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Jaw, Jaw for Multi-lateral War, War

Follow this link [1] for a video of John McCain speaking about Afghanistan to the Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum on Saturday night.

It’s predictable stuff: Afghanistan is the vital battleground for human rights and democracy; we need more NATO/U.S. commitment; terrorists see negotiation as a sign weakness; we can only deal with the Taliban by winning; we mustn’t give in to “minimalist” temptations on foreign-policy.

What is odd is that, although McCain fulminates against the “minimalists,” it is hard to see who exactly these pesky less-war advocates are. You might find some on the blogosphere and elsewhere; but not, it seems, at the Brussels Forum.

Judging from the video clips, it looks as if all the power-shakers at this important conference agreed with a more-not-less strategy, including, emphatically, Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. McCain’s rousing now-is-not-the-moment-for-doubt rhetoric was merely playing to the gallery. In fact, that’s probably why he was invited as keynote speaker — to provide a little militarist backbone to an internationalist gathering of bureaucrats determined to up the blood stakes in and around the Hindu Kush. (Holbrooke was honest enough, in fact, to say that he didn’t know what “minimalist goals” meant.)

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#1 Comment By Bill Pearlman On March 23, 2009 @ 3:21 pm

Correct me if I’m wrong but is not the president the ‘black messiah’ himself. The preferred candidate of Hamas. What are you worried about.

#2 Comment By Dennis Dale On March 23, 2009 @ 4:20 pm

Bill’s designers forgot to write the question mark into his program.
For what it’s worth, Holbrooke was on the BBC this morning selling the president’s strategy while seeking to lower expectations for Afghan democracy. This latter part would be McCain’s so-called “minimalist” strategy. Look for him and others to cite Iraq’s “success” as reason not to alter our original goals in Afghanistan–as if our original designs there weren’t abandoned in favor of arming ethnic factions against one another.

#3 Comment By Philip Giraldi On March 24, 2009 @ 8:56 am

It is clear that the Obamas realize that a purely military solution will not work in Afghanistan, so that is not really being considered except by the usual neocon crowd and wingnuts like McCain.

There are at least two other conflicting narratives coming out of the new administration. One, being put out by Holbrooke and Mullen, is that staying the course with more troops to provide better security to enable reconstruction of the country is the way to go (Iraq lite). That approach assumes that the situation has not deteriorated to such an extent that any reconstruction is impossible, which would seem to be what observers on the ground are saying. It would require a major purge of the current Afghan government, which would be difficult to engineer and would have many unintended consequences. It also does not really address the corruption and narcotrafficking problems.

The other approach is to negotiate something involving all parties in the region including the Taliban that will at least hold together long enough for the US and NATO to declare victory and get out. The continuing attacks by drones on Pakistan would be part of the strategy, i.e. to nail bin Laden before leaving to eliminate the latest version of the “central front in the war on terror” justification for remaining.

I have no insider knowledge on this apart from some CIA buddies saying that bin Laden has almost been killed on several occasions in the past few months and that the tactical intelligence is getting better. I suspect that Obama is too smart to want to get sucked into a swamp in Afghanistan but is willing to go through the motions for a while to ease himself out of it. What do other TAC bloggers and readers think?

#4 Comment By eep On March 24, 2009 @ 9:53 am

Perhaps McCain was having an imperial bonding experience by railing against a common enemy to enhance group unity. On another thought I’m curious how the modern day Delian League will end.

#5 Comment By eep On March 24, 2009 @ 4:50 pm

Mr Giraldi, I prefer option two. It makes more sense considering the Military didn’t have a plan for Obama after 7 years over there and Afghanistan has been ignored in favor of Iraq since the Iraq Wars inception. The only interest I’ve read that the US has in Afghanistan is a pipeline going into Pakistan and India. Iran is a more popular target, especially with Israel. It has oil, an infrastructure, and a pipeline through it would reach the same countries that Afghanistan would.

#6 Comment By TomB On March 25, 2009 @ 1:03 pm

Phil Giraldi asked:

” I suspect that Obama is too smart to want to get sucked into a swamp in Afghanistan but is willing to go through the motions for a while to ease himself out of it.”

Hence, per Freddy Gray, in response to McCain’s vein-bulging talk Holbrooke oh-so-innocently said “he didn’t know what ‘minimalist goals’ meant.”

Makes sense.

What still doesn’t however is McCain: Afghanistan is way bigger and way poorer than Iraq and indeed almost entirely bereft of any economic or political structures at all (other than having to do with poppies) with which to build any kind of stability upon in less than, say, 25 years, and after trillions would have to be spent.

I.e., just a reminder of how unhinged Republican thinking was, and apparently remains.

One may not love or even like Obama, and his press conferences may show him to lack a bit of fire in the belly, but, still, better him than a McCain or etc. with positive infernos still on their alleged brains.

Cheers,