October 31, 2004

Krauthammer: Bush's Taliban success

Printed Editorial--

In 2001, we had nothing [in Afghanistan]. What had the Clinton administration left in place? No plausible military plan. Virtually no intelligence. No local infrastructure. No neighboring bases. The Afghan Northern Alliance was fractured and weak. And Pakistan was actively supporting the bad guys.

Within days of 9/11, the clueless airhead President that inhabits Michael Moore's films had forced Pakistan into alliance with us, isolated the Taliban, secured military cooperation from Afghanistan's northern neighbors, and authorized a radical war plan involving just a handful of Americans on the ground, using high technology and local militias to utterly rout the Taliban.


Bush put in place a military campaign that did in two months what everyone had said was impossible: defeating an entrenched, fanatical, ruthless regime in a territory that had forced the great British and Soviet empires into ignominious retreat. Bush followed that by creating in less than three years a fledgling pro-American democracy in a land with no history of democratic culture and just emerging from 25 years of civil war.

Most amazing of all, John Kerry has managed to transform our Afghan venture into a failure in which Bush let Osama bin Laden get away because he "outsourced" bin Laden's capture to "warlords."
- Charles Krauthammer

This is an excellent point from a very perceptive and intelligent man. As an IR major, I feel boneheaded for not realizing the depth of this achievement earlier. The Afghan campaign was a vindication of Bush's Administration and of Rumsfeld's innovative, if still controversial, military theory. This issue also displays Kerry's lack of ideology and his emphasis on simply criticizing whatever Bush does - obviously suggesting that he would be an incompetent leader since he lacks any real plans of his own.

The same place that had given the British quite a bit of trouble and repelled the Red Army was successfully liberated by the United States. Why? Because we used a very small force on the ground, focused on targeted airstrikes against military targets, but used the North Alliance to spearhead the ground campaign. The effectiveness was that we convinced enough Afghans to side with us and not against us. This is part of Rumsfeld's strategy, to use a small, mobile, high-tech force in place of a huge troop commitment and 'overwhelming force' doctrine. Perhaps a similar strategy in Iraq, including smart bombings of the Republican Guard, hiring the non-IRG military forces to fight after they had defected, and emphasis on Iraqi control, would have worked more effectively than the plan they decided on.

In retrospect, everyone assumed that Afghanistan would be a horrible quagmire, a mass of mountain holdouts, cave redoubts, subterranean tunnels, and vicious, xenophobic opposition to American interference. Yet the election took place with 10 million registered voters, the vague disputes over voting processes were dropped in favor of strengthening the foundation of Afghan democracy, and the whole process went off without a terrorist incident.

I think we have to pause and realize how amazing this was. This was an American victory. Although the President deserves the strategic and diplomatic credit here (as do FDR and Truman for WWII, Wilson for WWI, and so forth) this is something that both the Democrats and Republicans deserve credit for. Pacifists, the very far left and the nutso right aside, everybody supported this war. The Senate bill was sponsored by Daschle and the vote was, I believe, 99-0. The House bill was sponsored by Armey and had only Barbara Lee's nay vote. This is something that both parties, if not all ideologies, can truly take pride in. This was something achieved together even if the actual implementation was by the Bush Administration. Hence, there ought to be no petty partisan squabbling over success in Afghanistan.

Now, obviously the administration seems to have somewhat neglected aid funding to Afghanistan in some ways, and there's a lot more to be done there - not to mention finding bin Laden who's likely just over the border trapped in a heavily anti-Musharraf, anti-Western mountainous region of Pakistan.

What gets me about Kerry, though, is that he's criticizing the use of 'warlords' in Afghanistan. That's a rather harsh slur for a group of men who just fought heroically to depose a viciously anti-American government and liberate their own country from totalitarian zealots, Islamist extremists of the worst and most murderous order. It would seem that Kerry doesn't like allies until Bush has lost them.

Either: 1) Kerry is suggesting that the Afghans, who successfully repelled the behemoth Soviet army with US assistance in the 1980s, who know the confusing and largely unmapped terrain of their landlocked country, who have spilled their blood in a cause next to American soldiers, and were capable of being trusted (perhaps manipulated, if Kerry had his way?) to fight one critical conflict, but now cannot be trusted to fight another;

OR 2) he's of the opinion that only Western countries make halfway decent allies. His disturbing and insulting betrayal aside, Kerry is missing a good point: we trusted these men to fight a war alongside invading US troops, to build their own democracy, and to police themselves. Now that they've done about as much as the best optimists could have hoped, he suddenly ceases to trust the exact same people.

