Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Afghanistan: What the Left really thinks

Posted by sanityinjection on April 2, 2009

There is a common misperception that most of the Left in America supports the war on Afghanistan, and that it was only the war in Iraq they opposed. While this is true of some Democrats, most of the Left only focused on Iraq as the more obvious target. With the Iraq issue now essentially resolved, hardcore leftists are now turning their sights to Afghanistan in opposition to President Obama’s plan to slightly increase US forces there.

There is no more hallowed or respected liberal political journal than The Nation. And there is no left-winger with credentials more solid than Tom Hayden – founder of Students for a Democratic Society, member of the Chicago Seven, and former state legislator from California. Hayden is intelligent and articulate, and he cannot be dismissed as a crackpot of the Cindy Sheehan/Code Pink variety. Thus, his piece in The Nation last week deserves some attention as an authentic representation of the thinking of a sizable chunk of the American Left.

Hayden makes a number of interesting points, the first of which is his assertion that adding 20,000 American troops in Afghanistan will not prevent additional terrorist attacks. I have to say that I agree with Hayden, but only in the sense that I could agree with him that the earth will continue to revolve around the sun. The purpose of the troop buildup is not to eliminate Al Qaeda’s ability to plan a terrorist attack – there is no way to do that completely. The purpose of the buildup is to stabilize Afghanistan so that it will no longer be a haven for Al Qaeda or any other adical groups. Hayden actually undercuts his case by suggesting that Al Qaeda may be spurred by the buildup to launch an attack or “risk complete destruction, an American objective that has not been achieved for eight years. ” So Tom, if you believe that the troop buildup could finally result in the complete destruction of Al Qaeda, isn’t that a great argument for doing  it?

Apparently not. Hayden argues that the US should maintain a “deterrent posture” – whatever that is – “while immediately accelerating diplomacy to meet legitimate Muslim goals, from a Palestinian state to genuine progress on Kashmir. ” That’s a dumbfounding statement. First of all, it suggests that Al Qaeda exists in order to pursue “legitimate Muslim goals”. Al Qaeda’s objective is a worldwide Islamic state under sharia law, and even Hayden wouldn’t call that a legitimate goal. Second, it suggests that the Palestinian quest for statehood is fundamentally a Muslim issue, which it isn’t – many Palestinians are Christians. Finally, the idea that there is a unified “Muslim” political agenda – can you imagine if someone started talking about a “Christian” or “Jewish” foreign policy agenda? Ye Gods!

Fundamentally, Hayden’s position is that Al Qaeda’s terrorist attacks are provoked by our actions, so we should stop provoking them and giving them what they want – the total withdrawal of US military and economic interests in the Middle East. With bold naivete, Hayden actually suggests that this would make the world more stable than it is today.

He goes on to drag out the usual “Afghanistan is Vietnam” analogy, unfazed by having made the same argument about Iraq and having been proven wrong. He ends by asserting that the war in Afghanistan is likely to last throughout Obama’s Presidency, which I also agree with. (Hayden is way too smart to be wrong about *everything*.)

Again, let me reiterate: Hayden is not some wacko DailyKos type with no credibility. He’s practically the Godfather of the Left. So don’t be fooled – now that they have proven wrong on Iraq, the Left is undauntedly pushing the same tired arguments on the next most opportune target, Afghanistan.

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One Response to “Afghanistan: What the Left really thinks”

  1. sanityinjection said

    As a contrast, check out Gen. Petraeus’ report to the Senate Armed Services Committee on the status of the Middle East and South Asia (known to the military as the CENTCOM region):

    http://markhalperin.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/petraeus-04-01-09.pdf

    The high-level report is long and is written for legislators familiar with military issues. But the first two-thirds of the report are fairly easy to read and present a summary of the military and political situation across the region as well as the strategies for moving forward. Tom Hayden might be surprised to learn that there is some overlap between his thinking and theirs; rather than pursuing a troops-only approach, CENTCOM requires a holistic approach including diplomatic, economic, and nation-building activities. I was particularly interested to learn of the military’s plans to strengthen the Yemeni government to interdict terrorist activity there, and the recent authorization for the military to engage in counternarcotics operations in Afghanistan, thereby cutting off a major source of Taliban funding.

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