My thoughts on Obama's decision

I wrote a long comment on a front-page diary by Jerome criticizing Obama's decision to escalate in Afghanistan.  My comment was so long that by the time I finished it, Jerome had apparently pulled the diary.  Whether he's going to repost it or what have you, I figured in my narcissistic way that I ought to preserve those thoughts of mine rather than have them float off into the ether.

The spirit of my comments is not so much a defense of the escalation as concern about where some of the critics are coming from.  I've read many thoughtful critiques of the Afghanistan agenda from a policy perspective and I don't know enough to tell any of those critics that they're wrong.  But there are some people who knew the right answer 5 seconds after they heard the problem, who don't seem to be able to credit opposing arguments or address them on the merits, and assume that anyone who supports the escalation (Obama included) must be acting out of some knee-jerk hawkish ideology or maybe some cynical political ploy to please some constituency or another.  Anyway, here's what I had to say to Jerome earlier.

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UN Lays Out Afghan New Deal to Defeat Taliban

This unpublished UN document has come into my possession as director of the Afghan Marshall Plan Exit Strategy Project, dated June of this year.  I can only say it was leaked to us through our contacts in Kabul.  In it, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has in great detail marked the way for a civilian solution in Afghanistan, as President Obama considers throwing more military at the problem.  UNAMA is the cream of the international development corps, with depth and range of expertise in both war zones and peaceful environments.  In this paper the Mission staff clearly delineates the goal of "reduc[ing] support to the insurgency."


The Afghan New Deal will be a mass employment programme concentrating on regenerating rural infrastructure, particularly irrigation systems but its raison d'etre will be to build stability and reduce support to the insurgency.

The programme will focus on fighting age males (a wide age range) during the fighting season (which has been getting longer) and should last not less than three years.

Here is the answer to the terrible choice the president faces in deciding whether or not to send in more troops. The cost would be small fraction of military operations.  It is based on the considered opinion of the world's foremost development experts, representing combined decades of working in combat zones.  Please forward this post and the link to this document to the White House.  Sometimes war is the answer.   But this time it is not.

Contact the White House

Full document "The Afghan New Deal"posted here.

The Afghan New Deal (excerpted)

UNAMA SER is of the view that one of the best means of tackling the growing insurgency in the southeast is to put in place a massive public works programme, employing tens of thousands of fighting age males during the fighting season. For want of a better title, we are calling it the `Afghan New Deal' programme at this point.

The Afghan New Deal will involve all entities of sub-national governance and tribal authorities, thus strengthening linkages between them on the basis of interdependence.

The Afghan New Deal should focus on technologically simple infrastructure projects employing large numbers of fighting age men. The obvious types of projects include restoring irrigation systems, building flood mitigation infrastructure, gravel roads and forestry management.

Planning and preparation for such a programme should take place during the winter so that it commence in spring, before the fighting season starts. The process underlying this programme is in itself tremendously important.

Unemployment and under-employment are very high in the southeast region. This is a major cause of dissatisfaction with the Government and international community and consequent support for the insurgency and also a cause of criminality. Insurgents can pay young unemployed men to carry out attacks for them.

Many parts of the region have enjoyed only minimal development during the past seven years. Development has been patchy. Although there may be no proven causal link between development and security, the districts which are the most insecure (southern and eastern Ghazni, Zurmat and much of Paktika) have also enjoyed little development. However, it is possible that insecurity has dissuaded civilian organisations and even PRTs from operating there. There is a general disillusionment with the international community on the basis of what is seen as failed promises.

There is widespread poverty and the ability of communities to respond to shocks such as the food price rises or natural disasters is limited.

The southeast relies predominately on agriculture. Much of the region is mountainous and has little arable land. Overgrazing is a real problem in the mountains. In the plains areas, there is ample arable land but insufficient irrigation.

Nationally, it is estimated that only a third as much land is irrigated as was the case in 1979. The Soviets targeted the irrigation infrastructure in an attempt to depopulate areas and to prevent mujahidin fighters from using the underground irrigation channels known as karezes to move around. These systems have never been properly restored.

Consequently the lack of irrigation water and irrigation systems is the greatest constraint on agricultural yields and by extension on improving the economic status of people in the southeast.

The Afghan New Deal will be a mass employment programme concentrating on regenerating rural infrastructure, particularly irrigation systems but its raison d'être will be to build stability and reduce support to the insurgency.

The programme will focus on fighting age males (a wide age range) during the fighting season (which has been getting longer) and should last not less than three years.

Each unskilled worker should be paid around $6 per full day of work.

The programme offers a holistic and comprehensive approach, not piecemeal, and should aim for blanket coverage of the region, covering all communities and not pockets here and there.

A Provincial Management Team will be established to manage the Afghan New Deal within the province. This will be headed by the Provincial Governor and comprise the heads of relevant departments (DoRRD, DAIL, DoPW), the Chief of Police and include donor representatives and UNAMA.

The programme will depend on the Community Development Committees (or village shuras where the NSP has not been implemented, but called CDCs within this paper), and will involve all entities of sub-national governance.

All participating CDCs will continually implement discrete projects for the entirety of the fighting season. The scope of the projects will be defined from the outset, as is the case for the NSP, and may include: rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure, gravel road construction, construction of flood retaining walls, reforestation projects and construction of micro-hydro and/or hybrid electrical general schemes.

Another important criteria for Afghan New Deal projects is that the budget is at least 60% local labour costs and that the asset created requires no operational tashkeel or takhsis from the Government.

