FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama and Afghanistan

We hope for Barack Obama to have all the success in the world. And given his smarts — he seems far and away the smartest president-elect in the last 45 years — he should although, as one person put it to me, people hope for so much from him that there conceivably could be no way he will not disappoint and begin to catch tremendous flak, even early on. Yet one nonetheless hopes he will be tremendously successful.

There are, however, a few things about which he should be very careful, in the interest of both himself and the nation. To me, foremost among them is the possibility of war in Afghanistan. Obama has said we should get out of Iraq, but fight in Afghanistan. If he really believes that instead of just having said it for campaign purposes, and if he really does it, then his presidency is already doomed. Neither Alexander the Great, nor the British nor the Russians succeeded there. The British once sent out a column of what — 20 or 25 thousand troops? — of whom I think two returned (that’s two as in two, not as in two thousand). The Russians had, I think, about 150,000 men there and lost what, about 14,000 dead, despite modern weapons, if I remember correctly? There is something about the countryside, the people, the mindset that does not admit of victory by invaders. We found out in Viet Nam and Iraq that we cannot accomplish our imperial military aims any better than the British, the French (in Algeria and Indo China) or the Russians could. And we already have learned in Afghanistan that we cannot convert that opium growing, warlord-ridden nation into a democracy that focuses on other things. If Obama were to fight a war in Afghanistan, his Presidency would be as good as over. Huge numbers of us who supported him, and have hopes for him, will leave him and begin assailing him.

War has destroyed five presidencies in the last 90 years, those of Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. History says it will destroy Obama’s too if he really meant it when he said he will fight in Afghanistan, that graveyard for empires.

And, when one thinks about it, why fight in Afghanistan? Initially we fought there because its government, the Taliban, had harbored Al Qaeda. So we decided to depose the Taliban instead of simply destroying Al Qaeda’s camps — a very questionable decision, if one that was at least understandable given the temper of the time. But in the long run it didn’t work. The Taliban are back. The opium is back. The warlords continue. And when they have to, Al Qaeda personnel simply go into Pakistan. To think we are going to change the situation (without the commitment of at least what — a million men? 1.5 million men?) defies both recent history and long term history since Alexander the Great. Even if we were to commit a million men, Al Qaeda will simply go to Pakistan. And then what will we do — invade Pakistan? Not to mention that our military actions and our actions against prisoners are our opponents’ finest recruiting tools and thereby promote endless war.

Better to try to achieve peace, use humint to locate enemies, and, if and when necessary, destroy enemy camps or bases with all that vaunted high tech military stuff like predators and guided bombs.

One can only pray that a smart guy like Obama sees the light on this and does not fight a war in Afghanistan. Otherwise one will in future have to write that war destroyed the presidencies of Wilson, Truman, Johnson, Nixon, Bush and Obama.

There is another, lesser matter that I think Obama should be careful about. It is being said that, to some extent, he is filling his transition team and administration with persons from the Clinton Administration. (It would be harsh to call them retreads, would it not?) There are obvious reasons for this: experience and keeping peace within the Democratic Party are two of them. When Carter failed to do this in 1976, his administration foundered, partly for lack of experience. But if Obama goes too far with this, he is going to create bitter enmity among so many who had much to do with his success and who will be very put off by a second coming of Clintonia.

Lawrence Velvel, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, is the author of Thine Alabaster Cities Gleam and An Enemy of the People. He can be reached at: Velvel@VelvelOnNationalAffairs.com

 

More articles by:

Lawrence Velvel, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, is the author of Thine Alabaster Cities Gleam and An Enemy of the People. He can be reached at: Velvel@VelvelOnNationalAffairs.com

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador   Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail