Saturday, March 17, 2012

Further Thoughts On Kandahar

"The problem with the Bush Administration was that they had no respect for the role of government. They didn't see it as important here in America, where they felt that when it was a size we could drown in a bathtub, it was just big enough. They took that attitude into Afghanistan, and did almost nothing to help that government get itself re-established, nor did it try to establish an international caretaker government.

Then they went into Iraq. They were great at destroying the place, but they had no idea what it would take to rebuild it. That's largely because they didn't care.

Obama's failure was to not recognize that our potential for doing good had evaporated in both places. We should have left as soon as we could.

So, yes, failure on both their parts. It wasn't just a dithering response, though. It was truly not caring how things turned out, at least, not caring enough to find out whether anything would make it turn out well, and then telling the appropriate people the bad news when they realized it couldn't."
March 13, 2012"

Cujo359 is correct in many regard on these points. Still I find it necessary to perhaps illuminate some items man's best friend may have missed, or just did not want to delve in at the time.

Cujo359 is spot on about Bush being contemptuous of the role of government. What he did not point out is the ideology that provided cover for W's refusal to do any heavy lifting after invading Iraq. Bush and his cronies really bought into the Libertarian notion that the Market was the solution to everything.

God knows why Conservatives have so bought into the idea that private enterprise has the answer to everything. Thom Hartmann has some ideas about this, but it is still passing strange how the ideology that Hartmann outlines can be accepted as Gospel by thinking human beings. Even the most cursory glance at history shows that you can not have any kind of market, never mind a free one, without government providing some sort of base.

Be that as it may, the Libertarian propeller-heads that manned up the Iraq Occupation Authority were all gung ho to prove the notion that the market would solve all issues of governance in Iraq. A Iraq socialist society and economy was thrown to wolves by incompetents chosen solely for their fealty to Republican Party notions of governance.

Not surprisingly, with no one minding the store, corruption and graft became the order of the day. The vultures swooped in and began picking the place clean. Out-right theft was the order of the day, as Palets of hard currency were handed over without as much as a proper receipt. Bush could ignore the bad news, not only because that was his default, but also because he could always fallback on an ideological excuse. No need to intervene, the Market will sort this out, government intervention will only make things worse. Stay the course; it will all work out.

You can see the mindset of a no government intervention, the Libertarian mindset, even prior to the invasion. Rumsfeld rejected any kind of due diligence or planning for the Iraqi Occupation. Iraq was to be the great Libertarian proof that market driven government, laissez faire ideology on steroids, is best. Iraq was to be the shining beacon on the hill, Gault on earth, where all would bend their knee to the Sainted Ayn Rand, high priestess of Objectivism. It turned out to be a mess.

With all the mental energy going into the Randian project of Iraq, Afghanistan was abandoned to the fates. Bush and Cheney only bothered with Afghanistan because they had to. It was the prerequisite to their jolly little war in Iraq. Iraq got the troopers, and the one thousand support staff for the US Embassy; Afghanistan got Tora Bora.

Bush thoroughly screwed the pooch. It was gross negligence backed up by an ideology that "proved" that gross negligence was the best policy option available. This was the state of affairs when Obama took the helm of the Ship Of State. Here too is where I depart from Cujo359, which is weird, because I am ending up an even harsher critic of Hope On A Rope than Cujo359. This is not exactly and easy thing to do.

Be that as it may, I do have nothing but contempt for Obama's performance as regards to both Iraq and Afghanistan. How can a man with such an obvious intelligence as Barack has, slip into the group think that infests the fetid political swamps of the Potomac, is beyond me. How can you come out of Harvard and become so clueless? Or is that the whole point of Harvard, to inculcate a man or woman in to the mysteries of the Conventional Wisdom, and thus make that person just another mindless Pod Person in good standing with the political class?

If the goal of Harvard is to turn bright men and women into unthinking zombies wedded to the conventional wisdom, well, mission accomplished as far as Barack Obama is concerned. The man lacks an original thought in his head. An entire Winter spent contemplating options in the Graveyard of Empires, just to make the same kind of decision Incurious George would make in two seconds flat; change you can believe in boys and girls!

