September 16, 2008

Will Obama Honor His Commitment to the Af-Pak War? Will We?

As I write this I'm IM-ing Michael Yon on the far side of the world, and the Iraq War's most experienced embedded combat journalist is frustrated with the lack of interest in the Afghanistan-Pakistan War. Yon's Death in the Corn, Part 1 is a riveting story in a war the mainstream media has largely abandoned in order to cover far more pressing issues, such as developing new smears to float against Sarah Palin in a desperate attempt to extend the expiration date of Tina Fey's career on Saturday Night Live.

Yon's current series of combat dispatches from inside C- Company 2 Para of the British Army in Afghanistan's Helmand Province alludes to near constant war with the Taliban, but the reader interest simply doesn't seem to be there.

Ironically, the same media that tried to subvert the war in Iraq with a flood of biased reporting is far more effectively neutering support for the campaign against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan through negligence and indifference.

Americans will support our soldiers when they can see what they are fighting for. Americans must be able to empathize with our soldiers, and those they would set free. That is the reason Yon's iconic photograph of the Iraq war, of Major Mark Bieger cradling an Iraqi girl named Farah as he rushed to get her aid when she was mortally wounded by an car bomb, mattered so much. It proved that humanizing element. But even as powerful as his photos are, and as compelling as his writing is, Yon cannot carry the coverage of the Af-Pak War on alone.

And the Af-Pak War promises to get far worse before it gets better.

Al Qaeda and the Taliban have been using the tribal regions of Pakistan along the Afghan border as a sanctuary with the blessing and support of the ISI, Pakistan's most powerful intelligence service. President Bush, frustrated by the refusal of the Pakistani government to more actively act as an ally against al Qaeda and the Taliban, secretly authorized cross-border special forces raids, the authorization of which was of course loudly trumpeted in pages of the New York Times.

As a result, an embarrassed Pakistani military was compelled to announce they would fire on U.S. forces if they crossed the border. Allies? Perhaps we never really were, though we certainly liked to pretend that it were so. That illusion now seems to be falling away.

Interestingly, Pakistan's involvement, and the need to take the fight into the tribal regions, may have been one of the things that Barack Obama's army of 300 policy advisers got right, and as Chrstopher Hitchen's notes, may lead a much more involved and bloody war.

Sen. Barack Obama has, if anything, been the more militant of the two presidential candidates in stressing the danger here and the need to act without too much sentiment about our so-called Islamabad ally. He began using this rhetoric when it was much simpler to counterpose the "good" war in Afghanistan with the "bad" one in Iraq. Never mind that now; he is committed in advance to a serious projection of American power into the heartland of our deadliest enemy. And that, I think, is another reason why so many people are reluctant to employ truthful descriptions for the emerging Afghan-Pakistan confrontation: American liberals can't quite face the fact that if their man does win in November, and if he has meant a single serious word he's ever said, it means more war, and more bitter and protracted war at thatónot less.

Two-important questions are raised by Hitchens' article.

  • Will Republican Presidential candidate John McCain adopt Obama's more muscular approach in dealing with Pakistan's support of the Taliban if elected?
  • Will Barack Obama have the mettle for a rare and prolonged break with his base and the Democratic Party he has voted with 96-percent of the time if elected, to fight the war he argues must be fought?

If McCain adopts a more muscular support, his track records suggests that he is willing to shoulder the burden of being unpopular, if it means seeing the war through to victory.

Barack Obama? He's never had to stand on his own before, and I'm not sure he's even tried.

If he is elected, and rises to the challenge of his rhetoric, I suspect he'll be as surprised as the rest of us.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at September 16, 2008 10:11 AM

Maybe Michael Yon could take another iconic photograph of an American soldier cradling a dying Afghan child.

Only thing is, the child is probably dying because of an American missile or bomb strike, launched from many miles away in this heroic war.

Posted by: Suilamhain the Observant at September 16, 2008 10:38 AM

Realy, Mr. Observant? What group of religious practitioners has killed more muslims than any other in the entire history of the world?

Answer: muslims.

Enjoy your Kool-aide.

Posted by: Mark at September 16, 2008 01:33 PM

Not very observant,

I'm not seeing what's wrong with using technology to fight the war harder and more focused on the enemy. If you have a method of fighting the Taliban (remember, this is AFGHANISTAN), I'm sure the military would like to hear it. If you don't, then kindly put a sock in it and appreciate the fact that life is not perfect. If you want to fight the bastards behind 9/11, sometimes innocents will die.

Posted by: OmegaPaladin at September 17, 2008 01:17 AM

Another leak to the media. Where does it say in the constitution that the nation needs to know every strategy the Administration is using to fight a war.

The Pakistanis knew about the cross border raids. This was not a problem until the Bush authorization bcae public. Then they had to declare they would fight the US if our forces crossed th border.

Posted by: davod at September 17, 2008 07:50 AM

Guys, no point giving me flak over this, it's the Afghan people you have to persuade. They are the ones who are suffering form all this "collateral damage". They are the ones who are turning away from the government who promised them a better life, and turning back to the Taliban.

Gates is right now over apologizing and promising the US will do a better job in future and not kill so many civilians.

Maybe if you were willing to go in on the ground and fight these people, there would not be so many mistakes. You would still have the advantage of devastating firepower, targeting, and superior training. But of course some of your guys might get killed.

I'm not saying that US soldiers arent willing to do this. But its patently obvious that the US people as a whole is not willing to stomach the casualties.

So the Afghan civilians will continue to die...

Posted by: Suilamhain the Observant at September 17, 2008 08:05 AM