Okay, here's what I really think about President Obama's strategy to fight al Quada in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
It is a short-term approach that in the end will not improve our national security. The president makes a good case for a stable, self-governing Afghanistan. That's wishful thinking.
He failed to convince me how that will translate to a more stable Pakistan which owns nuclear weapons that could fall into the hands of al Quada or other terrorists.
I'll give credit to the president for not claiming the mission will produce a win. The 30,000 additional troops could turn the current stalemate to our favor in the Afghan provinces. But only as long as they remain there.
In Pakistan, the government is weak, the population pocked with extremists and the Army is focused on their arch enemy India.
The problem with the strategy is that the 100,000 U.S. troops and whatever the NATO countries grudgingly provide are to take over and hold the population centers. The main target will be Kandahar in the south which has been the stronghold of the Taliban. This is a strategy doomed from the start because it pits the rural areas against the cities and consequently fuels the competing cultures into a doomed civil war. That's not my analysis but one predicted by Matthew Hoh, the administration's top Afghan foreign service diplomat who quit in disgust.
Much is being made of Obama's pledge to begin withdrawing troops by July 2011. It is either an appeasement to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party who were candidate Obama's strongest supporters. Or a benchmark telling the insurgents when to return.
The answer to that we'll see in Iraq when the status of forces agreement calls for all U.S. combat troops be pulled out by 2011. I'm certain that is a coincidence not overlooked by al Quada and insurgent Sunni masterminds.
To me, the Obama Doctrine is a war of attrition playing into the hands of Osama bin Laden to such us dry of both will, lives and treasure. It's national security vs. affordability.
The president at least recognizes our national security depends on a robust domestic economy which at the moment is in recovery mode.
Look at the numbers. It costs an estimated $1 million to support each soldier on the ground in Afghanistan. At the same time, unemployment is above 10% and likely to remain there for at least several more years. And, about 43,000 Americans die each year because they cannot afford health insurance. Our national debt exceeds $1.2 trillion and exponentially increases as interest rates balloon.
In this regard, I am a progressive and believe we cannot afford a major future presence in the Afghan provinces where we are seen as occupiers and untrusted. The Republicans in Congress almost to the last one believes we cannot afford health reform yet are willing to write a blank check for our national security.
Yet, when Obama's $30 billion military appropriation request for Afghanistan reaches Congress we will see something we haven't seen in years. Bipartisanship. I suspect the bill will be approved, carried by the Republicans and just enough Democrats.
It's the classic guns vs. butter argument. The answer is a no-brainer. In this venue, the pen is not mightier than the sword and that's a shame.
Afghanistan will be Afghanistan 10, 20 or 100 years from now. Our presence there in the sands of time is a pimple on a blimp.