July 28, 2004

Afghanistan Watch

I just had dinner recently with an international humanitarian aid worker (with decades of experience) who recently spent two months in Afghanistan. Having worked with him in the Balkans, I trust his judgment and know him to be a keen observer who 'gets' the local dynamics on the ground rapidly.

In short, he largely agrees that such good news is pretty legit.

Yes, parts of southeast Afghanistan are no-go zones for humanitarian aid workers. Yes, Karzai is, pretty much, Mayor of Kabul--varied warlords (Dostum in large swaths of the North; Khan in the environs of Herat) run much of the show. Yes the drug trade is rampant--and the local authorities often complicit (they'll burn down a farmer's crops, for instance, if they don't get a slice of the action).

But, my contact told me, a significant majority of Afghanis continue to be hugely cheered that the U.S. help rid them of the hyper-oppressive Taliban yoke. And, while the U.S. is not necessarily winning any major popularity contests by their presence there--they are disliked much less than, say, the Russians (almost universally loathed) and the Pakistanis (also particularly disliked as nettlesome interlopers through much of the country).

And the country is moving, if often in faltering manner, in a positive direction (as Sully's link helps showcase). Let's not forget either that the war was won in quite impressive fashion. Unlike the Soviets, who had the advantage of sharing a border with the country, we weren't bogged down for 10 years. It's all too easy to forget it was a real war and could have proven a disaster.

Bottom line: Of the two wars fought under Bush's tenure--this one, particularly given the no-brainer circumstances under which we needed to go in--has proved to be, so far, a pretty major success.

Despite all the yelping on about letting UBL escape in Tora Bora--I am very confident in my judgment that a Gore national security team would not have handled this issue so well. There's no point rehashing that really--except that we are going to hear a lot about how Bush 'let UBL escape' in the coming months. Once in a while, we should call B.S. on that meme. People should be reminded that Al Gore wouldn't have magically plucked UBL out of the hinterlands of southeast Afghanistan--whether or not Iraq ever happened.

NB: My contact also went in and out of Iraq eight times recently. He, er, wasn't as cheery about the going-ons there. More on why another time.

UPDATE: I see in the (excellent) comment thread that I'm being taken to task for my contention that Gore wouldn't have handled Afghanistan as well as Bush. Some commenters are crying foul, and saying that it was a total no-brainer to go into Afghanistan. Of course, I'm not arguing that Gore wouldn't have gone into Afghanistan. I'm arguing that the way he would have done so would have been less effective.

What do I mean? I think a Gore Administration Sec State (yes, even if Holbrooke) wouldn't have been as effective in getting Musharraf on board as quickly and effectively as was accomplished by Powell. I think we wouldn't have handled the nervous Russians as well re: getting bases up in southern Uzbekistan. I think we would have wasted precious time at the U.N. and dilly-dallying re: the force and content of our ultimatum to the Taliban.

And, it not just me. I wish I could find it, but (believe it or not) I well recall an article around the time of the Afghanistan conflict about how some leading Democrats were actually heartened that Bush had prevailed in Florida. They felt, at that time of utmost urgency and sense of national peril, that the Bush administration's national security team was better suited to handle the hugely urgent and complex challenges facing the nation. And they were right (at least then before we mucked up so royally much of the post-war planning in Iraq).

Help me find the article! It was in, yep, the New York Times.

Posted by Gregory at July 28, 2004 03:11 PM
Comments

The news out of Afghanistan is encouraging. Iraq, not so much.

I remain optimistic that both can turn out for the best, but much work remains. Please excuse my statement of the obvious.

Still, I'm not sure why you are so certain that Al Gore could not have executed this war effectively. I think he would have been fully capable of assembling a team around him that would have been able to work with the Pentagon in developing a successful strategy. At least I shy away from the knee-jerk assumption that Democrats are somehow unable to effectively prosecute wars or military endeavors, especially when such claims are backed by little empirical evidence. It seems like more of a gut reaction than factual analysis.

Clearly some Dems would not be up to the job, but the same can be said for the GOP. Bluster does not always equate to acumen. As much as the Bush team might have gotten things right in Afghanistan, any impartial observer interested in formulating future military strategy must observe the myriad mistakes and bungles that have surrounded the campaign in Iraq.

Posted by: Eric Martin at July 28, 2004 03:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I echo those same sentiments for your claim that you are not sure Kerry understands the stakes in terms of the challenge of facing radical jihadist Islamicism.

Why do you say this? On what grounds is this opinion formed?

