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Obama's Strategy for Afghanistan... and the Next Election

(Photo by Robin Holland)

This week on the JOURNAL, guest host Lynn Sherr talked with Rory Stewart, an expert on Afghanistan and director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, for his perspective on America’s lengthy war in that fractured country.

In a recently leaked memo, the United States’ top commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, recommended that the Obama administration send tens of thousands of troops – or, he wrote, the mission “will likely end in failure.” Facing increasing skepticism about the war from Congress and the general public, President Obama has so far delayed his decision on troop levels.

Rory Stewart argued that our stated goals for Afghanistan – routing the Taliban, banishing al-Qaeda, and restoring a functioning government – are unrealistic. He believes that the United States should deploy a much smaller force devoted to stopping al-Qaeda from rebuilding a base in Afghanistan rather than risk provoking a public backlash against any presence there at all. Regardless of what President Obama may personally desire, however, Stewart said that political and electoral pressures will likely compel him to deploy more troops:

“I think it's very irresponsible – if you care about Afghanistan – to increase troops much more, because I can see us going from engagement to isolation, from troop increases to total withdrawal. The path the President has started us on, I would predict, would mean that in five, six years time, everybody will simply get fed up with Afghanistan and abandon it entirely.... I think it would be a political catastrophe for the president to refuse to accede to a request from the man on the ground... He’s a civilian president... He’s under attack already from the right for being soft on national security... The General has provided his advice, and I would be extremely surprised if the President doesn’t come out in favor. In fact, my guess is that a lot of the talk about skepticism at the moment is an attempt to try to deal with opposition within his same party.”

What do you think?

  • Should more U.S. troops be deployed in Afghanistan? Why or why not?

  • Do you agree with Stewart that sending in more troops will soon turn public opinion against any involvement in Afghanistan? Explain.

  • Do you think Obama would sustain major political damage if he chose not to send more troops into Afghanistan? If so, should he send troops if it helps him pursue the rest of his agenda?


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    Comments

    I agree that our military leaders are looking for an excuse to use our mighty military complex to flex its muscle no matter where the battle field. Columbia in South America is one of those places, just as an example, to threaten Venezuela among others in the south. Again, it's money but Our problems are structural, which means institutional and engineered. A search for lost honor or ideals is hopeless. What do you recommend, JJ my son? What would you replace "IT" with?
    many Thanks,
    http://www.wsetech.com

    To be fair, Obama stood for election on a platform of pulling out of Iraq and beefing up efforts in Afghanistan, so he's only doing what he said he'd do.

    Of course he only made those statements about Afghanistan in the election campaign so that his pledge to withdraw quickly from Iraq didn't appear "weak". Politically it worked but it has made it impossible for him to start exiting from Afghanistan any time soon. Even though there is no logic to them being there.

    I expect that Obama is following the path that Stewart suggested. Being backed into a corner, he had no choice politically but to increase the troop levels, however he laid out a time table that quite short. Commentators are all saying that the deadlines are much more flexible and will be extended but I expect him to begin drawing down troops on schedule, pursuing the limited containment and development strategy Stewart outlined. A year or two from now it will be much easier to do politically.

    YOU SEE?? FINALLY!!! some comments of disappointment from the weak minded....those who voted for OBAMA in the first place. they are those who every election vote statigically and side with the democratic candidate. the Republicans and the Democrats are two sides of the same coin. WHEN will you folks see this. Mass Protest...Mass Action...arrests...and no compromise. it's the only way.
    Afghanistan is the empire run by the 1% trying to gain control of a region that has never succumbed to western invasion. Obama you let us down.

    First, I am registered as an Independent. This is neither a Democratic nor Republican

    issue. This is something that affects us all. I am really upset and disappointed with

    President Obama's decision to deploy 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. He's taking our

    country in the wrong direction. What happened to the campaign promise of "bringing home

    the troops"? I was hoping that he would bring change to our country and I don't see

    that change. This seems like business as usual. His decision hurts me and a lot of other

    people deeply.

    I really had high hopes that President Obama would be a different President. This comes

    at a time when our nation is in an economic crisis. People are worried about jobs,

    about not being able to pay for their basic necessities. We need to turn inwards to

    help our own people in our own nation. Why are we diverting valuable resources to

    another country when our own people are obviously struggling. Where are the jobs??!!

    Why are we shouldering the majority of this effort yet again? Sure, there will be a

    token sprinkling of other troops from other countries, but we're still shouldering the

    vast majority of it. Where is the rest of the world in this? The world has as much

    stake in this as we do. There comes a time when America CAN NOT do it all. We need to

    lead by example. The best thing that we can do is to get our own house, our own country

    in order because we are facing an unprecedented economic crisis that is not over yet and

    could potentially spriral out of control again.

    Obama speaks of an increasingly competitive world. The world is laughing at us while we

    spend valuable resources that we don't have to fund this war. The world is laughing at

    us because it will only mean that they will out-compete us and emerge out of this crisis

    while we become further entrenched in our ever-increasing debt.

    One fundamental question remains. How do we know when we've won this war? This seems

    to be a never-ending war.

    Many of us, who hoped Obama would be different and indeed bring significant and much-

    needed change to our country, are frustrated that our priorities seem to be SO WRONG.

    No one cares about healthcare or really anything else if they don't have a roof over

    their head or a job. The priorities from day one should have been about JOBS, JOBS,

    JOBS!!!!

    Amazing how GOP's NOW are interested in details. They didn't care about details or the truth when it came to WAR when Bush was recklessly and incompetently in charge. No exit strategy, no problem. A LIE as in YOU LIE - no problem.


    The REAL lasting imprint that idiot Bush made was starting a war in Iraq based off lies, thus, killing thousands of American soldiers - apparently this is not important to Bushwackers.

    I am sure ALL GOP's, who supported Bush's corrupt war in Iraq, made their children join the military. Otherwise, I can't imagine how disappointed Bushwackers must be in their children who decided to go to college and not join the military.

    If we are short of troops, thanks to Bush, a draft needs to get started. First ones drafted should be those who support Bush's corrupt war in Iraq which he started off lies. Second ones to be drafted are all family members of those who support Iraq. And those fore mentioned to be drafted need to head to the front lines, anything less would be inappropriate.

    Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld - Weapons of Mass Destruction, Weapons of Mass Destruction Well, where are the Weapons of Mass Destruction? You get ONE guess where the Weapons of Mass Destruction are NOT located. The basis for why we invaded Iraq yet there are NO Weapons of Mass Destruction, yet WE are still there. We got Weapons of Mass Destruction drilled into our heads by those idiots because of all the media coverage those idiots got. Biased liberal media coverage - You have got to be kidding! If Bush would have stayed focus on Afghanistan, the Taliban would not be terrorizing the world.

    Bush pulled the majority of our troops out of Afghanistan and he stopped sending troops to Afghanistan-the forgotten REAL war- to start his corrupt war in Iraq which he LIED about, hence, CORRUPT war. And now that vile Cheney and some GOP's think Obama is endangering our troops! Unbelievable! How dumb can a man be? I'd rather see our troops alive and out of Iraq than any stupid 'win' title. In a civilized world, it should not be acceptable to start a war off lies!

    For Bush to start a war in Iraq off lies and not be held accountable, furthermore then getting RE-elected after all his lies, corruption, and ever embarrassingly stupid speeches, is truly beyond comprehension and a warped sense of Patriotism. A true insult to the service of veterans especially the vets who never returned home.


    Mr. Galbraith is a hero of mine, and it was a delight to listen to him tonight on the show. It takes intelligence and courage and to say the things he does. Thank you for providing such an outstanding program for your viewers.

    When we look only at military options, we become polarized. The responsibilities for our soldiers lives is overwhelming. We must share in that responsibility, as in WWII, but more so. The world has become more connected, and we must all plug in. Let thousands and thousands of civilians go to Afghanistan. We certainly have more than enough unemployed people here in the US who would like to work in humanitarian endeavors. Teachers, accountants, auto workers, constructions workers. This is a way to use our stimulus dollars, not add to the cost of war, and create a tidal wave of good will.....if done properly. We don't go carrying weapons. We go build roads, clean water systems, schools, teach and help with business and health endeavors. The Afghanis can plan what they need, we can make it happen. Many Middle Eastern countries would probably support this type of effort. It is a scale of new proportions, with endless benefits possible. Lets quit sending young men and woment to fight before they have a chance to understand that wars are simply a failure of humanity. If the jihadists want to wipe out a hundred thousand good will workers, I'm willing to die to show the rest of the world. How can I ask a young soldier to do that, if I won't?

