My Photo

« Nothing Says "Peace" Like Foreign Mercenaries | Main | A Shallower Recovery »

December 01, 2009

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d834515c2369e2012875f5c08a970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference And he sailed off through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year :

Comments

You want candid? I don't think that 34,000 more troops will be enough to fix this. I think that the 40,000+ more troops requested by McChrystal months ago might have been better, but I still don't think that even this number would've fix this.

Unlike Eric, however, I think that we have to try.

Your last sentence in no way follows from what you wrote before it. Its like you're embracing the very concept of a lost cause. Well, as long as the lukewarm anti-war crowd can furrow its brows in consternation and send someone else to fight its wars.

Actually, the problem may go back to the unwillingness of British India to make the Indus the frontier (too easy for the Russians to cross), which led to the Durand Line dividing Pashtunistan--as well as the existence of Pakistan. Suppose AfPak really had been one country--it would have been more viable than the two that now exist.

(For all this, see the wonderful book _Kyhber: An Imperial Migraine_)

We have to try, says von. Maybe so. But who is "we"?

Obama might still surprise me, but everything I've read suggests he's not about to ask "us" to cough up the money this trying will cost. "We" don't have to do a thing, because the only practical way "we" could do anything is chip in some tax money, and that's off the table. Taxing Americans to pay for trying in Afghanistan would be harder than pacifying Afghanistan. It's not even worth trying.

"We" are not interested in trying anything that costs "us" money. "We" are merely willing to let our soldiers bear the risk of trying, and our children bear the cost of trying. So let's be careful about flinging first-person plurals around.

--TP

"Because no one has yet explained how we fight the Taliban if the Afghani government turns against us (or disappears)."

wrong asumption. There is no real need to fight the Taliban, unless you still think the American empire has the right to impose its preferred governors/government on a foreign country.

The threat of terrorism is unlikely to come from Afghanistan next time when there are other more fertile breeding grounds.

by pushing the terrorists first into Iraq and now into Pakistan you only make the threat greater.

US learned nothing from Viet Nam. Almost impossible to win when interfering in someone else's civil war.

Because no one has yet explained how withdrawing from Afghanistan makes Afghanistan stable.

No one has yet explained how a foreign army in Afghanistan and Pakistan, killing civilians, recently in the business of buying people and shipping them overseas to be tortured, still running a prison camp in which people are held beyond reach of justice, is supposed to magically "make" Afghanistan stable.

I agree it would be better if the US tried to make Afghanistan stable, after thirty years of doing the other thing: but I have no notion how these people think keeping a foreign military occupation in place is supposed to do that, because all they ever come up with is: if we just kill enough of the wrong kind of Afghans, that should do it!

And yet that's been the US policy for thirty years, and Von, if you think it's just that it's not been applied hard enough - how many Afghans have to die for you to think it'll work? Got a number?

Longtime lurker, very occasional (once or twice a year) commenter.

Von, I agree with a lot of what you've said. I consider myself a liberal internationalist, and I do think we could 'win' in Afghanistan, with 'win' being defined as a stable, relatively non-corrupt, relatively free-ish nation-state that, if not an ally, isn't exactly an enemy.

People talk a lot about our moral obligation to the Afghan people, a moral obligation which absolutely exists and is not merely limited to them, but to all people everywhere. But what I don't see a lot (and I used to yell at Charles Bird about this back when he posted here) of concrete proposals for HOW to fulfill those obligations. I therefor present my own here:

At the BARE MINIMUM required... a million men, who are going to be there for a decade or two.

A massive, multi-trillion dollar (that's trillion with a 't') infrastructure project, designed to be sustainable after we've left, implemented with complete transparency as to the money flow, with the use of local labor and companies whenever possible.

Massive restraint among our men, EVEN IF it puts them in more danger and gets them killed. That means not allowing men on the ground to call in artillery or air strikes in populated areas, and flying our drones unarmed, and accepting the fact that we're going to take casualties among our forces as the price we pay for making damn sure we're not blowing up wedding parties by accident.

Enforcing free elections and government accountability. Obviously, ruling Afghanistan directly from DC would be both wrong and inadvisable.

What we CAN do, however, is this: we can guarantee that their elections are free and untainted, bringing in all manner of international observers to compel that. With governments in power, we can devote our top-notch, massively funded, world-class information gathering services to shining a spotlight on them. Corrupt officials will find their faces splashed all over newspapers, with copious evidence, manifestly unforged, presented therein. We will provide the tools and the transparency for the Afghans to enforce their own laws and find their own justice, EVEN IF doing so destabilizes and possibly destroys regimes prepared to accede to our every whim and play the role of a pliant client state.