Remember, Kerry actually fought in a war (I'm truly sorry for repeating that overused narrative, but here it serves at least some purpose). I only say this to point out that he is not frail or devoid of nerve. I think he fully understands the nature of the threat and will not hesitate to use overwhelming force when necessary. Every stance he has taken on Iraq has shown him to be prudent in this regard.

Posted by: Eric Martin at July 28, 2004 03:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think this is about right, aside from the gratuitous Gore bashing. After all, it was the Clenis' CIA that came up with the plan, and his military and CIA that executed it. The key, I think, was that *Zinni* was gone, allowing for a more flexible approach and a lower profile. But Zinni's take on Iraq was superior -- more decentralized, etc.

I think it was very important that Karzai was installed from the beginning, with some semblance of legitimacy. On the other hand, I can easily see the Panjshiris taking their ball and going home. I don't trust this Fahim dude one bit. But I do think our approach is about as good as can be expected. Love the PRT concept, and I think the commander we have there now is pretty sharp, too. It helps to have a guy like Khalilzad in there, no doubt.

Posted by: praktike at July 28, 2004 04:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

While I generally agree with your overall assessment re: Gore and Tora Bora, I'm not willing to call the war-phase of the Afghanistan campaign an unqualified success.

The decision to limit U.S. ground forces to a mere 300 special forces and CIA paramilitary was predicated on Soviet failure with 300,000 troops and a lingering aversion (fear) of U.S. casualties. Both concerns hobbled decision makers and lead directly to UBL & co.'s escape. Said escape is not trivial, considering the war aim was not simply to rid Afghanistan of al Qaeda - but to rid the planet of al Qaeda.

If we are to believe published reports, post Tora Bora, al Qaeda leadership fled to both Pakistan and Iran and from both locales have organized, financed and green-lighted more terror attacks. Hence their escape was a blow to our war aims.

I think we were given a false choice by Rumsfeld - we could either fight with 300 troops, or 300,000.

But if we had used even half of the number of U.S. forces presently situated in Afghanistan (a number, mind, that has not precipitated a large scale nationalist revolt - which Rumsfeld initially feared) in December of 2001, our chances of nabbing bin Laden and the remaining leadership of al Qaeda would have increased exponentially. It would not, in any way, guarentee success, but surely U.S. troops would not be bribed to give free pass to fleeing jihadi.

Would Gore have been better. No, clearly not. But I would be far more reserved in hailing Afghanistan as an unalloyed success. It was not.

Posted by: Greg Scoblete at July 28, 2004 05:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Would Gore have been better. No, clearly not."

On what basis can you make such a strong statement? Isn't that really a hypothetical with no evidence leaning in either direction?

Posted by: Eric Martin at July 28, 2004 05:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I voted for Al Gore in 2000, and I still think he would have been an excellent U.S. President.

However, his speech on Monday was terrible. Listening to his speech really made this registered Democrat want to vote for George W. Bush.

Did Al Gore lose his mind -- or did I?

Posted by: Arjun at July 28, 2004 05:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Clinton/Gore administration looked at terrorism as a law enforcement problem. Forgive me for speculating that we would still be negotiating for bin Ladin's extradition with the Taliban had Gore been successful in stealing Florida.

Posted by: moptop at July 28, 2004 05:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

moptop-

That's a cute talking point , but it's not uniformly true of the Clinton administration. There were certainly greater law enforcement constraints early on, but by the end Clinton and his team were ready to fight. But the Pentagon didn't see it as their baby, preoccupied as they were with counting the number of tanks in China and preparing for war with Iraq and North Korea.

Posted by: praktike at July 28, 2004 05:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The Clinton/Gore administration looked at terrorism as a law enforcement problem"

And so did Bush/Cheney until 9/11. That is the point. After 9/11 everyone's startegy changed, as did the awareness of the parameters of the threat. It is pretty well documented that Bush/Cheney didn't have a grasp of the threat either, until that day.

The argument that Gore would not have invaded Afghanistan is really intellectually dishonest, bordering on inane. It betrays ideological blinders and a departure from objective analysis.

Gore, and any other US president in history, would have gone in guns blazing. It's not as if the Dems were critical of the invasion. They were almost uniformly actively supporting it, with some asking for an even bigger military commitment.

