It’s Time to Cut Our Losses in Afghanistan

April 25, 2012

Last Sunday the Obama Administration and the Afghanistan government finalized an “agreement” that commits the U.S. taxpayer to financially support the Afghan people for 10 years after the withdraw of American troops from Afghan soil at the end of 2014.  According to U.S. and Afghan officials the pledge of U.S. support will be finalized when both Afghan president Karzai and President Obama sign the document.

Naturally both sides claim the agreement is in the best interests of the U.S. and Afghanistan.  The Afghani’s will get about $2.7 billion a year to build infrastructure, train their security forces, and maintain democratic institutions.  The U.S. will get a stable nation in an unstable neighborhood and a reliable friend in the fight against international terrorism.  At least that is what the party line is from both sides.  Of course one doesn’t have to look to hard at historical examples where our foreign aid actually had the opposite effect on a situation.

Now, in the first place this “agreement” is indicative of how far we have moved away from being a constitutional republic.  In essence, the Obama Administration has negotiated a treaty with Afghanistan.  Dictionary.com defines a treaty as “a formal agreement between two or more states in reference to peace, alliance, commerce, or other international relations.  Granted this is an open-ended definition, but I would lump what this agreement does with Afghanistan into the alliance category (against terrorists) and into other international relations (foreign aid).  Thus, why is the Senate not required to ratify this treaty as specified by Article 2 Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution?

Beyond the illegality of the agreement, it also just doesn’t make sense for our president to commit us financially or otherwise to Afghanistan.  On Sunday, U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker told Afghanistan’s national security council that the United States was pledged to helping Afghanistan as “a unified, democratic, stable and secure state”.  The question is when has Afghanistan ever been “a unified, democratic, stable and secure state”? After over a decade of American occupation She is still crippled by sectarianism, nepotism, instability, and corruption.  The agreement looks more like a scheme to prop up the Karzai government as the only long term option American policymakers have for Afghanistan.  This tactic has been repeated over and over again with American foreign aid all over the world.  It’s never worked effectively.   Why do we think it will be different this time?  Why do we think that our money won’t end up in the Swiss bank accounts of Afghani officials or even Karzai himself?

Entering into a long-term agreement with Afghanistan will simply bog us down in another no-win situation in that country.  It will no doubt contribute to more hostilities toward America and inflame the resolve of our current enemies.  Americans will be called upon to pay even more to prop up the frail Karzai regime or worse yet sacrifice their lives for this unworthy cause.

It is past the time for the United States to cut its losses in Afghanistan.  Financially, physically, and mentally we can no longer continue to support this historical lost cause.  What we couldn’t accomplish in the last decade with boots on the ground we will not be able to achieve with money after the boots have gone home.  That is a historical fact.  It’s time to turn off the lights and close the door on this part of our nation’s history.

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What Obama Should Have Said

May 23, 2011

President Obama’s speech on the Middle East last week was nothing really new.  He chastised the usual culprits for suppressing human rights in their countries and assured us all that the United States government would remain vigilant in its pursuit of truth, justice, and the American way when it comes to supporting the oppressed in the Middle East.  Oh, he did shock Israel and her proponents by mandating that any peace talks between her and the Palestinians must begin with an acceptance by both sides of the borders as they existed in 1967.  This proposition of course has Israel losing territory before it has even started to negotiate.  One question is will this really result in successful peace talks this time around?

Of course the bigger question for Americans is, where does Obama get the authority to issue any mandates with respect to Middle East peace negotiations?  The simple answer is he has no authority in that area.  He is the president of our country chosen to protect our rights, defend our Constitution, and enforce our laws.  The issue of Middle East peace is between Middle Easterners and that is who should decide the matter if there is to be any long lasting peace in the region.

But I read the president’s speech anyway.  In fact, at some point as I was reading the usual implied dribble about how America would solve all of the world’s problems I dosed off into a glorious daydream.  Here is the speech Obama gave in that splendid fantasy:

“My fellow Americans, I come to you tonight to mark a new beginning for American foreign policy.  Israel, the Palestinians, and the other Middle Eastern nations are going to have to solve their own problems.  America is done ruling the world.  We have enough problems of our own that need our attention and as a nation we have learned for way too long that when we meddle in the affairs of other nations instead of pursuing a foreign policy of friendship, trade and exchange things normally turn our poorly for us.

Take America’s entry into World War I for instance.  It was meant to “Make the world safe for democracy”.  Instead our involvement ultimately produced Adolph Hitler in Germany.  President Wilson, like all presidents, had good intentions, but America’s unnecessary entry into the war was the deciding factor leading to victory for the Triple Entente.  His support for France’s over the top retribution toward Germany manifested in the Treaty of Versailles economically destroyed that country and paved the way for the rise of Hitler and his National Socialist party.  The result was another word war where millions more died.