    Bill in his comments suggested that we reinstate the draft to stir up Washington. As a person who was drafted I agree it would cause people to think. Now if you really wanted to raise hell we should draft women also. Then watch the stuff fly.

    Bill in his comments suggested that we reinstate the draft to stir up Washington. As a person who was drafted I agree it would cause people to think. Now if you really wanted to raise hell we should draft women also. Then watch the stuff fly.

    On Afghanistan, the rock on which many empires have foundered:

    "It has been tried once before. It was tried twice before that. Why is there a certain cast of the military mind which leads sensible people do again, with gusto, what didn't work before?"
    -Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett, pg.229.

    Well, General McChrystal?

    "WE" are incapable of counterinsurgency among 28 million Afghani residents who mostly oppose occupation. Pakistan is a state of the same order of power as the USA (200 million population and nuclear armed, large capable military). They generally prefer we'd withdraw.

    Even corporate drone generals estimate a minimal presense of 200,000 Americans for any effect, and we lack the wherewithal to finance such action. Why do we want to go on killing anyway when our empire is in cascade collapse due to internal conspiracy?

    Suicide by unwinnable war: Now that's an idea! Where have we seen this before? (Smith suggests as much in "Obama's War"-Frontline.)

    Turner: Obama needs a bomba-jacket too; and so does every official with trigger access. Maybe we could expand that nuclear trigger stuff to unilateral declaration of pre-emptive war. (though maybe not to illicit affairs)
    Captcha: "tall hard-core"
    response: true that

    On the other hand, many of these guys may already be "wearing a vest" compliments of the oligarchy, and another coat could get seriously bulky. (That would explain President Obedient, wouldn't it?)

    I think the "real dictators" would never submit to strait-jacketing. They would always find some putz to model their outfit. Try one on for size, Turner.

    Perhaps the most interesting development of all was the manner in which the deliberative process was approached by the public and the media. While Obama did ask for an assessment by General McChrystal I'm not sure that any deliberative process is possible without...deliberation. This innately implies alternatives and I didn't get the impression from either the media or several Republican legislators that there's any other option. We're apparently supposed to take whatever conclusion is made by the commanding officer and support it to the end, regardless of possible consequences and the patently problematic delivery. Success still yet isn't guaranteed with this strategy, and this comes just as General McChrystal himself appears to be at significant unease towards corruption in the Afghan government. It takes me back to a really good piece I once saw on PBS, it was called "Buying the War."

    Where are the hard hitting questions? Can the General give us an estimate of success? Probability? We will fail if we do nothing, but that's not new. There seems to be an awful lot of focus on failing even if we do something...

    Kris - Benicia, CA

    another thing, the memo was not leaked, it went through multiple levels of clearance.

    I say we give Iran 5 of our nuclear missiles on one condition: Each mulla and the president must wear GPS triggers. If any one missile moves or it's engines begin to fire all 5 detonate. This will save a lot of time and money and teach an awesome lesson on responsibility and inspire a great response by their population to get involved.

    Washington electrons follow paths of least resistance so they can not get un-elected.
    How to revenge 9-11?
    Well, don't upset the Saudias or Egyptians, but no one likes Iraq & no one knows anything about Afganistan, so we blow them up & hold hands with Saudia Royality!

    Who would want to do a deal with the USA-other than selling $2.00 oil for $200.00.

    Candidate Change promised-- & each voter heard--the answer they wanted & soon the chickens will be looking for their promised roost & it will not be there.

    Politicans have been elected & they control The White House & both houses of Congress--which ain't no change.

    But 'they' better watch out what they promised 'cause CHANGE is just an election away!

    A THIRD Party may be the only answer for the people & that would be change!
    Congress-persons Kaptur & Mack are 2 rays of light from the smoke poluted halls of power to the few Congress.

    Billy Bob, Florida

    What is keeping alive this conflict in Afghanistan, and to a certain extent now the disturbance in Iraq is the military`s need to insure that this does not explode into another Vietnam-which it has all the earmarks of doing. The chief power behind all of this charade is the Pentagon whose control has grown dominating Congress and our Constitution.

    "Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends [i.e., securing inherent and inalienable rights, with powers derived from the consent of the governed], it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." --Thomas Jefferson: Declaration of Independence, 1776. ME 1:29, Papers 1:315

    Richard Engel, NBC (Charlie Rose 10/07/09), gave (at last) an honest assessment of Af-Pak. But, alas, with a paradoxical conclusion, i.e., not to leave posthaste, despite a realistically hopeless outlook. Engle lamented leaving the Pakistani’s after exhorting them to take up the battle against the Taliban. ???? I don’t get it. It’s their problem to resolve (or not) in any level of efficiency (or not) they chose. The Pashtun (Source of Taliban) are 15 per cent of Pakistan. In other words doable if they have the will.

    Engle could discern no distinction between Taliban and al Qaeda, and the Taliban were Pashtun (but all Pashtun are not Taliban). He further asserted that drone missiles were not the answer because of civilian casualties and lack of target definition.

    As an aside, for those who like to keep score against the 3,000+ World Trade Center 9/11/2001 deaths, the raw score in body count is more than settled with Afghan troops killed at 11,522; Afghan civilians killed at 7,589; [1,371 coalition troops, contractors and six journalists]. So the eye-for-an-eye, and a tooth-for-a-tooth (until we’re all blind and toothless crowd) should be satiated.

    Given that and the fact that Osama bin Laden has apparently safely ensconced himself out of reach, what is our objective? The elusive end-game? How about an Hippocratic Oath takeoff, of “Second, Do no (more) harm!” The hardliners are shuddering, but remember tough guys we’re already more than even based on body count - what other metric is there as far as vengeance?

    Formulations to consider, where: O = Outcome, T=US Troops, E = Enemies, C = Created, V = Vanquished (killed), I = Indifferent.

    Scenarios: 1- Add 40,000 to 68,000 troops and 75,000 contractors already there. 2-Add 20,000 troops. 3-Add none. 4-Add none and remove all troops and contractors.

    Assumptions: 1- For each Enemy (Pashtun) killed a MINIMUM of three other Pashtuns will grieve and harbor resentment, 2- The current rate of say (11522+7589)/68000x8 = 35 Pashtuns/US troop/yr vanquished (euphemism for killed) per 1,000 troops will continue.

    Therefore, the outcomes O for for the four scenarios are shown below:

    Where: Outcome O = T in thousands x Vanquished per year per thousand = Annual Pashtun Kill.

    Scenario 1: O = (68k + 40k) x 35 = 3780 / yr
    Scenario 2: O = (68k + 20k) x 35 = 3080 / yr
    Scenario 3: O = (68k + 0 k) x 35 = 2380 / yr
    Scenario 4: O = (68k - 68k) x 35 = 0 / yr

    These hypotheticals could be reduced by strategical policies and actions. But at whatever level, they have consequences. If it can be safely assumed that at least three generations carry emotional trauma for at least three survivors of the ‘vanquished’ 150 enemy-years (E-yrs) will be created for each Pashtun killed. Therefore, for the four scenarios the following potential E-yrs of terrorists will be created ©.

    Scenario 1: C = 150 E-yrs x 3780 = 567,000 Enemy-years
    Scenario 2: C = 150 E-yrs x 3080 = 462,000 Enemy-years
    Scenario 3: C = 150 E-yrs x 2380 = 357,000 Enemy-years
    Scenario 4: C = 150 E-yrs x 0 = 0 Enemy-years

    Reminder, these figures are for one year. Another eight years increases Scenario 1 to 4,536,000 Enemy-years for example.

    Simplistic example: they experience casualties when they go out on patrols in the remote outposts. When they don’t, they don’t. DUH!

    Iraq will never REALLY resolve their Sunni - Shia problem until we leave and they are forced to reach an accommodation one way or another, equitable or not. Repressive a la Sadam or not, they’ll own it.

    Af-Pak as well will never REALLY resolve their Pashtun (aka Taliban, al Qaeda) problem until we leave and they are forced to reach an accommodation one way or another, equitable or not.

    WE NEED TO CUT OUR LOSSES, PULL OUT AND COME HOME - NOW!!

    So, there you go Mr. President, for every 1,000 troops sent to Af-Pak, the potential for diminishing the NY sky-line is increased by 5,250 Enemy-years, for each year they are deployed. Such scientifically, mathematically derived S.W.A.G. precision is undeniable. Ignore at your own peril and demeaning of your newly acquired Nobel peace prize. Prove it and bring em home!