Posted by: Eric Martin at July 28, 2004 05:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hmmm, after reading this, I'm less optimistic now:

"Karzai has assembled an intriguing ticket for the elections. At the moment, none of the three candidates has any substantial backing or power base in their ethnic constituencies. Many Pashtuns feel abandoned by the government and consider Karzai to be illegitimate and weak. He is criticized for two reasons: first, he was brought in by the Americans and, second, because he has been a figurehead in a government that is actually run by Tajiks. Karzai has been so insecure that he asked for American security protection. He survived an assassination attempt in his own hometown, and he is unpopular across the country. The entire south, southwest, and southeast of the country is not hospitable for him or for his government, and for the last two years he has not been able to win the hearts and minds of his people. His popularity is even eroding in his hometown; Kandahar province has almost become an operational base for the Taliban. [...]

At the moment, Karzai has scant chance of winning the presidential race. Although immensely popular outside the country for his flamboyant character, the Pashtuns will not vote for him en masse. Nor will the Tajiks, the Hazaras, or Uzbeks, all of whom have strong ethnic leaders as their candidates. If the three non-Pashtun ethnic groups unite in a coalition -- a feasible scenario -- Karzai could not mathematically win even with the backing of his entire tribe. By the same token, if Karzai manages to get the backing of the Tajiks or the other two ethnic groups, he may be able to secure a slim majority."

http://www.jamestown.org/publications_details.php?volume_id=401&issue_id=3029&article_id=2368312

What happens if Fahim wins? Pashtun revolt?

Posted by: praktike at July 28, 2004 06:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric Martin,

I agree completely with your assessment.

Here's what worries me (and as I admitted above, maybe I've just lost my mind): when the Boston Democrats say that they are supporting Mr. Kerry because they are "tired of war", what exactly do they mean, and what are the implications for U.S. foreign policy vis-a-vis Iraq and Afghanistan?

Posted by: Arjun at July 28, 2004 06:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It is hard for me to speak for everyone, or even someone, but I detect in those statements a desire to return our foreign policy to a more strategic and sound one.

What does this mean? It means that we continue with our efforts in Afghanistan and try to secure some form of lasting peace and some semblance of a healthy political life. To do so, Kerry continues to use the American Military as a stabilizing force.

It also means that we continue in the same vein in Iraq (as a stabilizing force). Now that we are there, we have a commitment to try to make the situation right. Even Howard Dean, who was opposed to the invasion, makes this point repeatedly. So "tired of war" does not mean changing our status in those two countries, just our overall strategy.

Thus the departure, at this juncture, would be in regard to outlook. Kerry would be better at mending fences, improving relations with our allies, and improving our image worldwide. He would also be more reluctant to engage in neo-con inspired adventures that can be counter-productive and enormously costly in terms of money, military, image, alliances, and the spread of, and acceptance of, rabid jihadist terrorist ideology.

This doesn't mean he wouldn't confront threats with military force, he would just make sure the threat is real (or at least more compelling than Iraq pre-invasion), and that the threat is actually worthy of invasion. This because we only have so many bullets in the chamber, and so many times we can use our impressive military (reconstructions take too much time, money, focus and effort, and we lose options the more we are bogged down, see Iran). I posted my comments on the subject of limited options below on other recent threads.

Posted by: Eric Martin at July 28, 2004 06:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric Martin,

I really appreciate your response, since I haven't decided whom to vote for this year.

I've got another one for you. When I read the 9/11 Commission Report this weekend, I concluded that the Bush Administration deserves most of the blame for the U.S. government's failure to protect the nation from the 9/11 attacks. But I was terribly appalled by the defeatist attitudes and policies of National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, General Anthony Zinni, Attorney General Janet Reno and Secretary of State Madeline Albright. Several plans that might have resulted in UBL's capture were canceled because (as hard as it is to believe) those officials were WORRIED USAMA BIN LADEN MIGHT GET KILLED! Read the 9/11 Report if you don't believe me.

Can you reassure me that a Kerry Administration will be free of such attitudes and policies?

Posted by: Arjun at July 28, 2004 06:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And another question (sorry). I keep hearing from the Boston Democrats about all these aggrieved allies of ours. Which countries are they talking about, and what are they talking about?

I'm grateful for our allies and for their efforts, but in the occasional instances when individual allies fail to help us (for example, when a German court RELEASED al Qaeda terrorist and 9/11 conspirator Mounir al-Mottasadeq) must we always blame ourselves? Can't we blame THEM once in a while?

Posted by: Arjun at July 28, 2004 07:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Arjun,

I don't have to be convinced, I do believe you. I have read portions of the report, and analysis of other sections that point to many of the same conclusions you reach. There was a glaring failure on the part of the Clinton team to adequately assess the magnitude of the al-Qaeda threat. This led to the worst kind of indecision and an inflated sense of fear for inflaming jihadists if this potential "martyr" were killed.