Then there are the smaller conflicts our government has gotten engaged in from time to time.  On the Korean peninsula in the 1950s, 40,000 Americans and 2 million civilians lost their lives fighting an enemy that is still a thorn in our side to this day.  In Vietnam, 50,000 Americans and 1.5 million civilians perished and many more vets are still experiencing the effects of that war some 35 years later.

Closer to our own time period, let’s not forget that the CIA’s covert overthrow of popularly elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeegh in the 1950s ultimately led to the menacing theocracy in present day Iran.  Our military support of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan produced the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.  Lastly, our decade’s long support for Israel, even when she has been egregiously in the wrong, has produced terrorist networks bent on violently persuading America to change her policy.

There are many more examples of American meddling that have resulted in dire consequences for our country.  In the interest of time I will stop there.

My friends, it took us 10 years, 3 wars, 5000 American, and countless Iraqi, Afghani, and Pakistani lives and at least $2 trillion dollars to finally bring Osama bin Laden to justice.  And what do we have to show for it?  Nothing.  Al Qaeda has appointed an interim head to replace bin Laden, the organization has threatened retribution for his death, and our liberties at home are still being violated in the name of national security.

After deep reflection, I have devised a new direction for U.S. foreign policy.  A foreign policy which will go much further to ensure our safety than any illegal wiretap or airport groping ever could.  Effective immediately, I have ordered the following:

The immediate withdraw of U.S. forces from Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya;

The immediate halt to drone attacks and military incursions into Pakistan;

A cut of hundreds of billions of dollars in military spending;

And the promise to friend and foe alike that the United States seeks peaceful relations with you based on integrity, mutual respect, and trade.

By ending our quest for worldwide hegemony, we will be able to focus all of our attention and resources on the dire state of our economy.  We have a lot of work to do, but by bringing the troops home and cutting our monstrously large military budget we can make great strides to balance the federal budget and get our economy moving again.  Good night.  God bless you and God bless the United States of America.”

Wouldn’t that have been a better speech?

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina


Evaluating Obama’s Record After More Than Two Years as President

April 26, 2011

Recently, President Obama kicked off his 2012 reelection campaign.  Looking past all the political jabbering of the talking heads and pundits, the most astounding prediction of all about the next race for the White House is that Obama is expected to raise $1 billion for his campaign efforts.  Given the president’s failure to fulfill his previous campaign’s promises of hope and change, a great question to ask is, who is going to donate that large amount of money to his campaign coffers?

I mean the guy has an absolutely abysmal economic record as president.  Adhering to a dogmatic Keynesian policy, in just two years he has increased the national debt by 50 percent with nothing good to show for it.  Unemployment, counting the underemployed and discouraged workers, was about 19 percent when Obama took office.  Currently that number is at about 22 percent.  After more than two years in office, Obama’s economic policies have given no hope to millions of unemployed Americans.

Of course, all of the spending and inflating of the money supply under Obama is beginning to have a huge negative effect on the economy.  Anyone who has grocery shopped or purchased gasoline lately has certainly noticed higher prices.  Now, many would blame Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and his ridiculous easy money policy for current rising prices.  They are correct.  But, let’s not forget that Obama nominated Bernanke for a second term as chairman in 2009.  The president had the opportunity to do the right thing and nominate an individual that could have brought sanity back to our monetary policy.  But then again, Obama and his cohorts in Congress need Bernanke to monetize their lavish spending programs to ensure their reelections.

In fact, Obama won’t recognize his or the Fed’s culpability in bringing about inflation.  Instead he is resorting to the famous political technique of scapegoating.  According to Obama, speculators are potentially to blame for high gas prices and thus rising prices in general.  His Justice Department is going to investigate whether speculators are driving up the price of oil and therefore harming consumers.

Well, of course speculators are driving up the price of oil because they know more about how economics work than anybody in the Obama Administration.  They know that with the trillions of new dollars the Fed has pumped into the economy since 2007 oil prices which are priced in dollars are going to go up, probably way up.  They would not be bidding up the price of oil today if they believed that in the future they will not be able to find a buyer for their oil futures.   They are not causing harm to consumers.  Fed policy under Bernanke is the culprit, but the president seems clueless about this fact.  As general prices continue to rise because of Obama’s Keynesian policies, Americans will continue to lose hope that their lives are getting better.

