I saw this the other day, and waited for it to get picked up and commented on. It wasn’t, so I’ll raise it here.
Today a cohort of progressive bloggers unveils a new effort against the planned 20,000-troop increase of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. A website called GetAfghanistanRight, set up by bloggers at the Seminal and Brave New Films – and with the support of Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel – went live today, with the intent of blogging about the morass in Afghanistan this week.
Its mission statement:
We oppose military escalation in Afghanistan and support non-military solutions to the conflict.
This was probably inevitable, for two reasons.
First, the actual strategy employed in Afghanistan is rather murky – as Gen. Petraeus’ remarks to the U.S. Institute of Peace on Thursday indicate – and, pending some strategy review from the Obama administration and U.S. Central Command, it’s by no means clear why sending additional troops stands a greater chance of yielding success. For that matter: what is success in Afghanistan? The fact that there isn’t an obvious answer is a sure indication of policy drift. This is something that isn’t just a matter of concern for bloggers. Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Penn.) has been warning about the dangers of a military-only escalation, as has Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.).
I’m shocked, just shocked to discover that antiwar people are – you know – antiwar, no matter what. But that wasn’t the most interesting part.
Second, for at least four years, there’s been something of a dodge taken by liberals when discussing Afghanistan. To speak broadly, liberals have endlessly invoked the mantra that the real center of the war on terrorism is in Afghanistan, rather than in Iraq. But that’s been a statement about Iraq, rather than Afghanistan. To put it a different way, liberals, I think it’s fair to say, have discussed Afghanistan not on its own terms, but as a cudgel against the Iraq war. That’s by no means monolithic. A bunch of progressives – the Democracy Arsenal crew, Matt Yglesias, I daresay myself – have written about Afghanistan (TWI sent me there last year) from that perspective of first-order-national security importance. But lots of us have been content to take the safe position of rallying to the more-popular cause of the Afghanistan war as a way of insulating ourselves to charges of excessive dovishness for opposing the Iraq war. Well, as he’s said all along, Barack Obama will be calling that bluff.
I don’t have time to go search for cites, but pro-war bloggers (like me) have been making charges like this for quite some time. I think it’s interesting to hear a progblogger like Ackerman acknowledge the claim.
It’s a serious claim, for two reasons; first because if the anti-Iraq war commentariat has been lying about their positions – beefing up their hawkish credentials by talking tough on Afghanistan while pushing hard for folding our hand in Iraq – it’s something they should be called on (note that Ackerman calls out people who he specifically insulates from that charge – himself, Yglesias, and the folks from Democracy Arsenal). Second, because it’s kind of important that Obama not take or withhold military action in Afghanistan for domestic political purposes; I don’t want our kids sent somewhere (or not sent somewhere) primarily to make domestic political points; it needs to be about achieving our foreign policy goals.
There’s a fine, but important difference between the two – and it’s one that I sincerely hope Obama keeps in the front of his mind. Let’s keep an eye on that, OK?