As you noted, the incoming Bush administration showed at least the same level of indifference, possibly more. Although experience is invaluable in some ways, old habits die hard. Thus, the Bush team was still overly pre-occupied with the Cold War paradigm, viewing nation states like China, Russia, Iraq, and North Korea as the chief threats, rather than a stateless international network of jihadists like al-Qaeda.

After 9/11, the Bush administration's outlook changed. So too, would the Clinton/Gore team had they been in power, and the potential Kerry team realizes the current realities. Just as any reasonable person on the street can tell you, al-Qaeda is the biggest threat to US security. So too, does Kerry's foreign policy team understand. Contrary to some extreme viewopints, Democrats are fully capable of understanding sustained warfare, and the necessities of urgent threats (FDR comes to mind immediately).

Of note, the pre-occupation with the nation state paradigm is still plaguing the Bush team to some extent, as is evidenced by the outrageously expensive, though not functional, money pit that is SDI at a time when homeland security intiatives are grossly underfunded.

Posted by: Eric Martin at July 28, 2004 07:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric Martin,

Thank you for another excellent answer.

Arjun

Posted by: Arjun at July 28, 2004 07:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Arjun,

On allies and alliances: There really was a break amongst our allies at around the time the Bush team began the full court press on the invasion of Iraq.

Historically speaking, the US enjoyed the sympathy and support of the world immediately after 9/11. Everyone from Masai tribes in the wilderness of Africa offering donations of cattle, to Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi publicly condemning the attacks and offering to be an ally in the war against jihadist terrorists (ironically enough), the world was united in its disgust for the attack on American civilians (with obvious exceptions among the anti-American jihadists themselves, and others such as Saddam and Kim Jong Il).

This began to change when the Bush team began to alienate allies and potential allies in its run-up to Iraq. To understand this in context, it is important to note that the neo-con philosophy is extremely hostile to the UN and the idea that the US should be involved in international bodies. Furthermore, this notion is popular among many pale-cons and regular Republicans. Even the official Texas GOP platform calls for the immediate withdrawal of the US from the UN. So with that in mind (and in the mind's of world leaders), the Bush administration began to publicly insult many erstwhile allies, and groups like the UN. Claiming that they are irrelevant and outdated, ineffectual and cowardly, that the days of "Old Europe" were coming to a close.

This was especially true for France and Germany, who received the most barbed of insults. On a silly and microcosmic level, do you remember that we started calling french fries freedom fries and boycotting French products? Although it was not mentioned in the media at the time, it is important to note that the "cowardly" French had, and still have, troops fighting with us in Afghanistan (they also fought with us in Gulf War I).

In effect, the Bush administration told the UN, and many of their member nations, that their desire for continued inspections would be ignored. We would attack anyway, and in the process we will insult you and disregard your counsel in a public and tactless way. The leaders of nations generally don't like being treated this way, especially when the subject matter (the imminence of Saddam's threat) was certainly open for reasoned debate.

Even after the war, the Bush administration shunned the aid of these countries by shutting them out of the bidding process on post-war reconstruction.

In that light, I think that many of our allies are probably intent on letting Bush dangle in the wind. Some probably also revel in our being taken down a peg. These sentiments, although understandable, are still very costly to the Iraqi people, and maybe the Afghanis too. We need the full cooperation of Europe and the UN, but instead they seem intent on proving a point to Bush.

Can we blame them for this? I think so to some degree, because the victims will be the innocents in Iraq and elsewhere, and that is shameful. Can we expect autonomous prideful countries to react like this to behvior like Bush's? I think that's a good bet.

As for the Germans letting that suspect go, I think it was a mistake. They wanted access to a witness that we were holding, so the defendant could use his testimony in his defense. When we refused it, they let him go. Do I think it was right? No. I criticize them for this too. Given the nature of the situation, they should have at least held off until full negotiations on the parameters of witness access could be determined. Again, though, I think that the frayed relations played into their decision (not an excuse, an explanation).

So, we can certainly criticize our allies. Sometimes our interests don't coincide. But ultimately, I think we are stronger when we have strong alliances built on mutual respect, and when we are an active player in the community of nations. Kerry would help greatly in these areas.

Posted by: Eric Martin at July 28, 2004 07:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It baffles me that so many people continue to believe the myth that Gore would not have responded well to the 9/11 attacks.

First of all, to argue this point is absurd, because there is no way to discern what Gore would have done had he been President. But playing the familiar game, why would anyone think he'd act differently than Bush?