Obama’s foreign policy is as abysmal as his economic policies.  During the 2008 campaign he promised “change that we can believe in”.  If by “change” Obama meant even more war than George Bush provided than he has fulfilled that campaign promise.  Since taking office Obama has not ended the U.S. occupation of Iraq.  He has increased troop levels in Afghanistan by about 30,000.  He has increased unmanned drone attacks over Pakistan killing innocent civilians and providing a recruitment tool for Al Qaeda.  He led the NATO invasion of Libya, which was supposed to be a “humanitarian” effort, but has quickly turned into a regime change operation.  Obama claimed he would not put boots on the ground in Libya and then it was reported that U.S. special operations forces had been on the ground in Benghazi for three weeks training the rebels.  Now, fighting between Qaddafi forces and the rebels is in stalemate and many analysts believe it will take a NATO invasion with ground troops to dislodge Qaddafi from power in Tripoli.  The president has put himself in a tough spot.  If his previous war-like tendencies are any indication, we can expect U.S./NATO troops to be fighting pro-Qaddafi forces in Libya soon.

Barack Obama’s first two years as president has been a catastrophe.  Unemployment and prices are up and we face a national calamity because of burgeoning debt at the state and federal levels.  He has increased not diminished our exposure to war by ramping up military attacks over Pakistan and leading the effort to overthrow Qaddafi in Libya.  These conflicts will only waste more money we don’t have and make us less safe.  Again, it should be asked, if Obama hopes to collect $1 billion in campaign contributions, where will it come from?  My best guess is Wall Street and the Military Industrial Complex.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina


Last Words Worth Acting Upon

December 29, 2010

Last words say a lot about the people who speak them.  Final utterances can range from regrets for a life not fully lived or satisfaction for a job well-done.  Some shed light on the true nature of the individual.  The consummate entrepreneur/entertainer P.T. Barnum’s last gasp asked, “How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?”  Comedian Lou Costello said, “That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted”, before breathing his last.

Sometimes last words are worth acting upon.  So are the last words of Richard Holbrooke, the American diplomat, who died in December.  Holbrooke was in the middle of a mission to pave the way for America’s military withdraw from Afghanistan when a torn aorta brought about his demise.  According to his family, just before being wheeled into surgery to attempt a repair to his heart, Holbrooke told his doctors, “You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan”.  Of course, within hours of his last words becoming public, official Washington rebutted Holbrooke’s deathbed request as mere “painful banter just before surgery.  In other words, he didn’t mean it – it was simply the words of a man who was out of his mind in pain.

Now, I would not be so arrogant as to interpret for the rest of us the meaning of Holbrooke’s last words.  I’ll leave that to the know-it-alls in our nation’s capital.  What is important is that Holbrooke’s final plea should be acted upon.    Clearly, nine years later fighting this protracted war in Afghanistan has apparently not made us any safer.  If it did we wouldn’t be constantly reminded by Uncle Sam that the next Al Qaeda attack is just around the corner.  We wouldn’t be told that full body scanners and sexual assaults by TSA agents at the airport are necessary to keep our airways safe.  Look, on my way back to the United States from Qatar for Christmas, my family and I had to endure additional security searches at the airport in Doha all because we were traveling directly to the U.S..  Travelers flying between other countries don’t have to submit to longer lines and more intimate searches of bags and person.  When we flew to Egypt and Jordan earlier in the year we were not subject to these added security measures.  Let’s consider that the difference is that our government is not doing enough to keep us safe – and that includes ending wars that produce resentment and hatred of Americans.

But, our Military Industrial Complex”, “Security” agencies, and their accompanying apparatchik are not interested in ending the wars.  They care nothing about getting at the root causes of terrorism.  All they want to do is continue to take our liberties away, deploy more agents of death on the ground and launch more weapons of human destruction in an effort to eradicate terrorism.  Take Homeland Security Advisory Board member Frances Townsend for instance.  When asked by Texas Congressman Ron Paul, “Why do they (terrorists) want to come after us?” on CNN’s Situation Room, Townsend abruptly answered, “I don’t really care why, if I am flying on a plane, I want to be safe.”  The problem is that folks like Townsend have it both ways.  They fly on airplanes safely and make a living out of scaring the rest of us, violating our constitutional rights, and perpetrating wars and imprisonments indefinitely.

And according to retired Admiral Dennis Blair and more recently President Obama, our detention of “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo Bay is a “rallying cry for terrorist recruitment”.  So, why don’t we expedite a solution to the problem of closing Guantanamo and take a bite out of terrorism?

The actions of the Homeland Security Industry are similar to those of the parent who repeatedly punishes their child for the same misbehavior without ever attempting to find out what is causing the misbehavior in the first place.  A reasonable parent would try to get at the root causes of the problem to save themselves and their child a lot of agony.

The problem is that Homeland Security is like every other federal agency that mooches off the federal treasury.  It receives ever larger budgets over its lifespan and never fulfills its mission.  Why should it?  Its gravy train would come to an end.