Obama followed the script laid down to him by grand consensus of the DC elite without even bothering to change an i or a t. He ignored the military as much as he could, without sparking an out-right mutiny, and he ignored the facts on the ground as best as he could as well. He kicked the can down the road to avoid the political repercussions of what really needed to be done: fish or cut bait.

The situation on the ground in Afghanistan was exactly what one would suspect after nearly four years of neglect and low priorities: an utter disaster. The Talaban were back bigger, badder than ever. The government of Hamid Karzai was a corrupt, disheveled, incompetent non-starter. The US troopers where burnt out from multiple deployments, and utterly cynical about the mission. The Afghan police and army were a disorganized, unprofessional collection of louts and layabouts, a menace more than a help to the civilians. In short, the best policy for Afghanistan was to walk to the exits as quickly as decorum would allow. But that would be toxic politics, and Obama is nothing if not a political animal.

Obama doubled down with his own Bushite Surge. True to form, the Surge, not really woking in Iraq, did not work at all in Afghanistan. It was a net loss all around; except to the Taliban, who had a gay old time running circles around the Coalition military.

That Obama did not see this coming, or that he pretended not to see it, are two equally hideous possibilities. Obama's failures frustrate me much more than Bush's. Bush was a man-child, a dry drunk with a mean streak, one can understand, if not approve, his lack of compassion for everyone caught in the meat grinder of Afghanistan. But Obama was supposed to be the smarter one, the intellectual, the cool, rational leader. Obama was supposed to occupy the higher intellectual and moral space. Instead, he carried on, continued the pointless war in Afghanistan. Obama even attempted to renegotiate the withdrawal from Iraq. After the epic mess Bush made, there was no way on God's good green earth that the Iraqi's were going to extend the SOFA with the US. Incredibly, Obama was even more foolhardy than Bush, who saw the writing on the wall and caved to the Iraqis.

To me, Obama is the prime example of what is wrong with our political class. He is a prime example of the intellectual and moral rot; of how the Establishment has corrupted and degenerated. With no real check on its enthusiasms, the political elite had become intellectually and morally flabby. The All Volunteer Military has released them to attempt all manner of hare-brained interventionist schemes. Because so few US citizens have any skin in the game of power politics, there is no accountability. If the troopers in Iraq and Afghanistan were draftees, the Bush and Obama Administrations would have been much more circumspect about how they went about their policies. You sure would not see the multiple deployments, and the traumatic brain injuries that are the signature outcomes of our two wars of choice. You might not have even seen a unthinking rush to war with Iraq if the Draft was in place. But there is no draft, so our clueless, incompetent, unthinking political class gets to charge off into any number of misadventures and then leave the bill for later generations to pay. Yes, war is always a costly and dirty business, but our political elites have found a way to make it even uglier, nastier, more brutal, and more pointless than it needs be.

1 comment:

Cujo359 said...

How can a man with such an obvious intelligence as Barack has, slip into the group think that infests the fetid political swamps of the Potomac, is beyond me.

My working assumption has been that the only thing that Barack Obama believes in is Barack Obama. With that thought in mind, I'm seldom surprised by anything he's done. For leaders, particularly the kind who should be written of in quotation marks ("leaders"), it's often easier to just go along with what seems to be conventional wisdom in a bureaucracy, and end up losing a fight. When you don't believe in anything, there aren't really going to be many reasons to avoid going along.

As for my neglect in mentioning libertarianism per se, yes, the failure in Iraq was certainly given cover by AEI and others. I believe I've mentioned Iraq once or twice as an example of why libertarianism is a lousy philosophy of government, but if I haven't done that explicitly, consider this comment an exclusive ;-). There's value in questioning whether government should be involved in this or that. There's value in questioning how government should be involved. There's nothing but trouble, though, in assuming we can do without it except for one or two small functions.

Iraq demonstrated that, both in its lawlessness and its lousy economic performance. Those things go hand in hand, as it turns out, and the former is aided immensely where there's no respect for the role of government.