Friday, July 25, 2008

Afghanistan Needs Rethinking, Not Refining

Warns Obama
on Afghanistan

Seth Colter Walls
Huffington Post

All of a sudden, everyone seems to be in favor of sending more troops to Afghanistan. As Barack Obama encourages Europeans to dispatch more NATO forces and John McCain says that U.S. troops could be sent in greater numbers, the idea that a bigger military footprint is needed has become something of a consensus in the political mainstream.

But Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski is not on board -- though it's not the first time President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser has cast a skeptic's eye on the usefulness of dispatching great numbers of troops to the country.

In an famous 1998 interview with France's Le Nouvel Observateur, Brzezinski admitted his own role in funding Afghanistan's Mujahadeen in 1979, thereby "increasing the probability" that the Soviets would invade a tough, demoralizing, mountainous theater for combat.

And it's with a similar perspective that Brzezinski now doubts the that the answer to what ails Afghanistan is more troops.

"I think we're literally running the risk of unintentionally doing what the Russians did. And that, if it happens, would be a tragedy," Brzezinski told the Huffington Post on Friday. "When we first went into Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban, we were actually welcomed by an overwhelming majority of Afghans. They did not see us as invaders, as they saw the Soviets."

However, Brzezinski noted that just as the Soviets were able to delude themselves that they had a loyal army of communist-sympathizers who would transform the country, the U.S.-led forces may now be making similar mistakes. He said that the conduct of military operations "with little regard for civilian casualties" may accelerate the negative trend in local public opinion regarding the West's role. "It's just beginning, but it's significant," Brzezinski said.

His own program for improving the state of affairs in Afghanistan -- where U.S. casualties have surpassed those in Iraq for two months now -- revolves around pragmatism. He believes Europe should bribe Afghan farmers not to produce poppies used for heroin since "it all ends up in Europe." Moreover, he thinks the tribal warlords can be bought off with bribes, with the endgame being the isolation of Al-Qaeda from a Taliban that is "not a united force, not a world-oriented terrorist movement, but a real Afghan phenomenon."

Brzezinski, who has endorsed Obama, was far more critical of a few figures now surrounding McCain, who he suggested were pushing the presumptive GOP nominee towards a radical foreign policy on issues such as Iran.

"Well, if McCain is president and if his Secretary of State is Joe Lieberman and his Secretary of Defense is [Rudolph] Giuliani, we will be moving towards the World War IV that they have been both favoring and predicting," he said, calling that an "appalling concept" (and adding that by their lights, the Cold War counted as World War III). "So it depends on who are the principal officers. If it's [Richard] Armitage, or if it were to be Brent Scowcroft, I think it would be very different."

Asked who he would like to see in a potential Obama cabinet, Brzezinski said: "I think [Sen. Chuck] Hagel. I would like to see a bipartisan cabinet. I think we need one very badly -- and we did well in the Cold War when we had one. I would say Hagel and [Sen. Dick] Lugar would be very good Republicans [for Obama]." He also cited Sen. Joe Biden as a potential Secretary of State, in which case it would also be possible to "keep [Secretary of Defense Bob] Gates in the job for a few months."

Brzezinski said such a cabinet would be an important step in redressing the increased partisanship of foreign affairs in recent years, adding: "I think there is a tendency, because of the very complexity of the issues, for solutions to become polarized and more extreme. ... Republicans move toward neocon-ish formulas, and Democrats [follow] idealistically escapist formulas. In either case you don't end up with the necessary mix of idealism and realism."


Bob Feldman 68 said...

Ironically, while one of the leaders of the 1968 Columbia Student Strike, David Gilbert, has (along with other U.S. political prisoners) still not been given amnesty in 2008, the former Columbia University Professor who both endorsed the police invasions of Columbia's campus in 1968 and supported the Shah of Iran's shooting down of Iranian protesters in the 1970s, Zbigniew Brzezinski, is still not being held accountable for his historic crimes against both people in the United States and people in the rest of the world.

