As enemy columns began a long, arduous advance to the capital, city after city and town after town fell. With a phased American pull out that left not a single combat troop in the country, US-equipped and trained local forces began to melt away, a combination of tactical defeats, surrenders, desertions and mutinies. The outlook of reengagement looked even bleaker: more involvement in the longest war to have ever been fought in American history was a politically unpopular and untenable position.
Tag Archives | David Petraeus
The renewed controversy over the Obama administration’s handling of the Benghazi terrorist assaults reinforces two broad criticisms made of Mr. Obama. The first is that his foreign policy decision-making is heavily shaped by a national security inner team, drawn largely from the young staffers in his 2008 presidential campaign, that habitually subjects policy to political machinations. The second is that this team presides over an especially defective policy apparatus.
As noted in earlier posts, these are charges even former administration staffers and otherwise sympathetic pundits advance. As Vali Nasr, who worked on AfPak issues in the first term, argues in his new book, The Dispensable Nation, that, “[T]he president had a truly disturbing habit of funneling major foreign-policy decisions through a small cabal of relatively inexperienced White House advisors whose turf was strictly politics. Their primary concern was how any action in Afghanistan or the Middle East would play on the nightly news, or which talking point it would give the Republicans [emphasis added].”
In the 1980’s the U.S. supported the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in their fight against the Soviets. Our ally was Osama bin Laden who organized his Arab fighters to help defeat the Soviets.
When the dictator, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990 Osama bin Laden offered to bring his Afghan-Arab fighters, known as al-Qaeda (the base), to help drive the Iraqis from Kuwait. Bin Laden’s offer was rejected by the Saudi Arabian government, who instead invited the U.S. to use their military bases as a staging area. Bin Laden considered our troops “infidels,” occupying the land of Islam’s two holiest sites–Mecca and Medina. Soon thereafter bin Laden issued his fatwa–declaring war on the United States.
In previous articles I noted that killing Osama bin Laden, in May 2011, would not change al-Qaeda’s quest to destroy Western interests. “The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it” was a second fatwa Osama bin Laden issued in February 1998, seven months before the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed. The U.S. should have increased security everywhere, yet we were unprepared to avoid the disastrous attacks by al-Qaeda on September 11, 2001.
The likelihood of a quick confirmation hearing in the Senate vanished following a sit-down between Ambassador Susan Rice and acting CIA Director Michael Morell on Capitol Hill with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). The meeting was an attempt to address any concerns the lawmakers had about Ambassador Rice and to insure that her confirmation hearing would be less bruising. That attempt, according to interviews given after the meeting by McCain, Graham and Ayotte, was not successful.
“The concerns I have are greater today than they were before, and we’re not even close to getting the basic answers,” Sen. Graham told reporters flanked by McCain and Ayotte. “I would place a hold on anybody who wanted to be promoted for any job who had a role in the Benghazi situation.” “Absolutely, there will be a hold,” Sen. Ayotte told reporters after her meeting with Rice.
For his part, Sen. McCain, who until this past weekend was the driving force behind the criticisms of the administration’s handling of the Benghazi incident that resulted in the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, told reporters that he was “significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn’t get concerning evidence that was overwhelming leading up to the attack on our consulate that we tried to get.” Many would consider Ambassador Rice to be qualified to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. However, due to the partisanship in Washington, her nomination could become a political three-ring circus.
Another affair, another moral paroxysm.
Not that we should be concerned about extra renditions, torture, and subversive tactics – the CIA’s Director can resign, not because of a vicious policy, but because of a considerable lack of bedroom judgment and horizontal collaboration. This, speculate Washington insiders, is the end of David Petraeus’ public career. “No man is indispensable,” writes an almost mournful John Barry, “but Petraeus’ brains, drive, and combination of military and political talents did give promise that the CIA would not be his last public office.”
The casualty rate for a CIA director is a high one. Richard Helms (1966-73) ran foul of the Nixon administration for perceived disloyalty; James Woolsey (1993-5) departed in light of a perceived reluctance in taking a stance against officers involved with the Soviet-Russian CIA mole Aldrich Ames. John Deutsch’s lighting brief tenure (1995-6) ended after allegations of casual mishandling of sensitive material. The sense of proportion about this is staggering, though there are feeble attempts to claim that this is something beyond “sex”, security beyond the bedroom. As Michael Pearson of CNN claims, “The scandal surrounding the decorated four-star Army general who once ran the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan involves questions of national security, politics and even the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead.”
Reading what I wrote about Afghanistan a decade ago reminded me of how much my understanding of the role of war and hard power in upholding security for the nation and the world has changed.
Actually, it seems clear to me that my views on Afghanistan back in 2001 were an exception to my general skepticism about Western interventions in the non-Western world, a view formed during ten years of opposition to the American role in the Vietnam War. At the time, with the Al Qaeda attacks so recently seared into my political consciousness, and some anxiety that more attacks of a similar kind were likely to follow, it seemed logical and helpful to adopt a war strategy as part of an overall effort to disrupt the mega-terrorist capabilities to inflict further harm either in this country or somewhere else on the planet.
Although I realized that the international law argument for attacking Afghanistan, with the clear objective of regime change, was weak absent the exhaustion of diplomatic remedies, but such considerations were overcome in my mind by the political argument for doing immediately whatever was necessary to uphold security in this country and generally, and the moral argument that any successor government to what was being imposed on the Afghan people by the Taliban would almost inevitably be a step in the right direction. At first, these early assessments of mine seemed vindicated, but now with the benefit of ten further years of military engagement and retrospective insight, a reappraisal is long overdue.