THAT, Von, is what I think is the absolute minimum required to get the job done and done right in Afghanistan. That's CONCRETE, not merely hopefulness or a sense that 'we have to try.' And I think also that this country is absolutely and entirely unprepared to pay the price tag attached to it.

Which is why I also feel that, if we're not, its time to LEAVE, rather than keep chasing a chimera and getting a ton of people killed in the process. That's not as good as winning; but its better than gamely soldiering on with no end in sight. If we aren't willing to go big, and we NEED to go big.

I could be wrong. I'm hardly an expert and my analysis could be way off. But its how I feel.

(I apologize for the length of this comment, perhaps inappropriate in its loquaciousness.)

Mercutio: I apologize for the length of this comment, perhaps inappropriate in its loquaciousness.

Never apologize for writing a comment like that. ;-)

Von? *points to Mercutio's comment* That, there, is what I meant. Arguing for anything less is simply arguing for staying in Afghanistan to kill more people.

What Mercutio describes - a massive payback of the US's moral debt to the Afghan people - could work - maybe. But what Mercutio describes is politically impossible. The idea that the US owes Afghanistan, owes it big, has done so for thirty years, and should repay, is something that won't fly.

But anything less? - Isn't going to stabilize Afghanistan: isn't going to "win": it's just going to kill more Afghans, and dear God, Von, hasn't the US already killed enough?

minor point: a person from Afghanistan is an Afghan, not an Afghani or an Afghanistani or anything else. Likewise, a member of the Taliban is a Talib, not a Talibani.

Major, huge point: there is a massive logical flaw in saying "there is a very small chance that escalation will work but we have to try."
Because there's also a chance that withdrawal will 'work' - perhaps because many of the Taliban fighting are Kilcullen guerrillas, perhaps because the Afghan government isn't as weak as we think. Najibullah lasted three years after the Soviets left and only fell because Soviet aid dried up, after all.

And the good thing about withdrawal is there's no cost in direct blood guilt associated - neither coalition soldiers killed nor Afghans killed by the coalition.

Great von. Now I have my chance to offer my solution to Afghanistan: Leagalize drugs; Cut our military expenditures 75%; on the way out of Iraq and Afghanistan--invade (briefly) Saudi Arabia.

You say that would be absurd? That it would have "little if any chance" of success? Well, using your logic, that's just fine.

The glass is half full. Yes we can.

Mercutio, I agree with the spirit of what you have said, but no matter what resources the United States government puts into Afghanistan, they would remain outsiders telling the Afghans what to do. However well American troops behaved, they would still have guns, still answer to a foreign government. However transparent and benevolent the occupation, it would remain just that, an occupation.

Von's foundation statement that "there is still a chance" has a problem that no resources will fix: Western troops in Afghanistan can only foster Western values. For example, consider the issue of corruption. Our value system sets a high priority on excluding unequal influences over government officials; we take measures to discourage lobbyists, ensure an neutral civil service, and so on. But in the past, societies have treated influence as legitimate personal property, and the sharing of government offices among tribes and families an essential part of government. To accommodate the nature of various Afghan tribes, a government would have to do some things we might regard as corrupt.

I suggest that in fact, we can no more find the Afghans' way for them than the most progressive, liberal (in the best senses of that word) government of the late 18th century, namely George III's England, could find a way to govern the fractious American colonies from afar.

Because this was always going to be slow.

We've been in Afghanistan longer than we fought in WWI and WWII combined. But hey, fnck it, if it takes another ten years to realize failure, let's do this.

And does anyone know how to short U.S. Treasury securities?

When winter climbed up the beaches and you smoked cigarettes in dive bars in Alphabet City and wrote dreadful poetry about winter climbing up on beaches. (You know you were there, back when you could still smoke in New York.) You resolved that, this time, we would not just destroy; we would rebuild. We would try, at least.

Cripes, von. That actually was me (minus the dreadful poetry, thankfully); Avenue B and 4th. And, yeah, I did want to try to rebuild; and not destroy. Filled with the luminous righteous purpose that horror and trauma can provide oh so well.

But that was a while ago, now. And it turns out that others' can make ones' own promises (however sincere; however righteous) turn into nothing but ashes and char.

