Permissible Arms

Pick a weather already, is it hot or is it cold?

Posted in afghanistan, nato, united nations, united states, us politics by Karaka on 28 September 2009

It looks like the vote is coming down for Karzai, which is not much of a surprise.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other NATO foreign ministers, meeting Friday in New York with their Afghan counterpart, reached “consensus” that Karzai would probably “continue to be president,” whether through a runoff or as the legitimate winner of more than 50 percent of votes cast in disputed Aug. 20 elections, an Obama administration official said.

At this point, it doesn’t seem as though there remain many options. Despite the lack of confidence in the Afghan election process, it’s not likely that Abdullah Abdullah will get the run-off he wants, and Karzai and his corruption will remain in place. It’s a situation that will probably bite the nation in the ass later, though.

Secdef Gates was on State of the Union this weekend (rounding out what seems to be a brief media blitz with Clinton on Face the Nation and the McChrystal profile on 60 Minutes, probably following Obama’s dance card earlier this month) arguing for Afghanistan. It concerns me that Gates has to address the topic of withdrawal at all. You can download the show here or off of iTunes.

Meanwhile, Lietuenant General Jim Dutton, deputy commander of ISAF, publicly threw his support behind McChrystal’s request in the Times today.

“The basis of our mandate is to support the legally elected government,” General Dutton said. “If you haven’t got one, you either have to change the mandate, or you rethink the whole endeavour.”

He was confident, however, that the British public would stomach more casualties as long has he could answer yes to two key questions: “Are we right?” and “Can we win?”.

It doesn’t seem like Obama would agree with that assessment. But I suspect Gates would.

Speaking of things that spark disagreement, John Kerry issued this op-ed in the WSJ yesterday:

Before we send more of our young men and women to this war, we need a fuller debate about what constitutes success in Afghanistan. We need a clearer understanding of what constitutes the right strategy to get us there. Ultimately, we need to understand, as Gen. Colin Powell was fond of asking, “What’s the exit strategy?” Or as Gen. David Petraeus asked of Iraq, “How does it end?”

Why? Because one of the lessons from Vietnam—applied in the first Gulf War and sadly forgotten for too long in Iraq—is that we should not commit troops to the battlefield without a clear understanding of what we expect them to accomplish, how long it will take, and how we maintain the consent of the American people. Otherwise, we risk bringing our troops home from a mission unachieved or poorly conceived.

Way to walk it back, Kerry. I think he conflates McChrystal’s assessement with a stated goal rather than a strategy. And if, as General Dutton suggests, we have a mandate in place, that assessment seems to be in line. But as we’ve seen, the Obama administration hasn’t pinned down it’s mandate for October, other than to apparently alter its mandate in March. Can anyone seriously consider withdrawal as an option? Either way, it seems like NATO is asking one question, and some American politicians another.

Fareed Zakaria profiles Obama’s attitude in the Post today. Surprisingly, I agree with his point of view.

Obama’s outreach to the world is an experiment, and not merely to see if the world will respond. He wants to demonstrate at home that engagement does not make America weak. For decades, it’s been thought deadly for an American politician to be seen as seeking international cooperation. Denouncing, demeaning and insulting other countries was a cheap and easy way to seem strong. In the battle of images, tough and stupid always seemed to win.

Well, “win” is kind of strong. It got the job done, maybe, but at the cost of our image, certainly.

Also, Angela Merkel won the German presidency once more. Good luck to her.


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