Sunday, July 20, 2008

obama's afghan folly

barack obama has continuously said the US should focus more attention of adghanistan than iraq. with oil still in the neighborhood of $130 and a growing need to deal with iran, this seems an increasingly outdated policy. here's why iraq matters much more:

1- the oil is in iraq. giving up control over multi-trillion dollar asset is not something to be taken lightly. even if we acquired it unjustly, it's something of real value. that means people will fight over it... bad people might wind up taking control of it. it's simply irresponsible to abandon such a valuable asset.

2 iraq is at the crossroads of the world and history. it's in the middle of everything, with access to saudi arabia, turkey, syria, jordan, iran, kuwait. it controls the important tigris-euphrates river waterways and is the frontier between arab desert islamic culture (saudi arabia, syria, egypt) and central asian mountain islamic culture (iran, pakistan, india). it's home to four holy cities in islam (samarra, najaf, karbala, Kadhimiya).

3- if we leave iraq, there is the very real danger of full-blown, multilateral war in the region. its long-term outcome would be completely uncertain, but one short-term effect would be even higher oil prices.

4-we need to restore relations with tehran. an entirely new round of diplomacy is needed, and it makes no sense to weaken ourselves heading into talks. we want to be as strong as possible when we sit down at the table, with the most chips to play. this is not a democratic or republican point of view. it's just foreign policy 101. obama's failure to see it reflects poor judgment.
(iran has presidential elections in june 2009 -- five months after the next US president takes office. Washington controls many levers that could influence that election in a favorable direction. instead of talking about pulling out of iraq, we should be asking the candidates how they will deal with this unique and unusual opportunity we now face: thanks to the war on terror landing us in iraq and afghanistan, we now completely flank iran to the east and the west. the clerics' 30-year grip on power is increasingly unpopular at home and elections are coming. major change can happen in the region over the next 12 months.)

it appears to me that obama's support for military action in afghanistan, but not iraq, is a political stance. he knows that more voters will like him if he supports some kind of military action... afghanistan is much simpler, and no one really cares about it at the end of the day... it has no oil, no money and no real importance.

it's the polar opposite of iraq, home to the fertile crescent and countless empires and wars.

americans should think long and hard about this: barack obama wants to spend your tax dollars chasing a single man around a bunch of mountains no one cares about, and walk away from one of the most important pieces of real estate in the world. he wants to dedicate our energy and national honor to something of insignificance, and neglect something that everyone else cares about. in a time when the entire world is clamoring for oil, he wants to abandon perhaps the most pristine and under-tapped reserves in the world.

nothing but violence will result from our absence. leaving an asset like in the hands of its own fledgling government is just too dangerous. with countries like china already scheming their way into places like sudan and india adding millions of drivers a year, abandoning iraq is like a teacher giving 10 pieces of candy to a class of 12 students. you don't know what will happen, but you know some kind of conflict will result. we are still the world's super power, and we should act like it. how can we expect to have moral authority if we reneg on our commitment to iraq?

obama's policy is like targeted tax cuts or limited engagement in vietnam. it's the product of a political mind, not a strategic of people who understand global power. we need a democrat like FDR, who violated the neutrality laws and lied to congress for more than a year before WWII began. he understood that when a fight is going to happen, the president's job is to win.

obama seems to me more like LBJ, who compromised his way through vietnam... deciding to stay there for political reasons (not wanting to be seen as soft on communism)... and then weak for political reasons (rules like not attacking the north, etc.)

wanting to leave iraq early is irresponsible and reflects bad judgment. obama might have been right when he opposed invading iraq in the first place. but now that we're there, we have to deal with it. walking away from the problem doesn't solve it.

1 comment:

Clown George said...

Interesting point -- restoring relations with Tehran -- in that Obama was pilloried a while back by the right-wing (and I think even Hillary) for even suggesting that we sit down and talk with countries like Iran.

But I see your point in terms of Afghanistan vs. Iraq. The former is still seen by many people angry about Iraq as the "justifiable war," so it is politically useful. He can remain against being in Iraq (which, although I understand your realist views on remaining there now that we started it, I still think was an extremely ill-conceived endeavor), but still not come off as some bleeding-heart pacifist.