Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Obama and the Unwinnable Wars

Never in the past three years have I been this disconnected from the news. One of my most diligent habits since my sophomore year of college has been to closely follow the news and know about what’s going on in the world. These past two months I’ve been quite disconnected from the news and world events. However, from what little I’ve heard and read the world seems to be in increasingly in dire straits. I’m not really surprised about this per se because all of the warning signs have been around for years. But the allegorical shit has hit the roof and America is collapsing under the weight of its own internal contradictions.

Now is a time for a dramatic change in how we live in this world and how our leaders respond to crises. Iraq and Afghanistan are conundrums that the Obama Administration has to deal with. Just as the foolish invasion of a country (i.e. Afghanistan) accelerated and eventually became the catalyst for the death of the Soviet Empire, so too will the America Empire find its death in the sands of Iraq and the caves of Afghanistan. America is bogged down in two unwinnable wars that the Obama Administration has fully committed to continue. Afghanistan was already in terrible shape before the US bombed the country back to the Stone Age. Iraq has been a country that has been devastated by years of internal oppression followed by a brutal occupation that has cost the lives of over a million Iraqis and displaced millions of others. We’ve used depleted uranium bullets to kill “terrorists” and civilians alike, leaving behind a trail of death and cancer-causing pollutants that have already devastated these countries and will continue to plague these people for generations to come. We’ve bombed wedding parties in the mistaken attempt to root out terror. We’ve dropped laser-guided missiles on schools, mosques, and houses where “terrorists” hide. We’ve brutalized and tortured prisoners from Bagram to Abu Graib, Guantanamo, and beyond.

So President Obama has made two significant policy pronouncements on both Iraq and Afghanistan. I will begin by briefly commenting on the Afghan issue before I devote the rest of this piece to Obama’s ludicrous policy statement on Iraq.

President Obama announced on February 17, 2009 that he would be sending an additional 17,000 troops to bolster the 36,000 American troops that are already in Afghanistan. Adding more troops to a lost cause will only cost more money, unnecessary death and destruction, and a further deterioration of America’s prestige and image abroad. Obama is lucky to be following the worst President in US history so any action he takes people would like to give him the benefit of the doubt. However, the US has been in Afghanistan for over eight years now and has not substantively accomplished anything. Yes it is true that some roads have been built, schools have been opened, and the US has made an effort to provide some reconstruction funds to Afghanistan. But it is also true that we are the ones who destroyed the country in the first place (okay so Afghanistan was already in shambles before the US annihilated everything that was still standing), killed thousands of innocent civilians, and our actions have also been motivated by geostrategic and resource-related issues. More troops will not solve the problem; only through principled diplomacy with those figures that we loathe (namely the Taliban which has slowly regained control over much of Afghanistan) can we extricate ourselves from this quagmire. Without an exit strategy, Obama will waste more money, more lives, and fail to achieve a long-term just peace. Adding more fuel to the fire will mean that Afghanistan will continue to die a protracted death over the coming years.

President Obama delivered a major policy speech on Febuary 27, 2009 that outlined his plans for the future of Iraq. This policy speech was quite disappointing for those peace advocates who believed that Obama’s election was a mandate to withdraw troops from Iraq. However many of his points were in line with his pre-election statements although he did make changes for the worse in his position. But that is to be expected from any politician, even the messianic type. Obama’s significant electoral victory should have allowed him to make a bold policy change in Iraq. Instead Obama stated in his policy speech that:
As a candidate for President, I made clear my support for a timeline of 16 months to carry out this drawdown, while pledging to consult closely with our military commanders upon taking office to ensure that we preserve the gains we’ve made and protect our troops. Those consultations are now complete, and I have chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18 months.

Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.

Obama has decided to expand the time-frame for withdrawal and even after the end of the combat mission, “Security Forces” will be left behind to assist the Iraqis. All of this sounds a lot like President Bush and his “Mission Accomplished” notion and is far from what anti-war advocates had hoped for. This is utterly unacceptable and Obama has broken a key promise of his electoral campaign.

Obama continued his speech and explained that:
After we remove our combat brigades, our mission will change from combat to supporting the Iraqi government and its Security Forces as they take the absolute lead in securing their country. As I have long said, we will retain a transitional force to carry out three distinct functions: training, equipping, and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq. Initially, this force will likely be made up of 35-50,000 U.S. troops.

Through this period of transition, we will carry out further redeployments. And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned.

Obama does not really want to withdraw from Iraq; he just wants to change the parameters for how we remain in the country. Just as before the escalation of the war in Vietnam with President Lyndon B. Johnson where US troops in Vietnam were seen as merely “advisers”, Obama will be leaving “Security Advisors” in Iraq at least until the end of 2011. This is ludicrous since it has been noted that we can fully withdraw from Iraq within six months. The Iraq War is now Obama’s war and he will have to answer for the money wasted, lives lost, and failure in our perpetual occupation of Iraq.

America is at a cross roads. We can either withdraw immediately from the mess that we have created and provide liberal reconstruction funds to Iraq and Afghanistan, or we can continue down our path of perdition and continue these unwinnable wars. We should remember that,
Politicians, by definition, respond to political pressure. Those who decide that it's best to keep quiet and simply trust in the goodness and just nature of their leader are certain to have their political goals ignored. It's always better -- far better -- for a politician to know that he's being scrutinized closely and will be praised and supported only when his actions warrant that, and will be criticized and opposed when they don't.

Obama is no different. Americans must demand an end to these wars now. We can no longer stand by and wait until America collapses because of its imperial hubris. Without swift action America is doomed to collapse like the Soviet Union. This should not happen. Let us remember the wise words of Abraham Lincoln and hope that we can step back from the precipice:
The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

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