Not to be cynical, but 9/11 was a gift to the Bush administration because it presented him with an obvious decision: invade Afghanistan and remove the Taliban while going after UBL. Gore would have done the exact same thing, because there wouldn't have been anything else to do. Hell, Ted Kennedy would have probably done what Bush did.

What makes or breaks Presidents is the ability to take the proper course when two seemingly good choices exist. Understanding that subtle differences in policy can yield tremendous difference is another ability that a President must have.

Attacking Afghanistan after 9/11 says very little about President Bush, one way or another, and likewise about Gore.

Posted by: Matt at July 28, 2004 07:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"What makes or breaks Presidents is the ability to take the proper course when two seemingly good choices exist. Understanding that subtle differences in policy can yield tremendous difference is another ability that a President must have.

Attacking Afghanistan after 9/11 says very little about President Bush, one way or another, and likewise about Gore."

Well said Matt. Invading Afghanistan was indeed a no-brainer, and to claim credit for this decision, while claiming Gore wouldn't have made it, erroneously posits that it was a decision at all.

Posted by: Eric Martin at July 28, 2004 07:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I should check back more frequently! Eric, to your assertion:

"The argument that Gore would not have invaded Afghanistan is really intellectually dishonest, bordering on inane."

Hey, but that's all I got. But to the point, it was not my contention that Gore would, ultimately, not have invaded Afghanistan (though I wouldn't even call we did an "invasion" given the meager footprint). Only that Gore's ultimate response in both Afghanistan and beyond would be even less effective than Bush's.

This entire debate is "angels on the head of pin" speculation. Maybe Gore would have dropped the big one on Tora Bora. But given the reflex of his party's foreign policy elite, the contention - uttered by the party's nominee well after 9/11 - that fighting terrorism is a "law enforcement" priority, I think it's a very safe assumption that Gore would be less vigorous. He would have slowed the Afghan-war down immeasurably trying to win some form of NATO or UN backing. The actual combat in Afghanistan might have mirrored the Kosovo campaign, with bogged-down decision making and indecision and giving the jihadis more time to flee or to counter-attack.

Posted by: Greg Scoblete at July 28, 2004 08:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorry, Eric, but I'm not buying. I'll spot you Al Gore. I can see him reacting in a fashion similar to the way the Bushies did--even so far as Iraq.

But to date John Kerry has been anything but serious about this effort. Consider who he surrounds himself with--the serial liar Joe Wilson, the feeble and felonious Sandy Berger and the self-promoting Clarke. He's renting these guys because they are critical of Bush, not because they bring anything to the table.

Follow that with picking as VP a half-term Senator with zero executive experience and you may understand why the credit some of us are willing to afford Gore does not extend to John Kerry.

Posted by: spongeworthy at July 28, 2004 08:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg S,

First of all, when I said:

"The argument that Gore would not have invaded Afghanistan is really intellectually dishonest, bordering on inane."

I was not asserting that was your opinion, really it was a response to moptop. I was asking you why you presumed Gore would not be succsessful in Afghanistan (which you answered above).


On Kerry and the Dems:

Fighting al-Qaeda is primarily a law enforcement issue, but at times military action is required (as in Afghanistan). This is actually the full extent of Kerry's comments on the matter.

Most foreign policy experts recognize that al-Qaeda is an organization that crosses borders, is not centralized in one country and is not in particular allegiance with any specific state. Thus, military action is not the most effective means to combat them. The greatest successes to date (outside of Afghanistan) have come in tracking these bastards down and neutralizing them. That is law enforcement.

The countries with the greatest ties to al-Qaeda (Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iran) are not even on Bush's radar screen in terms of military solutions (with the possible exception of Iran, but even then it appears that other strategies will win out - possibly out of necessity). I am not saying they should be the subject of invasion, but if dealing with al-Qaeda is, as you say, primarily a military question, this is where we should start.

I think Gore would have gone into Afghanistan at least on the same time line as Bush (not immediately I might add), and would not have been as concerned with NATO or the UN as you might think. Different situations call for different strategies, and Gore is capable of this flexibility.

As far as this statement:

"The actual combat in Afghanistan might have mirrored the Kosovo campaign, with bogged-down decision making and indecision and giving the jihadis more time to flee or to counter-attack."

Unfortunately, some have described actual events that way. Not caused by NATO/UN indecision but from lack of US troop strength.

Posted by: Eric Martin at July 28, 2004 08:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sponge,

First of all, the claim that Joe Wilson is a serial liar is hyperbole. That is not true any more than the assertion that Cheney is a serial liar. Sandy Berger is well respected, by both sides of the aisle, apart from his recent transgressions. But he is hardly a member of Kerry's inner circle.

