Photo by Paul Avallone
The debate over Afghanistan -- which this week comes down to how many troops Barack Obama will announce he is withdrawing from that wretched country beginning in July through 2012 -- is being conducted with a blindfold and earplugs on.
The discussion centers on, obsesses over whether the promised "drawdown" will be "only 5,000 troops," the token withdrawal that Afghanistan-hawks want, up to an "aggressive" plan to withdraw over the next year all of the 30,000 troops ordered by Obama into Afghanistan as part of "the surge" of 2008. The LA Times is reporting that the president is expected to announce the withdrawal of 10,000 troops by the end of this year.
But this entire "debate" is beside the point. As retirement-bound Defense Secretary Gates himself put it on Sunday on CNN, "Whatever decision he makes we will have a significant number of troops remaining in Afghanistan."
This means that all of the policy-making going on in Washington this week is more roccoco than meat and potatoes, more window-dressing than serious, and seriously considered affairs of state. As Gates also said, his mind perhaps more on the glass of iced tea after the 18th hole, "The drawdown must be politically credible here at home."
It is infuriating to imagine White House officials scalding their eyeballs in the glare of PowerPoint slides, desperately searching for the one slide with the pattern of troop movement that is "politically credible." This is politics at its worst -- stagecraft to make the voting public believe the Obama administration is taking action to extricate itself from a disaster that the polled public is increasingly against.
No one seems to notice that the one crucial question goes unasked -- whether the Bush-Obama policy that has injected 68,000 troops plus the 30,000-troop "surge" into Afghanistan is a good one, a sound one, the policy to prolong and support at huge cost, human, monetary, and at the expense of limited national strength and power.
Is Western-style nation-building in the Islamic Umma in any way a practical policy?
Are basic American concepts of governance compatible in any way with a culture based in religious and sexual supremacism?
Should Americans be dying for people who, for example, practice child marriage? Pederasty? To whom women are chattel? To whom corruption is as much a part of their lives as air? Whose allegiances, whose belief system, whose natural reflexes default, in the end, in ways subtle and not subtle, to the ways of jihad against infidels?
Whether the pullout is five thousand or thirty thousand, the disaster continues.