Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Man Of Steele Steps In It: Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional Delegation Plays Politics

Remarks made by National Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele at a Republican gathering in a video shot by a state Democratic tracker are being denounced across party lines by nearly everyone but a majority of Connecticut’s Democratic U.S, congressional delegation.

“Speaking at the Connecticut fundraiser, Steele also appeared to suggest any conflict in Afghanistan may be unwinnable, CNN Political Ticker reported:

"Well if [Obama's] such a student of history, has he not understood that that's the one thing you don't do is engage in a land war in Afghanistan. Alright? Because everyone who has tried over a thousand years of history, has failed. And there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan without committing more troops."
Steele’s remark brought forth from neo-con William Kristol of the Weekly Standard a demand for the chairman’s resignation. The war in Afghanistan, Kristol said, is not a war of President Barack Obama’s choosing: “It has been prosecuted by the United States under Presidents Bush and Obama. Republicans have consistently supported the effort. Indeed, as the DNC [Democratic National Committee] Communications Director (of all people) has said, your statement ‘puts [you] at odds with about 100 percent of the Republican Party.’"

It is quite true that Steele did suggest in his remarks that the war in Afghanistan might be unwinnable. Steele’s appraisal of history is correct: Afghanistan is not known as the graveyard of empires for nothing.

Whether Afghanistan is or is not a ‘war of choice” for Obama depends upon what is meant by “choice. In in acceding to the wishes of both General Stanley McKristol and General David Petraeus for more troops, Obama has ratified the choice to engage militarily in Afghanistan, while disappointing strategists who believe that at least 100,000 more troops are necessary to properly discharge the policy he endorses. The distinction previously make by the president between Iraq, a war of choice, and Afghanistan, a war of necessity, simply disappeared when Obama, as commander in chief, chose to ramp up the war in Afghanistan. Obama’s commitment makes the war, for him, a war of choice. All wars that carry the imprimatur of the president are wars of choice – for that president. “Yes” or“no,” when pronounced by commanders-in-chief, mean yes or no.

Steele evidentially intended to say something of this kind but fell on his proposition the way the way ancient Romans, when they erred in policy, sometimes were made to fall upon their swords. It was the Roman way of resigning with honor.

In a later clarification, Steele wrote:

“During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Barack Obama made clear his belief that we should not fight in Iraq, but instead concentrate on Afghanistan. Now, as President, he has indeed shifted his focus to this region. That means this is his strategy. And, for the sake of the security of the free world, our country must give our troops the support necessary to win this war.”
What Steele appears to be saying is that while the war may be unwinnable, we never-the-less must win it “for the sake of the security of the free world.”

That part of his clarification is mud and almost certainly will fail to satisfy either Kristol or the 100 percent of the DNC that is singularly unafraid the nation may tumble headlong into the grave of empires. The DNC’s 100 percent may be a trifle inflated.

One of the other ways to “to engage in Afghanistan without committing more troops” is to bribe the relevant power brokers in the graveyard of empires, a solution that may not pass the sniff test with those who think President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai is at least as corrupt as former Mayor of Chicago Rod Blagojevich and his tight circle of friends, some of whom now work in the Obama administration cheek by jowl with the president. This solution – shovel money into the problematic furnace -- would appear to be impractical now that the United States is shouldering a debt liability of some $130 trillion, far more than the debt liability of corrupt Afghanistan.

None of this Byzantine falderal answers the question: Should the United States continue its very nearly unilateral engagement in Afghanistan; and if so, for how long?

Kristol’s answer to the question is, he would say, a necessary evasion: The question cannot be answered because by so doing we would give to the enemies of the United States a strategic leg-up that would advance their foul and destructive ambitions, part of which involves blowing up New York City. Obama’s answer to the question is: We’ve already set a provisional date of withdrawal; full speed ahead with the war of necessity. Some military strategist question the strategic usefulness of the Obama scheme, because the ever patient enemy may simply put on hold their military reprisals until the date set by Obama has passed.

In the House, 23 representatives supported a defunding bill. The five Democratic members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation voted for a measure requiring a new intelligence review of Afghanistan that also would provide congress with a detailed exist strategy by April 2011, as well as a timeline for the withdrawal of American troops. The amendment failed on a 260-162 vote.

Rep. John Larson, who sits in one of the safest districts in the country, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, whose district is a close second, both voted in favor of “a more restrictive amendment, which would have dictated that the war funds could only be used for a drawdown, not for further military combat operations,” according to CTMirror.

Connecticut’s delegation joined others in larding the bill with $16 billion in new domestic spending, $10 billion of which was dedicated to an “education jobs fund” to assist municipalities in avoiding teacher lay-offs.

This is how the United States goes to war -- bravely marching in various different directions to the disparate sounds of innumerable different drummers.
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