US Public Backs Obama, Wants out of Afghanistan

79% of Americans agree with President Obama’s plan to take a third of US troops out of Afghanistan over the next two years, and 59% think he should withdraw more, and more quickly.

These views do not accord with those of the generals in the Pentagon, who felt that Obama’s timetable is “more aggressive” than they would have liked.

But as Andrew Bacevich argues, war fever in the US is finally subsiding, as the public wakes up to the high costs in lives and treasure of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and as a majority has become convinced that occupying those countries militarily brings no particular security benefit to the US.

They are right. The Iraq War, a war of choice, certainly prolonged the run of al-Qaeda and did nothing for US security since Iraq was not a threat to the latter. There was no humanitarian crisis at the time of the US invasion of Iraq and there was no UN Security Council authorization for the war, necessary in cases other than self-defense according to the UN charter, to which the US is a signatory.

The long-term cost of the wars initiated by the Bush administration to the US is now being estimated at nearly $4 trillion, once debt servicing and lifelong care for wounded veterans is figured in. Americans are not feeling as though they have an extra $4 trillion nowadays.

According to the poll, a slight majority believes that things are now going well in the Afghanistan War. This finding shows that a slight majority of Americans is not paying attention to what has been going on in Afghanistan.

It isn’t just that Afghan security forces weren’t able to stop a predictable attack by Taliban on the Intercontinental in Kabul.

It is also the shaky situation of the country’s banking system and the constitutional crisis brewing after President Hamid Karzai’s own personal electoral commission challenged the results of the last parliamentary election. And then there is the persistence of the Taliban and other Muslim fundamentalist rebellions in the Pushtun east and south, along with the flaky character of the Americans’ major local partner, President Karzai.

The biggest danger is of a failed state once the US goes. But Americans seem just not to care very much any more about that scenario.

17 Responses

  1. What are the chances, as the US draws back its forces, of a deal with the Taliban, for some sort of power-sharing government? It seems that Afghanistan has a history that requires a Pashtun leadership, or at the very least some Pashtun acceptance of who the leader is…

  2. [US Public Backs Obama, Wants out of Afghanistan]

    If we translate this from political language into human, Obama just reverses his surge and returns to the Bush level of troops presence. The rest is supposed to happen only after 2012 elections!

    Quite remarkably, we still have all the Bush tax cuts intact
    as well. If they will be reversed, it will happen after 2012. Meanwhile, the GOP keeps pressing the dems to cut spending instead of taxes.

    So, in the end, both in domestic and foreign policy, obamadems fight more the left that the GOP.

      • [And we’re supposed to ignore everything that happens after the end of 2012, why, exactly?]

        2012 is election year, if you remember :) So, basically, Obama gambles on his reelection. No, I have not done this, this and this, but trust me, people, if you vote for me, I will do this, well, maybe.

  3. $4 trillion is about $200 billion per 9/11 hijacker. That is real bang for the buck.

    • the hijackers were worthless pieces of stuff as is the suggestion that our expenditures should be analyzed as a response to a single event.
      there isn’t even a unitary purpose behind all that money spent in the last decade. the war in Iraq is surely not like the war in Afghanistan and distinct from our raid and bombings in Pakistan.

    • If this was about the hijackers, then we should have invaded Saudi Arabia. The bad logic at the time was we would attack them over there to keep them from attacking us here. I think there’s a poem to that effect, paraphrasing Ronald Dumbsfeld.

      The only thing attacking them over there has accomplished is to make the dollar worth much less, here, there, everywhere to the tune of four trillion dollars. I suspect that when the US finally allows UN Security Council action against Israel, it will be due the worthless dollar and our need to borrow.

  4. The slow pace and early announcement of our withdrawal from Iraq helped to bring about positive political developments that produced a reasonably acceptable situation. The local insurgents ceased working with foreign jihadis, the government ceased to be seen as an agent of foreign occupation, the insurgents viewed participation in the political process as legitimate, and the government got serious about accomplishing a deal to bring the country peace.

    Hopefully, the same thing will happen in Afghanistan.

    • Joe from Lowell, you know almost nothing about Iraq.

      The Takfiri/Al Qaeda and Baa3thists tried to organize a genocide against the Iraqi people 2003-2007. The war was primarily against the Government of Iraq, the Iraqi Security Forces, Iraqi political parties, and the four fifths of Iraqis who were Shiite or Kurd. Many non Iraqi racists supported this attempted genocide.

      US defense secretary Rumsfeld opposed large scale US training, equipping, advising and funding to the ISF. As a result, it was only in 2006 that Bush over-ruled Rumsfeld and substantially increased MNF-I assistance to the ISF. Similarly, it was only in July 2006 that Iraq got a 4 year government that sharply increased Iraqi government spending on the Iraqi Security Forces.

      The Iraqi Security Forces with international help quickly won a major military victory, causing violence inside Iraq to fall 95% or more.

      It was only after the sharp improvement in the ISF and the ISF’s military victory against Iraq’s enemies that the Multinational Forces Iraq began to significantly draw down.

