Sunday, November 16, 2008

How Obama must cope with Bush foreign policy blunders

I have often wondered about the sanity of the Bush Administration's foreign-policy makers. What prompted them, for example, to negotiate with Poland and the Czech Republic to install anti-ballistic missile sites in those two countries?

The sites are supposed to be a defense against long-range missiles launched by Iran. But neither the two Slavic countries or other Europeans have been threatened by Iran. The Iranians do not lack for countries they regard as enemies. But how would radar systems and anti-missile missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic provide a defense for Israel and the U.S., the two nations on Iran's hit list?

The Russians initially responded by threatening to establish offensive ballistic missile sites in Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave located between Poland and Lithuania, a territory once known as East Prussia. But the Russians have moderated that threat. They evidently recognize that President-elect Obama is likely to abandon Bush Administration policies that they have regarded as provocative.

On the more critical Iraq/Afghanistan front, I believe that Obama should speedily withdraw from Iraq. The Iraqis have established a relatively stable government, and increasing numbers of the country's political leadership are demanding that U.S. armed forces leave.

Instead, we continue to spend billions of dollars building Iraq's infrastructure and to bribe once-insurgent Sunni tribesmen to behave. Meanwhile, Iraq is keeping its growing national treasury, built by increased oil production revenues, sitting in a bank.

As for Afghanistan, I think Obama's intent to deploy more troops there is as unwise as President Bush's decision to invade Iraq. The original decision to invade Afghanistan was a logical effort to punish the forces responsible for 9/11. The enemy was both the Afghan Taliban regime and the Arab-dominated Al-Qaeda terrorist organization that had planned and launched the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The Taliban had provided shelter for Al-Qaeda after the latter's leadership had been forced to leave Sudan. Ironically, the Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamic movement, was an outgrowth of the Afghan forces that had been supplied by the U.S. to fight the country's Russian invaders.

But I fear that it is too late to win the war in Afghanistan. The U.S. was well on its way to destroying both the Taliban and its Al-Qaeda allies. We were forced, however, to reduce our forces in Afghanistan and to concentrate on the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

This allowed the Taliban to regain much of its strength. It now threatens to overthrow the pro-American and increasingly corrupt Karzai regime. Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda's leaders have established their primary bases in neighboring Pakistan's lawless tribal region and probably in Somalia, a nation torn apart by civil strife. They have also sponsored the creation of allied anti-American Muslim terrorist groups in North Africa and the Persian Gulf area and perhaps even in Europe.

The U.S. has inadvertently caused heavy civilian casualties in Afghanistan while seeking out the Taliban and Al-Qaeda bases. The result has been a deterioration of popular support for the Karzai government.

I do not believe that the deployment of additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan will destroy the Taliban. Indeed, with the move of much of the Al-Qaeda organization to Pakistan, there is evidence that the U.S. has taken preliminary diplomatic steps to deal with the Taliban.

The alternative to defeating Al-Qaeda and capturing its leader, Osama bin-Laden, would be to invade Pakistan's tribal region, where the terrorist group is now headquartered. I cannot imagine, however, that the incoming Obama Administration is prepared to undertake such an adventure right now.

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Blogger Mari Meehan said...

You haven't brought up a single point that I can disagree with. According to CNN's Michael Ware, who has been on the ground over there since day one, says we don't begin to have enough troops to win in Afghanistan and the world community is not about to jump in. We are hardly able to invade another sovereign government like Pakistan. So what do we do?

I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Sunday, November 16, 2008 7:09:00 PM  
Blogger Sylvia K said...

I couldn't agree more! We need to get out of Iraq, we need to take care of our own infrastructure, and we surely haven't endeared ourselves to Pakistan. Thanks as always for the wise take on things.

Sunday, November 16, 2008 7:38:00 PM  
Blogger Peggy said...

My heart bleeds for poor Afghanistan. It has been a ripped up country ever since the Soviet invasion in the early 80s. One line from a book by an Afghan writer really hit home for me. In the book a young man, walking down the street of a once teeming market in a small town while talking to a friend. They were talking about how this area used to smell of curry rather than the smoke from burning out cars. Anybody in this country that was born in the 80s will be in their 20s now and will not have ever known peace. It is no wonder the Taliban with their rigid rules and absolutes have regained so much strength. It is very much like the Islamic Inquisition. They prey on fear. I pray that the population can enjoy peace and normality again. If they need our help to stabilize it then I think it is only right.