And that brings us back to the last words of Richard Holbrooke and the twisting of what he meant by official Washington.  Knowing that he faced the grim reaper, Holbrooke was likely expressing his true feelings that ending the war in Afghanistan would make America safer.  So the question is, who do we believe – an intelligent man with intimate knowledge of the issues who was on the brink of death or an industry that has a vested financial interest in the status quo?  I believe the former and that is why his last words are worth acting upon.

Article first published as Last Words Worth Acting Upon on Blogcritics.


Why the Constitution Matters in Military Affairs

April 18, 2010

Week after week it’s easy for me to blog with compelling arguments that most things Congress does is unconstitutional.  But, up until about two years ago with the advent of Ron Paul’s Freedom Revolution and last year’s birth of the Tea Partiers, most Americans would have said, so what if something is unconstitutional?  That document is outdated and irrelevant.  These are modern times with issues unimaginable to the Founders.  Nonsense, the eternal truths contained in the U.S. Constitution are as relevant today as they were in the 1700s.

Take making war for instance.  Article 1 Section 8 gives Congress, not the president, the power to declare war.  In that same section, Congress has the power to finance the endeavor.  Since the end of World War II, the clause pertaining to declaring war in the Constitution, like many others, has been almost totally ignored by both the Congress and president.  Additionally, Congress has rarely if ever invoked its power to restrain presidential power by controlling the purse strings of the military during times of war.  The consequences have been horrendous. 

In the 1960s and 1970s it led to an 11 year war in Southeast Asia.  Instead of a declaration of war the military action was justified on the basis of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution passed in 1964.  The resolution gave President Johnson the authorization to do whatever was necessary in order to assist “any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty.”   This vague and open ended wording led to much criticism of the president and his Secretary of Defense over how they conducted the war.  Specifically, President Nixon’s expanding of it to include the bombing of Cambodia made an already unpopular war almost an event that tore the country in two.  It also led to over 50,000 American and countless Southeast Asian lives being lost.  The conflict ended in defeat for the U.S. and spending for the war caused high inflation which hurt American households, facilitated our manufacturing base to move overseas, and eventually brought on problems like the Savings and Loan crisis.

In current times we find ourselves mired in two conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.  To be sure, Congress did not declare war in either circumstance.  For Afghanistan, it passed a resolution authorizing the president to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those whom he determined “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the September 11th attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups.  For Iraq, the resolution authorized the president to use the Armed Forces of the United States “as he determines to be necessary and appropriate” in order to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.”

It seems like Washington never learns from its mistakes.  Again, loosely worded resolutions instead of firm declarations with a narrow objective allowed President Bush to abuse his powers by spying on Americans, holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay indefinitely, and expand the bombing to include other countries other than Afghanistan and Iraq, namely Pakistan.  In addition to over 1 million Iraqi and Afghani deaths from the main theaters of war, 1 in 3 people killed in the expanded bombings of Pakistan have been civilians. 

Because Washington has not followed the eternal truth that war should be entered into and conducted carefully, our government is primarily responsible for the destabilization of the Middle East.   It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that because of the threats of invasion that came from the previous administration and with American military might all around it Iran is attempting to acquire nuclear weapons.  Even though Saddam was a vile and ruthless tyrant his Iraq acted as a counterweight to Iran.  Today, Iraq is in chaos and if U.S. forces do ever leave it will be ripe for a takeover by Islamic extremists.

A Republican Congress unfortunately did not deny George W. Bush the ability to launch an unjust war on Iraq based on lies, misinformation and his desire to avenge Saddam Hussein for allegedly sending a hit squad to assassinate his father.  One man made the decision to start the war in which Americans would die and hundreds of billions of dollars would be spent.  This was not the intent of the Founders who were wise enough to give the powers of declaring wars and financing them to the Congress.  The Founders gave them to Congress because it is a deliberative body that represents the many viewpoints of Americans.  These viewpoints, like in the enactment of laws, place a check and balance on the solitary power of the president.  Congress has abdicated this constitutional power and consequently has propped up an imperial presidency – something the Founders, other than Hamilton and Adams, would have vehemently rebelled against.

In 2006 the Democrats took back control of Congress with a pledge to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  For a time there was hope that they would restore the constitutional balance of power in war making. They simply could have done this by cutting funding for the wars.  But instead, Congress continues to finance the wars and in fact has gone along with President Obama’s wishes to continue funding bombings in Pakistan and to escalate the war in Afghanistan – so much for the hope that Congress would exert control over the powers granted to it and rein in the powers usurped by the president.

Wars are costly both in terms of human life and monetary expense.  Unless an attack on U.S. soil is imminent, Congress must retain its constitutional power to declare war and use its authority over funding it to limit the president’s actions.  By not following these constitutional mandates we have become a militaristic society almost constantly at war in adventures far beyond what the Founders envisioned.  This has caused a drain on our families, our finances, and our country’s reputation in the world.  Fortunately, many Americans are finally waking up to this reality.