    With all these potential enemies (below), we can’t waste resources on a select few. And we can’t conquer the world - even though the list is long enough to warrant paranoia - we have to ramp up our intelligence, ramp down our arrogance, and pressure ME peace settlements.

    Yemen and Somalia are probably more real threats anyway. Terrorism is not geography, it’s an idea. Like Engle said, when someone says he’s al Qaeda, he pretty much is (regardless of race, creed or location on the planet) We had to work at this world-wide disenchantment..

    Abu Nidal Organization (ANO), Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Al-Shabaab, Ansar al-Sunnah, Armed Islamic Group, Asbat al-Ansar, Aum Shinrikyo, Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), Communist Party of Philippines/New People's Army (CPP/NPA), Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA), Gama'a al-Islamiyya (IG), HAMAS , Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islam/Bangladesh (HUJI-B), Harakat ul-Mujahadin (HUM), Hizballah, Islamic Jihad Union, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan , Jaish-e-Mohammed , Jemaah Islamiya Organization , Al-Jihad , Kahane Chai (Kach) , Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LT) , Lashkar i Jhangvi (LJ) , Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) , Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, Mujahadin-e Khalq Organization, National Liberation Army (ELN), Palestine Liberation Front – Abu Abbas Faction, Palestinian Islamic Jihad – Shaqaqi Faction, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, Al-Qa’ida, Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (Tanzim Qa’idat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn), Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Real IRA, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Revolutionary Nuclei, Revolutionary Organization 17 November, Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front, Shining Path, United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.

    Why was it such a bright idea for Bush et al to sign a deal with India where USA got mango juice and they got nuclear weapons?

    Before billions more tax dollars (via "health insurance" premiums) get shredded in the war machine, the topography of Afghanistan that allows for bumper crops, year after year, of poppies IS also available within the 48 states here in USA! Maybe that is one "green" industry that could be planted here at "home"? Why should only one country provide ALL the heroin in the world? Especially when the $$$ supports the "terrorists"? "Stoners" 12,000 miles away living in the 4th century trying to figure out what is fact and fiction from the internet before they choose who to "terrorize"...yikes! It's always going to be someone in the USA, huh?

    Democrats do not have to re-nominate Obama. (His hands are soiled with business patronage.) He might show some class in stepping aside. (Talk with Jimmy Carter, Barack.) Now is the time for party reallignment, as occurred when abolitionists emerged and Whigs disappeared. Ask yourselves, what is the most likely issue locus for the emergence of a new coalition, later to congeal as party.

    Our primary injustice at present is corporate personhood: It makes the erosion of human rights (civil and Constitutional rights also ) and life quality (for most) necessary. (Our empire rots from the head.) The corporate business model is too inefficient as far as our general well-being is concerned, and it must be phased out, for survival reasons. Corporatism is a clunker.

    Prof. Stewart,


    I appreciated the information which you gave during tonight's interview with Lynn Sherr.

    You made an excellent case for large reduction in the military footprint.

    Yet, I was stunned by your advice to President Obama:


    "My advice to President Obama is, you're going to have to increase troops now. It's too late for you, because you're going to be destroyed politically if you oppose your general on the ground on something like this."

    I have a twenty-three year old son serving with the U.S. Army in a remote forward operating base in Kandahar province.

    You are advising the President to expend the lives of our troops to save his political skin? Are these your values?

    I am shocked, and dismayed. Do you really think that my son's life, or any other soldier's life, is worth this?

    Obama's own mouth has painted him into a corner, no doubt. Yet you are saying he should sacrifice our troops and Afghan civilians for political expedience?

    If there is some way you can publicly retract such advice, and I can't find any reason to think there isn't, don't you think it would behoove you to do so?

    Posted by: D. R. Brown


    I'm still here with you, D.R.Brown. It's absolute madness, isn't it? A world without any "value" other than "money"...

    The anti-war movement needs a very simple slogan.

    "PEACE NOW .... OR NO SECOND TERM!"

    The most effective act the peace movement could take right now would be to start to organize strong, unified anti-war independent campaigns in the closest House and Senate races. Independent races would threaten to swing those close seats back to Republicans, thus quickly ending the Dem majority in Congress.

    The peace movement needs to teach the Democrats that the Democrats can not win without the peace movement.

    JJ: As a man probably old enough to be your biological father I think your "Dad's
    America" hypothesis is awkward and misguided. When I hear the word "Dad's" I think of root beer. Dad's root beer consists of corn syrup, synthetic flavoring, filtered tap water, and a little fizz. Caffeine makes "Dad's" addictive. (I have overcome softdrink dependence.)People my age or older are no more noble or knowing than people your age. What is changing over time is the locus of political and economic power (in fewer less caring hands) and the resultant rules. Public opinion, like market demand, has always been a manufactured variable in the USA. With such an imbalance of effective power (oligarchy) the chosen outlet of supply (and information/rhetoric) determines demand. Hungry dogs eat any brand of dog food, and disaster victims accept any flashlight battery.

    Our problems are structural, which means institutional and engineered. A search for lost honor or ideals is hopeless. What do you recommend, JJ my son? What would you replace "IT" with?

    Whatever happened to Dad's America? It's vanishing. This is wrong. The USA won in Afghanistan before going into Iraq because the World was behind it then, and the country quickly collapsed like a deflated baloon -- not so now. Then is not the same as now. Hello?

    Now the World and the American people can't get behind this exhausting war anymore and won't. This is no longer a 'right' war or a 'just' war -- if there is any such thing as "just" since so many nice people are hurt that are innocent civilians.

    The buzz on the internet around the Globe is that Iraq comes down to getting more Oil, and the buzz about Afghanistan comes down to profiting from new Oil Pipelines and profiting from Opium. This is a shame. True or false, who can feel patriotic and cheerful about these silly troop build-ups anymore? this tired old strategys?

    An escalation will only benefit the makers of the weapons and the planes -- it does not serve the Afghanistan people, or those American people who don't work in weapon's plants.

    If the bottom line strategy is to selectively find and to stop any rogue nuclear materials, as Joe Biden thankfully suggests, then a massive army is not suited for this job and could mess it all up. This is obvious.

    The young man is right. You would need a much smaller hand picked army (as a police action)of special ops to surgically search out any nuclear materials. Far less than now - a small strike force.

    World opinion is now against the USA in this too and this sucks. It really does. World opinion, believe it or not, does matter to the larger USA Economy and Trade. Let's look at what the world hopes the USA will do, for real, and come clean.

    Obama may have no choice for this first escalation, and too bad for him.

    It's been too long since America has been able to truly heal from 9/11 and come to its senses.

    So let's get real.

    Why not give a small strike force (not from those damned independent contractors) a try? That is a real change in strategy.

    Come on guys, you're smart, you can come clean and you get real. Honor your Dad's America. Do it for your Dad's America, not this other nonsense.

    Maybe what to do in Afghanistan, a narco state, now, after 8 years and billions of $$$, will have to wait for a "successful strategy" that actually worked here in the USA with regards to OUR "war on drugs".


    Afghanistan is a lose lose situation. The only way to win in Afghanistan is to remove all our troops and do air surveillance and provide air support for the Afghanistan people. Then it will be necessary to set up a defense perimeter in the no man's land between Afghanistan and Pakistan to clear out the Taliban and the bin Laden terrorists. Otherwise, we are wasting our time and resources for nothing; not to mention getting a lot of people killed for nothing.

    Will cole, Jerswing, Jack Martin, and Anna's first paragraph 9/30 all bring out important points I think (haven't read everything here by a long shot). Yep, amalgams of Hunzas and many languages. "The Great Game" and the great wormhole to doom. Man, when will we know if that finding mentioned in this article really was provocative?
    http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/01/07/6214/

    Don't see any point in saying it's higher or lower. It's remoteness has allowed some valuable things, no doubt, to be preserved. But those things have been dying ever since their one big northern enemy left and they turned on each other (after we armed'em). Even under Russian rule more of those things would have survived. That's what we didn't see. Just like we didn't see Vietnam would maintain its independence from China. Costly lack of insight.

    If folks could manage to read what Loretta Napoleoni has to say about Islamic finance (try the book featured here)...I cannot see how they would end up believing that most violent fundamentalist Muslims would look forward to
    al Qaeda using Pakistan's nukes to destroy a great place...a place they would rather live in and rule. Look out, if we keep saddling our employers with skyrocketing HMO charges ("sanctioning ourselves" as someone put it)...they just might.

