The Clinton-Gates Axis

Mark Landler and Thom Shanker have an article in the New York Times on the emerging alliance between Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates casting them as "two moderate pragmatists" who are likely to advocate a middle ground between the "minimalist" Biden approach that focuses on counter-terrorism and the full-on counter-insurgency approach advocated by General McChrystal among others. The article suggests that the two secretaries are expected to carry great weight as they begin to express specific advice.

The problem is that the Vice President is right in his view that a larger military presence in Afghanistan will breed resentment among Afghans especially the Pashtuns and is likely politically untenable at home. As I've noted before, a growing Pashtun nationalism is fueling the growing Taliban insurgency. A "Pashtunistan" is now a part of the Taliban platform. Recent Taliban communiques all make appeals to driving out the foreign occupiers.

Beyond this stark reality is the economic cost of the Afghan war. Since the invasion of Afghanistan eight years ago, the United States has spent $223 billion on the Afghan war-related funding, according to the Congressional Research Service. Aid expenditures, excluding the cost of combat operations, have also grown exponentially, from $982 million in 2003 to $9.3 billion in 2008. The cost of fighting the war in Afghanistan will overtake that of the Iraq conflict for the first time in 2010. Even before General McChrystal's troop increase request, the Pentagon had requested $65 billion for Afghanistan on top of the basic defense budget of $533.7 billion. An escalation of any size will only add to the financial burden.

The economic cost of an escalation in Afghanistan needs to be a part of this discussion even if the seemingly influentially ascendant Clinton-Gates axis seems to ignore it.

Tags: Afghanistan, Geo-Politics, Obama Administration, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US Foreign Policy (all tags)

Comments

5 Comments

Re: The Clinton-Gates Axis

A powerful combination - both the State and the Pentagon together. If they have both already allied on the A'stan issue - doesn't leave the Prez with a whole lot of options.

by vecky 2009-10-12 10:41PM | 0 recs
Re: The Clinton-Gates Axis

The Clinton-Gates alliance goes back to the Bush administration, and I bet is the reason Obama chose them as his team. Remember the "Bush will attack Iran" episode, and the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, when Clinton and Gates (and Rice) engaged in some bureaucratic kabuki to contain Cheney. Many commenters on the left, even here, were convinced that Clinton was fighting Gates and laying the ground-work for an Iran attack, and dismissed her concerns about the IRG and its Quds Force.

Given the consistent signs of deep cooperation between Gates and Clinton, the fact that Bush did not attack Iran, and Ahmadinejad's anti-democratic coup, which he achieved by mobilizing the IRG, those arguments were obviously wrong.

As for Afghanistan, I don't have much confidence in Joe Biden's judgement on war. He voted against the first Gulf War, for the second, and swings from jingoism to despair as we face the true cost of military action. The arguments for abandoning Afghanistan (again) seem to be as poor as the arguments against attacking al Queda and the Taliban back in 2000.

by souvarine 2009-10-13 05:34AM | 0 recs
Re: The Clinton-Gates Axis

Couldn't have said it better.

However I hope they both don't advocate a middle course . If we are going to turn around the way , give the General what he needs . Diane Feinstein is right,,

by lori 2009-10-13 05:43AM | 0 recs
Re: The Clinton-Gates Axis
Why would we want to "turn around the way"?
General Ripper types disparage Clemenceau as they send the SAC wing to nuke the godless empire.
by captain dan 2009-10-14 05:13AM | 0 recs
Re: The Clinton-Gates Axis

Good discussion right up to the point where you, Charles, suddenly become a expert on military and foreign occupancy matters.  I respect your opinion, you have some very compelling background experience, but A-stan is not Columbia.  I study the military, from theater level strategy to the scientific details of how the machinery/people work, and I cannot say that one way or the other would work because I am not privy to the critical info that the Admin has.

I am impressed on the variety of discussion taking place in the Admin...Biden gets one end, McCrystal gets the other, and various people play the middle.  Seems like they are seriously testing out a lot of different ideas to see what might work best in A-stan.  A Gates/Clinton interaction seems like a very good thing in helping the President decide on the best choice possible.  

And if they truly DID stop Cheney from going into Iran, with the help of Rice, they all deserve a BIG thank you (and Rice deserves a bit of an apology from me for bashing her as such a War Hawk all these years).  But there needs to be more proof than just inference and supposition:  That is the same way that it was inferred that Clinton was hawking to go into Iran.  We need to do a better job of separating OPINION from actual FACT.

On a personal note, I think we need both more troops and more investment.  Troops to stabilize and secure, then investment in the local communities (not roads and pipelines for the national economy).  If you work on the community level, A-stan may turn around, but it is not JUST one type of help or another that will work.  But I will admit, this is my personal opinion based on my discussions with several Vets and some non-military personnel who have been in A-stan.

by Hammer1001 2009-10-13 06:01AM | 0 recs

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