But your weakest case may be for Richard Clarke. He is the one guy in the pre-9/11 Clinton and Bush administrations that seemed to fully grasp the al-Qaeda threat. He is the one guy who didn't need the wake-up call that 9/11 provided. Self-promoting? You bet, and well worth it. He needs to convince those in Washington that he is a man to be listened to.

Not to mention that this is not the extent of his foreign policy team. As I said above, these three are not even in the inner circle (with the possible exception of Berger before his scandal broke).

As for Edwards' experience, he has more foreign policy experience than Bush when he took over, and you seem to think Bush did a good job. Maybe you think Bush was just particularly intelligent or adept at assessing emerging crises, and that he has one up on Edwards in these regards.

And this ignores the fact that he is a Vice Presidential candidate, and most Presidents (with the exception of Bush) don't rely on their Veeps for foreign policy initiatives, advice and direction.

Posted by: Eric Martin at July 28, 2004 09:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Once again, I have to praise Eric Martin's excellent analysis. He is a far better spokesman for John Kerry than John Kerry! He may even change my currently undecided vote.

I hope that a Kerry Administration will reflect Eric Martin's sensible and praiseworthy views, rather than some of the extreme left-wing views (like Michael Moore's) that have recently attained more prominence than they deserve.

Posted by: Arjun at July 28, 2004 09:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Please.

Wilson lied to discredit the President, and though the Kerry folks have purged him in true Soviet fashion, they were paying for his website. He, Clarke and Berger were all Inner Circle. Denying this will only make you seem ignorant or dishonest.

Bush from the beginning surrounded himself with competent and experienced men and women from his Dad's tenure--this was common knowledge at the time and a big part of why the GOP establishment backed him. Don't rewrite history by pretending the comparison here is between Bush and Edwards or something.

What's at issue is John Kerry's cynical approach to TWAT--staffing his campaign with syncophants who bring to the table only criticism of Bush (with the possible exception of Clarke. Possible.) Compounding this is his selection of a guy who is simply not capable of being President as VP. Should anything happen to Kerry, the less-than-serious Strong President for a Strong America, we're left with an empty suit.

These people do not inspire confidence in me, though I do still agree about Al Gore.

Posted by: spongeworthy at July 28, 2004 09:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric Martin:

You confuse sympathy with support, and erroneously assert, with no proof, that we had any such support to begin with.

Let's dispense with the "alienating allies" business, as we're really referring to only France, Germany, and Belgium, each, and especially France, with vested interests in Saddam remaining in power. Let's instead focus on France's bullying of the Eastern Euro members and Turkey into toeing the Franco-German line on Iraq, to which Poland et, al told the French to fellate themselves, while the Turks demurred because France is holding their application for EU membership hostage to good behavior. Sounds like unilateralist bullying to me....

Let's also dispense with the notion of France as an "ally". Prior to the American Revolution the French and their Indian proxies massacred soon-to-be American settlers, they only joined the American Revolution after the Americans turned the war's tide at Saratoga, and our first war as a new republic was fought against the French. They traded with and armed the Confederacy. Through criminal diplomatic and military stupidity they dragged us into two sh*tty continental wars, during one of which they operated as a Nazi client state and rounded up their own Jews unprompted by the Germans. Now, whether out of fear of their own growing, hostile, unassimilable, and unemployable Muslim underclass, or their delusions of playing counterweight to American hegemony, or both, they coddle and arm Arab tyrants and enable genocide in places like Rwanda (the Francophone Hutus were armed and backed by the French against the Anglophone Tutsis) and Sudan (where France's gov't oil monopoly holds significant concessions).

True, they gave us the Statue of Liberty, but they also left behind the crippled and failing state of Haiti, and we have to clean up the mess and absorb the refugees. That makes us even.

Libya, you said? In the wake of Saddam's overthrow Khadaffi has renounced terrorism, opened up his weapons programs to unfettered inspections, and fingered the Paki/NoKo illicit arms trade.

Russia, you said? Russia allows the US to base troops in various of its former Central Asian republics for mischief in Afghanistan and, dare I say it, Iran?

Italy? Britain? Australia? Poland? Portugal? The Netherlands? Denmark?

As the French say...Suffice!

And, actually, Joe Wilson *is* a serial liar.


The Lies about Events
==============
He lied about his wife referring him for the Niger trip.

He lied about seeing forged documents eight months before the CIA had possession of said forged documents.