My fear: Too little! Too late! Too bad!

yankee go home

I'm not a liberal interventionist, but, on an emotional level I think I understand von's post. I have a sort of deathwish, I-give-up attitude about Afganistan, too. In my case I'd jump to "The hell with it, let's get out", but that's not so far from "The hell with it, let's try one last throw of the dice". After all, Obama hasn't had a throw yet.

I usually don't even read posts about AFganistan, let alone comment.

"...You want candid? I don't think that 34,000 more troops will be enough to fix this. I think that the 40,000+ more troops requested by McChrystal months ago might have been better, but I still don't think that even this number would've fix this.

Unlike Eric, however, I think that we have to try. "

And after 40K more troops are fed into the meat-grinder to "try", but still doesn't fix Afghanistan, then what? 40K more?

The whole "we have to stay, and escalate, or our credibility is shot" ("because we made a promise to the Afghanis") is just the kind of argument that kept the US in Vietnam long after it was clear that there was no winning.

I'd call that "foreign policy by butt-covering", but that's probably giving it too much credit.

About what Mercutio said:

The time for that (a Mashall Plan for Afghanistan, coupled with a much bigger occupation force) was ~7 years ago. And I'm not sure that would have worked either, but I figure it had as good or better odds as "blast the crap out of them."

The low-cost option was to declare the intervention a simple mix of manhunt and punitive strike, and pack up & leave after a few months. Take our shot at getting Osama, smack down the Taliban, and leave. The end.

Too late for either approach, IMO. At this point, it's between your preference (sending in more troops, and waiting & seeing) and mine (start pulling out, soon). Both suck.

And because we made a promise to the Afghanis, which doesn't get voided just because we'd like so much for it to be so.

Two thoughts. Or maybe three. First, excellent use of Eric Martin in this post ;)

Second, we made a promise to certain Afghan factions. To others, we have been busy raining death down on them. So, you see, some may not appreciate our penchant for keeping our word. The dead ones, mostly.

As to outstanding obligations, I recall, again, the wisdom of George Kennan:

"There is more respect to be won in the opinion of this world by resolute and courageous liquidation of unsound positions than by the most stubborn pursuit of extravagant or unpromising objectives."

"You resolved that, this time, we would not just destroy; we would rebuild."

I made no such promise, no such resolution.

I asked my representatives to not heed their boiling blood, to let reason rule our choices.

I asked them to stop chasing phantom glory in its nest of charred timber and broken bones.

I asked them to husband our resources wisely.

I asked them to seek justice, not retribution.

Just one more try at doubling down is the mantra of alcoholics and gamblers. Unless there is a diplomatic solution, there is none. And all the troops and time in the world won't change that.

Sorry to pile on, von. But anyway...

>>who are we? Dilettantes, who have no f_cking clue what we're doing...

I still don't think that even this number would've fix this...

Why? Because...

You (sic) resolved that, this time, we (sic) would not just destroy; we would rebuild. We would try, at least...<<

Rebuilding by spending somewhere between 10 and 100 (nearer 100) times as much on fighting a war as we are spending on development aid ?

By, in our best case scenarios, making Afghanistan's overwhelming dominant economic activity that of funding and running an army (in the place of opium production) ?

Given that you can predict no better future for Afghanistan with us there than without us - and without us would be about $100bn a year cheaper - I think it's time for the US to learn five of the most powerful words in the English language:

"I'm sorry. We were wrong."

von, I see that you're moved to eloquence

but this dilletante thinks (based on the experience of every power that has tried to unify or govern Afghanistan) that 400,000 troops would be insufficient to the task -- indeed, that 4,000,000 would still fail

neither Afghanistan or (tragically) Pakistan are actual nation-states, and no amount of force of arms can make them so.

we can spend blood and treasure without limit, clap as long and hard as we like, but Tinkerbelle is dead

more personally, I can stand the taxes, but I don't want to contribute the life of my son, or anyone's son.

You (sic) resolved that, this time, we (sic) would not just destroy; we would rebuild. We would try, at least...<<

I'm a little confused by the "(sics)". Are you criticizing the syntax (which is unusual but within the rules) or are you suggesting that a group member cannot make a promise on behalf of a group?

@von 11:20

I read that as "What do you mean we kemosabe". Presumably joel objects to you putting words in his mouth and thoughts in his head. The sic notation just means thus (this is what the person I'm quoting wrote, verbatim) and calls out your use of pronouns that implicate all of your readers.

