Monday, September 21, 2009


Topping yesterday's leak in the NYT on McChrystal's request for more troops, the WaPo today released a redacted version of his Afghanistan assessment, complete with an introductory article by famed stenographer reporter Bob Woodward, from a few weeks ago. When leaks start to flow like the river, you can be sure that there are conflicting policy assessments that are fighting it out by means of a dutiful press.

As we've seen before, Obama sits on his hands as the messages trap him into decisions that are bad for his administration, and worse for the country. It happened in the bankster bailout, it happened on the health care 'debate', and it's happening now on Afghanistan. Well, you go to war with the President you've got, to paraphrase Rummy.

McChrystal, as usual, lays most of the blame for past failures on the Afghanis themselves, guilty of corruption, drug smuggling, warlordism, and incompetence. On the other hand, the Taliban (also Afghanis, you may recall) are described as muscular and sophisticated. And they got that way without our help!

The complaint about warlords must be especially galling to Karzai, who was given the warlords as a fait accompli after the invasion. He has had to deal with them, and he has, of course. Much of the aid money is undoubtedly channeled to them to keep them quiet and to augment their income from the drug trade.

These warlords and their private armies, what does McChrystal propose to do about them? From what I read in the assessment, he doesn't address the issue of private militias at all. One might think that to consolidate the power of the state, private militias, no matter how friendly, should be disarmed. Maybe it would make sense to see the Taliban as just several allied and currently hostile militias among many. It's hard to take seriously an assessment that ignores the facts on the ground that determine the condition of much of the population.


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