    Why do I say that? Here, I must note a perplexing thing. Using Google and Altavista, it is utterly amazing how few sites carry Napoleoni's "Islamic Finance" article. I've read the basics in her book...that's why I say it.

    The only sensible solution to the Afghan situation appears to be to let the Moslem countries, i.e. Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi, as well as Russia and China to handle the military. The role that the West has played has done very little in reconciling the problem other then creating the image of a crusading force once again penetrating this harried region. What does occur is that every time there has been some collateral damage the Taliban, as well as other forces in the region has used this action in their propaganda arousing the peoples of the region even more in their bitterness toward the West.

    The United States can make use of its highly efficient intelligence know how to help eradicate al Qaeda and others. There must also be a strong support movement to aid the Afghans to stabilize their economic processes. These aids must not be connected with the military—the roll of the Pentagon must be kept in the background as much as possible.

    The concept that we are at war is wrong. Our initial action was an incursion pure and simple, as was the case in Iraq. These two events have all the feel of yet another Mexican fiasco in 1846 and that with Spain at the turn of the century, or the acquisition of Hawaii, and of course, Vietnam. Assigning a term to a situation does not alter the fact as to just what has occurred.

    The American public has not been provided with the total picture in either Afghanistan or Iraq. For example, what is the roll of the special interest forces such as Blackwater will they be disbanded when our troops withdraw? And what has been and will be the roll of those giant oil companies in both countries? And finally, why was it necessary to construct such a mammoth Ambassadorial palace in Iraq and the one that is being constructed in Pakistan? These for a starter.

    As a military i must say while I agree that a General should follow the orders of his boss (POTUS) and repect his position it is not is responsbility to his but to protect and defend the CONSTITUTION of THE UNITED STATES not the president! While the general answers to the POTUS he is looks out for the rule of law. And if the president didn't order him to not to talk to the press he is free to do so barring classified info is not shared.

    That is why McArthur for disobeying direct orders and he should have been. Stanley McChrystal Have not done so, and remember that our POTUS fired the last guy and put Stanley McChrystal in to the job. If he doesn't listen to him then why did he fire the last guy?

    What is most noticible is how the Generals are getting out in front of Obama and going on TV to shape his options. At this point, one has to wonder if the President is not colluding with them as a means of avoiding responsibility, given the countless times Obama has decided to continue Bush's policies.

    Yes, the question of civilian control over the military is central here. We are clearly in danger of being deceived by another "false opposite" construct designed to deceive-- similar to Bush vs the CIA over the lies that lead to war in Iraq.

    All of which should remind us of a striking contrast, indeed THE striking contrast. In 1962 JFK fired a leading General for politicizing the troops with John Birch Society Rhetoric in Germany. On countless other occasions-- all of which seem to have been forgotten by the likes of Chomsky and Cockburn-- JFK turned down the Joint Chiefs orders, including at the moment that the world had come closest to nuclear destruction. James W. Douglass even quotes the venerated journalist
    Daniel Schorr on the newly revealed proof that the CIA viewed the Bay of Pigs as nothing less than a CIA operation directed at the President of the United States.

    Once again, the book JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters is proving the single most valuable reference for understanding the shell game of the
    the Washington-Virginia permanent war machine.

    Grady, "I go in for surgery, followed by a week of induced coma..."
    I wish you the BEST of LUCK to you and your family.

    Jack Martin, "When have WE ever had "a hundred years of peace and free trade"? Afghanistan may have had a hundred years of peace sometime in the last thousand years, but it would not have been a country or nation state, as we say, just several amalgams of villagers in the most hospitable areas."

    If you go back a thousand years, how much of Europe was MORE of a civilization than "amalgams" of villagers?

    How did Afghanistan become a narco state? "We" might be looking at "our" future as a narco state when we look at Afghanistan, right?

    One stinkin' attack and POOF, we head back to swinging through the trees because of massive electronic theft? Did you see where we are today back in 1980? NO ONE SANE COULD DO THIS TO A COUNTRY.

    How's the "economic sanctions" against ourselves working out?

    Not everyone who was AGAINST the invansion of Iraq was able to show up just this past Janaury 2009 in DC for the new "hope" - and that number of people had to be capped out at one million due to space...

    Wherever "this" is that "we" are at is NOT where the GOOD in us all would have brought us.

    One must keep an open mind about just how far psychotics WILL go.

    The war room attendees could NOT have been talking about Afghanistan - once again, this is where they want us to be looking...as the commercial for the airline says - "it's on"...

    I can confirm that "conspiracy theory" - the next move has been started - 1.5 billion in taxpayer money is "buying" the "toxic assests" from the "too big to fail" part of the equation. And during the whole month of August, the air heads were practicing in the skies overhead here for something really BIG - bigger than before the original invasion of Iraq...so all this yaddayadda about what to do about Afghanistan is propaganda to have us look in the wrong direction from where the action is going to be...man oh man do they have it wrong about what the response from Russia and China will be...especially Russia...

    A couple of retired USA military generals and admirals stated on a bloviator's show that they are STILL working FOR the people, as per the Constitution.

    Now which people would those be, REAL human beings or the "personhood" of corp?

    Once again a president must contend with the hubris of DOD, the obtuseness of State, and the unbridled militarism of neo-con wingnuts.

    I would counsel Obama what (belatedly arrived at) should have been suggested to LBJ.

    "If you will be "investing" $ billions to effect broad-based policy support among a populace, why not go directly to the source?"

    We should consider "carpet-bombing" Afghans with paper money. Appended to each bill should be an appeal to discretely rat-out any radicalized Taliban likely to pose a security threat.

    Then, utilizing a minimal special orces/intelligence presence - per Rory Stewart - we could "manage" the real threat of Al Qaeda supporters in Afghanistan.

    And there's the need for a tight leash on Hamid Karzai to insure that ongoing corruption and
    resultant cynicism among Afghans do not undercut our goals.

    We must remember that this episode picks up in the middle of an ongoing story. After a thousand years of relearning what was known for a thousand years before, we keep repeating aggressive interventions in distant lands for the same purpose. We take whatever recourses and lands we want from those who can't defend it, they retaliate, the children remember, the victors take more, they avenge, and the root is simple to understand. It is profit and greed. The fault lies within, we wealthy Americans ( British, Germans, French, Spanish, Ottomans, Romans, Persians, Greeks, Egyptians ) who have always pilfered more than needed. Will anyone remember this the next time they fill their tank with cheap gas from their oil? It may be gold, silver, slaves, fish or bananas but it is all justified theft the same.

    Posted by: Tom Richards

    Mr. Jack Martin,

    Rolling Stone has a writer dedicated to following the money. I just put the unholy trinity (RELIGION, "chosen" genes, slave labor) together and watch the flow of money.

    At least the "unrich" in other countries have not been stupid enough to put their labor wages - meager as they have always been - into a BANK. They always put it in the mattress. Makes the "derivative" accounting harder to calculate - not that there is any "reality" to "derivatives" in the fisrt place! The only "risk" they are calculating out of the formula is ANY flow of $$$ into a MAINTENANCE stream.

    Why are the OBVIOUS court cases NOT being filed? Does systematic accounting DESIGNED to destroy the infrastructure of the USA NOT qualify as treason? Is that how much HUMAN RIGHTS a crop has now? I sines before, I'm sinning now, and I'll be sinning in the future and it's okay because here's jesus-on-a-stick...

    And now they're LYING in a NEW way - saying that they want to build infrastructure in a narco state? Guess that 6000% increase in production since 2002 does need a couple of new roads.

    Where does this leave HUMANITY? The plan is to DRUG us and employ us only for a while until the next phase of their plan that eliminates the MAINTENANCE of us is constructed?

    Terry Thomas (the British comedian with the big diastoma?)
    "I'm breakin' through; I'm bendin' spoons; I'm keepin' flowers in full bloom: I'm lookin' for answers from the great beyond.... Answers." REM

    I have on a t-shirt my wife printed for me. Pictured are a tinman holding to a lion's tail as they ascend a steep mountain (looks like Afghanistan)for counterinsurgency against the wicked witch of the west. The caption: "For a good time join the Resistance." (If I had Terry's address I'd mail one in the preferred size gratis.)

