The neocons return


Remember The Project for a New Century, or PNAC?

Led by neo-conservatives Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan and Dan Senor, the group’s signature achievement was its loud and persistent advocacy of what became one of the worst foreign policy blunders in U.S. history -- the Iraq war.

Well, PNAC has rebranded itself. Now, Kristol, Kagan and Senor are leading a new group called The Foreign Policy Initiative. And the trio hopes the signature achievement of FPI will be convincing Congress and the Obama administration to support a massive U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan.

Considering how much damage PNAC did to American foreign policy while George W. Bush was president, why would anyone take its leaders seriously now? Because in Washington, you can never go wrong supporting the aggressive use of U.S. military power, whether it’s necessary to do so.

FPI held a conference this week in Washington called "Advancing and Defending Democracy." The event, which featured right-wing luminaries such as former Gov. Mitt Romney, Elliott Abrams, Newt Gingrich and John McCain, pushed the idea that the solution in Afghanistan is more of everything -- more troops, more money, more force.

In a letter to President Obama earlier this month, FPI made it clear that this is the only acceptable course in Afghanistan.

"Since the announcement of your administration’s new strategy, we have been troubled by calls for a drawdown of American forces in Afghanistan and a growing sense of defeatism about the war. There is no middle course. Incrementally committing fewer troops than required would be a grave mistake and may well lead to American defeat. We will not support half-measures that repeat the errors of the past."

What would those errors of the past be? Perhaps it was the Bush administration’s decision to abandon Afghanistan in the early months of 2002 to focus on invading Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Or maybe it was the decision to not enough U.S. troops to occupy Iraq after the invasion and not having any coherent plan for the occupation.

We think the biggest error of the past was how Kristol, Kagan and the rest of the neocons at PNAC cooked up a pot of lies to justify an unnecessary war in Iraq that did nothing to reduce the threat of terrorism or make America safer.

Of course, they will never admit that invading Iraq was a error. But after spending nearly $1 trillion on the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, and pretty much destroying that nation in the process of "liberating" it, what makes the people at FPI think we’ll be more successful in Afghanistan? It’s a textbook example of Albert Einstein’s famous definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

According to a confidential report prepared for President Obama by Gen. Stanley McChrystal -- and obtained by Bob Woodward of The Washington Post earlier this week -- the situation in Afghanistan is "deteriorating." The Taliban insurgency is "resilient and growing." Afghans have a "crisis of confidence" in both their own government and the U.S.-led NATO occupation force. The next 12 months will be "decisive," and "failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum ... risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible."

The remedy that The Foreign Policy Initiative recommends is one that is doomed to failure. If there is one reliable lesson that can be learned from 1,400 years of Afghan history, it’s that sending in a large contingent of foreign troops is the one thing that will unite Afghans -- unite them to drive them out. It happened to the British in the 19th century and to the Russians in the 1980s. What would make the United States immune to this?

If U.S. forces are to be in Afghanistan, the appropriate mission, at least according to McChrystal’s report, would be to strengthen the Afghan state to the point where it can "sufficiently control its territory to support regional stability and prevent its use for international terrorism."

In other words, if we make sure Afghanistan will not again be a haven for terrorists, use a combination of force and diplomacy to accomplish this and then leave as quickly as possible, both this nation and the Afghans will be better off.

Obama should reject the failed thinking of the neocons and embrace a smarter, more focused mission that avoids having our nation trapped in an expanded and indefinite commitment to a conflict that could prove even more expensive and debilitating to our nation than Iraq.


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