Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

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OBAMA AND SYRIA

September 11, 2013

I woke up this morning thinking…why am I still conflicted on Syria; why can’t I seem to be as strongly  “YES”  or “NO”  as everyone around me?  I made my coffee, unfolded the paper, and read the headline ”Obama Backs Diplomacy; Keeps Strikes as Option”  and decided….I need to sort this out in my own mind – everyone else I know has.

Who is the man named Barak Obama?

Obama is anti-war in general; as a senator, he voted NO to the Iraq War…one of the few at the time that, like me, was not drawn into the neo-con nonsense.  I had watched 7.5 months of the Bush campaign and preparations to go to war against Iraq that started the day he was inaugurated; and I was leery.  I believed then, and I still believe, that the Neo-Cons manipulated Little George into a position of war to show up his father and finish a job that George Sr. did not finish.  And then 9-11 happened; masterminded by a man NOT from Afghanistan; but by a man that  took refuge there; so despite the fact history had just shown us the difficulty of winning a war in Afghanistan-based on the Russians then recent long attempt- we went to war without Congressional approval…..a war that is 12 years old and still continues.    So yes, Obama voting no to war was a good signal to me.

Obama was concerned about the Syrian civil war but clearly drew the line on entering a war and putting Americans at risk.  The US offered aid when it could be assured that aid would not end up in Al Qaida hands.

 Of course, that put Republicans against him; united in the belief that he is weak in foreign policy…because it does not follow the bluster of the second half of the 20th century; but then, SO FAR, it has not yielded wars that drag on and on and on…think Viet Nam; Afghanistan; and Iraq.

Most Americans were relieved we were not jumping in; many of us were still troubled that through the longest war since Viet Nam, the Bush Administration had given NO THOUGHT to what war in the 21st century would be like….NO THOUGHT to the kinds of injuries that would be incurred; NO THOUGHT to increasing veteran services to accommodate returning wounded soldiers – both physically and mentally.

All that was left to Obama; along with the slow process of ending the Iraqi War, working through a plan to extract us SOMETIME soon from Afghanistan; and trying to play “catch-up” with getting help for all the GIs that followed the Bush command to go to war. And let’s not forget to add to the list that in 2006, the Bush Administration started stockpiling cause and money to extend our wars in the Middle East to include Syria as well…Had McCain won the Presidential election in 2008, I have no doubt we’d be in the thick of that war as well – with similar disastrous results.  Fortunately Obama won.

Seriously, folks, do you really think what he inherited made him a war-monger?  Come on; get real!

Take a deep breath and think of the timeline.  The most recent chemical bombings happened on August 21 and were well-documented.

For some amount of time the battle of what to do raged inside the White House.  How many times did we hear Obama say “I’m still undecided”; and how many times did you hear the Press criticize him for that?  How many times did you hear your favorite commentator say:

“He’s ready to bomb; can’t he just wait for the UN inspectors to get out?”

or

“What is he waiting for?  The battle ships are in place.  If he doesn’t do it this weekend, we will lose the advantage of surprise?

Really folks, do you REALLY think anyone interested in the world wasn’t listening in on your constant evaluations?  Even in pre-WWII days, the world knew a debate was happening in the US so you can be sure, the world was tuned in to the blathering Press this time around.  But maybe the blathering  gave good coverage for the President to work through the possible action steps.

Nevertheless, through all that, I was hesitant and confused.

  •        I voted for Obama twice because he thought differently than our 20th century leaders.
  •         He was a man that believed leadership was reaching consensus through discussion-not unilateral decisions based on “power”.
  •          He filled his Cabinet and advisory positions with a mixture of folks- both Republican and Democrats that were experts on the task     at hand.
  •          I voted for him as the best representative of an emerging USA of the future.  For me that meant:

 

    1.    No ingrained philosophies of the good old boys; he was an independent thinker
    2.    A strong belief in consensus building through collaboration-something I know from experience on a smaller scale yields GREAT results, but is very “messy along the way
    3.    A first step in US leadership that reflects the USA of 2040 – multiculturalism
    4.    He was not an “angry old bird” from my generation trying to protect a myth that those of us who came into adulthood by 1970 “KNOW BEST”

So in spite of doubts, I reminded myself to watch the signals- he was doing exactly what I should expect.  He was preparing for retaliation, but he was struggling- as war goes against everything he believes in, and he was sharing that with the American people.  Over and over, he said he was undecided.

