The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Surge in Afghanistan

Why is anyone surprised?  Obama always said during the campaign that he believed more effort was required in Afghanistan.

This is what America voted for.


40% of Dems likely to not vote in 2010


The President’s Afghanistan Speech


  1. S Brennan

    C’mon Ian,

    The Obama campaign and their “cabaña boys” on the blogs told us it was Hillary who was bloodthirsty cur, Obama was…well, Obama was God-Like…a real peacenik compared to Hillary…just ask Josh, ask Ezra, ask Matt Y, ask the other Matt…Matt [I’m backtracking as fast as I can] T.

    Oh “cabaña boy”…. “cabaña boy”…how’s that Obama/Rumsfield Iraq withdrawal plan coming? Please hurry, oh and could you bring me more ice….and my sandals…the sun makes the sand so hot, I don’t know how our boys in Iraq can bear it?

  2. Lex

    Clinton was/is just as bloodthirsty as Obama. The thought that any of the candidates would even think about extricating us from our colonial messes was a pipe dream. Either Democratic candidate would have packed the foreign policy slots with retreads from the Clinton administration, which was every bit as misguided as Bush II.

    It’s time to face the fact that the Democratic Party is utterly incompetent at foreign policy. Half clueless and half malicious, as opposed to the Republican Party’s foreign policy which is half malicious and half clueless.

  3. Ian Welsh

    Well, I doubt Clinton would have been any better, frankly. She was to Obama’s left on domestic issues, but not on foreign affairs, which is why it was so interesting that she got the Secretary of State spot and not a Domestic slot.

    People are way down on Edwards these days, not without some reason. But I still remember that he was the only candidate to say he didn’t believe in the War on Terror.

  4. Lex

    I remember that too, and i thought, “Well, he’s unelectable because he doesn’t believe in bogeymen.”

  5. If I had to pick one of the three, I’d have picked Edwards. He was, incidentally, the blogosphere’s favorite choice. It only switched to Obama when it was clear that his campaign had no traction In Real Life.

  6. just more to kill

    just more amerikans for the pashtoons to kill.

    the problem with that scenario is …………………

    i don’t see one. more of a feature than a bug.

  7. S Brennan


    I was not an original Hillary fan, Edwards policies matched mine pretty closely and I supported him until he endorsed Obama. My support history was first Gen [ret] Wesly Clark [didn’t run against Hillary], Obama when he first started running in 2004 [based on a positive recomendation of a major columnist with Newsweek (HS classmamte)], Dodd, Edwards and finally, Hillary.

    As for Edwards sexual proclivities, let us not forget, everybody who has lined up against Axlerod has had their sexual lives exposed. The fact that Edwards originally sought out Axlerod and probably tipped his hand during this time should not be forgotten.

    Hillary had an Iraq withdrawal plan that Obama criticized as not being aggressive enough. Hillary’s plan would have us down to 45,000 at this point [we have about 110,000 not counting contractors…which we have seamlessly building in number from Bush to Obama] It was only when Obama got the whip hand that he quietly revealed that he was signing onto the Rumsfield plan…and he did so very quietly. Likewise Obama always couched his support for the Afghan – UniCal pipeline in terms of fighting terror. Expanding the Af-Pak into a full scale Asian war to support the UniCal pipeline, was quietly mentioned, but it never was a headline speech.

    I know his campaign/White house operatives are putting out your above headline as we speak…the same way they put out his anti-Iraq invasion speech. A speech, BTW, which was never actually recorded, but studio version was produced by his campaign to sound like it was done in a hall with Obama reading a script that is EXTREMELY SUSPECT. Obama has a speech on just about every angle to an issue, so saying he said “it” [whatever that is] is almost always true, but rarely relevant.

  8. Lori

    Obama was to the right of Clinton on everything – including foreign policy. And the Clinton foreign policy was an improvement over this. I’ll take Hillary and Bill any day of the week – smarter, stronger, faster. Bill may not have been perfect but at least he tried.

  9. Ian Welsh

    I crunched his numbers. He ran better in Iowa than folks thought. Obama’s people changed the demographics of the primary, and that cost Edwards. If the demographics had been the same as in 2004 he would have taken Iowa. To say he had no traction IRL is not entirely accurate.

