Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Troop Surge in Afghanistan

The Bigger Picture
Published on December 10th in Metro Éireann By Charles Laffiteau
Last week I criticized President Obama and his administration for the way they mis-handled his healthcare reform, and to a lesser extent his climate change proposals, by allowing liberal Democratic Congressional leaders to take the lead in developing them.
But this week I want to applaud the President for both his handling of the evaluation process and his decisions about what America should do in Afghanistan. Mind you, I have absolutely no idea if the strategy Obama is moving to implement in Afghanistan will either succeed or fail. What I can say however, is that based on what I know about both his reasoning and the process he went through to arrive at his decision, I think he has made the best and most moral decision possible under the circumstances.
Trust me; I can already hear the angry protests from my leftist or left leaning friends here in Ireland and back in the states. “How can you dare to say that deciding to send more American soldiers into Afghanistan was in any way a moral decision?” In fact after hearing me express this opinion yesterday, one of my mates here in Dublin told me he won’t even listen to my reasons much less consider or discuss them with me.
OK so even though I will listen to, consider and discuss his opinions and or reasoning for disagreeing, he has made it very plain that he has no intention of doing likewise. Hmmmm. What’s wrong with this picture? No matter. For those of you who care to read on I will attempt to expand on and explain my reasons for believing President Obama’s decision was the most moral one he could have made given the circumstances.
To begin with I think one has to put the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan in the proper perspective. As far as I am concerned the invasion of Iraq was both wrong and immoral because it placed both American military and Iraqi civilian lives at risk even though Iraq was in no way a security threat to the United States or its neighbors. The only moral underpinning cited by the Bush administration in support of their decision to invade Iraq was that Saddam Hussein was a ruthless and murderous dictator.
OK I’ll buy that. But if that is a valid reason to invade another nation half way around the world, then what about Kim Jong il in North Korea or Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe or the dictators in control of Sudan and at least half a dozen other countries? In the case of North Korea we knew for a fact that they had nuclear weapons and missiles capable of delivering them, while we had only unsubstantiated (and false) speculation regarding Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapon intentions and capabilities. That was the primary reason why both I as a Republican and Barack Obama as a Democrat opposed the decision to Invade Iraq from the very start of the Iraq War.
Since a substantial majority of Americans have now come to the same conclusion about the Iraq War, from a purely political standpoint, the easiest decision for Obama to make regarding Iraq would be to pull out completely and simply blame George Bush for whatever happens after America has completed its withdrawal from Iraq. But as I wrote in several previous columns over the last 3 years, although I was adamantly opposed to the Iraq war, I also believed just as strongly that it would be immoral to pull out of Iraq without first making an attempt to stabablise the country and reduce the violence there.
Like it or not, we can’t go back to the way things were in Iraq prior to the American invasion or change the foolish decision President Bush made to invade it. President Obama also rightly recognized that although the Bush administration had been wrong to invade Iraq and had made a bloody mess of the country in the process, America still had a moral obligation to try to clean it the mess we made before we withdrew.
Afghanistan is not Iraq however and the circumstances that precipitated our decision to invade that country were markedly different as well. Afghanistan and its Taliban regime were a security threat to the United States and other nations because they were providing safe havens for al Qaeda terrorists to train those bent on killing innocent civilians in the United States and other countries. The Taliban were and still are just as ruthless and murderous as Saddam Hussein in terms of how they treat Afghani civilians but that was not the reason why America invaded Afghanistan, nor should it have been.
How quickly we forget. Both Barack Obama and the leaders of many other countries around the world fully supported the decision to invade Afghanistan because it was a safe harbor for al Qaeda terrorists and their leader, Osama bin Laden. Many Islamic nations also supported the decision to overthrow the Taliban regime as well.
Unfortunately, following the successful overthrow of the Taliban regime, President Bush turned his attention away from Afghanistan to Iraq instead of devoting the resources needed to rebuild that country’s infrastructure and institutions, thus bringing some semblance of order and stability to Afghanistan and its war weary people.
Once again however, President Obama can’t undo the mistakes made by his predecessor which opened the door that allowed the Taliban to rebuild their armed strength in Afghanistan. Unlike President Bush, Barack Obama and most other Americans have no illusions about “winning” the war in Afghanistan. But we do have a moral obligation to try to bring enough order and stability to the country that we can leave there with some hope that the citizens of Afghanistan will be able to maintain this on their own after we are gone.
This is why I believe President Obama’s decision to use another “surge” of American troops in Afghanistan was the most moral decision he could have made under the circumstances. But there are other reasons too……..

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