Sure, pumping more troops in might work. Personally, I doubt it. Buy hey! it looks like we're going to put that experiment to the test. If additional troops doesn't come with any real gains can we declare that experiment a failure and try something new?

If we wanted to rebuild Afghanistan, wouldn't it be more useful to send over 40,000 engineers and construction workers and aid workers and doctors and farmers and teachers, rather than soldiers? Soldiers can do some of these, and some of these double as soldiers, like the Army Corps of Engineers, or volunteers in the various Guards, but mostly soldiers are trained to blow stuff up, including people.

As for "our" promises of fixing things, as mentioned above, the time for that was right after we took out the Taliban, but that's not what happened, what happened was we forgot about them and decided to destroy Iraq, too. The question is, can those 40K troops make enough of a difference now, after seven years of neglect and muddling and bombing wedding parties?

And no, I don't know what to do about Afghanistan, but I think overall I'm in the "fix it big and right or get out" camp. And of course, I'm also in the very non-serious camp that thinks maybe we should actually pay for our wars. But the Very Serious Moderates Who Hawk Budgets faint at the idea of a tax to pay for the wars, so that's not going to happen either. So I and my kids and grandkids will be paying the bills for these wars, while probably putting the next one on credit too.

After "we" decided not to let the 10th Mountain Division and Special Forces do at Tora Bora what they are well trained to do, our Afghan Adventure has been a fool's errand for any citizen to see. And I'm a citizen, not a dilettante.

But, really, who are we? Dilettantes, who have no f_cking clue what we're doing.

IMO this is the most intelligent thing anyone has said about Afghanistan in a very long time.

You resolved that, this time, we would not just destroy; we would rebuild.

With respect, this resolution strikes me as "yes, we're going to f**k with your country again, and yes the last 10 times we did so we screwed it up royally, but *this* time we really, really, really are going to get it right".

I recognize that Obama inherited a mess, and that there are a limited set of options that are remotely politically feasible, but my money says another 30K troops is just dragging out the inevitable, where "the inevitable" is some lengthy, more or less violent process by which the Afghan people figure out how they want to govern themselves.

If there's a practical way to put 40,000 relief and aid workers in the country without having them all ending up dead, I'm all for that. Other than that, I think we're beating our heads against the wall. We simply don't have a clear, practical, realistic idea of what "success" means, or how to go about making it happen.

We don't live there. It's not our country. There is no definition of an "acceptable outcome" that we can invent that will be seen as binding by the Afghan people. We can keep beating our head against the wall to try to "make the right thing happen this time" but it's not up to us to either define what the "right thing" is, or to make it happen.

I don't think this is going to sink in for Americans until we bankrupt ourselves, in every sense, including but not limited to the financial, and have to give it up as a bad job.

That will take years. At a million bucks, per year, per soldier, not a whole lot of years, but years. IMO we'll be in Afghanistan for another five or ten years. Iraq, too. We'll be there until the whole project rots from the inside out, then we'll leave. When we do, the place will probably look a lot like it does now.

At that point, the Afghan people will pick up the ball and figure out how they want to govern themselves, and we'll have damned little to say about it.

You remember that promise, right? You probably made it, like I did, sometime in the winter of 2001.

i never made any such promise. in fact, i was one of the lonely few who stood there wagging my finger at people like you who were making promises i knew you weren't going to keep.

you remember people like me, right? we're the unserious people who were completely shut out of the debate all you people insisted we needed to have.

Presumably joel objects to you putting words in his mouth and thoughts in his head.

von could hardly be expected to use "I"; "we" does not necessarily include joel, it just means that there's more than one subject. Im pretty sure we can find at least one person who agrees with von to make it a "we".

Im pretty much done with the larger Afghanistan debate anyway- everyone knows the positions (ie "we owe it to the Afghan people" and "withdrawing could be disasterous" versus "staying could be making things worse" and "the cost/benefit doesn't justify staying"), and absent new data Im not sure what else can be added.

But I appreciate von's admission that we're all guessing (and, as usual, our best guesses align perfectly with our political opinions). There is one thing I do know: when all is said and done, 99% of the people will believe that the eventual outcome justifies their current positions (or, however they'll remember those positions when the time comes). I admit, I thought we could do Afghanistan right back in 2001, but instead of thinking that I was wrong I end up thinking that Bush screwed up a fixable situation. Not sure if Im fooling myself tho.