He calls it 'outsourcing the war on terror to warlords.' It's a clever ploy that lets him stir up a delightful hint of xenophobia with the use of the charged 'outsourcing' term but it also allows him to diminish the Afghans. Why would they be called warlords? These men were not 'warlords' to Kerry when they died alongside Americans. Once he needed to be anti-war to win the White House, suddenly the same people went from valuable allies and freedom fighters to apostate thugs, traitors and tyrants.

And yet he wants us to have more foreign allies in Iraq at the same time he wants more reliance on US forces in Afghanistan. He wants multilateral talks to Iran but bilateral talks with North Korea. The man is clearly a gross opportunist and as an IR major I find his foreign policy doctrines, ideology and positions are all either largely ineffective, cribbed from Bush's platform, or flatly idiotic.

What's hilarious, naturally, is his support now for the Gulf War coalition as an example of international cooperation. Forget for a moment the fact that he was against the war and quoted Communist Party USA anti-WWII propaganda in his floor speech against the war in 1991 (Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Get Your Gun). There were 39 members of the 1991 Gulf War coalition, 9 or 10 without troops; there were 48 members of the 2003 Coalition of the Willing and more than 30 have had troops in at one time or another. The casualties for the US for the Gulf War represented 82% of the total - and that jumps to 92% if you remove deaths from Arab forces, which were poorly trained, equipped and led. The casualties for the US in 2003 and 2004 were as of a few weeks ago 89% of the total.

According to Kerry, apparently, 82% of the casualties is a stunning success of international coalitions while 89% is a miserable, arrogant failure of unilateralism. What's even sillier is the idea that somehow, while bashing the war in Iraq as a mistake and criticizing allies as bribed and coerced, he could somehow find large numbers of troops to send to Iraq if only we'd elect him. Don't trust him, he'll say anything to be President. Don't buy that snake oil.

Kerry's a cynical opportunist that will say or do whatever it takes to win.
He's an inept candidate and a boring speaker. He wants to end the critical strategy of democratization in the Middle East that is absolutely indispensable for the people of that region and for victory in the War on Terror. He lacks any consistent vision, any real commitment to human liberty, and any backbone when it comes to either friend or foe. His short-sighted focus on winning at politics instead of liberating people and securing peace in the world is unacceptable. Consider this my anti-endorsement for Kerry's uninspiring, selfish, pseudo-isolationist, pseudo-protectionist campaign.

Now my candidate is Badnarik (much more anti-war than Kerry, but honest and principled about it) and I'm proud to support the LP. I'm a libertarian, and as long as I think the LP and its candidate are at least salvageable for my politics and morality, I will back them. I'm not a mindless Bush booster, a posthappy freeper or whatever else; I just hate the people who bash him mindlessly, and I think his foreign policy is visionary, effective and far-sighted.

I'm rather surprised he champions it, I expected typical nationalist bluster and drum-beating without any heart or soul. He espouses the same thing I already believed: free trade, free markets and democracy, defended by force when necessary, are the only effective methods to secure lasting peace. I'm not voting for him, but he has a kickass foreign policy in concept if not always in implementation (Russia, especially). I flirted with the idea of voting for him, largely for foreign policy, plus social security reform (I want my money back before Congress steals it and spends it on 17-lane deluxe highways conveniently located near members' houses). But in the end the Patriot Act, the deficit, the FMA, the lack of a single veto and the Medicare splurge are too big to ignore. I'll be happy when he wins because at least it's not Kerry, but Bush has done too much to deserve my vote.

I just have to end with congratulations to Afghanistan. I wish you people well, I hope that you can avoid the systemic corruption so many new democracies suffer. I hope you can show the world that you're no less freedom-loving or democratic than any other ethnicity, religion or nation. America may have offered indispensable assistance in the war, but the fiercesome support of Afghan freedom fighters - in bullets and blood - was no less critical to Afghan liberty. Good luck with your future, Afghanistan.

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