This brings us to the weekend before the G20.  The Press had already decided war was beginning that weekend as he had to do it before he left for Europe.  What?  Would any responsible President start a war on Sunday and leave for Europe the following week?   Well, obviously had the Press been in charge, we would have been foolish enough to do so.

Remember Andrea Mitchell bitching about the cost of repositioning the warships if they were not going to be used, and What was he doing playing golf on Friday with a war starting the next day or so?!!!

So that weekend, I went back to the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize and the discussion of “Just Wars”.  I read again the yeahs and nays and was reminded once again why I voted for Obama twice.

He is not a man of the world in which I was born, grew up, and formed my beliefs.  He’s a man suited to leading us in small steps to a better world of the 21st century.

I will not always agree; I do not have the same perspective.

But I believe his hesitancy was real; his actions were based on assessment of divided views within his advisory groups; and that it was well worth the delay that weekend to give diplomacy one more chance to work as he put a hold on action and tried one last time to work out an equitable plan with Putin at the G20, while Kerry continued discussions with his own Russian counterpart.

Personally, I think they fooled the Press…one more time…and now we have a reprieve-short as that may be.

Of course the naysayers and the Press will continue to shout WRONG – the wires were burning with Andrea Mitchell’s attempt just this noon.  She even did a whole segment on Nancy Reagan running the government as she questioned why Obama mentioned Michelle.

 No Andrea, I think most of country heard him say:  This is really hard and I know most people do not want war – I do not want war; Michelle does not want war.  THAT is totally different than the spin you are putting on things because of your own personal opinion…and forever more, I will think less of you for your presumption that as a reporter you know more than the President of the United States.

But as I look at what’s unfolded and how…I’d say one more time, his country underestimated a man of the 21st century.   As we continue to judge him against old standards that obviously did not quite make our world a better place for all.  Today’s 12th anniversary of 9-11 is certainly a testament to that as are the resulting wars that still continue with or without us in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the incredible debt piled up for starting  and paying for those wars on a credit card.

Obama is the first to try to blaze this new trail into a whole new world where no precedents have been set and for which there is no tested playbook.  Will he be right all the time?  Probably not, but will he have done a better job than all the Angry Old Birds including McCain and Andrea Mitchell?

I think so; so I’m sticking with him.

 

 

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A BEAUTIFUL SATURDAY…clouded with some disturbing thoughts:

August 10, 2013

KATHERINE KERSTEN; REVISITED

On July 22, I shared my views of Katherine Kersten’s column in the STRIB regarding the Metropolitan Council and her misguided fantasy of the EVIL lurking in any thought of a regional perspective.

On August 9, I thanked Paul Slack, a local pastor and leader of a group of churches for his comments and for his support of the Met Council in view of Kersten’s editorial.

Today, August 10, an employee of Carmichael Lynch shared his (excellent) perspective on the Met Council as he, too, pointed out the numerous flaws in Kersten’s rationale.

Three different perspectives from three different entities – an individual, a church organization, and a successful business organization- all refute Kersten’s point of view. 

And for that, I feel exonerated! 

Now what do we do about her and the misconstrued and often incorrect “factoids” she spews forth that poison any good conversation on any issue that can only be resolved by openness, listening and coming together of differing perspectives for the common good?

Her continual one-sided insular perspectives often tempt me to respond to her in kind…and that makes me so angry with myself…I have higher expectations of myself than to allow myself to be pulled down into the muck of her self-righteousness unless I remain consistently “On Guard”.  Any good ideas that will stop her in her tracks, pass them on!

CLIMATE CHANGE UPDATE

Four former REPUBLICAN heads of the Environmental Protection Agency – all serving past Republican presidents over the last 40 years  (1970 to 2003) are appealing to their Republican Party to accept Climate Change.

“Obama’s plan is just a start.  More will be required.  But we must continue efforts to reduce the climate-altering pollutants that threaten our planet.  The only uncertainty about our warming world is how bad the changes will get, and how soon.  What is most clear is that there is no time to waste.”

