Tag Archives | war supplemental 2010

I read in the paper that you don’t care about Afghanistan

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

I’m not perfect. I don’t get everything right, not by a long shot. For example, remember my optimistic response to Thomas Ruttig’s pessimistic report on the Kabul Peace Jirga? Turns out I was super wrong about that. I understand this blogosphere of ours is an open debate, and I’m willing to reassess how I may have misjudged whatever the situation is on any given day.

So when I see a headline in the New York Times like “In Midterm Elections, Afghan War Barely Surfaces“, something that directly contradicts my analysis, I’m more than happy to take a look and see what we have to learn. Continue Reading →

Afghanistan: What Happens When Our Allies “Do More”

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

If you’ve been following the recent military operations in Helmand and Kandahar, you’ve likely noticed that it’s been something of an unmitigated disaster. And not just a disaster in the sense that most of our military efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan have been disasters, this is the make-or-break moment for the US counterinsurgency strategy. My colleague Derrick Crowe writes:

No reporter should let Secretary Gates, General McChrystal, or President Obama off the hook in the coming months regarding the make-or-break nature of the Kandahar operation for their (poorly) chosen COIN strategy in Afghanistan. As described in the report to Congress, Kandahar/Helmand is the main effort, and everything else is either a “shaping,” “supporting,” or “economy of force (read: leftovers)” operation. Kandahar/Helmand is the COIN strategy. If ISAF fails there, it fails, period.

Fail there, fail everywhere. Couldn’t be any more clear than that. And that’s not his characterization, he’s citing the people in charge. Derrick then offers us some advice:

Members of Congress considering funding the ongoing Kandahar/Helmand/escalation strategy should read these comments from Secretary Gates with alarm. He’s hedging and trying to set expectations because he knows the COIN effort is in serious, “bleeding ulcer” trouble. Congress should save us all a whole lot of trouble and vote against the $33 billion war spending supplemental under consideration.

Right, when you pressure your representative to block the funding, they need to be made fully aware that our strategy is broken and ruinous. But the problem is, it won’t be that easy. Politicians can be very slippery, even the ones we like, and they’ll try to shift the blame on to someone else. “No, it’s not the strategy,” they’ll say, “it’s our allies. Our allies need to do more.” The folks on Capitol Hill are big believers in Counterinsurgency doctrine, and as we’ve seen, COIN is not a doctrine, but an ideology that can never be proven or dis-proven. Communism isn’t the problem, it’s “human nature” that fails. Conservatism can’t fail, only you can fail to be conservative. And our COIN strategy can’t fail, it has to be the fault of our allies.

But that’s wrong. Our allies have been doing more, a lot more. NATO, Karzai, and Pakistan have all been participating in President Obama’s escalation strategy, and that is only making the problem worse. If we see what it is our allies are actually doing, we’ll find that the COIN defenders are wrong. Our counterinsurgency strategy, the idea that occupation and war have anything remotely to do with stabilizing and developing a nation, is the problem. The US will try to shift the blame onto our allies, but as we’ll see, Derrick is right, it’s our war that is the problem. Continue Reading →

Rethink Afghanistan: How to Get What You Pay For

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

As of this morning, the cost of our war in Afghanistan hit the $1 Trillion mark:

You can head over to Facebook and tell us what you would do with a trillion dollars. You’d be surprised at what you could be getting for that money. You could buy Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn many times over, or buy health care for everyone. Only it’s just a game, isn’t it? You’re not really buying that stuff. But as the video says, you’re not really getting what you’re paying for in Afghanistan either.

You’re not any safer because of that money. If anything, you’re less safe because of that wasted money. California had to cut its “Healthy Families” program, among countless other basic human services. We’re supporting corrupt drug addicts and committed war mongers overseas. We even have airplanes literally falling out of the sky because of how our broken our economy is. That trillion dollars is gone, the war is coming up to its 104th month, and we have only disaster to show for it.

But don’t be fooled by our Facebook app. It’s more than just a game. No, you can’t buy Bill Gates or the Large Hadron Collider, but you can actually force the government to spend money on programs which do make us safer. You can even cut off the war ending funding entirely. After all, the cost is just hitting $1 trillion, it’s not stopping there. It’s only going up, faster and faster as President Obama’s escalation continues. It’s not as simple as dropping your items in a shopping cart, but it doesn’t take much more than that either. With just a little bit of action, you can go way beyond a Facebook game and actually accomplish real change. Continue Reading →

Rethink Afghanistan: Broken Government’s Body Count

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

One of my biggest pet peeves about war coverage is the constant flow of quasi-racist stereotypes about Afghans. You know, Afghanistan is the “Graveyard of Empires,” they’re all xenophobic murderers, they’re “tribal” and backwards and illiterate and can’t handle modernity and on and on it goes. These slurs can work for either side. It’s the Graveyard of Empires, so we should pull out. Or they’re tribal, so we need to kill the bad ones and arm the good ones (great idea!). Obviously, the stereotypes are not true. After all, why is Afghanistan the Graveyard of Empires and not, y’know, the United States? Lots of great imperial powers have gotten their butts kicked there by kooky, backward white people and their slave-holding, witch-burning tribal law. They even have a violent global jihad against anyone who doesn’t willfully submit to their 18th century system of governance. But that’s a hateful and insulting perspective, perverted to the point of dangerous inaccuracy, so we reserve it exclusively for the Afghans (even Iraqis held on to the “Cradle of Civilization”). Here’s a piece, though, that I think might help cut through that, and show us just how much we have in common with Afghans.

However, more personal matters also contributed to [Hezb-e Islami MP Ataullah Ludin’s] decision to step down from parliament. “People do not fully realize what our responsibilities as members of parliament are. They are actually three: the legislative function, the monitoring and opposition to government decrees that we do not accept, and the representation of our electorate, so that people’s desires and opinions can be assessed in parliament. [emphasis added]

Sound familiar? You’ve heard it before:

Bayh cited the lack of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill as his main reason for leaving, adding to skepticism that the fractiousness in Washington can be repaired and undermining President Obama’s efforts to build bridges.

“There is too much partisanship and not enough progress — too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem-solving,” Bayh said in a statement. “Even at a time of enormous challenge, the people’s business is not being done.” [emphasis added]

The government is broken, in Afghanistan and the United States, and the body count from this break down continues to skyrocket. Ending the war will require not only rethinking the way we look at Afghans, but also the way we look at ourselves. Both Afghans and Americans die for our failures. If we don’t use government the way it’s supposed to function, if we continue to play media games with our politics, the death toll will only get worse.

Continue Reading →