July 17, 2008

Afganistan: Obama’s “Good War”

We finally learned what Obama really meant when he was talking about ?ending the war in Iraq? throughout the primaries ?redeployment of the troops to Afghanistan. Obama book-ended his recent New York Times op-ed with ?end the war? and ?I?m really different than McCain? themes, but when he got down to specifics, his aim in leaving Iraq is to transfer brigades into Afghanistan, where they can presumably ?finish the job? against al-Qaeda and the Taliban (both of whom seem to be always regrouping, resurging, or otherwise getting the band back together again.) Whether ?ending the war? will actually mean bringing any troops home is far from certain. I?d say that all this is a big disappointment for any foreign-policy realist Obamacon.   

Tabling the question of whether a withdrawal would force the Iraqi parliament to reach a political solution, what?s perhaps most remarkable in all this is the degree to which Afghanistan has become ?the good war? for liberals, including antiwar liberals. While the pro-war Right has jumped all over the op-ed, I don?t see Obama catching much flack from the antiwar Left for wanting to expand the campaign in Afghanistan. That war?s OK.

I find this has less to do with perceptions that the Afghan campaign is more strategically important or better justified, and more to do with the fact that Afghanistan is a war that?s easily flushed down the old memory hole.

The Land of the Afghans is thankfully free of inter-ethnic/religious violence?populations centers are homogenous and isolated?and its feudal drug economy has prevented urbanization, and thus the country has a much less volatile ?Arab street.?

Post-Vietnam Americans prefer their wars to be splendid little Blitzkriegs?if they are done, then ?twere well they were done quickly, and then forgotten while we and the UN station bases or peace- keeping forces there for decades.

Afghanistan fits the mold. So much so that yesterday, Joe Biden made a bid for becoming a kind of Afghan hawk??If John [McCain] wants to know where the bad guys live, come back with me to Afghanistan. We know where they reside. And it’s not in Iraq.?

Biden was almost mimicking the post facto justification for Iraq we?ve been hearing from Republicans over the past few years??we?re in Iraq because al-Qeda?s in Iraq because we?re in Iraq?only whereas the Republicans had a bit of a circularly reasoned point, Biden?s intel seems to be totally inaccurate

But then how long will the good feelings last. Rich Lowry is actually getting at something when he asks, ?When Will the Left Turn Against the Afghan War?? That is, much of the antiwar?s Left?s criticisms of Iraq?long war, magnet for militants, no end in sight?hold true for Afghanistan as well. Thus When Will the Left Turn Against the Afghan War? If the campaign remains relatively calm, producing no really bloody televisuals, then probably never. Afghanistan might become the place where the bad war goes to die.

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