I read that as "What do you mean we kemosabe". Presumably joel objects to you putting words in his mouth and thoughts in his head. The sic notation just means thus (this is what the person I'm quoting wrote, verbatim) and calls out your use of pronouns that implicate all of your readers.

I wonder whether that is it. (The putting words in his mounth bit, not the bit about the meaning of "sic". It's been a couple decades, but I floundered through two years of Latin and that sticks with you. Heck, I can still conjugate Hic!) (Haec Hoc ....)

But the Very Serious Moderates Who Hawk Budgets faint at the idea of a tax to pay for the wars, so that's not going to happen either.

I assume that you favor a hypothecated tax for all government projects. ("Don't legislate if you won't hypothecate" -- catchy slogan, that.)

Incidentally, Jes, Mercutio, and others: I agree with you that we should be doing Afghanistan with many more troops and a much larger investment. But there is no political will to do that now, and so we're left to gamble on either a substandard effort or withdrawal.

I'll repeat a question that I made in the piece: Is there some study regarding what happens if/when US and NATO forces withdraw? Who gets displaced, who gets killed, who ends up ruling, etc.? Or do we JUST NOT CARE about such petty things once we depart a place?

I'll repeat a question that I made in the piece: Is there some study regarding what happens if/when US and NATO forces withdraw? Who gets displaced, who gets killed, who ends up ruling, etc.? Or do we JUST NOT CARE about such petty things once we depart a place?

I would imagine there would be more of these types of plans if there was even a whiff of a chance of such a course of action being adopted. Either way, withdrawal would be a slow, measured process, and there would likely be attempts to fortify the Afghan government in the process.

In addition, there have been ongoing discussions about reaching out to Taliban leaders (some outreach has occurred already) and trying to incorporate them into the governing structure. This would presumably heat up big time if withdrawal was even remotely imminent.

There has also been talk about convening a Loya Jirga as a means of creating a political framework/modus vivendi for Afghanistan's various warring factions that have been locked out by the electoral process.

You remember that promise, right? You probably made it, like I did, sometime in the winter of 2001. When every day was colder than the last. When every day was shorter than the last. When winter climbed up the beaches and you smoked cigarettes in dive bars in Alphabet City and wrote dreadful poetry about winter climbing up on beaches. (You know you were there, back when you could still smoke in New York.) You resolved that, this time, we would not just destroy; we would rebuild. We would try, at least.

I thought we'd have purged tough guy 9/11 ism from our political discourse a long time ago. This seems straight out of NRO or Hitchens territory. I mean, if you were serious about promises and long war shit, than I'd have hoped you would've enlisted after 9/11.

Or do we JUST NOT CARE about such petty things once we depart a place?

I don't think americans have cared what happens to a place once we depart since WWII, maybe Korea. Otherwise, there's Vietnam, Afghanistan (the first time), Lebanon, Libya, Panama, Iraq (the first time), Somalia, etc. etc. etc.

Von - " Is there some study regarding what happens if/when US and NATO forces withdraw? Who gets displaced, who gets killed, who ends up ruling, etc.? Or do we JUST NOT CARE about such petty things once we depart a place?"

...a further question -- was anything like this considered for the cost of failing when the operation was planned in the first place? Or does that sort of thinking violate the can-do attitude required for career advancement in the professional military?

There's no corner on the apathy market, especially when self-interest is buying.

von: I can call Very Serious Moderate Who Hawks Budgets on their Very Serious Concern About Deficits while they vote for estate tax cuts and more war without being a Very Serious Moderate Who Hawks Budgets. In other words, "You say this is important, but your actions show otherwise". That doesn't mean I believe exactly as they do, I'm pointing out that they don't really believe what they say they believe. (Evan Bayh, Joe Lieberman, most Republicans)

But yes, in general, I do actually favor taxes to pay for the things government does. Such as, say, much higher marginal rates on incomes over a million, and progressing. Tax capital gains as income. Etc.

von: Is there a study regarding what happens if we say? who gets displaced, who gets killed, who ends up ruling, etc? How many weddings are acceptable collateral? How many hundreds of thousands of civilians die or just see everything they had destroyed when we "clear" a city?

We're trying to choose from the least bad of two really bad options, thanks to the Worst President Ever.

I hereby adopt Nate's comment as my own.

was anything like this considered for the cost of failing when the operation was planned in the first place?

