So this is Christmas

I’m sure you’re all well aware of the news: President Obama orders 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.


It seems so clear to me that this is a case of a Democratic official buckling to the not-wanting-to-appear-weak-on-defense pressure, but I was hoping that you all could give me some other reason for Obama’s decision, so I might feel better about my last presidential vote. The problem is that I’m wondering how this would’ve been much different had McCain won – 35,000 troops? No (elastic) date for withdrawal?

President Obama justified his move by saying, “Our security is at stake,” and that “new attacks are being plotted [against us] as I speak.” Where have we heard this type of rhetoric before?



And down what roads has it led us?

Are we to continue to look under every rock in the “exotic” areas of the world for potentially dangerous souls? And who are these dangerous people in the first place? People who “hate our freedom,” or maybe they disagree with American political and cultural hegemony? Or maybe they’re just Evil.


Notice how they have wild beards and big noses? And just look at that crazy Russian-made gun with the clip that’s reminiscent of a sickle or the Fertile Crescent. Scary dudes, indeed!

What saddens me most in this case is that the president is smart enough to know that this is going to be a tremendous waste of life and money, yet it seems that he is willing to roll the dice on it helping him get re-elected. And then what? Maybe he’s planning on doing some good to counter the lives and limbs lost in this pointless war. Maybe then he’ll put the Peace Prize to some use?

For fuck’s sake, people, Karl Rove agreed with this move! Have I completely lost my mind here?


The President went on to promise that he would begin to bring the troops back from Afghanistan in 18 months – just enough time to appease the peace wing of his own party. So is it as clear as all of this–that Obama is hoping to win over the “gun and religion” types whom he alienated as a candidate, and then he’s hoping to re-win those who, like me, understand that it’s impossible to win this ridiculous, asymmetrical “war against terror?”

Am I wrong in all of this? Please tell me that I’m wrong. Convince me that I’m wrong, because right now I feel culpable in this huge, violent mistake.


19 responses to “So this is Christmas”

  1. Dave says:

    You’re not culpable, Scotty. You had no viable alternative when you voted for president last year. Forces beyond your control make sure that no matter whom we elect, Moloch will get fed.

    I don’t think Obama is trying to win over the guns and religion people, because that would be too stupid for words. I suspect this has a lot to do with calculations about keeping the generals happy because they could make things really unpleasant for him in terms of running the military and could cause a big political stink that would turn a lot of nationalist-minded independents irrevocably against Obama, who already has to deal with the “Democratic presidents are weak” narrative.

  2. S. Godfree says:

    But the second half of my theory is totally right, right? I mean the part where he starts to draw down the troops just in time for the next election.

    What bums me out the most is that I went out the day after the last election and bought an American flag so I could hang it in front of our house — I was that proud and hopeful. And though, I kept trying to brace myself for disappointment, I got swept up in the romance.

  3. Dave says:

    Yeah, we’ve all been burned to some extent or other by this guy. I’m wishing I’d been a more hard-core hater during the last cycle. (Also, you remember I spent Election Day last year handing out cards for a Democratic state senate candidate whose victory helped give the Democrats control of the NY Senate? And I was all happy about it? Well, yesterday, that motherfucker voted against marriage equality.)

    I do agree with the second half of your theory. Nixon did something similar in ’72.

  4. S. Godfree says:

    “yesterday, that motherfucker voted against marriage equality.”

    Wow, that totally fucking sucks…

  5. Rogan says:

    Nice war president we have here. Hearing the sloppy jingoistic rhetoric dribble out of his purty mouth does indeed make me feel like a chump. Let us see how this health care thing pans out. I keep telling myself that if he is able to get that one big thing done, and done well, he will have been able to accomplish more than most pols, and will therefore have been worthwhile compromise candidate. And though I wouldn’t expect any different approach to the war, the growing list of compromised positions makes me wonder if it really shouldn’t have been Hillary after all.

  6. Dave says:

    There was very little daylight between Obama and Hillary’s campaign platforms, so who really knows. I figured we knew Clinton had Clintonite instincts, which I abhor, and there was at least a chance that Obama didn’t. But it turns out he’s about as liberal as most Democratic presidents have been, which is not at all. And Obama promised to escalate Afghanistan during the campaign, I believe.

  7. LP says:

    I so wish I could say something meaningful here, especially something that might reveal a sliver of hope for the disillusioned among us. Unfortunately, after the initial invasion of Iraq, when thousands in the US marched and protested and made noise, and absolutely nothing changed, I kind of gave up on worrying about the situation there and in Afghanistan. I guess I’d rather feel ignorant than hopeless and angry. And there’s obviously nothing I or any other “ordinary Americans” can do about it.

    I still have some hope that Obama will turn out to be better than he seems now, that he’s getting all the ugliness out of the way early in his first term and we’ll see the “real” Obama later. But I confess that hope is dwindling. He’s done the whole long-range-planning thing before, not seeming to care what critics say, and maybe this is something similar. But it does feel rather callow and depressing. On the other hand, there doesn’t appear to be any good answer for what to do in Afghanistan, does there?

  8. Nat says:

    I don’t know, maybe I’m slow or too loyal to people, but somehow, I don’t want to believe it. Each time I hear another strange inoculated idea, I search for excuses. I don’t want to believe that he would exchange all of these people’s lives for a position of power. He didn’t seem like that type of a person. But whatever it is, you are right to talk about it, because it’s the only way to carve the truth out of the meaningless phantasmagoria.