    He did not run a very good campaign in various respects, however. While he was favored in the blogosphere, the blogosphere never really got behind him hardcore for a number of reasons, one of which is that his outreach was weak. He didn’t campaign like someone who was taking the game as seriously as he should have. (Perhaps because of the skeleton in his closet.)

    He also needed to lock up the unions. When he failed to do that, I knew he wasn’t going to make it.

    The unions are finding out that Obama doesn’t keep promises to people like them, they should have taken their chances on someone who would owe them if he won. (Well, assuming they didn’t smell the weakness, which they may have. But I have reason to believe that SEIU’s boss man, for example, thought that Obama would keep his promises. hahahahahaha ha. Even at the time I knew Obama wouldn’t keep promises to lower class workers of the sort SEIU represents.)

  10. S Brennan

    “He was, incidentally, the blogosphere’s favorite choice.”

    Disagree, Matt Y, Matt Y, Drum, Marshal, Cole, Clemons, Ezra, Averos, the Kos gang, were doing hit stories on Hillary and Edwards from the get go, their actual endorsement of Obama was delayed in many cases so that they could run negative on Edwards and Hillary with a fig leaf of impartiality.

  11. To say he had no traction IRL is not entirely accurate.

    But it’s about 70% accurate, at minimum. I mean, he didn’t win Iowa, because, as you said, Obama changed the demographic structure of the primaries. Why didn’t any other candidate think to try to change the demographic structure of the primaries is what I want to know…

    I remember some people held–and still do hold—this obvious strategy for coming up from behind against him.

    Disagree, Matt Y, Matt Y, Drum, Marshal, Cole, Clemons, Ezra, Averos, the Kos gang,

    I don’t even really count (John) Cole and Drum, the former is a bush-disillusioned johnny-come-lately. Who is Averos, do you mean Atrios? And that’s not even a comprehensive list (I for one do not read MattY often).

    Some people have the habit of blaming the people under Obama for his faults. I have the opposite advice: even if Edwards had been elected, the world would not have been that different. Policy orthodoxy in the USA is practically Sovietical.

  12. S Brennan

    Should have been Matt T,

    John Aravosis

  13. Lex

    Bill didn’t try. In fact, he explicitly told his foreign policy team at the outset that he only wanted to be involved when there was an emergency…which, of course, led to his presidency being defined (foreign policy wise) by a string of emergencies.

    He didn’t just bungle the end of the Cold War, he decided to beat swords into more swords by running NATO right up to Russia’s doorstep. He palled around with Yeltsin while Boris Nikolayevich was busy stealing elections. He sent Larry Summers to aid and abet the oligarchs in the rape of Russia.

    He twiddled his thumbs while the havoc we helped create descended on Afghanistan. He managed to kill something like 500,000 Iraqi children. His original plan for the Balkans was to start arming everyone; what he eventually did wasn’t much better.

    Furthermore, everything in Hillary’s Senate record suggests that she would be far worse than her husband. (Not counting her willingness to sprint through sniper fire.) She’s a hawk on Iran. She didn’t even bat an eye when suggesting that she’d launch a nuclear strike.

  14. Ian Welsh

    Not to mention her weasel words on torture. Say what you will, I don’t think Obama is still torturing anyone. Clinton wouldn’t even rule that out.

    The two main choices were awful.

    As for Edwards, he came in second place in Iowa and had decent numbers in some other states. He was the third place candidate, but he was in third place. He was not a fake candidate like Kucinik or the others.

    John Aravoisis was so hardcore an Obama supporter that he destroyed his commenting community for Obama. I find it funny, now that Obama has betrayed gays. Still, I give credit to John that at least when he’s betrayed he doesn’t grovel and ask for more, but hits back.

  15. S Brennan

    For those who can’t recognize a Serbian Genocide Denier, here’s a line:

    “He didn’t just bungle the end of the Cold War, he decided to beat swords into more swords by running NATO right up to Russia’s doorstep”

    Gen (Ret.) Wesley Clark ran the most successful military campaign in the history of Warfare, losing 1, count ‘em, ONE US Soldier and disabled & Destroyed a modern extremely well equipped army with a UN estimated 500-600 civilian deaths. Hell, Obama did that in his first month.

    Now here’s an apologist for the Russian mob, the die was cast when Bush the First decided on personal legacy over good governance.

    “He sent Larry Summers to aid and abet the oligarchs in the rape of Russia.”