He lied to the Senate Intelligence committee about his "fact-finding" trip to Niger, responding from press accounts and opinion rather than his own experience (how convenient of him to have submitted only an oral summary to his CIA de-briefers).

He lied to the Senate Intelligence committee about the Vice President having been briefed about his Niger trip (the Vice President wasn't).


The Lies about the Lies about Events
=======================
He lied about never claiming to have debunked the President's Africa/Yellowcake claims.

He lied about the Senate Intelligence Committee's report supporting his claims that the Iraq/Niger Uranium outreach never occurred (the Committee's unanimous conclusion was that their report lent more credibility to Iraq's Niger outreach).

He's lying now in claiming that press accounts of his own statements, such as about the forged documents and the debunking claim, misstate or misrepresent what he actually said.

See, probably because Joe Wilson was fanatasizing about who would play him and his wife in the movie (remember that?), he forgot the oldest truth of all about lying:

If you lie, you always have to remember what you said.

And if his credibility is so good, then why has the Kerry Campaign website de-linked every reference to Joe Wilson and his various "Truth" and chuckle "Honesty" websites? Hmmm?

Encore, suffice!

Give it up, Eric. Even Josh Marshall has dumped this loser and moved on to spinning for Sandy-pants Berger.

--furious.

Posted by: furious_a at July 28, 2004 10:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"[Wilson], Clarke and Berger were all Inner Circle. Denying this will only make you seem ignorant or dishonest."

Show me the evidence. I am always open minded and willing to concede a point when presented compelling evidence. But as far as I was aware, those gentlemen (with the possible exception of Berger) were not considered in the inner circle, they were just some hangers on which is not the same thing.

As I said before, Clarke has earned a spot on anyone's team. To say otherwise is to ignore his prescient analysis which would be questionable judgment in my opinion. Why discount the one person who saw this coming? Just because he criticizes the indolence of the Bush team in this regard? That isn't objectivity.

I'm also not 100% convinced of Joe Wilson's alleged lies to discredit the president. That is a strong statement that you would have to back up again with fact and citation. There were some references to false statements made by Wilson in the Senate Intelligence report, but those were in an addendum penned by a handful of GOP Senators. This doesn't mean they have it wrong, but it does open the door for partisan tactics. Again, I keep an open mind.

It is also not clear whether they go to the heart of Wilson's claims, which as I showed above, were proven correct. It is worth mentioning that Wilson has a compelling response to some of these allegations. If you are interested, here is a link:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A56501-2004Jul16.html

As for the Edwards/Bush comparison, I am not rewriting history, I am just pointing out that your argument that Edwards lacks the requisite experience to lead this country seems to contradict your assessment of Bush (who had less foreign policy and national security experience). Bush's inexperience is a fact, not a revision. The funny thing is, as you point out, it is not between Bush and Edwards, because Edwards is the Veep so his experience is even less germane than Bush's was in 2000.

As for the competence and seriousness of Bush's team, it depends on what evidence you use to make that assessment. Some are competent, others severely deficient.

It may be hindsight, but the expertise of Paul Wolfowitz is about as suspect as anyone in government in recent history. He was famously, and audaciously, wrong about so much in the lead up to the war in Iraq:

1. Troop strength required (Wolf said under 100K, Shinseki said 300-400K, Wolf said Shinseki was "wildly off the mark" even though Shinseki had experience with other peace-keeping efforts)
2. Likely duration of conflict (Wolf said we would be down to 30,000 troops by Fall of 2003, its now approching Fall 2004 and we are about 100K over that mark)
3. Said we would be greeted with flowers and candies, and that no insurgency would develop (not exactly)
4. Said Iraq didn't have a history of Ethnic strife so that wouldn't be an issue in post-Saddam Iraq (oops!)
5. Said oil revenues would pay for reconstruction ($200 billion and waiting for those oil revenues to kick in)
6. Claimed Chalabi had widespread popular support among the populace and could step in as a post Saddam leader of Iraq (not exactly)

And the list goes on. But if that's competence, I shudder to think what incompetence would look like.

Posted by: Eric Martin at July 28, 2004 10:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Libya, you said? In the wake of Saddam's overthrow Khadaffi has renounced terrorism, opened up his weapons programs to unfettered inspections, and fingered the Paki/NoKo illicit arms trade."

Furious,

Qaddafi has been trying to re-enter the world community for over a decade. He has been making repeated overtures, and his most recent were not inspired by fear over Saddam's toppling. Immediately following 9/11 he renounced terrorism and fingered the Paki/N. Ko. connection. After Iraq, he went public with his WMD program because he knew it was the best way to score points with the Bush administration in furtherance of his predetermined goals.