In fairness, the operation we've been carrying out for the last seven/eight years was never planned in any meaningful sense. It grew out of a combination of impulse, official neglect and tactical bricolage* and improvisation.

* - h/t Claude Levi-Strauss, RIP.

Von - " Is there some study regarding what happens if/when US and NATO forces withdraw? Who gets displaced, who gets killed, who ends up ruling, etc.? Or do we JUST NOT CARE about such petty things once we depart a place?" (Thanks for the cuttable and pasteable quote, nous.)

I'm unclear on the logic here. If something really awful were to happen after we left and it seemed to be in our interest or a moral imperative to do something about it, why wouldn't we be able to decide what to do then? There seems to be a sunk-cost aspect to this "we have to stay" thinking such that leaving can't be evaluated the way staying can. How is this?

Look, the US is my country. Its soldiers are my people. But its army is not my army. The whole question about whether "we" should stay or go becomes a lot simpler when we ask: should Obama order Americans to kill and die in a land they do not understand, in order to prevent consequences or achieve goals that nobody understands?

I would absolutely vote to put a trillion, two trillion, five trillion dollars in a bank account and say, "any government in Afghanistan that is supported by over half the population, seen as legitimate by over three quarters, and respects the basic civil rights of women and minorities is entitled to 10% of this account per year". I'd pay my share. But sending people to kill and die for sure, in the remote hope that they may fulfill a second-best promise I made nearly 10 years ago, is insanity.

This post is nonsense. When all us fails, appeals to sentimentality and "promises."

I don't remember any promise to rebuild, and I don't particularly care what promises you made after your 6th beer in the East Village.

I remember a promise to catch Bin Laden, and that's it. Where is he? I remember we told the Taliban we had no beef with them. We just wanted Bin Laden. What happened to that?

Should we keep fighting the War on Drugs because Nixon promised we would get rid of drugs?

Give me a break. Try again please.

We elected the wrong guy, saying the wrong things, if what we wanted was to liquidate our foreign positions. He campaigned on liquidating one of our positions (which he is doing slowly) and doubling down on the other. And that is what he is doing. If progressives wanted the liquidation of the Afghan position and a slow withdrawal from Iraq, they should never have raised the failure in Afghanistan as the cost of an unwise war in Iraq, and merely accepted the Republican victory vis-a-vis the iraqi surge, which would have allowed for a slow withdrawal. I think most potential Republican presidential candidates would have been only to happy to allow Afghanistan to drift and slowly liquidate it had they not been forced by Democrats using Afghanistan as a cudgel to re-embrace it. I cheered that political tactic because I supported the policy that underlay it and still do. Any progressive or anyone else who nodded along as Afghanistan was used by Democrats as a political tool to gain power but who didn't actually support the policy offered to remediate the situation thereby did their country and their political movement a profound disservice. The dissonance and disunity the president now faces around this question as a result of those discordant positions taken by the more mobilized sections of the polity represents a significant civic challenge for our country going forward. It was a regrettable and avoidable outcome that will have a serious impact on the progressive agenda going forward.

We elected the wrong guy, saying the wrong things, if what we wanted was to liquidate our foreign positions.

Which viable alternative candidate would be taking a different tack?

I think most potential Republican presidential candidates would have been only to happy to allow Afghanistan to drift and slowly liquidate it had they not been forced by Democrats using Afghanistan as a cudgel to re-embrace it.

Actually, other than Ron Paul, none would have. Certainly not John 100 Years McCain.

Any progressive or anyone else who nodded along as Afghanistan was used by Democrats as a political tool to gain power but who didn't actually support the policy offered to remediate the situation thereby did their country and their political movement a profound disservice.

What was the alternative?

I knew that Obama felt comitted to Afganistan. So did Clinton. It's possible that, since Repubicans can lose wars without being labelled as weak, a vote for McCain would have been a vote for a showy displace of machismo followed by a quiet withdrawal. Nixon quit Viet Nam and everyne blamed the Democrats. Eisenhower quit Korea and everyone forgot about it. McCain could quit Afganistan and still go down in Villager and Repubican lore as the great srong leader.

However, there were other issues in the last election and I did not choose to ignore those issues to vote for McCain because he, as a Republican, can declare victory and withdraw while Obama, no matter what he does, will get blamed by the Repbulicans no matter what happens.

I didn't have the option of voting for someone who planned to do just exactly what I wanted done.