    Now here’s an apology for the Taliban. The last thing that was exchanged between Madeline Albright and Condilisa Rice was warning on the growing problem in Af-Pak. Which was publicly rebuked by Condi as being sensationalistic and far fetched, in an interview she indicated that Clinton’s actions in Afghanistan were meant to draw attention away from his sexual deeds.

    The Clinton’s did not start the Balkin war, but they did finish it and it was/is far more peaceful now than when Clinton got the keys from the biggest ‘eff –up this country ever saw until his son…of course at this point in their terms, Obama has Bush the Second beat for idiocy and we have so much more to endure.

    Ian, looks like you’ve been infected with right-wing bots…rewriting history.

  16. Ian Welsh

    Ummm, Clinton did run NATO too far towards Russia’s borders after America under Bush I promised the Soviets the US wouldn’t do that, and it has caused lots of problems. And shock therapy for Russia was part of Clinton’s policies and yes, Summers was involved and yes, that did aid the oligarchs. You will never hear me defend American policy towards Russia in the 90’s under Bush or Clinton. It killed far too many people and impoverished even more and led directly to the rise of Putin.

    And Clinton certainly did kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, something I considered then and consider now to be a crime against humanity. Madeline Albright even said those deaths were worth it. I talked once to an Iraqi pediatrician who worked and lived through that period. You don’t ever want to meet her if you’re an American, because she blames you, personally, for all those kids she couldn’t save. You will never hear me defend the Iraqi sanctions.

    As for the Balkans, I didn’t track it closely at the time, but Clark did run a good war and I don’t blame Clinton at all for the Balkans clusterfuck.

    Rwanda, on the other hand. Well, there’s a lot of blame to go around for Rwanda, including in Canada.

  17. Lori

    Clinton’s policy on Iran was diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy. She was way to the left of Obama and a darn site smarter. She committed to following the Geneva Conventions, said that we would not torture and promised to pull out of Iraq in 16 months. As for Bill, it was still the most coherent and constructive foreign policy in the latter half of the 20th century. And it must be pointed out that he the balls to go to war against Christians on behalf of Muslims. He should have done it earlier, but at least he did it.

    The simple fact of the matter is that when you look at Clinton’s life, she has a long history of getting good things done for ordinary people. That’s the mark of a good progressive leader. You can see it in their personal history. People who get stuff done, have a history of getting stuff done. She was the best shot we’ve had at another FDR.

    Our flaccid little twit of a president has no experience whatsoever doing anything for anyone besides himself. And that lack of history on that front is continuing. He’s not taking a stand for anyone in this health care reform issue – oh that’s right, he can’t. He campaigned against mandates and doesn’t want his Harry and Louise commercials run against him. Poor Obama, sucking up to the right one more time.

  18. S Brennan

    I disagree with this: “Clinton did run NATO too far towards Russia’s borders after America under Bush I promised the Soviets the US wouldn’t do that, and it has caused lots of problems.”

    Russia has little to complain about Poland and the Baltic states Rejoining the west, Russia engaged in Genocide in Poland before Germany no, I don’t agree. Russia created a civil war in Georgia, they own it. That goes for the Caucuses as well. We did ‘eff-up with the Missile Shield crap…but that would be Bush.

    Unlike others, I view Putin as a Nationalist and somebody who is responding to clandestine provocations MI-6/CIA which often are not “on the reservation” work.

    Uhm, nobody could lift/reform the Iraq sanctions, congress between 1994 & 2003 owns that clusterfuck. Unlike others, I view Sadam as a Nationalist who was quite malleable, it was congress that had their collective head up their ass…this includes almost all of the Democratic leadership in congress.

    “Rwanda, on the other hand.” I blame completely on Clinton and he has publicly said so, so I think that’s covered.

    My problems with Bill deal with Trade, Industrial policy or the lack of it, lack of spine on DADT [you start a fight, you finish it], DOMA, Welfare, and idiotic belief in Rubin & Co, which he and Hillary have said was misguided…and there is a hell of a difference between making a mistake [Clinton]…and repeating the exact same mistake with exactly the same people [Obama]. When I saw who Obama’s economic advisors were, I knew the man was a right-wing ideologue…and he hasn’t disappointed on that count.

