Obama is no different from Bush – his methods in Afghanistan are only a continuation of The War on
senior research fellow at the New America Foundation, where he directs the Privatization of Foreign Policy
Initiative, “No-Win Policy for Afghanistan,” Dissent, Volume 57, Number 2, Spring 2010)
Yet when Barack Obama delivered a major speech on the topic at West Point in December, he was not there to claim victory but to make the case for why the United
States should stay longer in Afghanistan and actually increase its military presence.
The president's announcement that thirty thousand more
would be deployed to Afghanistan meant the U.S. military footprint would rise to nearly one hundred
to face a Taliban insurgency
that by some estimates totals around twenty thousand core fighters and an al Qaeda organization in
Pakistan that counts perhaps two hundred key operatives.
For a war with clear links to a post 9/11 world,
it was not surprising that
Obama's remarks featured many of the same rhetorical tricks so often utilized in the Bush years
There was the scary
imagery of September 11, 2001; the agitated warnings about the risks of an al Qaeda return to Afghanistan; vague platitudes about the need for resoluteness in the face
of terrorist threats; and above all, meager specifics on how the latest U.S. policy shift would turn the tide of battle
clarifying America's new approach in Afghanistan,
revealed a glaring discrepancy between the ambitions of
U.S. leaders, the capabilities of its military,
and the increasingly divergent interests of its partners in the region
What is needed in Afghanistan is not a radically new approach, but a more modest one
that recognizes the
limitations of U.S. power and the constraints that all counterinsurgencies face
. Only by recognizing these limitations can the
United States hope to put in place a policy that will safeguard U.S. interests and stabilize Afghanistan.
During his 2008 presidential campaign,
obliquely referred to Afghanistan as the "good war
," (in stark contrast to the "bad war" in Iraq
attention to the conflict
, which he claimed was ground zero in the fight against al Qaeda.
Missing from Obama's rhetoric was a clear
strategic rationale for escalation
Although there is no doubt that the Taliban insurgency has gathered steam since 2006,
it is less clear that
United States has direct interests in stabilizing the country
(not to mention the capabilities for doing so).
Al Qaeda has not
maintained any serious presence in Afghanistan since 2002
across the jihadist blogosphere,
there are growing signs
that the Taliban and al Qaeda are not as closely allied as they were before 9/11
. Indeed, a relatively similar phenomenon took
hold in Iraq in 2006 when the global jihadist goals of al Qaeda-in-Iraq ran headfirst into the more local concerns of Iraqi Sunnis.
War on terror kills human rights -- Othering makes everyone expendable. Dehumanization sets no