In addition to being a longtime foreign policy advisor to Barack "Send More Troops To Afghanistan" Obama, former Columbia University Professor Brzezinski, despite his apparent current reservations about Obama's recent proposal to escalate NATO's military intervention in Afghanistan, also is opposed to allowing all exiled Palestinians to exercise their right of return to Israel/Palestine as part of a Middle East peace settlement.

For some info which might indicate why many anti-imperialist progressives involved in sds organization-building in the past or present will actually be protesting on the streets outside the 2008 Denver Democratic National Convention next month and/or supporting the Green Party's antiwar candidacy of Cynthia McKinney,you might want to check out the following blog link:

Carl Davidson said...

We're well aware of who Zbig is, Bob. I was staying with Gilbert, Teddy Gold and others at Columbia at the time, and a number of SDSers were taking Zbig's classes. Moreover, I can guarantee you this: no matter who gets elected, it will be a representative of one or another faction of imperialism, all of them with 'dirty hands.' We're just not indifferent as to which one.

Anonymous said...

Dear Brothers & Sisters,

Am I alone in being so disturbed by Carl Davidson's last comment advising us that some factions of imperialism are begrudgingly worthy of our political support?

He and other 'Progressives for Obama' are unshakeable in their support. Except for ignoring political facts which each day become more clear, loyalty is otherwise an admirable trait.

I refer to a July 27, 2008, "Will Obama Be Democrats' Herbert Hoover?" article by my friend Mark Harris on ZNET:
"With the senator's recent declaration that he intends to redeploy U.S. troops from Iraq for more U.S. military action in Afghanistan and possibly Pakistan, the idea that Obama's election would represent what Hayden's group calls a "powerful peace mandate" is looking not just desperate but embarrassing. It's embarrassing because despite their many criticisms of Obama (Hayden labeled Obama's call for more war in Afghanistan a "dumb idea"), it would still take a seismic upheaval large enough to make Nevada the new west coast before Hayden et al abandoned their support for the Democratic candidate."

Fortunately, we in the civil rights and Vietnam mass protest movements did not follow brother Davidson's advice 40 years ago. I suggest that our currrent relative political isolation still does not justify surrendering the Left's strategy to reach the population independently with our own ideas and solutions.

Carl Finamore
San Francisco

Carl Davidson said...

I doubt that you're alone, Comrade Finamore, although I'd guess you're in a decided minority. I'd wager that the vast majority on the left and in the progressive movement will cast a ballot for Obama.

While this may not matter to you, on this site we present Obama as 'our best option,' which is not an endorsement of his full program or his party. And we've said from the very beginning that he's neither an anti-imperialist or even a consistent progressive.

Speaking for myself here, I don't care to prettify him or what his administration will represent. It will indeed be a faction of imperialism--multilateral globalists, rather than neoliberal hegemonists, to be a little more exact. It will be a bloc against the NeoCons and the PNAC strategy.

The different between us is not whether the antiwar movement should remain independent. It should, and most of it is even forbidden by tax laws from endorsing anyone. But there's also a huge new antiwar movement that has emerged both within the ranks of Democrats, and from among youth working for Obama, that didn't bother to ask me or you for permission or advice on whether to try to use Obama as their instrument to end this particular war. They have just emerged in their millions and, for better or worse, decided to give it a shot.

Taking stock of this, we made the decision to set this project up independent of the campaign, so we could both criticize and push it, and work with this new wing of antiwar forces up close, helping to build some new independent strength, knowing full well we'll have to wage struggle with the White House in 2009 no matter who is in it.

But unlike you and others on the sidelines of this rather historic battle, we're not indifferent as to whether it's Obama or McCain, and we don't have to endorse anyone's full program or politics to defeat the main danger.

You may not think McCain is the main danger and don't care if he wins or not. Some of you cling to that view, as we're well aware, but we're very clear, and quite resolute, about not going there.

Bill Baar said...

Carl Finamore from SMC in Chicago days?

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