A District Engineering Team will be established in each district, attached to the district administration, but also under the overall management of the provincial Department of Rural Rehabilitation and Development. The purpose of the District Engineering Team is to provide technical assistance and oversight of the projects implemented by the CDCs. The District Engineering Team could be a commercial firm or an NGO under contract to the DoRRD, but will comprise around ten Afghan engineers and construction specialists and ten less skilled staff.

CDCs will identify appropriate projects and outline a basic proposal which they will submit to the District Development Assembly.

The Afghan New Deal could employ 40,000 people in Paktya (perhaps as much as 7% of the population) for a little over $72 million per year.

A programme of this magnitude would require the support of the highest levels of the Afghan Government, ISAF and major donors and would therefore require extensive discussion and consultation.

Reliable and adequate funding will be necessary for at least three years. Donors would have to make firm commitments.

If there is to be any chance of putting in place this programme before the next fighting season, there is a lot of work to be done. Political outreach with CDCs and tribal shuras so that they understand the programme and undertake to support it.

Forward to your congressmember with your comments

The Afghan Marshall Plan Exit Strategy Project

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The Surge Is Working

Let's just stop for a moment and parrot what mccain, palin and the repubs say - "the surge is working" (actually it should be called the escalation).

Now why don't the Democrats and Obama/Biden try responding with something like this...

"Ok, let's say that the surge or escalation is working.

Is the surge working because al-sadr decided he wanted to be an ayotollah, told his army to stand down and took off to Iran for training and schooling?

Is the surge working because we are paying off militant groups to stand down?

Is the surge working because some Iraqis have had enough and are standing their ground?

We know our troops are part of the reason the surge or escalation is working, but is the surge why we went into an unjust and illegal war?

Does anybody remember the reasons why we went to war in Iraq?

Was it WMD? Was it terrorism? Was it to track down the killers and planners of 9/11? Was it to fight them there so we don't have to fight them here?

Or... was it so that we can have a successful Surge?

What is the reason, this month, for over 4,000 of our brave United States soldiers being killed?

What is the reason, this month, for over 30,000 of our brave United States soldiers being wounded, maimed and disfigured?

What is the reason, this month, for the trauma and PTSD suffered by the tens of thousands of our brave United States soldiers?

What is the reason, this month, for the death of some of our brave United States soldiers that feel their only escape is suicide?

What is the reason, this month, for the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians?

What is the reason for all of this needless death, destruction and suffering....?

What is the reason for the Surge or escalation?


It does not matter if we disagree on if the surge or escalation is working or why, what matters is WHY do we need this surge in the first place.

What Is The Reason for This WAR in Iraq?!"

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McCain Campaign Trying to Take Ownership Over Escalation

Marc Ambinder has gotten ahold of the latest secret strategy memo out of the John McCain for President campaign. Reading through the first section Ambinder quotes, I can already tell that the only thing this is going to do for McCain is make him increasingly unpopular, both around the country and specifically in his home state of Arizona.

The first phase of our September strategy is to take ownership of the surge and demonstrate again that John McCain is the only candidate running for President who is prepared to be Commander-in-Chief from day one. [emphasis added]

With the opposition research team now spending more time and effort looking at and hitting Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson -- and rightfully so due to the relatively higher likelihood that they will be the next Republican presidential nominee (though he's to holding out for Newt...) -- it seemed to me that it would be incumbent on at least some group to work to make clear tot he American people that John McCain is Mr. Escalation. What I didn't expect was for that group to be the McCain campaign.

Well shouldn't becoming Mr. Escalation help McCain with the GOP base, whose support would be necessary for winning the Republican nomination (even if would make him supremely less electable in a general election)? Common wisdom would say yes. But remember, Republican polling out of Iowa shows that a majority of likely Republican caucus-goers in the state indicate that they would like to see all American military forces out of Iraq -- and within 6 months. With numbers like these, it's little wonder that McCain is running fifth in the state, behind the three GOP frontrunners as well as Mike Huckabee, averaging a mere 5.6 percent support.

And not to completely write off McCain's chances at becoming the next GOP nominee, because I'll never underestimate the wackiness of the Republican Party and because people have come back to win their party's nomination in the past, but one cannot and should not forget that every move like this one that McCain makes is hurting him more and more in his home state of Arizona, where he is up for reelecction in 2010. Whether it's among all voters in the state or just Republicans, McCain's standing in Arizona is deteriorating -- and fast. So amazingly enough, McCain could find himself to be the Rick Santorum of the 2010 cycle -- an incumbent whose extreme conservatism makes him unelectable at home, even notwithstanding previous wins in a purple state.

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Capitulation Caucus Leader Steny Hoyer

Like this should be a surprise.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer already is talking with key Republicans in Congress about striking a new agreement if President Bush follows through on his promised veto of an Iraq war spending bill that includes timelines for withdrawing U.S. troops.

During a visit to New Hampshire on Sunday, Hoyer said he had little hope that the president will sign the measure, and doubts Democrats could muster the votes to override a veto.

Speaking to reporters with U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes, D-N.H., Hoyer insisted, however, that any new measure hold the Iraqi government accountable for taking over its national security and quelling sectarian violence.

"If there are no consequences, then the government has no incentive to follow those objectives," Hoyer said.

Hoyer said he has already spoken with House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., about potential solutions after a veto.

Last week, Hoyer was badmouthing the 'short leash' solution which would force Republicans to vote for two months of funding every two months and break their will.  Now he's talking about caving to Bush and cutting out the progressives in a weaker Iraq bill that lets Bush do anything he wants.

This is not acceptable.  Hoyer's contact information is here. Ask him to send a two month funding bill to Bush.

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