In Afghanistan, the military solution is like a bottomless pit: just look at the affirmative accents of former president Bush and right now president Obama (“We must finish the job”). What does the US public opinion ponder while Obama is willing to strengthen the conventional forces ?
Yet after his first year, and after his speech of Dec 1st, let us consider President Obama’s general guidelines.
The fall of the Berlin Wall has highlighted the decisive character of the Afghan adventure among the causes of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Red Army was well and truly stuck on this theater of operations – deemed dangerous. Could it also become fatal to Obama’s America?
Barak Obama tried one week ago to convince the US opinion, more and more reluctant to increase to 100 000 the number of U.S. soldiers engaged in war against the Taliban. Therefore the use of force is preferred, with a deadline.
Will this voluntarism shut up the critics who, since taking office, accuse Obama of being a “weak president”, a new Jimmy Carter, who will eventually be run by those he tries to coax? These critics point out that the “smart diplomacy” of the new Democratic administration has, so far, no notorious success, meanwhile his hand extended policy toward the traditional adversaries of America remains desperately unrequited. Neither Iran nor North Korea have been sensitive to calls for restraint. In the Middle East, American diplomacy seems without real outlets on a situation which deteriorates every day. And coming back from China – his main partner now – the president returned empty-handed: no revaluation of the yuan, inflexibility on climate policy, and human rights totally muted.
Of course, it is too early to decide on a foreign policy that is yet preparing the ground for milestones…
The latest false move from Obama, a step towards the militarization of US foreign policy.
It was surprising – and not only in US – to survey television reports whereas in his recent visit to several Asian countries, President Obama prompted a solemn bow before the Emperor of Japan. It is hard to believe that Obama – or anyone from his entourage –could ever consider the Emperor as Heaven Sent when he is just a simple constitutional symbol of the Japanese nation. I do not remember Obama giving such unnecessary signs of respect to other dignitaries – who are also symbols of their respective sovereignties.
For some critics of Obama’s policy in Afghanistan, the speech meaning through the president finally defined his strategy to follow on that troubled country, was another sign of unjustified respect and reverence, but this time to the US military institution and its senior executives. Not only because he chose to do so before the select audience of the Military Academy at West Point instead of the Oval Office. The worst and most ominous precedent of this fact is that also on the same stage, and before a similar audience, his predecessor in the White House presented seven years ago the disastrous strategy of “preventive war” that blazed a trail of blood and destruction across the world. Let us say, in defense of Bush and against Obama, that the first delivered his speech during the military graduation ceremony of the new officers, as it seems to be usual in West Point, while Obama has done so for no particular reason, which is still more shocking.
It is not about criticizing here, once again, the major strategic error which consists to expect winning a war and, secondly, to establish in advance the time frame in which the victorious troops return home. One cannot satisfy both the desires of the people, tired of an endless war that, the lower social strata are suffering especially, and some military commanders who want to achieve all the signs of victory and none of the defeat – as the shameful retreat from Saigon who still lives in the minds of many Americans. Therefore, the date of July 2011 as the scheduled move back is an empty gesture as the withdrawal of the occupation troops will take place just when possible. Just as the closure of Guantanamo, announced later this year and unenforceable to date.
The outcome is that over the next six months 30,000 new US troops will arrive in Afghanistan, i.e. in less than two years the US military contingent will triple, reaching about 100,000. If we add up the 38,000 NATO (to increase by about 7,000), the military deployment in Afghanistan will exceed that of the USSR in the eighties, which contributed to the final disintegration of the Soviet superpower. Will Obama get what the former Soviet Kremlin could not achieve?
But there is another problem. In the aforementioned speech Obama literally said:
“As commander-in-chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.”
What is and on what terms you define a “responsible transition”? When will the armed and security forces of Afghanistan be operative as to replace foreign troops of occupation? That’s not up to the White House nor NATO. Uncertainty is the same as before the speech delivery because the objectives of this war are still not clearly defined.
“I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Obama said. “This is the epicenter of the violent extremism practiced by al-Qaida. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.”
President Barak Obama chose not to recall that his predecessor in the White House was the true catalyst for the spread of terrorism in these and other countries, with his aberrant “preventive war on terror”.
Even if it seems simplistic, it looks as if Obama gets rid of the straight weight on Afghanistan, putting it on the shoulders of the Pentagon and NATO, to pursue other more immediate and politically profitable concerns. A step forward in the usual militarization of US foreign policy, that Obama does not seem determined to change.