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Sunday, October 31, 2004
By Steven L. Taylor

Today’s Krauthammer:

Within days of Sept. 11, the clueless airhead president that inhabits Michael Moore’s films and Tina Brown’s dinner parties had done this: forced Pakistan into alliance with us, isolated the Taliban, secured military cooperation from Afghanistan’s northern neighbors, and authorized a radical war plan involving just a handful of Americans on the ground, using high technology and local militias to utterly rout the Taliban.

President Bush put in place a military campaign that did in two months what everyone had said was impossible: defeat an entrenched, fanatical, ruthless regime in a territory that had forced the great British and Soviet empires into ignominious retreat. Bush followed that by creating in less than three years a fledgling pro-American democracy in a land that had no history of democratic culture and was just emerging from 25 years of civil war.

[...]

This election comes down to a choice between one man’s evolution and the other man’s resolution. With his endlessly repeated Tora Bora charges, Kerry has made Afghanistan a major campaign issue. So be it. Whom do you want as president? The man who conceived the Afghan campaign, carried it through without flinching when it was being called a “quagmire” during its second week and has seen it through to Afghanistan’s transition to democracy? Or the retroactive genius, who always knows what needs to be done after it has already happened — who would have done “everything” differently in Iraq, yet in Afghanistan would have replicated Bush’s every correct, courageous, radical and risky decision — except one. Which, of course, he would have done differently. He says. Now.

Indeed.

The whole thing is worth a read.

The funny thing is I have read/heard plenty of Democrats who praise Afghanistan, whilst pretending that the same defense/foreign policy team that “must go” because of Iraq had nothing to do with it.

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5 Responses to “Kerry’s Afghan Amnesia (washingtonpost.com)”

  1. hkr Says:

    I hate seeming so contrarian recently because this blog is certainly an intelligent place on the web. And while I’m not personally happy with a lot of Bush’s choices, I tend to see this blog as what democracy is supposed to be, attempts to dissect the issues thoughtfully. There are a lot of cheerleaders out there, the so-called blind faithful for the president, and then there are those who follow the president in many respects because his ideology lines up with their own but they don’t use that as an excuse to turn off their brains.

    Anyway, since I do happen to disagree with many of the president’s choices, I do happen to be contrarian…again.

    I admit I’m not a great fan of the current incarnation of Charles Krauthammer. I think his views and vision have gotten narrower over the years to where he just seems to miss a lot these days.

    As far as Afghanistan, this is an effort that the entire free world agreed upon — and most of the non-free world for that matter. I think the only hold-outs were the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, who had diplomatic ties with the Taliban. But they caved in pretty quickly as well.

    Routing the Taliban was no great feat at all. President Musharraf of Pakistan predicted the US would do it within two weeks, so it actually took us longer than the man who knew them best predicted it would. I don’t think that’s a knock against us. We did it intentionally conservatively — in contrast to the way we handled Iraq. Afghanistan had been a complete mess for decades, so there was no established wealth. We’re talking about Ethiopia-caliber “wealth.” No military, which is why bin Laden’s Toyota truck donations were so eagerly accepted by the “military.” So that’s what we’re dealing with. Krauthammer was once an open-minded guy but as time has gone on he’s grown more and more spin-minded and closed-minded, I believe. (He’s in a wheelchair, of course, but that doesn’t inherently make someone cynical. Sometimes it has the opposite effect, forcing someone to find the joys in life; but Krauthammer seems to have taken the first route.)

    Pakistan joined up with the US out of very careful and very wise calculation. They had been by far the number one source of aid and support for the Taliban, which was of course for years sheltering one of America’s top public enemies. After the US said it wouldn’t differentiate between the terrorists and those who sponsor them, Musharraf was in a tough predicament. He’s a meditative and strategically-minded general, relatively moderate especially for someone who took power in a military coup. He looked at that situation and saw two options: 1. Cooperate with the US and take a yellow-brick road, despite having screwed us over for years, or 2. Jump off a bridge, resist the US, and simply say a Hail Mary. This would have accomplished almost nothing, and would have been about the most self-destructive choice he could have made. Instead of a bomb on his head, he’s actually got generous US aid and lots of pretty concessions. We even allowed him to let his nuclear delinquent (who sold nuke technology to rogue nations) off with a very light slap on the wrist. Not even a slap; more like a soft talking-to. (By the way, one of the reasons the scientist gave is that he wanted Islamic and Arab nations to have access to nuclear technology. That certainly explains why he sold nuke technology to Kim Jong-il of North Korea.)