      The Iraqi government was perceived as legitimate by the large majority of Iraqis. It was non Iraqi anti Iraqi racists who didn’t perceive the GoI and ISF as legitimate. That is until the Iraqi Security Forces won their military victory in 2007 and 2008. Then most of the non Iraqis who had earlier ridiculed and insulted the Government of Iraq suddenly flipped and pretended to be Iraq’s friends.

      It is interesting how variations of this pattern continually happen in every part of the world.

      Don’t know if “Joe from Lowell” is incredibly naive or purposely lying. It is widely known by Iraqis that the December 15th, 2005, election saw about 77% to 78% of all Iraqi voters participate. Iraqi Sunni Arabs overwhelmingly participated including most of the Sunni Arab militias that were fighting the Government of Iraq, Iraqi Security Forces and MNF-I. The election and political process in Iraq was perceived legitimate by the vast majority of Iraqis including Iraqis who fought against the Iraqi government.

      In fact the reason the Iraqi resistance fought against the GoI is because they thought the elections were legitimate and because they did poorly in the Iraqi elections.

      Tens of thousands of foreign fighters fought in Iraq on the behalf of many different Iraqi militias that fought on all sides of the Iraqi conflict.

      After the ISF defeated the “Iraqi resistance”, they gradually disarmed the militias semi aligned with the Iraqi government. This is how the forign fighters were disarmed.

      Afghanistan is an international war. Unfortunately violence may well escalate and continue at a high level for decades to come.

      The ANSF and anti Taliban militias cannot defeat the Taliban in the South and East. The loose Taliban coalition cannot defeat the ANSF and GIRoA in most of Afghanistan either.

      The term “Taliban” is misleading, since it reflects a loose and broad coalition from many countries.

      Many of the Taliban now speak Arabic, Punjabi, Urdu or other non Afghan languages. Many of the Taliban have international ambitions. Many of the Taliban don’t care about what happens outside of a few villages. The “Taliban” is in large part an extension of the Pakistani civil war.

      It is hard to see how Afghan can avoid large scale violence as long as the Pakistani civil war continues.

        • [“The Iraqi Security Forces with international help…” LOL. Which government security agency do you work for?]

          Joe, apparently, you don’t get the basics. Of course, ISF are helped and trained by the US troops as well as others from “coalition of the willing”!

      • You know, I’ve heard tell that the word “genocide” isn’t actually a punctuation mark used to demonstrate that something is bad.

        Many non Iraqi racists supported this attempted genocide.

        The standard slur from the hawks. Dick Cheney called; he wants his talking point back.

        The Iraqi Security Forces with international help quickly won a major military victory, causing violence inside Iraq to fall 95% or more.

        Isn’t it amazing that the numerous major military victories prior to that one didn’t cause a long-term, sustainable reduction in violence, while the one that was accompanied by the announcement and beginning of the withdrawal of foreign troops did?

        The Iraqi government was perceived as legitimate by the large majority of Iraqis.

        A point as questionable as it is irrelevant. It doesn’t take a large majority of a population to throw a nation into chaos, but only one large enough to conduct and support a significant insurgency. If you want to argue about how many Sunnis supported the Sunnis insurgents, or how many Shiites supported the Mahdi Army, go right ahead, but the number was clearly the majority in the Sunni triangle and in Sadr City, and it was large enough to convulse the country in a civil war and render it ungovernable.

        It is widely known by Iraqis that the December 15th, 2005, election saw about 77% to 78% of all Iraqi voters participate. Iraqi Sunni Arabs overwhelmingly participated including most of the Sunni Arab militias that were fighting the Government of Iraq, Iraqi Security Forces and MNF-I.

        …thereby demonstrating that voting in the election is not a good indicator of finding the government legitimate, since one doesn’t wage war to overthrow a government one considers legitimate.

        Many of the Taliban now speak Arabic, Punjabi, Urdu or other non Afghan languages. Many of the Taliban have international ambitions. Many of the Taliban don’t care about what happens outside of a few villages.

        And this is supposed to be different from the pre-Awakening Sunni insurgency, how, exactly?

        • Joe, you see Iraq through American ethnocentric goggles rather than Iraqi ones. You need to try to see Iraq through Iraqi terms and Iraqi history.

          Iraq fought a terrible civil war [which was to a large degree a regional and international war] between 1980 and 2008. Between one and two million Iraqis died in this terrible war. BTW, many Iraqis would correct the above statement and claim the civil war began in 1975 when the evil Saddam began a genocide of the Kurds. Saddam was scared he would lose the Iraqi civil war in 1980. He couldn’t defeat the Iraqi resistance without taking out their sanctuaries, logistics, training, support and advisors in Iran. This is why he invaded Iran in 1980, hoping to weaken the Iraqi resistance. Two million died in the 1980-1988 Iran/Iraq war which coincided with an Iraqi civil war. After defeating Iran in 1988, Saddam siezed the Shat al Arab and convinced the Iranians to reduce their support for the Iraqi resistance; even though close to a hundred thousand Iraqi resistance fighters remained under arms.

