Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Michael Steele is Half Right

First things first, Michael Steele is a fool. There's no two ways about it, the guy lives to put his foot in his mouth. His most recent series of gaffes occurred in Connecticut when he was speaking at a Republican Party fundraiser. He called the war in Afghanistan a "war of Obama's choosing." He said the McChrystal resignation was "comical." He stated that the war was not "something the United States had actively prosecuted or engaged in." In short, Michael Steele has selective amnesia, because everything that he said goes against the past decade of history.

Obama chose the war in Afghanistan like Mets fans have chosen their team: he's been handed a disastrous undertaking and is trying to make the best of it. While the argument can be made that since Obama has changed the war strategy in Afghanistan that it is "his war," the fact of the matter is that he did not choose to go into Afghanistan in the first place.

But for all of Steele's short-term memory loss, he has one thing right in his misguided tirade. He told the group of people he was ranting to:
"Well, if he [Obama] is such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that's the one thing you don't do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? All right, because everyone who has tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed. And there are reasons for that."
Steele's right when it comes to Afghanistan's past history as a massive roadblock for conquering armies. Infamously effective armies such as the Islamic army of the 7th century, the Mongols of the 13th and 14th centuries, and the Persians of the 18th century all were unable to control the entirety of Afghanistan at any one time, and their reign in the country was short lived. I've already discussed the Soviet-Afghan War at length.

From my memory, the point of invading Afghanistan was to unseat the Taliban government and capture Bin Laden. We've unseated the Taliban from Kabul, but, as history will tell us, controlling Kabul is not the same as controlling Afghanistan. We let Bin Laden slip right through our fingers at Tora Bora. So we have yet to accomplish either goal in Afghanistan. But the problem is we're there, and we cannot simply neglect it like we did after the Soviet-Afghan War, because then groups like Al Qaida have a safe haven and unlimited funds from their narcotics activities. The United States will be in this country for many years to come, especially since the discovery of massive amounts of mineral deposits in the region (including the world's largest deposit of lithium, the mineral used to create batteries for electric cars).

So Michael Steele is wrong about a lot of things, but his idiocy and verbal diarrhea had one benefit: it got the nation to have another conversation about Afghanistan. Neither the Bush Administration nor the Obama Administration has really defined what "victory" is in Iraq or Afghanistan. History has shown that Afghanistan is a quagmire incarnate. I'd like a clear picture of what is going on in Afghanistan, as well as tangible goals that the administration feels it can meet by year's end. Barring this type of clear information from the current administration, it seems that we're all just talking out of our ass like Michael Steele.

Photo - Michael Steele (Talking Points Memo)

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