What are the odds, do you think, that this will make any impact on the naysayers?  Unfortunately, I am afraid they are all too busy studying the new (and official) Republican Congressional Recess  script of where to pose for pictures, when to wear a hardhat and which button to push in their brain to generate which allowed response to constituents.

 THE STEPFORD MEN are” FIGHTING WASHINGTON FOR ALL AMERICANS”

Look it up, it is called “Fighting Washington for All Americans” advisory kit…basically a primer their leaders thought they should have for getting good publicity on break….as well as where and when to allow press to cover what they are doing.

You’ll be surprised at how much advice Republican representatives in the House are getting of how little they should do in public and how much should be done in private – away from their constituents and the general public’s eyes.

So let’s make this a new game for August. Instead of tracking the Press Sightings of the President and his family on vacation, let’s keep an eye on our own Congressional Representatives right here in Minnesota.

 Let’s start at the State Fair.  When you go, count how many times you hear “Every day I serve in Congress, I work to fight Washington.”    That is the suggested slogan for the month of August, by the way.  So, call them out.  Ask them if they can share something original that means something to them personally.  Ask them for specific examples of what they have done or accomplished; ask them to name the successes and the legislation passed to support it.   If you prefer not to challenge them in person, send a note to their local office.  Tell them they were “hired” by the people to represent them, not to represent the Republican publicists.  Share your actions on line and share any responses on line.

Every time you see the phrase “Every day I serve in Congress, I work to fight Washington” on Facebook, Twitter, or your own favorite social media tool; respond the same way. Challenge them!

Every time you see some footage on your favorite TV station and hear “Every day I serve in Congress, Iwork to fight Washington”- call them on it.  Ask them to site examples of how they are doing that; ask them for results they can share; leave the comment on the station’s online page or pages. 

Let’s not let them get away with this manipulation carefully engineered by the Republican Party publicists to cover up the DO NOTHIING Congress that trumps all DO NOTHINGS in US history! 

They’ve returned to their districts pretty cocky; assured by their party, they will recover by repeating the slogan often enough that the American people will buy into believing that “Washington” means Democrats and Obama not Congress and the Administration.  I am, and YOU ARE smarter than that;  and we have a right to expect more.  Call them on it.  Do not let them shift the blame…focus it right back where it belongs on the Republican-led House of Representatives.

A FINAL THOUGHT OF THE MORNING

This morning, an unruly thought jumped back into my brain…and try as I might, I have not been able to banish it to the “I forgot” bin that things I WANT to remember tend to get lost in.

Why was it ok in 2001 for a Republican president with that stunned look still on his face to start a 12 year+ war against Afghanistan because they granted  asylum to an enemy of the US; thereby multiplying the tragedy of 3000 persons who initially died to some gargantuan number -still not capped off -of additional Americans, friends of America,  Afghans and innocent bystanders …and yet it is not okay for a Democratic President to merely verbally challenge Russia and cancel his planned Summit meeting with Putin for providing a safe harbor for Snowden?

Those of you that cheered as we blundered into Afghanistan are the same ones muttering Obama has set back the progress made with Russia and he should have restrained himself.  Excuse me?

We should not forget, folks, that Afghanistan did not attack the World Trade Center – Osama bin Laden, whose family roots were Yemen with ties to the Saudis, was the culprit. He just went to Afghanistan to hide.

Snowden, on the other hand, whom our federal government has determined was a traitor – no matter what your personal beliefs are on whistleblower vs. traitor-has been granted asylum.  Despite the fact that I think that is pretty good punishment in itself-let’s not kid ourselves that he will stay there or not be heard from again.  

 I am all for a well-thought out careful approach to show our displeasure for the interference.  At least Obama did not send planes and ships of Americans off to die  in a no-win situation from which we still cannot extract ourselves.

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July 23, 2013

A TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY PRESIDENT

For some time now, America has been very critical of Obama for one reason or another.  He is either not going to war and killing people like the Republicans want; or not handling things the way Democrats want-based at least on what Democrats who came before him have done.

And over and over, I question – is that a bad thing?  I was comfortable that he was not predictable; he did not tout party lines but thought in terms of what is best for each individual situation.  Nevertheless, the continual outcries sometimes made me doubt because I certainly seemed to be in the minority!  But I continued to listen, understand, and support his reasoning for any given action… despite thinking  perhaps I was out of step with America.