Monday, November 17, 2008 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Darlene said...

What a terrible mess Bush has left for Obama. The damage done by the current administration boggles the mind and I don't envy the next administration in trying to undo the damage.

I am ambivalent at this point on what to do about Afghanistan. I think we have made Osama and the Taliban much stronger and wonder if our leaving will embolden them to unleash more horror on the world.

Monday, November 17, 2008 11:02:00 AM  
Blogger Lydia said...

Thank you for this instructive, informative post. I admit that I hadn't thought about Obama's move in Afghanistan in quite that way. I think I was intoxicated by the idea that he would get Bin Laden where Bush failed to do so. Also, do you think that Obama's advisors push the more Hawkish language about Bin Laden because of sensitivity to the erroneous belief by some Americans that our President-elect is a Muslim? I hope he doesn't feel he needs to prove he is not in that manner....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008 4:00:00 AM  
Blogger Chancy said...

And the frightening thing about Pakistan is this; They have nukes and their government is unstable.

What to do, what to do?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008 11:19:00 PM  
Blogger joared said...

Right after this mad war Bush started in Iraq I had the opportunity to attend an informative local program about that part of the world. The now local man who had been in the upper echelon of Afgan circles, including being a graduate of their air force academy, then Afgan jet pilot through the defeat of Russia, had been asked by popular demand to share his knowledge and perspective with us.

Years ago he had finally come to the U.S., trained with our military, eventually became a citizen, and ultimately started from scratch a now successful business. He had a father in the Afgan government and a grandfather who had been a highly respected warlord. This speaker gave us a short course in the history of his country and the area.

He said that the Taliban would only fade away and appear to be gone, but would continue to reappear. He explained the dynamics never change which create the environment for this pattern to continue regardless of the foreign country that comes into their world. He has been correct on every count. Too bad the Bush Administration didn't consult someone who didn't have a
power-seeking agenda, someone who thoroughly understood that world as this man did.

I certainly wish Obama well in dealing with the problems. I think your perspective is pretty accurate.

Saturday, November 22, 2008 1:06:00 AM  
Blogger Kay Dennison said...

I'm with joared. Afghanistan is not going to change anytime soon.

I remember reading James Michener's 1962 novel "Caravans" decades ago. As usual, the book was well-researched regarding history, customs, and politics -- areas that either cannot or are not easily changed.

The Taliban will change the same day the Christian Coalition changes in our country. In other words, not in my lifetime.

Sunday, November 23, 2008 10:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What prompted them... to negotiate with Poland and the Czech Republic to install anti-ballistic missile sites in those two countries?"

Answer: a resurgent Russia that has shown, in crushing Georgia (a real war for oil), helping Iraq move WMD to Syria, supporting Iran's clear Hitlerian nuclear intentions against a democratic Israel and now flexing its military muscle with Caribbean thugs and dictators (among other things) that it would not hesitate to re-drop the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe if it felt it could get away with it.

But don't trust me. Ask ordinary Czechs and Poles. They are far clearer -- having lived through years of repression -- just what they are up against with Russia and its dark, violent philosophy.

Friday, November 28, 2008 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger Mortart said...

For newine....
Agreed, a resurgent Russia is a genuine threat. But the proposed anti-missile sites in the Czech Republic and Poland are aimed to defend against Iran, not Russia. Their deployment could not counter attacks from Russia. As for "ordinary Czechs and Poles," they are indeed concerned about a resurgent Russia. And that's why they oppose the proposed U.S. anti-missile sites. They recognize that the proposed plan has provoked Russia into threatening to install offensive missile weapons close to the Czech and Polish borders.

Friday, November 28, 2008 9:36:00 PM  
Blogger Norma said...

Obama won't need Bush's mistakes; he's already making his own.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008 1:47:00 PM  
Blogger Norma said...

Obama won't need Bush's mistakes; he's already making his own.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008 1:47:00 PM  

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