    Yey, I'm just one of those 53 year old codgers who learns by talking incessantly. At this point, because we are an electronic police state where any boy with ambition can get FBI money to buy acetone and hydrogen peroxide (and may be eligible to will a late model van loaded with explosives), the Resistance remains mostly in our heads. It consists of becoming rationally and unselfishly informed (no guarantee against frameup or targeting: Take notice naive census workers.)

    But Terry Thomas, whomever or wherever you may be, you are well on your way. Hint: Don't be jealous of money or power: Just be critical of how it is accumulated and used. (Michael Moore's new capitalism (a love story) movie is silly but terrific, though it is a capitalist enterprise. Ken Burns national park series is moth-eaten, scatterbrained and redundant; but it is about one good outcome of socialism.) Keep learning and teaching Terry Thomas.

    Note: I go in for surgery, followed by a week of induced coma (for the intense pain and intubation) Oct. 30th. This may be my last post, or my last post until about Thanksgiving, or later, or never. They think I'll overcome my inability to inhale and some of my pains and organ crowding with the removal of some ribs and lung tissue,plus other repairs. I just couldn't go on suffering day and night, hate the pain medication, and my insurance and disability plan will end after my resignation Dec. 31st. So I'll either die "young" or become a great documentary filmmaker in my old age. And those Congressbastards are carving up Medicare before I get any! Concerned correspondents may contact me at:
    beretco.op@hotmail.com
    It's been great, thanks Bill and all.

    When have WE ever had "a hundred years of peace and free trade"? Afghanistan may have had a hundred years of peace sometime in the last thousand years, but it would not have been a country or nation state, as we say, just several amalgams of villagers in the most hospitable areas. It was colonialism (another ism) made it an artificial entity for exploitation (legal fiction for documents only). How can any power save a state that never was? How many countries might it have been if left alone? Maybe none?

    And what makes it that young people from 12K miles away, mostly carrying guns, and using 100 times each the energy supply of the populace, not conversant in the languages or cultures, have anything positive to offer? If females are abused we are not the ones to help. Our society is based upon systematic abuse (Michael Moore quote on Talk of the Nation yesterday). Our police find domestic calls distasteful and dangerous, so do we call a 25 year old Marine? If 26 million people cannot handle ousting the taliban, then there are obvious cultural reasons. (We can't even have single payer health insurance when 80% of us say we want it, so we ain't exactly a global Dr. Phil, or maybe we are an exploitative busybody just like him.)

    Free trade has never existed in the modern world, and what we have now is corporate merchantalism with corporate welfare (social-ism, so the wealthy can never lose money). Anna is on to something that 10 billion a month of future tax money can be borrowed so that the "royals" can reap 1 billion a month here and now in clear heroin profits. It's not "their money" after all: It's only "yore money", that is not yet extracted. So, all we could teach the rural people over there is exploitation and predatory employments. Karzai is a textbook example of our "teaching and helping." A few at the top are co-opted for expedient purposes. Nothing new, because we titled Amerindian lands by recruiting "chiefs." (Isn't that why our soldiers often call their entree informants "chief"?

    In the last two years I am of a conspiracy-theoried "beecham" mind because that is the scenario fitting events best. We should get out yesterday because Afghanistan is beyond our means, economic and cultural. (They are probably a higher culture than we for the most part, and less destructive of the planet.)

    Having said this, I would not prohibit human rights parties and yellowboy journalists and curious scientists from going anywhere they wish, at their own risk.

    Of course, he's right, but I don't think Pres Obama at this stage is necessarily committed, and I doubt that even a limited counter-terrorism strategy will work in the long run. And he hasn't quite put his finger on the reason why we are at this juncture, and that is that the secretary of state, and numerous others, probably including the president, view this in the same way LBJ viewed Vietnam, as an anti-poverty, community development problem, analogous to Reconstuction. Of course, those programs didn't work here either.


    I can't thank you enough for this insightful piece. It really provides a unique and valuable context for the news on this subject.

    What if we asked questions like, win what? for whom? at what cost? with what probability of outcome?

    During the Senate debate on the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that gave Johnson the authority to wage war in Vietnam, Sen. Ernest Gruening said the whole of Southeast Asia was not worth one American life. After 58 thousand dead Americans, it is clear that was a war we could not win. Afghanistan is also such a war — not worth one American life and a war we will not win. It took the British more than a decade to understand this, and it appears it will take us at least that.

    The only way everybody will benefit from additional US "boots on the ground" in Afghanistan is if they get off the FOB's and outside the wire and start working with the people. If the strategy doesn't change, the only ones to benefit will be the privileged and the elite.

    This interview with Rory Stewart provided very important and illuminating information. I plan on making sure my Congressman, Senators, and President Obama and administration officials see it. It is clear that the U.S. and the international community should find a way to help the people of Afghanistan build their infrastucture THEMSELVES by providing support and resources directly to villages, not through the Karsai government - which is now reported to be very corrupt. Villagers could be employed to provide the labor and be educated to help themselves at the same time to build needed infrastucture. It may be effective to have any workers take an oath on the Koran not to support or engage in terrorist acts or destroy infrastructure or American soldiers to be able to get a job doing anything we provide resources for. The U.S. could use some of the money we spend now providing employment to these people to build the water treatment and sewer systems, and trash removal needed to have a functioning society. That should build trust in the people. Our soldiers will not have as much to do or to fight against if we employ this strategy. Our soldiers can then concentrate on counter terrorism efforts and the border area with Pakistan. We need to stop bombing villages. Civilian deaths are a disaster for the people and for the U.S. in Afganistan. Rory Stewart made it clear that the international community needs to stick with this country and help its people develop over a long period. They have had too many invaders, who bring troops and death, but not real long term help. We need to change strategies so that we become the solution not just another invader. We have wasted a lot of resources with the current government. The U.S. has to find a way to put pressure on the Karsai government to show it is accomplishing goals or have money withheld. The recent elections indicate corruption. Resources need to be redirected to the people to achieve real progress in infrastucture. We all need to let our members of Congress and the President know that the American people want real progress in Afganistan, not just more troops. American and international troops should be deployed where they are most effective preventing terrorism and not likely to be killed dealing with roadside bombs, etc. Excellent interview.

    1. No more troops. Unless we can fix the corrupt government, which is not our job or business, we should not invest more money and lives.

    2. It's not completely certain what will happen to public opinion about the war. Conservatives claim that they outnumber liberals at this point in time. They seem to be for the war expansion.

    3. Yes, Obama will sustain political damage. He supported this war in his election platform to compete with the prevailing conservative views. It was a mistake that we all will pay for.

    No 1. ...WE DON'T HAVE THE FINANCIAL ABILTIY TO WAGE A WAR ANYWHERE.

    No 2. Reality check: ...the only way to achieve a military victory is to KILL ANYONE and EVERYONE,

    Posted by: Tracy Lane


    #1 - The "system" has updrafted all the PROFIT that was supposed to be used for MAINTENANCE into a big wad of $$$ "sitting on the sidelines"...that means that there IS all the money needed to wage wars anywhere and everywhere for about 10 more years...which is when all LIFE maintenance activity being neglected - health and public infrastructure - will no longer be necessary since "life" will be maintained by computers and machines...hence all that maintenance "money on the sides" is back flowing into the stock market today.

    #2 - They're still serving "tea", as Rory noted, to all the visitors who want control over the opium "empire"...I believe the players wanting control "get-it" that they need to kill everyone else. Question then still is, does USA need poppies to survive as a people-less, computer controlled, cartoon version of empire?

    No 1. This is bad, real bad. There is so much talk about why we should or shouldn't be waging war in Afghanistan, WHEN WE DON'T HAVE THE FINANCIAL ABILTIY TO WAGE A WAR ANYWHERE. It would be like my wife and I filing for chapter 11 and then start arguing about buying a million dollar home, (unless some Chinese business loaned us the money.) No 2. Reality check: War is war, and it's hell on earth, that's why I'm for peace. The brutal reality is, the only way to achieve a military victory is to KILL ANYONE and EVERYONE, and we are not willing to do that. So then what are we doing? We're messing around, wasting lives and money. It's like you want to win the football game but don't want to tackle anyone. These aren't real wars, they are more like complex police operations, but cost the same as war. So as long as we don't talk about these two things, we will allow the media, and the military profiters spin and spin all these other distractive arguments, and we will never face the reality.

    Why not send 40,000 Peace Corps instead of 40,000 war corps (military personnel) to Afghanistan?

    As usual, these questions miss the point.

    Osama bin Laden was not responsible for 9/11. Neither was Al Qaeda.

