Sunday, December 06, 2009

I haven’t posted for a while, I know, and I do have a thing I want to say. But it will have to wait a bit longer, just because it will.

Meanwhile, they say consistency is a virtue, and if it is true then Jack Kelly is a most virtuous man. You always know what you will get with him, conservative clichés, and this week’s column does not disappoint. Kelly acknowledges that Obama is listening to his generals and sending more troops, but since Obama is clearly doing that only to provide himself some cover with real Americans, Kelly does us the favor of deciphering what Kelly says is the worst speech of Obama’s career (until Obama’s next speech). According to Kelly, the business of setting an end date is at best pandering to the left, and at worst helping an enemy that (although to be fair Kelly does not say this) Obama might secretly support. Certainly Obama has told the enemy that they just have to sit tight and wait and can take over in eighteen months. Kelly blasts Obama for not mentioning winning or victory, and in fact compares Obama to Presidents who showed resolve and backbone, like FDR after Pearl Harbor or George Bush after 9/11.

But maybe we should talk about Bush after 9/11. Then there was tough talk about getting Osama Bin Laden and facing the terrorist threat to the US head on. How’d that work out? We invade Afghanistan, but Bin Laden escaped US forces at a battle in a place called Tora Bora, evidently because we did not bring in enough troops to that battle. That decision was made at apparently a high level. Then we invaded Iraq, and seemed to largely forget about Afghanistan. We have been in Afghanistan for eight years, including nine months under Obama. The place is now Obama’s to mess up, but for the previous seven years George Bush was busy doing very little, certainly almost nothing to catch Bin Laden. US contractors were there and in Iraq, taking taxpayer money hand over fist. Yet when Obama mentions the billion dollars spent in those places fruitlessly, Kelly brings up the money spent on stimulus and saving the Auto industry and calls that spending a failure and a waste (I notice he doesn’t calling bailing out Wall Street a waste).

Plenty of other people have criticized Obama for sending more troops to Afghanistan, and for waiting to get out. Plenty of people have criticized Obama for announcing he is going to decide, based on conditions on the ground, about how many troops to remove in 18 months. I think that given Afghanistan's history, it is really difficult to say if there is a magic bullet or maybe a magic shovel for this current conflict. Even if there is, afterwords for at least a couple of generations tensions there would be high, ready to explode on little provocation, and in any event the country would be vulnerable to invasion for some time to come. Afghanistan is a complicated situation and no one should say they know *the* answer. And in particular I think injecting clichés into the dialogue like saying the President should talk tough is not helpful. Except perhaps to people who want to damage the President.

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