NY Times columnist Bob Herbert has begun to emerge from the euphoria common to Obama supporters since the president-elect first announced his candidacy by declaring himself the reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln from the steps of the old capital building in Springfield, Ill.
In today’s op-ed Herbert offers a sober critique of Obama’s campaign promise of a military surge in Afghanistan and explains how it might easily become Obama’s war. Herbert writes:
“The economy is obviously issue No. 1 as Barack Obama prepares to take over the presidency. He’s charged with no less a task than pulling the country out of a brutal recession. If the worst-case scenarios materialize, his job will be to stave off a depression.
“That’s enough to keep any president pretty well occupied. What Mr. Obama doesn’t need, and what the U.S. cannot under any circumstances afford, is any more unnecessary warfare. And yet, while we haven’t even figured out how to extricate ourselves from the disaster in Iraq, Mr. Obama is planning to commit thousands of additional American troops to the war in Afghanistan, which is already more than seven years old and which long ago turned into a quagmire.”
Herbert cites other sources in Times and Newsweek to make the point that escalating the war in Afghanistan forces radical Islamists over the border into Pakistan threatening to destabilize that nuclear-armed nation.
“Our interest in Afghanistan is to prevent it from becoming a haven for terrorists bent on attacking us. That does not require the scale of military operations that the incoming administration is contemplating. It does not require a wholesale occupation. It does not require the endless funneling of human treasure and countless billions of taxpayer dollars to the Afghan government at the expense of rebuilding the United States, which is falling apart before our very eyes.”
Noting the corruption of the Afghanistan government including President Karzai, Herbert maintains:
“If Mr. Obama does send more troops to Afghanistan, he should go on television and tell the American people, in the clearest possible language, what he is trying to achieve. He should spell out the mission’s goals, and lay out an exit strategy.
“He will owe that to the public because he will own the conflict at that point. It will be Barack Obama’s war.”