Tuesday, January 27, 2009


The testimony that SecDef Gates gave today in Congress was an excellent illustration of the policy vacuum that Obama has inherited, and evidently endorsed. As this good article by Nancy Youssef of McClatchy points out:

Giving his first congressional testimony under his new boss, President Barack Obama, Gates called the Afghan army and police the "exit ticket for all of us," yet he conceded that the Afghan government is too poor to support those forces long term.

He called for a more unified command structure, implying direct U.S. command, and at the same time called on NATO countries to do become more assertive. He also said the U.S. needs more modest goals in Afghanistan even as it commits 30,000 more troops to tackle Afghanistan's complex drug trafficking network.


Gates also said he's concerned about civilian causalities, but he didn't back away from using airstrikes, which are some of the most common causes of civilian deaths.

He stressed that if the U.S. is seen as an occupying force, rather than one supporting the Afghan forces, "we will set ourselves up for failure."

This is dreamland, people. Contradictory aims are garbled together for the big goal:
Instead, the goal must be for Afghanistan to no longer be a place where terrorists can plot attacks on the U.S.
Terrorists, Mr. Gates, are being created by your half-assed, murderous policies. They can go anywhere to 'plot'. If you mean train, then try to remember that the purported 9/11 terrorists trained in the good ol' USA. What are you going to do about that?

It was a very bad indication that Obama decided to keep Gates. It was an admission that the incoming administration was clueless about what was happening in the Middle East and Central/South Asia, and that they would let themselves be guided by those whose failures were already apparent.

For a good place to start in trying to conceive some way out of the mess, here is a amazing review of a book by Ahmed Rashid, Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia.

The review should be read in its own right, and the book itself has leaped to the top of Blog Simple's reading list. I wonder if anyone in the administration has or will read it? It sure doesn't look that way.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention Gates's raving about Iran opening 'offices' in Latin America. Without the Bush crazies around him, he looks a lot more like what he is, a second rate bureaucrat totally out of his depth.


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