          In 1991, when Pres Bush called for Iraqis to free themselves from one of the most evil and vicious creatures ever born in our species, the Iraqi people tried to do exactly that. Briefly they siezed 14 of 18 provinces. Possibly hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died in that freedom struggle. Have you seen videos of Najaf, Karbala, and other Iraqi cities during that period? Have you seen the way Saddam used heavy weapons to destroy mosques and population centers? Many Iraqis believe [not saying I agree] that the reason Saddam survived in 1991 was because Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, Jordan, Syria, America, Turkey and Europe helped him. Iraqis are similarly irate for what they believe to be American and other international support for Saddam against the Iraqi resistance 1991-2003.

          To this day this fuels immense anger at America, the UN, Arab League, Europe, Russia, India and the international community as a whole.

          Similarly it was widely believed by Iraqis that America was backing the Iraqi resistance, Baa3thists and Takfiris [including Al Qaeda] against the Iraqi people, legitimate government of Iraq, and legitimate Iraqi Security Forces between 2003 and 2007. [Again, not saying this is accurate.]

          This also caused great anti Americanism among Iraqis.

          You must have noticed how in 2003 the “new” Iraqi resistance overwhelmingly targetted Iraqis. Muqatada al Sadr and his followers were especially targetted by the Iraqi resistance [as mentioned by Zarkawi in a famous letter to Osama Bin Laden.]

          Muqtada screamed about this attempted genocide by the new Iraqi resistance continually. Muqtada demanded that international forces train, equip and fund the ISF so that they could defend the Iraqi people from the Iraqi resistance. Muqtada’s pleas and the plees of the majority of Iraqis were ignored by the international community. The first serious extremely under resourced attempt to assist the ISF only began in June 2004. But the first resourced attempt to increase ISF capacity only began in 2006.

          Because of this terrible mistake, the ISF and GoI were not able to defeat their enemies until 2007. Many tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians died. Many of the 18 thousand Iraqi Security Forces who died didn’t have to die. Iraqis remain upset about this.

          Do the views of 650 thousand ISF not matter at all to you? Do the views of the families of 650 thousand ISF not matter?

          “one doesn’t wage war to overthrow a government one considers legitimate.” This has continually happened throughout history all over the world. People continually try to overthrow what they consider to be legitimate governments if they don’t like them.

          “demonstrating that voting in the election is not a good indicator of finding the government legitimate, since one doesn’t wage war to overthrow a government one considers legitimate.” You don’t support free democracy or one person one vote majority rule? If democracy is good enough for Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey, India, Bangladesh, South Korea, Albania, Bosnia, Azerbaijan and Japan, why can’t Iraqis select their leaders too? Is it because Iraqis are “darkies”? Is it because Iraqis are “uncultured” or don’t “smell nice”? The Arab league [or in your case America] should’t be able to force leaders on the Iraqi people. Iraqis should choose their own leaders.

          Do you even know what Muqtada’s largest gripe was? Muqtada believed that America was supporting the Iraqi resistance, Baa3thists, Al Qaeda, Takfiri against the Iraqi people. [Not saying that Sayyed Muqtada was right.] Why people fight you or why they are angry with you matters.

          Did you militias that attacked the Government of Iraq and Iraqi Security Forces 2003-2008? If so, why?

        • Joe from Lowell, Did you support militias that attacked the Government of Iraq and Iraqi Security Forces 2003-2008? If so, why?

  5. “The biggest danger is of a failed state once the US goes. But Americans seem just not to care very much any more about that scenario.”

    Nor should they. To think that Afghanistan may turn out as well as Iraq once the U.S. draws down is to pay homage to the triumph of hope over reason. Afghanistan, even in the best of times, never came close to the modern state that Iraq was and is. Even under the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, Iraq embraced modernity in a way that Afghanistan never has and still does not. One of the elements of modernity in Iraq that eludes Afghanistan entirely is that religion has never played a dominant role in the society. That was, and is, a plus for Iraq and a minus for Afghanistan.

    If the price of keeping Afghanistan from being a failed state (and only just!) is an interminable U.S. military presence, then let it go. We should concentrate on counter-terrorism. With good intelligence, the occasional and judicious insertion of para-military forces, targeted drone attacks, and a continued (if rocky) relationship with Pakistan, we should be able to mount the counter-terrorism fight without engaging in “nation building,” which always has been, as stated above, the triumph of hope over reason.

  6. “The Iraq War, [was] a war of choice, … [with] no UN Security Council authorization for the war.”

    A ‘war of choice’ lacking UNSC authorization is a war of aggression. Why not use less obfuscatory language and refer to it as such?

    • There is nothing “obfuscatory” in calling the Iraq War a “war of choice,” with or without UNSC authorization. It simply means that one does not consider the war an imperative. Rather, it was a choice whether or not to pursue it. Don’t let your emotions get the best of your intellect.

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