Posted by: Eric Martin at July 28, 2004 10:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Otherwise, thank you Arjun for your kind words.

Furious you raise some interesting points that I would love to get into, but now I must depart. Perhaps at a later time.

Posted by: Eric Martin at July 28, 2004 10:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

er, Clarke isn't on the Kerry team. He said he wouldn't serve, under oath.

Posted by: praktike at July 29, 2004 12:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric,

Read Tom Maguire's extensive timeline with links. He has a comprehensive case that doesn't require me to believe in harry potter like believing Joe Wilson seems to demand. ;)

It is pretty bad when he accuses Milbank, Pincus, and Kristof of distorting his story. They must be agents of the VRWC or something. ;)

Joe Wilson is done, stick a fork in him and turn him over. His 15 mins are long over.

Posted by: capt joe at July 29, 2004 12:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

sorry link is

http://justoneminute.typepad.com/footnotes/2004/07/the_joseph_wils.html

Posted by: capt joe at July 29, 2004 12:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,

You only added specific examples of why you "think" Gore wouldn't have been as adept at conducting the war in Afghanistan, without explaining how you reached those conclusions:

I think a Gore Administration Sec State (yes, even if Holbrooke) wouldn't have been as effective in getting Musharraf on board as quickly and effectively as was accomplished by Powell. I think we wouldn't have handled the nervous Russians as well re: getting bases up in southern Uzbekistan. I think we would have wasted precious time at the U.N. and dilly-dallying re: the force and content of our ultimatum to the Taliban.

Yes, the Bush team accomplished all of those things. But that doesn't mean Gore wouldn't have. It's fully possible that Gore could have achieved better results in some areas. Simply stating that you don't "think so" is not an empirical argument, supported with facts. You are not even giving reasons why you think that.

Posted by: Eric Martin at July 29, 2004 09:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Furious,

A few thoughts:

You said:

Through criminal diplomatic and military stupidity they dragged us into two sh*tty continental wars

I'm not sure that is an accurate appraisal of history. Germany had more to do with dragging us into those two wars, and Japan certainly had a lot to do with the second. As for WW I, there were geo-political factors beyond the control of France alone.

As for France's history in Haiti, it is shameful, but we ourselves have not always been interested in cleaning up the mess and have often gotten dirty and exploitave. The Duvaliers come to mind and their nasty paramilitary wing.

As for support and sympathy, you raise some good points. France certainly supported us in Gulf War I and in Afghanistan. Though not always a rock solid ally, they are less so today under Bush.

Also, the coalition is not as robust as the first Gulf War. Most of the countries involved have only contributed nominal forces. Whereas 16 countries provided fighting forces in Gulf War I, only four have this time (US, Britain, Australia, Poland). Some others sent non-combat troops, or combat troops with other objectives.

Second, support from these countries has been eroding not burgeoning. It is important to note that the populations in most of our coalition partners countries are very opposed to the war by overwhelming majority. It already led to regime change in Spain, and in many other countries, that is a growing possibility. Certainly this has cost Blair considerably. Bush's tactics, by inspiring the hostility of populations in countries that are democracies, has lessened the support of those leaders, and might cost some their political futures. The Phillipines, Singapore, Honduras, Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua all removed their forces.

Other than France, Germany and Belgium, Bush has also strained relations with Canada and Mexico. There are also other smaller nations that have developed a cooler relationship with the Bush administration.

Posted by: Eric Martin at July 29, 2004 09:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric, while it's true that our international standing is pretty much down the tubes, it could be argued -- so what?

Sure, we have no allies except britain and australia and plucky poland. We don't need no steenking allies.

Sure, nobody in the world except a few tiny paid-off nations supports us on israel. Once again, we don't need no steenking allies.

Our military spending is bigger than the rest of the world put together. We have more nukes than the rest of the world put together. Our navy can sink all the other navies in the world if they were stupid enough to all band together against us.

We are the world's only superpower. What do we care about world opinion? Strained relations with mexico? We'll tell the mexicans what to do and if they don't like it they can lump it. We give them a lot of leeway, we let them tell the world that relations are strained. If we tell them to defecate they'll strain to do it.

Things we do with difficulty, nobody else can do at all. If the russians decided that, say, chile and paraguay were dangerous rogue states that supported terrorism against russia, could they invade chile and paraguay? No way. Definitely not. Unless we gave them permission, maybe then.

I don't know how long we can keep that up, but Bush has done it for close to 4 years and he could maybe do it another 4 years.

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