Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Presidential Ponderings

There’s a lot of discussion today about President Obama’s speech last night. I gotta throw my two cents’ worth in. I read the transcript and thought it was an excellent speech. It shows a deliberate, thoughtful, and reasoned approach. Obama’s refocusing of the mission, I think, is right on target. Our main concern should be in ending the threat from Al Qaeda and other such extremist groups in the border area. Those are the loonies who attacked the World Trade Center and are the threat to the US and other western nations.

Lots of people are wondering why we care about Afghanistan. It has nothing in the way of natural resources, no industry, nothing much to trade with the rest of the world. Which is why it’s so poor, and because it’s so poor, the people (young ones particularly) turn to anything that offers them a smidgeon of hope and purpose. Which is what the extremist groups offer.

I don’t think we’re really there for Afghanistan. We’re there because its neighbor, Pakistan, has nuclear weapons. Al Qaeda would love nothing more than to get their hands on one of nukes. Pakistan is unstable, with a weak and corrupt civilian leadership, and its military and intelligence services have a long history of ties to Al Qaeda and other extremist groups. Apparently, those who support the extremists are still leery of giving them nuclear weapons, but who knows how long that will last. As long as the extremists were just a bunch of loonies running around Afghanistan, the only danger was that Pakistan and India would start lobbing nukes at each other. Now, though, the extremists are threatening the very existence of Pakistan. We can’t go into Pakistan to fight them (at least, not overtly), so we have to fight them in Afghanistan. I think that fight is worth it.

I like Obama’s approach toward the Afghan central government. He’s giving them a timetable: quit dicking around and weed out the corruption, because we’ll be leaving in 18 months, after we take care of Al Qaeda. (Well, we’ll see). Obama is already bypassing the central government and providing aid directly to those government agencies and local governments that have proven themselves capable. Good for him.

So, my bottom line, I think Obama’s on the right track with this approach. He’s got my support.

His predecessor, though, is coming under some scrutiny overseas. For the past couple of weeks, the British have been conducting an inquiry into the beginning of the war with Iraq. You really have to look to find any coverage of this in the US press – CNN seems to think that whether or not Tiger Woods was cheating on his wife is a much more important story. But today’s Wall Street Journal ran a report on the British proceedings. The revelations have not been surprising; rather, they’re high-level confirmations of things we’ve known or suspected for some time. The former British ambassador to the UN told the board that Bush was “hell-bent” (his words) on going to war with Iraq from the very beginning and even undermined the UK’s attempts to build international support. The former British ambassador to the US told the board that the White House was trying to make connections between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda within hours of the attacks. And Tony Blair bought into the invasion in April, 2002, five or six months before Bush & Co. started their public march to war.

No surprises there, really, since Bob Woodward reported many of the same things in his books Bush At War and Plan of Attack several years ago. Still, it’s one thing when a reporter says these things in a book he’s trying to sell, and another when they are coming from high-level officials who were involved. This investigation promises to be very embarrassing to Bush and Blair for their arrogance, duplicity, and stupidity in the run-up to the war. As it should be.


  1. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 12/02/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  2. Skip, I was off the net for awhile. Good to read your thoughtful and honest reflections of how things REALLY work. Good on you! Gary R