    The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were planned years in advance and have nothing whatsoever to do with freedom.

    These questions assume the US government has interest in helping the people of Afghanistan. It doesn't. The US governemtn has killed millions of innocent people, and it will continue to murder more. It will do whatever it takes to protect the power and wealth of the elite. That's who they work for, that's who Obama works for.

    1. This isn't Obama's war, it's Bush's war.
    2. There never should have been a war - not in Iraq, not in Afghanistan.
    3. The "mission" should have been, should still be, to capture Bin Laden.
    4. When Obama finishes his sightseeing he might take McChrystal by the hand and tell him: "General, get your troops out of Afghanistan, right now. And, yes, enjoy your retirement."
    5. He might also say: "By the way we have raised the reward for the capture of Bin Laden to 50 billion plus a guaranteed safe haven for the captor and the captor's immediate family." Signed: The Phantom of the White House

    We will leave Afghanistan with our tail between our legs. It's just a question of time and cost. The only benefit being to our industrial military that former President Eisenhower warned us against. Other Nations have tried and failed. I can not see the benefit to us or them. It would be more humane if the Taliban return just drop a big bomb on them and be done with it.

    This is such an important perspective to get in front of the public. Yes to the small force with the small but achievable objective.

    See what Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com has to say about our hawkish tendencies. I remember when Russia was nailed down in Afghanistan, how I took delight that it wasn't us. How little I knew.

    Rory, First let me say how refreshing it is for someone to actually set foot on foreign soil before drawing opinions. Your curiosity, bravery and wisdom are beyond anything remotely normal. God bless you. I do not agree with one of your points, however, which is that the President has no choice but to send troops. I feel that President Obama has enough popular support and that the American people are sufficiently fed up the Afghanistan and Iraq affairs to understand the President reversing his position (or opposing General McChrystal) if he feels it’s in our country’s best interest. Besides, if he submits only to save his job or face, then he shouldn’t be president.

    We heartily agree with all of your comments, Rory, on the Bill Moyer's Journal and also in your Time Magazine article a year ago. It fits our experience. We lived in Jalalabad 1967-1969 and taught in the Nangarhar Medical Faculty. We traveled as a family alone the portion of your route from Band-i-Amir to Peshawar. God saved your life in the winter cold and snow of that alpine lake and in the Taliban village. He will determine the outcome of Taliban and other empires built on forceful control.

    to the editor: we understand you will regulate any responses to this message.

    No, more troops should not be sent. In fact all the U.S. troops and those of their allies should be immediately pulled out. However, the questions posed for comment are not speaking to the heart of the matter. The real question is, what has this war and occupation meant to the people of Afghanistan and the complicity of too many people in America with the horror this war has brought to the people in Afghanistan?

    Obama is sending 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to join the already existing U.S. force of 38,000. What does this growing U.S. occupation mean for the masses of people in Afghanistan? May 4, 2009 provided a stark example when a U.S. air strike killed over 140 people in the western province of Farah.

    According to the New York Times: “The bombs were so powerful that people were ripped to shreds. Survivors said they collected only pieces of bodies. Several villagers said that they could not distinguish all of the dead and that they never found some of their relatives.” (“Afghan Villagers Describe Chaos of U.S. Strikes,” New York Times, May 14, 2009)

    In July 2008, a bridal party was on its way to the groom’s village in an area in the eastern province of Nangarhar. Suddenly a U.S. plane flew down low over the ravine. The British mainstream newspaper, the Guardian, described what happened next:

    “The first bomb hit a large group of children who had run on ahead of the main procession. It killed most of them instantly. A few minutes later, the plane returned and dropped another bomb, right in the centre of the group. This time the victims were almost all women. Somehow the bride and two girls survived but as they scrambled down the hillside, desperately trying to get away from the plane, a third bomb caught them. Hajj Khan was one of four elderly men escorting the bride’s party that day. ‘We were walking, I was holding my grandson’s hand, then there was a loud noise and everything went white. When I opened my eyes, everybody was screaming. I was lying metres from where I had been, I was still holding my grandson’s hand but the rest of him was gone. I looked around and saw pieces of bodies everywhere. I couldn’t make out which part was which.’” (see “Afghanistan: impact of civilians killed by US/UK,” The Guardian, December 17, 2008)

    Incidents like this have become the daily life for the people of Afghanistan. As I write this, over a billion people go to sleep hungry every night, 28,000 children die everyday in the third world from preventable disease, the U.S. bombs, invades and occupies Iraq and Afghanistan, the latest in a long list, with Iran now in their sites. This is the world of imperialism. The world should not and need not be this way. I suggest people check out and tune into an amazing evening with Maoist Political Economist and Communist Raymond Lotta. "Behind the World Economic Crisis: System Failure and the Need for Revolution" will be a live webcast on September 29, Tuesday, 7:30pm EDT. For details go to http://revolutionbooksnyc.org/ See Raymond Lotta's new YouTube, "The Rape of the Congo and Your Cellphone" at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBhiEKZezhY to get a glimpse of this amazing speaker and analysis.

    Stewart's analysis I hope becomes a model of how to present to the unprofessional public the pros and cons of a range of options based on the unique cultural and political profile of Afghanistan.

    Posted by: Dana Mooring


    Get off your high horse. Some of the "unprofessional public" has been around for every lie and every morph of the "bad guys".

    Professional assessment is that the "economy" of Afghanistan is a narco state...and you might want to take a look at USA "economy" after last September's "meltdown" before you continue to promote anything from the same "end times" playbook.

    I don't think that anyone has a doubt that the "powers" that be can effectively use "economic sactions" to bring down any civilization.

    Are you saying that building up a civilization only to bring it down is the way to achieve lasting power by some cabal in a narco state?

    Another consideration is that the resources of the US are limited. At some point, the US will have more simultaneous wars than the country can handle. Which means defeat in most, if not all, wars at that time. I suspect the hawks will not learn their lesson until after the US suffers a catastrophic defeat. But by then, it will be too late.

    I was struck by two contrasting efforts to use humanitarian gestures to "win" Afghanistan on the Christianne Ahmanpour (?SP) special recently. The piece showing school builder, Greg Mortenson (author, Three Cups of Tea), contrasted with the Army officer presenting the school the military had built (?restored). It makes clear how you make friends of your enemies. When you are there to take something - you will never win. When you are there to give from your heart and take nothing you will get it all. Now what famous book taught that lesson??

    Grady Lee Howard | September 26, 2009 10:32 AM:
    Join what resistance? & who's a lookin? They?
    Your right about whats under the shell.
    Tell me more about them and the resistance!
    Terry Thomas

    I thought Mr. Stewart was the most credible person I've heard on the issue. When you live with the people as he did you get to know the real story. We should heed his insights, they are immeasurably keen.

    I don't agree that he was advising Obama to save his political skin at the cost of our troops. I think he was just lamenting the box the President is in with the leak. I think Obama may surprise us all with his decision. The leak is countered by the political cover of public opposition to the war. That's probably why the military made its move... so as to blunt that opposition and whip up support.

    To see the IMPORTANT historical perspective on this issue read this GREAT Frank Rich NY Times piece. Link here--
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/opinion/27rich.html?_r=1

    Stand fast to reason Mr. President!

    Paul Seif
    California

    Lynn Sheer's interview of Rory Stewart, Friday, on Bill Moyers Journal was the most compelling analysis of the delimma's the U.S. faces in our Afghanistan war. This is not a football game; the stakes are extremely high, but sensible options are available to the President. Stewart's analysis I hope becomes a model of how to present to the unprofessional public the pros and cons of a range of options based on the unique cultural and political profile of Afghanistan.

    Excellent interview. I admire Rory Stewart very much. There are few people, if any, with his experience. I hope someone sends this interview to President Obama and the Armed Services Commitee. I was impressed, among other things, with Rory's statement that most Afgans couldn't find the U.S. on a map. How can they be a threat to us? The fact that there is no water supply in most places and no waste disposal in the capital city made an impression on me. I agree we must shift gears, begin to withdraw from Afganistan, leave ten - twenty thousand special forces to clean out Al Queda in Packistan. We can help the Afgans with their infrastructure, but we can't participate in a civil war. While many of the Taliban are monsters, many are simply young, igornant people. The Afgan government also has questionable legitimacy. So, do we want to take sides in a civil war? If we do, we lose like the Persians, Greeks, Brits and Russians.

    as soon as Moyers is away, the traditional propagandists return. The US is a criminal aggressor whose brutal corrupt military occupation of Afghanistan is totally illegal. These traditional propagandists work to brainwash us into supporting elite power with all its violence and exploitation by making us think that it is kindness and generosity. It takes a tremendous amount of 'education' to convince people that the day is night and the US empire is for human rights and democracy. 'education' designed to make people obedient and stupid. save these Carr Center prostitutes for the fake 'News Hour.'

