In Bush’s Footsteps

Those of you still hoping for "change" can forget it. Young Mr. Obama is working the same number that young Mr. Bush pulled on us. In Obama’s address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Phoenix, Ariz., on Aug. 17, he made his commitment to war in the Bananastans irrevocable.

It would be wonderful if public servants seeking to associate themselves with the military would cater to the agenda of the Veterans for Peace. For a president of the United States to pander to the VFW is a disgrace. While the VFW is not a pack of latter-day Brownshirts like the American Legion, the two groups possess a common value: they never saw an armed conflict they didn’t like. If they had to serve in a pointless war, everyone else should too. They also never met a Republican politician they didn’t like. Why a Democrat who was elected on a peace platform feels compelled to throw a bone to Pavlov’s dogs of war is inscrutable.

In Phoenix, Obama deflected criticism of his lack of support for the self-defeating Iraq war by drumming up support for his self-defeating conflict in the Bananastans. He continued a tradition established by his predecessor when he told the veterans "Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again." Are we doomed to hearing presidents evoke 9/11 every time they want to justify overseas adventurism?

"But we must never forget," Obama reminded the veterans, that the Bananastans conflict "is not a war of choice." It is a "war of necessity" because "if left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al-Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans." So, according to Obama, the Bananastans crusade is not only "worth fighting," it is "fundamental to the defense of our people."

What fundamental horse manure.

We’ve accepted the myth that the 9/11 attacks were made possible by Osama bin Laden’s "sanctuary" in Afghanistan for far too long. 9/11 "mastermind" Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was operating in the Philippines when he first presented the attack plan to bin Laden in 1996. The six hijackers who controlled the airplanes received their flight training in the U.S. The "muscle hijackers" came from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. That bin Laden was in Afghanistan at the time is a narrative of our "good intelligence" in that part of the world, which, to this day, amounts to beating or bribing locals into telling us what we want to hear or believing the lies that Afghan and Pakistani intelligence agencies feed us.

"We will plan responsibly," Obama told the veterans, and he boasted of the "new comprehensive strategy" for the Bananastans that he announced in March. The people responsible for Obama’s new comprehensive strategy deserve a session of tar-and-feather therapy.

The strategy, conjured by National Security Adviser James Jones and his team of "chess masters," is a compendium of wimp-words and hazy goals. We’ll be "promoting a more capable" Afghan government, one that "can eventually function." We’ll also be "developing" an "increasingly self-reliant" Afghan security force. On top of all that, we’ll be "assisting efforts to enhance civilian control" of Pakistan’s government.

With a strategy like this, who needs enemies? It’s self-defeating. We’ll kinda/sorta try to do things we can’t possibly accomplish. A prolonged occupation of the Bananastans will not "disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda" and its allies. Al-Qaeda and its allies have iPhones. They don’t need to hunker down in the Bananastani Himalayas. They can plan and execute their evildoing at a Club Med getaway if they want to.

By June 2009 the Pentagon still hadn’t figured out what measures of effectiveness to use in determining if the new comprehensive strategy is working. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said that some of those metrics – whatever they turn out to be – will remain classified. That way they won’t have to explain how they know they’re being effective (if they told us, they’d have to kill us). We’ll just have to take their word for it that they’re turning corners and mopping up dead-enders and that victory is at hand even though it will be a long struggle. Gates and Mullen make Cheney and Rumsfeld seem like straight shooters.

Obama told the VFW that "military power alone will not win this war," but military power, as flaccid as it has become, is more effective than the other forms of power in the American arsenal. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is as adept at diplomacy as John Bolton was. Whenever she opens her mouth it’s all anyone can do to keep another war from breaking out. Whatever economic efforts we can afford to make in the Bananastans will amount to handing out bribes like the ones we handed out in Iraq, and our information operations there involve, at best, a gentlemanly exchange of mendacities with the host countries.

"By moving forward in Iraq," Obama told the VFW, "we’re able to refocus on the war against al-Qaeda and its extremist allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan." Candidate Obama pledged to "get the job done" in Afghanistan when his opponents attacked him for having voted against the surge in Iraq. He would have been better off to refute claims of the strategy’s success. Today, more than two-and-a-half years after the surge commenced, counterinsurgency expert John A. Nagl says "the insurgency is not over" and Pentagon correspondent Thomas E. Ricks says we’re "at about the midpoint of the conflict now."

Bush was probably too dim to realize he was talking gibberish about Iraq, but Obama is too smart to believe the bull jargon he’s handing us about the Bananastans. Obama has to realize that there is no strategy for Afghanistan and that the organized but senseless violence his generals are conducting there will not further "the security and safety of the American people."

At this point, Obama cannot escape the Bananastan trap without gnawing off a political foot. He needs to sack his National Security Council and everyone in the Department of Defense who wears a bird or a star in their collar or whose title contains the word "secretary." Then he needs to tell the nation that he was wrong about escalating the war in Afghanistan, and then he needs to bring our troops home.

I doubt that he has the political baby-makers to do that.

Author: Jeff Huber

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (retired), was a naval flight officer who commanded an aircraft squadron and was operations officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the carrier that fought the Kosovo War. Jeff earned a master of arts degree in post-modern imperialism at the U.S. Naval War College. His weekly satires on U.S. foreign policy high jinks are archived at his blog, Pen and Sword. Jeff's critically applauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon of America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Jeff lives with dogs in a house by the beach on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, and in the summer he has a nice tan.