    Obama is Bush’s 3rd Term

  19. Lex

    What? When did Albright tell Rice about the Taliban…hmm, that would have been 2001. I was talking about the Afghan Civil War that occurred during the Clinton presidency. And if my memory of Afghan history serves me correctly, the Clinton administration did a pretty strong about-face on the Taliban at the end of his second term.

    “Apologist for the Russian mob.” That’s pretty funny, especially since S Brennan speaks of it as if it were a monolithic group. Which Russian mob am i apologizing for? I got to see the effects of the Clinton/Summers policy in Russia first hand; it wasn’t pretty.

    Clinton was still palling around with Boris Nikolayevich and talking about “triumphs of democracy” after the shelling of the White House and the dissolution of the Duma.

    I never said (nor would i say) that H.W. Bush was great or that Clinton didn’t inherit messes from him (e.g. the shipping of heavy armaments from Iraq to Afghanistan after the First Gulf War and in direct contravention of the agreement between the US and the USSR to stop arming the Afghans).

    As to my political affiliation, i have none. But i have plenty of scorn for both wings of American politics…when i can tell them apart.

  20. Lex

    When were Poland and the Baltic States ever part of “The West”? A brief moment at the end of the 18th Century when Poland wrote a constitution (and no Western country helped the Poles defend it)? Poland has been raped and pillaged from both sides for just about ever. Talk about rewriting history.

    It isn’t about allowing Eastern Europe to be controlled by Russia; it’s about bringing them into a military alliance that had no reason to exist by the time that they joined.

    Please explain “Russia created a civil war in Georgia”.

  21. selise

    And shock therapy for Russia was part of Clinton’s policies and yes, Summers was involved and yes, that did aid the oligarchs. You will never hear me defend American policy towards Russia in the 90’s under Bush or Clinton. It killed far too many people and impoverished even more and led directly to the rise of Putin.

    amen. amen.

    old comment x-post from fdl: larry summers helped kill 3 million people with the economic policies imposed on russia during the clinton years (for more on this, i highly recommend naomi klein’s the shock doctrine, joseph stiglitz’s globalization and it’s discontents, and an article in the jan 15, 2009 lancet, mass privatisation and the post-communist mortality crisis: a cross-national analysis. (also in that issue of the lancet is a related commentary by stiglitz, trade agreements and health in developing countries.)

    As for the Balkans, I didn’t track it closely at the time…

    me neither. but in hindsight, imo at least, it doesn’t look good (and apparently did include an illegal war based on lies).

  22. S Brennan

    “What? When did Albright tell Rice about the Taliban…hmm, that would have been 2001.”

    Wrong again, Nov-Dec 2000

    “And if my memory of Afghan history serves me correctly, the Clinton administration did a pretty strong about-face on the Taliban at the end of his second term.”

    Wrong again. Are you just making this stuff up or are you getting talking points, because you sure don’t know?

    “That’s pretty funny, especially since S Brennan speaks of it as if it were a monolithic group.”

    Can show a quote to back this false claim up?

  23. Lex

    Oh, ok, we’ll quibble about the whether the dire warning was issued in Nov/Dec 2000 or January 2001…that makes a huge difference. The fact is that i was talking about events that happened between 1992 and 1997(ish).

    It’s all over the public record that Clinton allowed members of the dreaded Taliban to enter the US to negotiate a pipeline contract, and the structure of events suggest that the Clinton administration only turned hard against the Taliban after the pipeline deal fell through.

    Yeah, you said that i’m an “apologist for the Russian mob”. I’m asking which Russian mob i’m apologizing for. Are you talking about the Yeltsin era oligarchs, the “Chechens” (quotes because the Chechen mafia in Russia then was often not Chechen at all), or various small biznizmen? During the 90’s in Russia nothing happened without the involvement of organized crime, but they spent a lot of time killing each other. They were not a unified group.

    Do the rules state that only S Brennan may call “technicality”?

    But i do enjoy the continued insinuation that i’m a right wing shill. For the record, i did not vote for Clinton. In ’92 i wrote in Frank Zappa and in ’96 i voted for the World Worker’s Party because it nominated two women. I’ll admit to voting for Gore and Kerry, but only in an attempt to stop Bush II.