    It’s not romantic in the idealistic or impractical sort of way, but wonderful and admirable that you got a flag. We have a saying back home, “Hot’ ona urodina — vse ravno ge Rodina.” It roughly means, “Even though she is hideously ugly – she is still my motherland.” So the flag is for the motherland and not any particular regime, President, or whatever. It’s for hope in the better future.

    It deeply saddens me that people vote against marriage equality. I heard something about Prop 8 being appealed in January? I signed up for some rally on FB to support the appeal, but I really have no idea, it might not mean anything. Does anyone know about it?

    Anyway, it’s still another Christmas season – time to give and forgive, and forget, and give the benefit of a doubt, and hope, and hope, and hope…

  9. swells says:

    Although this post only reminds me of that which I’ve been studiously repressing–my deep disappointment that was inevitable considering how high I was flying, 13 months ago tomorrow–I still have to step back and note how great this title is.

  10. Dave says:

    I’ve had that song in my head all day.

  11. farrell fawcett says:

    I can’t help but think there is also a very different narrative that can be written from this. Maybe it will be many many years from now, but it goes like this:

    Afghanistan, a country torn for many decades by tribal conflicts, religious conflicts (shia vs. sunni), global narcotic trafficking, poverty, regional power struggles, and failed centralized governments finally gets the attention it has lacked. In 2001, shortly after the attack on the World Trade Centers by the terrorist organization Al Qaeda located at that time in Afganistan, the US and other UN nations begin an occupation of the country. They intensified their occupation in 2009. An indirect consequence of their pursuit of Al Qaeda, was a general improvement and rebuilding of Afghanistan’s grossly deficient infrastructure. Roads, sewers, power grids, schools, and hospitals were constructed. As well, a judicial system, police force, government services, and civic organizations were erected. Corruption continued for many decades. But the beginnings of a modern Afghanistan can be traced to the 12 years of America’s occupation. Many millions of Afghanis now benefit from that strange period of foreign intervention decades ago.

    I read Rory Stewart’s “The Places in Between” last February. It was an incredible book. One of the most memorable books I have ever read. It also made me realize how futile and fucked any intervention into Afghanistan would ultimately be. That country is really complicated–and poor. HOWEVER, it needs help, lots of help. It’s not clear how to give that help. Probably not soldiers. But some substantial help might just come from the sideways effect of our intervention. Maybe.

    I’m with you, Professor Godfree, I’m terribly disappointed by the way Obama has talked about this whole thing. He sounds now like he’s been totally transformed by the legions of Moloch into an instrument of the status quo. “Don’t struggle, Sir, it will only hurt for a moment.” And the chip is installed. Oh, the sadness. This whole thing makes me feel quite hopeless. I thought he was something different too. WTF, with all that midnight posturing in an airplane hanger and dead soldiers. For what? Your instincts were right, but… C’mon, Obama! I’m not done believing. Still, like Nat, I still have a little hope.

  12. Dave says:

    It’s not clear how to give that help. Probably not soldiers.

    What they’re getting is Predator drones.

  13. S. Godfree says:

    I was hoping for something a little more uplifting, but thanks all of you for the input. Having not independently studied Afghanistan in any serious way, I don’t have the answers, but I’ll tell you what I do know.

    If you look at the other American occupations from the Philippines to Iraq, you see that among them there were two successes: Japan and Germany. These two countries stand out for a few key reasons. First, they were both completely destroyed when the occupation began; this meant that the idea of any serious insurgency was out of the question. Second, they both had centralized governments, which meant the transition to American military rule was easy. Third, they both had highly modern industrial capacities (in other words, they could put millions of people to work in re-building their countries, then turn outwardly to successfully manufacture durable goods). Fourth, they both had constitutions written for them by the U.S., which outlawed things like being a member of the Nazi party or creating a large military. And finally, they both had westernized educational traditions.

    The reason that I know (yes I know) that Afghanistan will be a failure (unless success is defined in an extremely loose way) is that it doesn’t fit any of the previous criteria. First, it has an active insurgency. Second, it’s ruled primarily by tribal leaders and warlords. Third, it has no industrial capacity or economic infrastructure to speak of. Fourth, who the fuck knows what’s going on with the current government and their constitution. And finally, (outside of Kabul) they have no westernized educational tradition.

    One last thing that needs to be thrown into the mix is the proud Afghani tradition of expelling occupiers –for many Afghanis this is their most significant national identity. Hmm, seems like a losing proposition to me. And I’m not nearly as smart as Barak.

  14. S. Godfree says:

    12: darkly funny. thanks…

  15. lane says:

    did anyone see the Jon Stewart segment on this issue? Occupying Afghanistan?

    It was by the English guy. He did this whole thing about how Afghanistan is really unique in world history as being totally unconquerable. England tried, Russia tried, others have tired, and as Scott notes, it’s like the one thing those poor people have going. “Yeah were poor mountain people, but they’re OUR MOUNTAINS! and we’ll kick anyones ass!”

    Basically, we’re fucked.

  16. Dave says:

    This war does not have the look of success:

  17. Rogan says:

    18. Geesh! What a depressing video. You see something like that and you realize that if Obama pulls out in 18 months, the place will turn over to the Taliban and war lords over night. Who else has the force to rule? Certainly not the Afghan Army, if that video reflects their general fighting preparedness. They look like a bunch of boy scouts with guns.