    Well, that would be a welcome shift in "strategy", not assassinating a MORAL "head kahuna" elected by the tribe itself and not planted by "corporate" - why do I believe it ain't gonna happen?

    Because it ain't happening here in USA...we can't even bring up conspiracy charges against those who set up the destruction of USA infrastructure via the Fed and Wall St...of course, the argument is NOBLE, right? You can't MAINTAIN the infrastructure in Country A if you want to build infrastructure in Country B?!

    If "corporate" was STILL sane and competant, we'd be planning World Fairs for the promotion of sustainable energy and farming methods, launching new "business" NOT planning a f-cking 600,000 "orks" invasion for the sole purpose of creating hell on earth...

    Out of all the spin, Jack Martin, that you've coughed up over the months, this gem of psychobabble "As long as our young men love war enough to enlist, travel to exotic places, meet interesting people, and kill them the revolution ending war-business will not come." is PERFIDY.

    May god have mercy on your soul, Dude, because not being "god", I've certainly run out of it for your brand of "psychology".

    Freedom comes from within,
    And Americans in Afghanistan is as out there as it gets. No wonder they fight back we would too if they came here!

    -
    MJA

    I must also mention that the Afghans have to receive immediate infrastructural aid.

    Rory Stewarts's solution is 100% correct. The U.S must focus it's efforts towards a cultural initiative. The military involvement will only further lead the U.S. towards future humiliation. Intelligence agencies must prioritize their work on Al-Quida in Pakistan, Germany, and Great Britain in order for the U.S. to succeed.

    Please forgive the double post. I received errors in sending both, and did not realize they had gone through.

    I appreciate Mr. Stewart's comments, but it's all a dream because our legislators suck off corporate teats, our milirary industrial complex is too large a chunk of our economy and our media is corporate controlled and inspired. So we will have wars and our soldiers will die and our actions in countries will ultimately focus on controlling their assets and labor for corporate profit rather than to really rebuild democracy. We need media, electoral, and campaign finance reform so we can have a real democracy rather than the pretend one we have today.

    This segment was, to me, enlightening.

    For the first time, I truly realize the difference between Al Queda and the Taliban, Afganistan and Pakistan, and a stratagy that will work from one that has/will not work.

    It is my prayer that the people who make the life and death decisions regarding this conflict, LISTEN TO WHAT MR. STEWART HAS LIVED THROUGH REAL LIFE EXPERIENCE.

    As a former teacher, tears sprang from my eyes when they showed the picture of the school his organization built. Would I have the guts to do what Rory Stewart did? Not in a New York minute. But I will explore his site TURQUOISE MOUNTAIN, for the organization he's started, to see what I CAN DO.

    This was, in a word, enlightening. For the first time, I was truly able to grasp the difference between Al Qeada and the Taliban, Afganistan and Pakastan, and a stratagy that will work from a stratagy that won't.

    I pray to every divine source in the entire universe, that the PEOPLE IN CHARGE LISTEN TO MR. STEWART. Incredible young man, whose efforts moved me to tears. As a former teacher, my heart and soul rejoiced when they showed the picture of the school his NPO started. Would I have the guts to do what he did??? Not in a New York minute. I must now explore the site for his goodworks: TURQUOISE MOUNTAIN.

    For Sanford Russell -

    To answer your questions about who is funding the Taliban: part of it is from the US government. We fund the Pakistani military, which funds their intelligence agency (ISI) which supports the Taliban. Hard to believe?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/26/world/asia/26tribal.html?_r=1

    and more

    http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/taliban/funding-the-taliban?page=0,1

    patrick ormond
    "...give him [bin Laden] to us and we will leave or we will lay waste to your land. What a simple exit stratagy."

    This kind of exit virtually guarantees a future re-enty. Europe was laid waste in WWI, and got Hitler. Who will be the new Osama?

    I understand that the frustration of a long tedious operation leads to the urge to blow it all up, but then we might as well prepare for an encore, because there will be one.

    patrick ormand is like a pit bull. He would kill 27 million people to get one "mad dog." If you weren't so fixated, Patrick, we seem to be breeding a plethoria of "mad dogs" right here domestically. We are certainly leveling mountains in West Virginia and Kentucky. Considering your feelings maybe you should enlist like Pat Tillman. You do know that CIA money made Osama a "freedom fighter." It's right hard to turn them thangs off, especially when they're still useful in controlling the minds of people like patrick ormand. (If you are a minor patrick, show these posts to your parents. They need to know.)

    I for one, have not lost the sight of the "mission". GET bin Laden. It may now be time to put demands on the Taliban. Surrender him up or we start lowering mountains and this can be done without any additional troops. It may seem barbaric but so was 9/11. I no longer give a damm about this third world, drug producing country. We are looking for a mad dog, give him to us and we will leave or we will lay waste to your land. What a simple exit stratagy. With three family members deployed in combat, I speak for service personel and families.

    It's really tragic the personal history of celebrity host Scott Simon, formerly a Quaker. I guess even the purest are corrupted through marriage(filmmaker wife needs underwriting) and success (author, paid orator). Working for the political football BBC can't have helped. Today Scott has come to believe he has something to lose in opposing the oligarchy, and something to gain in supporting even its cruelest and most ill-conceived propositions. He jumped early after 9/11 to advocate mass violence over rational law enforcement. Rewards followed. Not a journalist anymore. Should have stuck to the romance of steroid baseball.

    I generally agree with Rory Stewart that the answer is not more soldiers, but a better way of utilizing them. Whatever that better way is I'll have to defer to others, since my only knowledge of Afghanistan is whatever filters through reporting.

    Reporting seems to be mostly about who shot who and how many died; and rather light on the issues and concerns of the population.

    I read recently that the Taliban previously outlawed opium farming; but now they appear to want a piece of those profits. Meanwhile some of our soldiers have been dispatched to burn opium fields. And replace them with what?

    News searches of the Caspian Sea area reveal that the region is a hotbed of oil and gas pipeline construction and deal making.

    In recent history, these people have become a doormat for everyone else's agenda, and have lost much of their hope for any positive future of their own.

    I don't have any perfect answer, but it seems that the key lies in building hope for the future through the infrastructure and economy.

    The caveat for that, is that it won't work if it's seen as all done by us based on what we think is best for others. The country needs legitimate local leaders of their own who are seen by the poeple as collaborating with the population and leading in their best interest. Our role should be perceived by the people as assisting, rather than defining life for them based on our standards.

    If we spend all our time playing the role of heroes who've charged in to save the day, by our definition of such, then we are pre-destined to fail.

    Scott Simon, NPR Weekend Edition (Sep 26) offered an editorial supporting US opposition to a Taliban takeover. Might make a good counter-argument to last night's position.

    Terry Thomas: In your humble opinion? It may be a Shell-game but there is only one nut. No matter how cleverly they move it we know the money's under there.
    Klark Mouvinon: "In these times men lack the courage to see clearly; or even to be seen clearly." (from a letter dated Sept. 11, 2009)
    "They" can see you Terry, clearly. Safety in numbers, my man, safety in numbers. For a good time- join the resistance!

