Afghanistan: The country is still a failed state. Contrary to popular belief, the Taliban has not been eliminated or removed from power: they have merely been forced to transfer their power center to other areas of the country, currently under their control. Our control doesn't extend over the whole country, or even most of it. Indeed, it is localized in a region centered around the capital, extending beyond Kabul to some extent (this is why Karzai has often been derisively referred to as the "mayor of Kabul," rather than the President of Afghanistan). Not even the Taliban controlled the whole country. The security situation deteriorates rather significantly the farther one gets from Kabul. In other words, the political situation is still in a state of flux, and is still unresolved. Perhaps had we not taen on this massive misadventure in Iraq, we would have been able to bring the situation in Afghanistan more firmly under control, and perhaps they also would not be one of (if not the) top suppliers of opium in the world (the funds from which likely finance a number of shady ventures, including but not limited to terrorism). Then again, perhaps not. We cannot know for sure what might have been.Iraq: Contrary to the happy picture the White House tries to project, the situation in Iraq is far from encouraging. Yes, we overthrew and captured Saddam. And yet, the insurgency has not shrunk, but grown. The last estimate I heard placed their numbers (including support network among the civilian population) at roughly 200,000. They have also grown more sophisticated. Their technical prowess for making IEDs has improved dramatically; these devices can now blow apart ARMORED vehicles (and we all know that many of the military's vehicles are not armored, although they should be), and now need not be detonated by remote control, but by infrared sensors or other more advanced means. There are no "safe areas of the country. We no longer hear talk of the "Green Zone," because it is no longer green/safe; kidnappings, bombings, and assassinations have occurred within it, as everywhere else, with alarming frequency of late. The insurgents, according to many reports, have also begun to infiltrate the newly trained corps of Iraqi security and police forces (further compounding the problems we have already had and are having with the training and readiness of these units), and their operations have spread into many areas besides those in which they worked previously (notice that talk of the "Sunni Triangle" has also disappeared, since the insurgency now operates from Mosul to Basra and beyond). The security situation, in short, is absolutely deplorable. Bombings, murders, kidnappings, and assassinations have become the order of the day, especially against government officials. Just a couple days ago, the Mayor of Baghdad was deposed and forced to go into hiding, fearing for his life, by the city's most powerful Shiite militia. Many provincial officials have been assassinated, as have Arabic interpreters, or anybody perceived to be working with the US (which makes good help very hard to find these days). The security situation is so bad that the names of candidates and politicians running on party lists for the Jan. 30 elections had to be kept secret until the day before the people went to the polls; one of the main reasons why so many voted (especially among the Shiites, who make up maybe 60-65% of th population), is that the Shiite clergy issued a fatwa before the elections, which equated risking one's life to vote with the Islamic martyr tradition, and which instructed the faithful which party lists to vote for). The Sunnis, meanwhile, boycotted the election, in large part, and are now grossly underrepresented in the new parliament (you might say it serves them right, but it also creates huge long-term problems: this parliament exists for the purpose of drafting the new, permanent constitution of Iraq; it is thus important to have everyone involved to the fullest extent possible). The political situation is equally troubling. Given the situation surrounding the elections, it should come as no surprise that the big winners of this election were fundamentalist Shiite religious parties, the Dawa Party and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (yes, the revolution referred to is the same one Khomeini pulled off in Iran decades ago; both support the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic Iraqi republic governed by Sharia). (BTW, guess who else won big during the elections? Our old buddy, Muqtada al-Sadr, whom the Associated Press reports has become one of the most influential members of the new parliament. You see, after he agreed to stand down his militia, he spent all that time campaigning. But I doubt his views regarding the US presence in Iraq have changed much, and I also doubt his militia has thrown away its weapons.) These parties, and thus the governing coalition, are also very good friends with that paragon freedom and human rights, Iran, which offered them shelter, solace, and support during Saddam's rule. In fact, just last month, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari paid a quite friendly visit to Iran's government, where they seriously discussed matters as oil exports east, trade (of electricity [which we are still having trouble providing on a consistent and reliable basis in many areas; ditto for clean water], processed oils, wheat), port access, aid money, and cooperation on border security and military assistance. The two almost reached an agreement whereby Iran would help train Iraqi troops before Washington pressured the Iraqi government to back off. If things keep going like this, it seems not unlikely that Iraq could end up as an Iranian client state (did I mention that Iran is fast becoming a nuclear power, and that relations between the US and Iran have been rather strained for decades, to put it mildly?).In short, we have not clearly won anything yet, by any reasonable measure. Both countries are still very unstable, from a political as well as from a security standpoint. Afghanistan is faring somewhat better than Iraq, but we are nowhere near done over there yet. And Iraq looks increasingly like an unmitigated disaster. It's not merely a matter of casualties (though the number of US and civilian deaths is troubling, I will readily admit that the US casualties are comparatively low at this point). It's a matter of several, very disturbing trends that augur ill for the US's long-term interests in those countries. The planning for Iraq has been abysmal, and the pursuit of this mis-adventure there has probably put our goals for Afghanistan in jeopardy. Iraq is the more dangerous situation at this point, as unresolved ethnic and religious conflict, combined with the lack of security, threatens to erupt into an extremely volatile and dangerous situation, even more so than it already is. I don't claim to have the answers to these problems; maybe we need a draft in order to get the number of troops there requisite to establish an absolute monopoly on the use of force (however, this seems unlikely to happen given the political ramifications of such an action; I would guess this hasn't escaped GWB and his advisors, either). Maybe the situation in Iraq is altogether untenable and hopeless, and we will eventually be forced to withdraw altogether. I don't know, and I don't claim to know. What I DO know, is that we will never figure out a way out of this mess so long as we refuse to recognize that there obviously is a mess to begin with. You can't deal with or hope to solve a problem that you refuse to acknowledge even exists. What makes a strong leader, in my humble opinion, is one who is willing to confront, acknowledge, and learn from his mistakes. So far, the President has failed to pass that test with me.
I referred specifically to the mess in Iraq which arose from our botched invasion and occupation of that country. Nice try trying to change the subject.
Quote from: J D on August 11, 2005, 12:09:35 PMI referred specifically to the mess in Iraq which arose from our botched invasion and occupation of that country. Nice try trying to change the subject. I never understood why Hitler declared war on the U.S. The tripartite pact clearly wasn't the reason because the Japanese didn't respond in kind earlier in 1941. Since Hitler believed one of the reasons the Germans lost WWI was because the Americans entered the war, it always struck me as odd that Hitler chose to go down the same path. Do you think he was just so overconfident because a German victory on the eastern front seemed much more certain in December 1941?
Oh, yes, everything is coming up roses, yes indeed! Look, the point isn't to point out problems just to point them out; it's to point out problems so that those in charge can be responsible and solve them. It's the first step, and a step that a lot of our leaders in Washington seem to be missing, considering that many of them don't even seem to acknowledge that there are problems in the first place, an assessment strikingly at odds with empirical reality.And, on another note, please refrain from putting words in my mouth. At least until you can properly articulate your own.
As someone who spent the last year researching the end of WWII in Japan for her thesis, I always find it astounding that people can draw this comparison. The war in Japan would have dragged on much longer and the victory probably would have been much less decisive without the nukes being dropped, something that even then was so widely criticized. But would anyone who touts that great victory support the same tactic today? (not that I think it's entirely feasible given the scattered nature of the enemy)