WASHINGTON — Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has given the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan 60 days to conduct another review of the American strategy there, the fifth since President Barack Obama took office less than five months ago.
The Defense Department announced Monday that Gates has ordered the new U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and his deputy, Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, to submit a review of the U.S. strategy within 60 days of their arrival in Afghanistan.
OK, you say, they're still fumbling around--nothing new here, except for the WHY the're still fumbling around:
The need to review a strategy that hasn't been implemented yet is being driven by U.S. domestic politics, as well as by developments on the ground.
The first five months of this year have seen a 59 percent increase in insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, a 62 percent increase in coalition deaths and a 64 percent increase in the use of improvised explosives compared to the same period last year, according to Defense Department statistics. Those are highest levels so far in the eight-year war.
Meanwhile, some congressional Democrats have begun to question the administration's request for additional funds for the Afghan war and what they say is the absence of a clear exit strategy.
"As the mission has grown bigger, the policy has grown even more vague," said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.
As a result, three defense officials told McClatchy, McChrystal's clearest goal for the next year is to change the perception that the Afghan war is a potential quagmire in time for next year's midterm congressional elections.
They point to the 2006 midterm elections, which became a referendum on the Bush administration and its Iraq policy. Then-president George W. Bush's Republican Party lost control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 12 years, and it lost six Senate seats.
"We are not even on the ground yet, but we hear the political clock ticking," said one military officer, who requested anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk to the media. "We are trying to buy time, as well."
There is always a political element in decisions about war-making. This, however, is beginning to creep beyond the line of legitimacy, and the Obama administration is edging into the prospect of permanent government by campaign, in which keeping power is more important than doing the right thing.
It is of no use now to point out that Dubya also did that, because (a) he's no longer in office and (b) this administration promised a change.
The change, insofar as foreign affairs and human rights has been concerned, is that President Obama gives better speeches, while his Justice Department still argues state secrets doctrine for virtually everything, his closest advisors are arguing executions without trial at Gitmo, his Secretary of State is discussing pre-emptive war against Iran, and his Generals are still de-stabilizing the Indian subcontinent and Middle East because these are the only wars we have, which are needed to justify the fact that US military expenditures, according to SIPRO, continue to be 41% of total world military expenditures, larger than the expenditures of the next ten nations combined, and more than seven times larger than the number two spender (China).
Some Republicans have suggested that Barack Obama is serving Jimmy Carter's second term. I don't think that's at all accurate. But it's beginning to look like comparisons between his presidency and that of LBJ may not be out of the question.