And then, Steve Chapman’s column this morning entitled “If Obama is a wimp, hail to the wimp” gave me hope.  Finally, a columnist who succinctly and honestly assessed each situation in question and told it like it is – as it relates to Obama and his foreign policy in Egypt…Syria…and, Afghanistan.

“None of these situations is working out in a way that is pleasing to us.  So it must be his responsibility to fix them, right?”

“Well, no.  The beginning of wisdom about the international realm is that those are not our countries.  We don’t have the responsibility to dictate what direction they take and we don’t have the means to impose our preferences.  When we get deeply involved, we’re apt to produce results very different from what we hope…the path to wise policy does not run through a field of daisies.”

So to all the naysayers – Stop and think for a minute folks!  Almost half our country thinks our OWN government which was elected by the majority of us has no right to tell us as individual citizens what to do.  Think of the outcries we’d voice if China – disagreeing with the way we operate as a country, dropped in, took charge, and dictated what we do. 

We would not like it one bit; so why do we think citizens of other countries would welcome manipulation and interference from us- whom they often see as the “Ugly American”?  To think differently brings to mind the term “hubris” a trait that always creates conflicts!

Look at the three examples in Egypt, Syria, and Afghanistan and tell me why one size fits all and US interference is the “size” they all should buy!

From my persective, Obama has looked at each unique situation carefully, getting input from all sides before he wades in, then makes a unique decision best suited for that situation.

Is it consistent?  If you mean the same proposed solution over and over whether it will yield results or not – no, it is not consistent.  If you think consistent is spelled WAR as the last adminsitration did, then no, it is not consistent.  If you think, yes the process is the same:  he looks at each instance as unique, follows the same process to get input and then determines the best option for that situation… then, YES, he is consistent.

And I am especially happy that he is not consistently applying a favorite outdated 20th century single solution to  every circumstance.  What he has done is what he TOLD us he would do when he ran for President.  That is what gave me and a lot of other people hope; and that is why he was elected –a new way of thinking for new situations in a new time.

As Steve Chapman said so well this morning:

“For now, at least, Obama is carrrying out a foreign policy that errs on the side of caution, patience, restraint and economy.  As for the critics, you know what?  We tried their way.”

RIGHT ON, STEVE (and Obama)…I’M WITH YOU ON THAT THOUGHT FOR SURE!

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RAMBLINGS ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON – PART 2

July 29, 2012

THANK YOU AMBASSADOR RYAN CROCKER

Sorry to see this man retire!

I first heard the name a decade ago when Bush and the neo-cons were hatching their Iraq War Plans/  Crocker was co-author of “The Perfect Storm” – a memorandum defining risk of a U.S. Invasion of Iraq.  Yes, the ignored analysis that predicted accurately the disintegration of Iraqi society that did, indeed, take place!

Five years later, the Bushies with no other option, had to call on him for help to “fix the deadly situation.”

As ambassador, first in Iraq and then in Afghanistan, he worked to build trust with local leaders, understood intimidation would not work, and showed compassion towards the ordinary citizens caught in the life-threatening and political power struggles.  That was a rarity for Bush and Neo-cons –which  I repeatedly point out is reflected when we recite the cost of war and only mention deaths of AMERICAN soldiers, and not who we killed, or were killed by others because of our presence.

He suggests we need to learn the lessons of our recent past as we weigh military options for the future- including plans for Syria and Iran.

We’re a superpower, we don’t fight on our territory, but that means you are in somebody else’s stadium, playing by somebody else’s ground rules, and you have to understand the environment, the history, the politics of the country you wish to intervene in.

Good advice.  I THINK Obama gets this; I KNOW the neo-cons advising Romney do not.  And where those that support Romney stand, I have no idea.

In any case, I think it worthwhile to repeat three thoughts from Crocker as found in the Strib:

  1.        Remember the law of unintended consequences
  2.        Recognize the limits of the United States actual capabilities
  3.        Understand getting out of a conflict once you are in can often be dangerous and as destructive for the country as the original conflict.

And to those I would add: If you don’t have money to pay for it, you can’t just charge ten plus years of war, residual damage, and long-term impacts on the US soldiers and families involved to your successor. 

You fooled us once…I hope we learned not to trust you again.