As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wise Counsel

Meet the new big thinker on Afghanistan for the Obama Administration - Lindsay frickin' Graham:

Freshly returned from a tour of war zones and global hotspots, Vice President-elect Joe Biden told President-elect Barack Obama on Wednesday that "things are going to get tougher" in Afghanistan.

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, Biden's partner in the five-day, bipartisan fact-finding mission to Kuwait, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, predicted that "casualties are likely to increase" in Afghanistan as the number of U.S. troops there goes up this year [...] "It is a fair criticism to say, Mr. President, that we have taken our eye off the ball in Afghanistan and we need to re-engage," Graham, R-S.C., said. "And that re-engagement is going to come at a heavy price." [...]

Obama said little to reporters, other than thanking the two senators and announcing that he plans to enlist Graham as "one of our counselors" on foreign policy.

"The recommendations that you're going to be delivering to me are going to be of enormous help in making sure that we do what is my No. 1 task as president-elect and as president, and that is to keep the American people safe and to make sure that when we deploy our military, that we do so with a clear sense of mission and with strong support from the American people," Obama said.

I really may throw up. This is the same Lindsay Graham who during the campaign called Obama a defeatist and said that he has "supported retreat and would have accepted our defeat... They have worked too hard and sacrificed too much for a patronizing pat on the back... He should not be their commander-in-chief." Now he's the elder statesman counselor for whom politics ends at the water's edge.

The truth is that you can hardly blame Graham. There is a vacuum created by the lack of progressive voices in Obama's White House on foreign policy and Huckleberry is stepping right into it. Lots of the antiwar Democrats who supported Obama during the campaign have found themselves sidelined and unable to get jobs with the new Administration. The Hillary Clintons and Robert Gateses of the world are presumably uncomfortable with any DFHs, and so the ones who were right on Iraq, the ones who risked their careers by signing on with a longshot Senator from Illinois, are absent in the debate. And you see that in this unquestioning march to escalate in Afghanistan, even without knowing the purpose of the mission or the desired end-state in the country.

John McCain's Rosencrantz Lindsay Graham is a closer counsel to Barack Obama than those who got it right. Such is the world of Beltway accountability.

That said, if we wants a Senate counsel, particularly on Afghanistan, those sources are out there. Like Russ Feingold, who has called for a comprehensive regional strategy rather than sacrificing more troops by throwing them at the problem.

Or, you know, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) takes another bite at the Afghanistan apple. He says he doesn’t want to compare anything to Vietnam, but he’s worried Afghanistan is too close a parallel: “The night often rules, with insurgencies. The complications are profound in Pakistan and Afghanistan … That is the center of the war on–” he stops himself before he says “war on terror” and replaces it with “global insurgency.” There are “inherent contradictions” in the “structure we have been trying to impose in Afghanistan” politically. (He recommends two books that I also like: Rory Stewart’s “The Places In Between,” which I read in Afghanistan,” and Dexter Filkins’ “The Forever War.”) What to do about tribalism? “We’re on the wrong track, and unless we rethink this very, very capably, we could … wind up pursuing a policy that is frankly unpursuable, unachievable.” The original goal was “to go in there and take out Al Qaeda … it was not to impose a form of government, no matter how much we believe in it and support it, but that is the mission, at least as it is being presented today.” [...]

Kerry urges that there be more than just the strategy reviews and raises the question of targeting Al Qaeda. “There has been a considerable blowback … in terms of the collateral damage” in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas” by U.S. attacks on terrorists. “I think we’re making some enemies,” he warns.

Even inside Washington, there are other perspectives preferable to the desiccated groupthink epitomized by a war cheerleader like Huckleberry Graham. And once you get outside the Beltway, Barack, hoo boy, what counsel you could receive.

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