Defending Obama over foreign policy and Afghanistan


by Sunny
22nd September, 2010 at 2:47 pm    

Several of my colleagues on the left, particularly Mehdi Hasan, have been highly critical of Obama’s foreign policy, in particular the decision to stay in Afghanistan.

Now, I supported the attempt to get rid of the Taliban, but I’ve also maintained that Obama’s foreign policy objectives are unlikely to have been under his control all the time.

This explosive Washington Post story detailing bits from Bob Woodward’s new book, shows the extent to which he faced resistance to his plans:

Obama rejected the military’s request for 40,000 troops as part of an expansive mission that had no foreseeable end. “I’m not doing 10 years,” he told Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting on Oct. 26, 2009. “I’m not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars.”

Woodward’s book portrays Obama and the White House as barraged by warnings about the threat of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and confronted with the difficulty in preventing them.

Tensions often turned personal. National security adviser James L. Jones privately referred to Obama’s political aides as “the water bugs,” the “Politburo,” the “Mafia,” or the “campaign set.” Petraeus, who felt shut out by the new administration, told an aide that he considered the president’s senior adviser David Axelrod to be “a complete spin doctor.”

During a flight in May, after a glass of wine, Petraeus told his own staffers that the administration was “[expletive] with the wrong guy.”

After Obama informed the military of his decision, Woodward writes, the Pentagon kept trying to reopen the decision, peppering the White House with new questions. Obama, in exasperation, reacted by asking, “Why do we keep having these meetings?”

And I bet there was a lot more where briefings and counter-briefings in the media made Obama’s job a lot harder. He wanted out, they wanted to stay in, and there had to be some sort of a messy compromise that annoyed everyone.

The most telling bit is at the end:

Woodward quotes Petraeus as saying, “You have to recognize also that I don’t think you win this war. I think you keep fighting. It’s a little bit like Iraq, actually. . . . Yes, there has been enormous progress in Iraq. But there are still horrific attacks in Iraq, and you have to stay vigilant. You have to stay after it. This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.”

Well… at least he was being realistic.


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  1. sunny hundal

    Blogged: : Defending Obama over foreign policy and Afghanistan http://bit.ly/90o7mk




  1. Arif — on 23rd September, 2010 at 8:44 am  

    It is hard to keep in mind how different Obama is from most of the Republican opposition and how important it is to support him.

    People who are campaigning on human rights see very slow, cautious change.

    Torture has been deauthorised, but remains very hard to prosecute, with the administration fighting any inquiries every step of the way.

    Drone attacks are increasing, terrorising people in other countries.

    Assassination squads are being set up in Afghanistan.

    Assassinations have also been authorised elsewhere by Presidential decree for people without trial or public evidence.

    Iraqi people remain uncompensated and the Iraqi dead uncounted.

    Iran is continually threatened, while Saudi Arabia is given billions of dollars worth of weapons.

    Human rights abuses including war crimes by client states continue without comment.

    The list can go on for ages.

    Yet still, as the post makes clear, he is standing up against massive pressure to avoid continual warfare. He also has taken a stand against torture in the future, however hypocriticial it might seem. How hard it has been may be a testimony to the callousness of the US security establishment.

    But if we are going to get all mushy and squeamish about criticising him on war and State terrorism because the mainstream US is so much more gung ho, then we have to be equally humble in criticising other political leaders around the world.

    And if we do that, what human rights or peace movement do we have left?

  2. platinum786 — on 23rd September, 2010 at 1:41 pm  

    The change we need….lol

    The closest AF_PAK foreign policy has got to change, has been a re-shuffle of generals. Either the man is not in control of his military, or he is a liar.

    Newest revaluation, the CIA has a 3000 man trained militia it uses in Afghanistan and Pakistan to “assassinate”. Lends credence to the Pakistani theory that foreign elements are involved in terrorism in the country doesn’t it.

  3. Raff — on 24th September, 2010 at 8:26 pm  

    bah – Woodward prints what people choose to tell him. His stories are so clearly the product of purposeful leaks.

  4. halima — on 26th September, 2010 at 5:30 pm  

    While Americans and Britons are doing their best in Afghanistan to pacify the country ‘militarily’, and spending vast amounts of money, word on the ground is that it is China that is quietly investing millions in Afghanistan.

    I reckon the Americans know this very well.

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