    It was very courageous of Prof Rory Stewart to walk across Afghanistan especially during the last 8 yrs. But I disagree with several ideas. One idea is that the natives are just goat farmers who couldn't find the US on the map. So, they wouldn't be able harm us. Most the people I know, hear in East Texas, couldn't find Germany on the map yet the same people helped defeat Germany and Japan over 65 years ago in WW-II. Just because he spent time on the dirt floors of goat farmers doesn't mean that somebody in the neighborhood isn't more educated and resourceful.
    But, I agree that our military leaders are looking for an excuse to use our mighty military complex to flex its muscle no matter where the battle field. Columbia in South America is one of those places, just as an example, to threaten Venezuela among others in the south. Again, it's money. There is lots of oil, mineral rights, water rights, produce and other money making resources involved.
    At the very beginning of the interview, the professor made a statement. He said that Afghanistan was the place where the masterminds of 911 were hiding end of story. His suggestion was that we should be there fighting this war. But, I don't think the investigation of 911 has ever proved stating who actually planned the attack. Oh, the so called experts immediately said it was Ben Laden. But, there are many unanswered questions about the horrible destruction of the WTC. So, it isn't the "End of the Story" to conclude that we should be occupying any country unless we know all the facts which seem to be top secret.
    It is my belief that we are in these wars because there is a great deal of money at stake, either for Oil or commerce trading on the edge of the two largest populations on the planet.
    So, in my humble opinion, you have big business running things as usual.
    We should get out of these countries at least with the idea of nation building and concentrate on the terrorist at home, namely the Wall Street thugs who operate in the ranks of the Banks that are too big to fail. There is where the true terrorists are. We should start by nationalizing the Feds, which is a private banking cartel. I won’t hold my breath.
    Terry Thomas

    Where does the Taliban get its money and its arms? Can't our intelligence services tell us? If the Taliban (and Al Quaeda) had no money and no arms what then? Shouldn't we, the US, concentrate solely, or at least principally, on shutting down their access to money and arms? Is the US afraid of offending countries who supply the money and arms? Who - and what countries - benefit from this "war" anyway?

    As long as our young men love war enough to enlist, travel to exotic places, meet interesting people, and kill them the revolution ending war-business will not come. I will not live to see (billions won't) but I think the day will come when 90 year old Barack Obama will sit before a documentarian to confess his war crimes, and his presidency being dominated by the oligarchy on most every issue, much as Robert MacNamara did with Errol Morris (Fog of War).

    Afghanistan is so far away and our capabilities so limited that it would take 72 days for emergency relief forces to arrive. (I suspect the Bush Administration began deployment in anticipation of 9/11.) The gasoline our soldiers use there is hauled by tanker truck thousands of miles through the Kyber Pass in tanker trucks. (Want that job?) The dynamic that allows Pakistani security to support Al Qaeda with diverted US funds remains a mystery to the American public, to jingo-patriots, and to some in our military and government. We are not "choking the chicken to scare the monkey" (some say "scolding the cat to frighten the tiger"), but are actually "smothering the baby while feeding the monkey candy." And why is that? Who stands to gain? Has the social control of American hearts and minds deteriorated so that this bloody video poker has become necessary?

    Anyway, thanks Rory Stewart for going over to take a look, and Lynn Sherr for walking him through the steps. Rory probably didn't see Sarah Chayes in his travels, so we're left to wonder how she's doing. (Ain't she a woman?) It's sad how Moyers receives the "corporate nix" and some of Moyers best guests are never invited back again.

    If I could designate the use of the taxes I pay it would all go to Food Stamps and Medicaid, none to wars of occupation. How would your levy be spent?

    Rory Stewart,
    I am impressed with your "on the ground" comprehension of the situation in Afghanistan.
    I am not impressed with your advising the president to ignore the facts and do the wrong thing for political reasons.
    Actually, President Obama's popularity will improve if he reconsiders his position on increasing the numbers of troops in Afghanistan. He was elected to get us out of the Middle East quagmire not get us more involved.
    What is required in Afghanistan is to support the present way of life in Afghanistan instead of pushing our social system on them. The two are not compatable. We can support what ever the Afghans want to do about the Taliban without being in charge. We can then devote our resouces to dealing with Terrorists no holds bared.
    We need the right solution to the situation.
    This is also true when it comes to economics. It is necessary to have sufficient funds too make the right things happen. Ignoring reality is inconsistent with people's best interests.

    Who knows what kind of lives the Afghans could evolve if they finally could get a hundred years of peace and free trade?

    Any place on earth that has one cash crop and one "army" after another trying to control the crop's "profits" will never get out of a tribal state.

    I also agree that the advice to President Obama - putting an individual's political career ahead of any other "mission" - was a very disturbing revelation about how decisions are being made by "we rich Americans"...

    Ottomans? Really?

    Who knew?!

    We are a Nation madly in love with war, and famously short of memory about it. We no longer have conventional armies to wage war against, our opponents now are best described as irregulars, the ghosts that conventional armies cannot easily fight.
    Like Vietnam, it matters not how many battles are won if the strategic initiative is lost. The overwhelming force of the modern army is diluted and outflanked by the blur of enemy and friend. This is a bad place to be in, a place where even the leadership cannot focus on achievable goals. What matters most? A chameleon definition of victory? A new pseudo-democracy modeled after our own corporate corrupted example that is gasping for air? Certainly it cannot be the defeat of one single terror group?
    We have lined up so many enemies, and so few friends. How foolish, in the end, to expend so much here for so little. I wonder, is there any way this can end well?

    We must remember that this episode picks up in the middle of an ongoing story. After a thousand years of relearning what was known for a thousand years before, we keep repeating aggressive interventions in distant lands for the same purpose. We take whatever recourses and lands we want from those who can't defend it, they retaliate, the children remember, the victors take more, they avenge, and the root is simple to understand. It is profit and greed. The fault lies within, we wealthy Americans ( British, Germans, French, Spanish, Ottomans, Romans, Persians, Greeks, Egyptians ) who have always pilfered more than needed. Will anyone remember this the next time they fill their tank with cheap gas from their oil? It may be gold, silver, slaves, fish or bananas but it is all justified theft the same.

    Prof. Stewart,


    I appreciated the information which you gave during tonight's interview with Lynn Sherr.

    You made an excellent case for large reduction in the military footprint.

    Yet, I was stunned by your advice to President Obama:


    "My advice to President Obama is, you're going to have to increase troops now. It's too late for you, because you're going to be destroyed politically if you oppose your general on the ground on something like this."

    I have a twenty-three year old son serving with the U.S. Army in a remote forward operating base in Kandahar province.

    You are advising the President to expend the lives of our troops to save his political skin? Are these your values?

    I am shocked, and dismayed. Do you really think that my son's life, or any other soldier's life, is worth this?

    Obama's own mouth has painted him into a corner, no doubt. Yet you are saying he should sacrifice our troops and Afghan civilians for political expedience?

    If there is some way you can publicly retract such advice, and I can't find any reason to think there isn't, don't you think it would behoove you to do so?

    An interesting alternative to another Vietnam. Obama is a brilliant man but I fear far too conventional and committed to bi-partisanship to act on his own better instincts. It is the mission of the military to solve problems militarily. We can only hope that this Administration will be more thoughtful and inclined to seek alternative solutions.

    What a remarkable man Mr. Stewart is. Last night I saw a stunning presentation about how the military industrial complex now totally controls politics AND the media, spiralling our nation into its eternal vortex. The presenter said there is absolutely no way for this nation to ever get over our war addiction, short of a revolution. He offered no hope that Obama will speak out to us over the vast Pentagon machine. I'd like to see us pick up the challenge anyway and try to move him. I need to believe We The People can still make a difference in determining the direction for a sane world.

    Rory Stewart speaks the truth! I am so, so glad to hear from an individual has taken the effort to actually travel amongst the people who are impacted by our country's foreign policy decisions. He spoke as a true expert. Please bring him back! If I have any criticism of the interview, I would have liked to hear more of his many experiences in these countries; it always helps to hear of the human experiences which connect people to people.

    Sincerely,
    --Rick Casey
    Lafayette, CO

    Lynn Sherr did a terrific job interviewing Rory Stewart. Her questions were direct and piercing. Mr. Stewart sobering 30-40 year slog assessment should give all taxpayers pause. It’s time to seriously disengage with honor before wasting any more lives on this disjointed and ill conceived mission. The Great Game, however, is in play and we’re not invited!

    Of course, he's right, but I don't think Pres Obama at this stage is necessarily committed, and I doubt that even a limited counter-terrorism strategy will work in the long run. And he hasn't quite put his finger on the reason why we are at this juncture, and that is that the secretary of state, and numerous others, probably including the president, view this in the same way LBJ viewed Vietnam, as an anti-poverty, community development problem, analogous to Reconstuction. Of course, those programs didn't work here either.

    At first blush, Generals should receive all tools to accomplish the mission. However, Truman had to fire McArthur because he tried to set public policy.

    Establish a clear policy, provide clear goals for the military, then support them to achieve the objectives.

    Is the Generals' message,'give us over whelming, superior forces OR get us out'? If you 'send out the troops' there will be deaths--accept it or don't go.

    I am against a bigger war anywhere, based on what I know at this time. Let's get out. Figure a better way to get the terrorist.

    Hey! There are people on Wall Street so smart no one else can save our economy--send them after Bin Ladin--2 birds with one stone--so to speak.

    Billy Bob. Florida

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