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

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Russ Feingold Is Making Sense

This reminds me of Feingold's lonely stand against the Patriot Act. He was right about that too:

Feingold said he is increasingly disturbed by the war in Afghanistan, where troop levels are escalating by the month, US casualties are mounting and the insurgency is expanding. "It appears that no one even asked the president about [Afghanistan] at his [July 22] press conference after apparently thirty or thirty-one Americans were killed in Afghanistan last month. How is that possible?" Feingold asks. "People have to wake up to what's going on in Afghanistan, and my vote is a request that people wake up to what's happening, which is we are getting deeper and deeper into this situation in a way that I don't think necessarily makes sense at all and may actually be counterproductive." [...]

Feingold believes "the so-called surge may actually make matters worse by pushing militants into Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation which is still not effectively dealing with terrorist sanctuaries in that country." He is particularly concerned with what he calls the "balloon effect:" resistance fighters in Afghanistan being pushed into Pakistan, where "they may be safer." [...]

"This is something I've been trying to hammer away at," Feingold tells The Nation. "They admitted that it's a problem, but where's the follow-up? This administration is almost whistling past the graveyard on this issue." Feingold added, "How is it that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and our special envoy to this region both agree that this could be a problem and that it is not talked about as a serious mistake if we're going to keep increasing troops and increase that effect? This is, in my view, the central flaw in what is otherwise a policy that is better than the Bush administration's. This is the central flaw in the thinking of the administration on this issue, and it needs to be pursued."

The kind of militants that we're supposed to be stopping from threatening American national security can always melt away and move somewhere. Heck, we just arrested seven people in North Carolina and accused them of plotting terrorism. Do we now send drones over the Outer Banks, pushing the militants into South Carolina and Tennessee?

The problem is that, while the war in Afghanistan has been sold as a war against Al Qaeda, on the ground the war has become a war protecting the Afghan people in areas where the Taliban is trying to spread its power. Incredibly, this keeps in place Taliban in Pashtun areas, which is supposed to be the point of denying them safe havens!

The U.S. and its allies must change their mission to focus on protecting the Afghan people -- even if it means temporarily allowing the Taliban to operate relatively freely in sparsely populated areas, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said in an interview Saturday.

Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who was appointed to overhaul military operations in the country, discussed his new strategy to shift the course of a war that has become increasingly intense [...]

He acknowledged that U.S. and alliance forces cannot routinely enter some areas.

"Practically speaking, there are areas that are controlled by Taliban forces," he said. Over time, McChrystal said, the command will "reduce" those areas, but the first priority will to be to make sure populated areas are free of insurgent influence.

It's important not to confuse this iteration of Afghan Taliban with Al Qaeda, or even the prior version of Taliban (this is not necessarily a group of Wahhabist extremists). But they war is supposed to be about denying safe havens, and the head of Afghan forces is now saying that safe havens controlled by the Taliban exist and won't really get challenged. And those safe havens equal probably half the country.

At this point, I'll have to agree with Chris Hedges.

Al-Qaida could not care less what we do in Afghanistan. We can bomb Afghan villages, hunt the Taliban in Helmand province, build a 100,000-strong client Afghan army, stand by passively as Afghan warlords execute hundreds, maybe thousands, of Taliban prisoners, build huge, elaborate military bases and send drones to drop bombs on Pakistan. It will make no difference. The war will not halt the attacks of Islamic radicals. Terrorist and insurgent groups are not conventional forces. They do not play by the rules of warfare our commanders have drilled into them in war colleges and service academies. And these underground groups are protean, changing shape and color as they drift from one failed state to the next, plan a terrorist attack and then fade back into the shadows. We are fighting with the wrong tools. We are fighting the wrong people. We are on the wrong side of history. And we will be defeated in Afghanistan as we will be in Iraq [...]

The only way to defeat terrorist groups is to isolate them within their own societies. This requires wooing the population away from radicals. It is a political, economic and cultural war. The terrible algebra of military occupation and violence is always counterproductive to this kind of battle. It always creates more insurgents than it kills. It always legitimizes terrorism. And while we squander resources and lives, the real enemy, al-Qaida, has moved on to build networks in Indonesia, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Morocco and depressed Muslim communities such as those in France's Lyon and London's Brixton area. There is no shortage of backwaters and broken patches of the Earth where al-Qaida can hide and operate. It does not need Afghanistan, and neither do we.

This is pretty simple stuff, but an America at the last vestiges of hegemony and empire remains programmed not to understand. We can undertake a law enforcement and intelligence mission against Al Qaeda that protects America without a military mission in Afghanistan that does nothing for this cause.

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