The President will deliver a major policy speech tonight where he is expected to announce the withdrawal of a number of troops currently fighting the war in Afghanistan. The anticipation of the President’s announcement has raised the level of debate in Washington over our use of military force in foreign lands. After ten years of fighting many in Congress are ready to bring the troops home.
Yesterday, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin took center stage calling on the President to pull our troops out of Afghanistan. Manchin questioned how America could justify spending billions to repair roads and bridges in Afghanistan while cutting funding for roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, seniors and veterans here at home. Naturally, he was challenged by Republican Senator John McCain who is the self proclaimed advocate for all things military. Arguing for the continued military presence in Afghanistan, Senator McCain criticized Senator Manchin’s knowledge of history; reminding the Senator from West Virginia that we did pull out of Afghanistan once before only to see the rise of the Taliban followed by al Qaeda and their attacks on the US on 9/11.
Senator McCain, along with Senators Graham and Liebermann, has carried the military debate in Washington for years. These Three Amigos have beaten the drum for massive military intervention at the slightest provocation. They label anyone who would dare to question their aggressive military proclativities as an isolationist. By their standards Ronald Reagan would be an isolationist. If you remove the Three Amigos from the debate the tenor in Congress would be very, very different.
But we digress.
The President will undoubtedly bring home a portion of the “surge” deployment this year with the remainder of that deployment returning in the next 18-24 months. That number will be insignificant. It will be a political number; one that gives the President political cover going into an election year but still leaves 70,000-80,000 troops to do the general’s bidding. While this decision will anger the President’s base it will be consistent with his previous policies on defense.
When it comes to use of the military Obama has been more like Bush than Bush. Obama has continued the Bush practices in Iraq, doubled the troops in Afghanistan, allowed Gitmo to remain open, extended the Patriot Act, authorized Special Ops and drone attacks in Pakistan and initiated military action in Libya; a country that does not pose a threat to us or our interests. No one can ever accuse this President of waffling when it comes to exerting America’s military might.
We went into Iraq and Afghanistan to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons, disrupt al Qaeda and capture or kill the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. We determined that Iraq’s nuclear capabilities were a myth. The head of Al Qaeda is dead. The mastermind of the 9/11 attacks sits in a jail cell in Gitmo and by all accounts Senator McCain has more people working on his staff than there are al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
So the question is since we have met our objectives…if we don’t leave now…then when?
As for Senator McCain’s reminder of the al Qaeda and Taliban resurgence after we withdrew from Afghanistan before…how do we know that same thing won’t happen if we stay another year, another five years or ten? We simply cannot afford to pour billions upon billions of dollars into a war with no end.
Still not convinced we should leave? Consider this…
While we are pouring billions in American blood and treasure into Afghanistan China has taken advantage of our largesse and the stability that we have established there. The Chinese are mining much needed minerals and raw materials critical to their economic development; all under the safety net brought about by American forces. And they are doing so without having invested one dime into the security of the country.