    Guys like Krauthammer are exactly the ones who are driving our Middle East policy. And they DO NOT understand terrorism as it relates to the priorities of American foriegn policy. There are actually more cynical ways to appraise their reasoning, but I’ll stay out of that.

    As for Afghanistan being a “quagmire,” it could have turned into a quagmire if not for some things falling our way. But Afghanistan had been so ravaged for so many years that the people had little desire left for resistance. They had little love for the Taliban in the first place, and saw no hope of the Taliban defeating the US. Thus, a quagmire wasn’t as likely there as it was in Iraq. Krauthammer’s friend Paul Wolfowitz was one of the first to bring up the notion that Afghanistan could be a quagmire. Wolfowitz suggested that since Afghanistan “had the makings of a quagmire,” the US should focus on Iraq instead. Rumsfeld thought we should focus on BOTH at the same time. Douglas Feith, next in rank at the Pentagon, never seemed to care about much of anything but Iraq. (CNN: “[Wolfowitz thought] the larger threat to American security was sitting not in a cave in Afghanistan but in a Baghdad bunker.”) Bush decided to start with Afghanistan, but long before finishing it to distract himself with Iraq — aside from Rumsfeld’s option of tackling both at the same time from the beginning, this was about the worst possible choice.

    Krauthammer is simply being disengenuous when he talks about “retroactive genius.” Most people thought going into Iraq at that point would be a bad idea, particularly the way we did it. The Bush administration had to sell the idea to people who were skeptical and grudgingly went along. This was THEIR war. He can’t use this retroactive wisdom line. He supported the war. He and his friends were among the driving forces. They didn’t have as much company as they want you to believe, although they did a decent job of rounding people up, not always by what I would consider to be ethical means.

    And as for Bush taking his eye off of bin Laden. Yes, he did. He all but admitted he took his eye off of bin Laden. The difference between he and I is that I think he made the wrong decision. He never thinks he makes a wrong decision.

    A lot of Americans seem to agree with him, but I can’t say most of them make great arguments as to why, in my opinion.

    For the record, though, Bush should NOT have traded Sammy Sosa. Bad idea. And it does take a big man to admit a mistake like that. How many years ago was that? I believe it was 1989 if memory serves.

    “George W. Bush: Mistake-free for a decade and a half.”

    I doesn’t make mistakes.

  2. Sam Miller Says:

    Bush had three years to get Bin Laden,
    and he didn’t.

    Although he made big words around it right after 9/11.

    His approval rate was above 90% back then.

    Since then he started a different war.
    And Bin Laden is still at large. He even said he would not be that concerned about him.

  3. Steven Taylor Says:

    Except, of course, for the fact that al Qaeda’s leadership and infrastructure have been largely destroyed and the fact that Osama appears to be left to only being able to send out annual videotaped missives to the world. True, Osama isn’t dead: but the organization he used to attack us on 911 is very much wounded. And he himself has been taken out of the game in may respects.

  4. swim Says:

    The original al-Qaeda organization has been affected, thanks mostly to international cooperation Bush himself has helped to thwart. But the Iraq war and Bush’s go-it-alone strategy have also increased the risk, and al-Qaeda has adapted. But it would also be nice to catch the guy who killed a few thousand Americans, wouldn’t it?

    Some interesting things to read:

    http://bushiraq.r8.org

  5. swim Says:

    The original al-Qaeda organization has been affected, thanks mostly to international cooperation Bush himself has helped to thwart. But the Iraq war and Bush’s go-it-alone strategy have also increased the risk, and al-Qaeda has adapted. But it would also be nice to catch the guy who killed a few thousand Americans, wouldn’t it?

    Some interesting things to read:

    http://bushiraq.r8.org


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