Is the Afghanistan Debate Changing?

Monday, August 10, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Michael Cohen at Democracy Arsenal thinks it is:

[I]f the Iraq war showed us anything it is that untested and unquestioned assumptions can lead to disastrous outcomes. We all have a responsibility to scrutinize the arguments that would cost the lives of American servicemen and ensnare the country in potential military quagmires. And that means questioning the pronouncements of our leaders – whatever our political affiliation. As someone pointed out to me recently, our default position on going to war or intensifying a military intervention should be “this might not be such a good idea,” unless someone can make the case why military conflict is in the national interest. But generally it seems since September 11th, the opposite has occurred – the pressure is on opponents to prove why military intervention is a bad idea. And in a politicized national security environment that is not an easy argument to make.

I was talking about something similar with a colleague earlier today. The Iraq debate tore the left into factions. Did you support the war on human-rights grounds? Oppose it on realist grounds? Oppose it out of general dovishness? Support it out of post-9/11 political opportunism? Support it as a measure about WMD proliferation? Each faction wanted to make its argument into a broader critique of what liberalism meant after 9/11 and why its opposing factions had revealed an intellectual decadence within liberalism.

And Afghanistan in 2009 … isn’t that at all. One of the things that’s struck me about the Afghanistan debate — aside from how muted-to-nonexistent it is — is that no one is making an argument about what it means for liberalism. There’s a general lack of certainty on the part of those who favored the troop increase earlier this year that tends to preclude ideological arguments. One result is a more open atmosphere to reexamine fundamental premises of the war. Maybe that’s one component to the changing debate Michael is observing.

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Comment posted August 10, 2009 @ 7:00 pm

Perhaps we are finally reaching the point of 'war fatigue' just as we eventually did in Vietnam.

The Washington Independent » Is the Afghanistan Debate Changing? | kozmom news
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Comment posted August 10, 2009 @ 11:36 pm

I think the lack of debate must have something to do with the deft way Obama has managed to keep people from pissing into his tent as it were by squeezing representatives of all the credible factions into it. He's got Gates to keep the Scowcrofts of the world in line, Hillary to keep the Albright's happy and Rice to give the would be Samantha Power's of the world a reason to at least play it cool. I mean as long as criticism of Obama's foreign policy is coming from John Bolton and the far, far, far, out their near Dennis K left, it's not likely to catch on in a broad way.

Win Pollard
Comment posted August 11, 2009 @ 10:58 pm

The Iraq war only “tore the left into factions” if LEFT means centrist corporate Democrats and Congressional foot soldiers for the Israel Lobby.

Comment posted August 11, 2009 @ 11:04 pm

Sounds like you have an interesting premise for an article. Pitch it somewhere!

Comment posted August 12, 2009 @ 3:35 am

We are fighting people – the Taliban – that nobody thinks had anything to do with 9/11 and they are “indigenous” to that area (per NBC's Richard Engel) to that area and have always been part of the fabric of life of Afghanistan-Pakistan so we cannot wipe them out. We are fighting them to quash any opposition to the government we put in place under Hamid Karzai, a government that, per the NY Times a few months ago, demands bribes to accomplish the most minor government function. Meanwhile, we're supposed to be soooo upset about the Iranian elections because – with no proof and no evidence other than street protests – some people in the US tell us there was fraud. Meanwhile, our leaders and media are upset today about Suu Kyi being convicted of something but we've kept innocent people behind bars for years and may never release them even if we ever try them and they are acquitted.

The public has turned against the Afghan war but it will be very quiet because people have become so cynical about our wars. What does liberalism mean in the context of these wars?

afghanistan « unconquerable gladness
Pingback posted August 12, 2009 @ 10:55 am

[...] 12, 2009 · Leave a Comment ackerman: The Iraq debate tore the left into factions. Did you support the war on human-rights grounds? [...]

Comment posted August 12, 2009 @ 11:45 pm

Are we not fighting the Taliban because, if left alone, the Taliban will again 'house' Al-Qaeda, thereby giving terrorists a space to plan and practice ways to kill thousands of Americans?

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