. … Perhaps NATO expansion and changing dcotrine to accomodate “out of area” deployments have not been such a good idea. We can recall the 1990s debates over NATO’s future and critics of expansion and out of area deployments like George Kennan…

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