    Read this (as you can see, i wrote it) and then tell me again that i’m a right wing shill:

  24. BDBlue

    Obama is still torturing people unless you think Bagram has suddenly changed its spots, which I don’t buy. And then there’s the way we force feed people at Gitmo that Scott Horton covered and various reports that conditions there generally have gotten worse since January. The only thing that we appear to have stopped is waterboarding, which is not the same as ending torture. Of course, Obama’s continued secrecy makes it impossible to know anything for sure.

    Last year I didn’t think there was a dime’s worth of difference between Clinton and Obama on foreign policy and given she’s his SOS – a job he would not have offered and she would not have accepted if they had serious policy disputes – I still think that.

    The real difference was on domestic policy. I do believe we’d be in a better place with the banks, jobs and healthcare if we had Clinton. Not a liberal paradise of single payer and no corporate bailouts, but a more equal place with HOLC, a better focused stimulus, a more involved POTUS on crafting healthcare reform, and more bank regulation proposed to balance the usual corporate giveaways. To the extent that a stronger domestic economic policy took some pressure off of using wars as stimulus, we might be in slightly better shape on foreign policy than we are, but the place wouldn’t come from some huge ideological difference because there isn’t one. There never was. Anyone serious about ending or even restraining the US empire is out of the running before any race for President even starts.

    And I will note two other possible differences with Clinton. The FISA vote indicates she might’ve been a bit better on Constitutional issues. My personal belief is that while she wouldn’t have reversed all of the Bush abuses, she’d care less about courting the press, protecting Bush out of a sense of bipartisanship or some misguided belief her GOP successor would go easier on her, and would be stronger in resisting pressure from the national security apparatus (whether she’d be strong enough is a different issue and I’m not confident she would be or, for that matter, any person would be).

    The other, more important distinction is that I have a hard time seeing so many “progressive” leaders and organizations cheering on or largely ignoring the secret healthcare deals with industry, the weak stimulus package, the surge in Afghanistan, the preventive detention policies, etc., if Clinton was the one doing them and not the “progressive” savior Obama. She’d be under a lot more pressure to make the base happy because 1) much of her base was the working class who are suffering the most and 2) the “progessive” leaders who weren’t part of her base would constantly be pushing her, which they mostly don’t do with Obama.

    Obama has been much worse than I anticipted and it’s made worse by the fact that he: 1) started to the right of even Hillary Clinton on domestic issues, 2) was always a hawk in dove’s clothing, and 3) has successfully muted – if not outright gutted – the “progressive” organizations that would serve to push him left.

    I guess a shorter post would’ve been: we’re screwed and this time we don’t just have conservatives to thank for it.

  25. Ian Welsh

    I think Clinton would have been better domestically in various ways. Not huge, but important. I also think there is no way in hell she would have left all those USA’s, for example, in the Justice department. Hilary believes in the right wing conspiracy (as well she should, having been targetted by it for most of 2 decades) and she would have rooted it out of the bureaucracy, rather than letting it fester there like Obama. That alone would have been worth a lot.

    Also, no way in hell she wouldn’t have fought tooth and nail for abortion rights.

    Plus, Clinton is actually a wonk. Obama is not. I’ve seen Clinton discuss policy and she really knows what she’s talking about. She isn’t a liberal, but she does understand liberalism, Obama doesn’t even understand how liberalism works. (For example, Clinton proposed taxing capital gains at the same rate as any other income. Hell will freeze over before Obama even considers such a thing.)

    None of this is to say she would have been progressive or liberal, she sure wouldn’t have been. But I did think then, and now, that domestically she was enough better than Obama to be worth supporting and that the foreign policy differences (which I did think existed, though I was probably wrong, in retrospect) were small enough not to really matter.

    If I’d had a vote in the later primaries, she would have gotten it (early primaries, Edwards.)

  26. …If the United States doesn’t win this war, then will it not lose it? And if the United States loses this war, then won’t the Unites States have lost it? And if the United States has lost this war, will that not then make the United States a kind of thing that loses wars? And then where would we be?

    And so the President will be sending additional troops to Afghanistan – but a precise number of troops, carefully determined by the nation’s top warologists after long months of carpet-bombing villages of laboratory mice – and they will kill Afghans there, but only for a precise period of time, calculated to be the exact interval necessary to protect our freedoms, or restore our security, or for all of us to grow bored and forget.

    Fafblog – Victory Science

  27. Ian Welsh


  28. BDBlue

    I read that post from Fafblog earlier today and it is, indeed, perfect.

  29. Celsius 233


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