10 years of war in Afghanistan! Hooray! Can we get 10 years of war in Iraq? Fnck yeah we can!

What the Medium Lobster said. Also.

von:
and generally go Maurice Sendak on ya'll


Apropos of not much, the word "y'all" is itself an abomination, but if you're going to use it, the least you could do is put the apostrophe in the appropriate location.

[/nothing of value to add]

Apropos of not much, the word "y'all" is itself an abomination

I heartily agree. Civilized speakers of colloquial American English use "yinz" for the second-person plural.

Which viable alternative candidate would be taking a different tack?

Just about all of them were more circumspect in their statements about their intentions toward Afghanistan. If this is truly not in our interest and we believed to be so at the time, we were insane to elect the man we did. A hawk, preferably Republican (therefore not facing inherent questions about his national security credibility) but Clinton certainly left rhetorical room to maneuver as well, would have been in a far better position to dispassionately assess the interests and prospects at play in Afghanistan and potentially see that it was hopeless/not worthwhile and potentially acted accordingly. The only sensible way for anyone to interpret the results of the 2008 U.S. election was that we wanted to shift focus and resources to Afghanistan in order to try to bring it to a successful conclusion rather than continue to drift or simply accept defeat. Barack Obama was the clearest of all candidates that that was his intention, and there was absolutely nothing inevitable at any time about his election.

Besides which, which presidential candidates are viable and which not -- that's entirely on us (the polity, not progressives alone of course) as well.

Or, the 2008 election was about a multitude of issues, of which Afghanistan was only one.

Nate, you're absolutely right, but the main way Obama distinguished himself from his Democratic rivals was by what he had to say about how we should change the direction of our war policies. And that was by trumpeting unequivocally the need to refocus of resources toward Afghanistan from Iraq, not a general need to retrench and focus on needs at home. If we really didn't want to see this policy come to bear, we should have pointedly not voted for Obama and made a big, big show of it. Elections are about what the most vocal, mobilized people in the electorate make them about. I remember a lot of satisfaction and embracing with the line that critiqued Bush for looking away from Afghanistan and the promise to refocus on it. I don't remember a visible, vocal contingent of people rejecting that argument by pointedly rejecting Obama on the basis of it. Instead, they took his clear stance against the Iraq war as an implicit position of getting us out of our wars. That was just a denial of the plain meaning of his words. If I am right that that was the general tenor of things in '07 and '08 and that that willful misreading of Obama's candidacy occurred, then that's why I am taking this position now. I can't accept that such incoherence is going to be how we do politics on our side of the spectrum going forward.

On the other hand, if I was not paying attention to the right people at the time, and such a rejection of Obama and his message occurred and I am simply not giving it due notice, then I absolutely accept that. I'm not asking anyone who has strenuously opposed this policy all along to accept it now because the election went the way it did. I'm only asking for consistency. I'm not even asking for an accounting of who said what when -- I just leave it to everyone's individual recollections and conscience to determine if this schism occurred or if I merely wasn't paying due attention during the election. Either possibility is entirely plausible. But the contention that it had to be Obama because he was the plausible anti-war candidate strains credulity. he made himself plausible by being the most hawkish Democrat (and arguably the most hawkish overall) on Afghanistan. I supported that stance then and now and am frustrated that many seemed to find a way not to hear his clear program when he was clearly presenting it for our acceptance or rejection.

Civilized speakers of colloquial American English use "yinz" for the second-person plural.

I'm sorry, but either "youse" (often followed by "guys") or "yas" is best, depending on context.

Apropos of not much, the word "y'all" is itself an abomination

Actually, the problem I see in von's usage is that he's using "y'all" as a plural.

As we all know, the correct plural construction is "all y'all".

No, no, no, russell. That's an understandable mistake, but "all y'all" is used to disambiguate when simultaneously addressing multiple individuals (or multiple subgroups) where a simple "y'all" could be confused with addressing a subset. E.g., "It's okay for you kids to play ball on my lawn, but if all y'all start fightin' again, there's gonna be trouble."

Sheesh.

(I am appalled that no one's spoken up in defense of "you'uns" yet though...)

It's because of all y'all's incredible insight on subjects such as the use of y'all that I read the comments to this blog so faithfully. Thanks so much, russell and Nombrilisme Vide, for elucidating that which we all instinctively knew to be true.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Whatnot


  • visitors since 3/2/2004

August 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31            
Blog powered by Typepad

QuantCast