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Afghan Credit

In commenting on the post below regarding Afghan elections, a lot of folks on the right are upset that I'm not giving credit to the Bush administration whose decision to invade the country is, of course, what set the stage for the upcoming vote. Well, sure. But how much credit are they supposed to get for this? Bush -- despite his bizarre efforts over the past six months to pretend otherwise -- didn't invade Afghanistan in order to end the Taliban's dictatorship. He did it to get Osama bin Laden. That's while, as you'll recall, he was willing to not invade if the Talbian would hand OBL over. That's also why, coincidentally enough, planning for invasion started right after September 11, 2001 a date on which some kind of noteworthy event took place in New York City. But of course Bush didn't capture OBL (or Mullah Omar) and hasn't yet smashed the Taliban. Nor has he followed through on his pre-war promise of a "Marshall Plan for Afghanistan." Nor has he invested substantial US forces in providing security and stability to Afghanistan. Instead of doing any of those things he invaded Iraq. He did this, or so he said, because there was a strong chance that if he didn't Saddam Hussein would give al-Qaeda a nuclear bomb that they would use against the United States. That was bullshit.

September 30, 2004 | Permalink


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Bush invaded Afghanistan to (i) rout the Al-Qaeda training camp that had established itself in the country; (ii) make an example of the Taliban regime by showing the fate that awaits "states that harbor terrorists." Getting one single man, Osama bin Laden, would have been frosting on the cake and a nice PR success, but was hardly the main motivation.

And Bush's claim that he would not invade if the Taliban "handed over Osama" was BS of the same sort as his claim that Iraq could avoid invasion if they "disarmed". It was just a phony ultimatum to give him the political cover of having offered them a way out. There simply was no physical way the Taliban could "hand over" OBL, since they didn't have the ability to raid that camp and grab him with 200 followers protecting him. And there was no way that Saddam could have rid himself of weapons he didn't have.

Posted by: Dan Kervick | Sep 30, 2004 3:55:44 PM

But highly sculpted and brilliantly polished bullshit, like a platter of gourmet cuisine gulped to adoring mmmm-mmmms by half the country.

Posted by: Meteor Blades | Sep 30, 2004 4:06:02 PM

The Taliban doesn't exist.

Ignore the killings, and the negotiations.

And the chaos. And heroin production (funding the terrorists). Etc.

Posted by: MattB | Sep 30, 2004 4:09:27 PM

Neocons haven't been as involved in the Afghan reconstruction. I wonder if that explains the relatively positive results there (at least in comparison to Iraq), even in the face of massive underspending.

Posted by: JP | Sep 30, 2004 4:24:49 PM

JP I was just thinking that. Maybe because Bush didn't send a bunch of incompetent political hacks and cronys over to Afganinstan to run things, that's why it's better off relative to Iraq.

Posted by: Brian | Sep 30, 2004 4:34:18 PM

"That's also why, coincidentally enough, planning for invasion started right after September 11, 2001 a date on which some kind of noteworthy event took place in New York City."

That was the date when Saddam used his prohibited ballistic missiles to launch an attack on NYC, Washington, and Western Pennsylvania, right?

Or am I confused somehow?

Posted by: Petey | Sep 30, 2004 4:51:56 PM

Matt - you left out one thing. Invading Afghanistan was not exactly an original idea that Bush came up with. I seem to recall a few other people being eager to go to war with the people who attacked us.

Posted by: Blar | Sep 30, 2004 5:39:51 PM

"Getting one single man, Osama bin Laden, would have been frosting on the cake and a nice PR success, but was hardly the main motivation."

That is a rather strange point of view.

Let's look at the facts.

The ultimate mastermind and ideological lodestar of the 9/11 attacks was ... Osama Bin Laden.

The most popular figure in the Arab world is ... Osama Bin Laden.

The man leading the most dangerous terrorist organization in history is ... Osama Bin Laden.

Sounds pretty important to me. In fact, I'd say that getting Bin Laden was the main motivation for attacking Afghanistan.

Posted by: praktike | Sep 30, 2004 5:49:22 PM

Last week Michael Carnahan, a senior advisor to Afghanistan's Finance Minister, was on campus talking about his hopes for reconstruction there. He said one advantage Afghanistan had over Iraq was that it was less salient in global politics, so no one over-reacted to situations best left alone and the technocrats could manage to the best of their ability unhindered. (far from his exact wording, but true to the spirit of it)

Posted by: Brian Ulrich | Sep 30, 2004 5:57:04 PM

That makes sense to me. Also, unlike Iraq, which has a set of ethnic tensions that were brutally suppressed and have now begun boiling, Afghanistan seems to be genuinely weary of war. Finally, since American soldiers are not keeping the peace in most of the country (which has its downsides), the hand of the occupation is not felt nearly as heavily. Afghans may be frustrated and/or enraged with their local government, but their ire is directed at their fellow Afghans, not the US.

Posted by: Kimmitt | Sep 30, 2004 6:00:12 PM

Bush lied, people died. Sing it brother. Your mind reading abilities are amazing. Much better than your journalist abilities and your abilities to analyze things rationally or coherently.

You are a smart guy. Why do you have to foul it all up by falling into the Michael Moore trap? Because we've never found WMDs that must mean Bush was lying. Yeah those Islamic fascists would never think of giving weapons to other comrades in arms. That's just not going to happen. And I've got a nice bridge for you in Brooklyn.

And since you know where Osama is hiding (and that he is alive) something none of us knowns, except maybe for Teresa, why don't you let the rest of us know.

Matt, you become more tedious by the minute.

Posted by: Cheeky Lawyer | Sep 30, 2004 6:06:14 PM

"Matt, you become more tedious by the minute."

Cheeky, I'm no liberal, and I've got a knee-jerk distrust of criticism of our motives in Afghanistan...

But all that aside: shut it.

If Matt is becoming "more tedious," what the f*ck are you doing reading this site in the first place? If you're a lawyer, surely you can find the sites more likely to be a better use of your time?

Didn't your mother teach you, "If you can't say something nice (or useful), stay the hell out of the comments section?"

Me, I agree with Matt sometimes. More often I disagree. If I was writing some of his posts, I'd probably try to take a different... tone. But I read the site, and think about what he says, to remind myself.. "I could be wrong."

But, no matter my complaints ... it's his g*dd*mn blog! He can write what he wants! No one is forcing you to read it! If you don't like it, take your rude-ass back to LGF, or Belmont Club, or wherever you came from!

Posted by: YAL021C | Sep 30, 2004 6:17:31 PM

Cheeky Lawyer:

Osama bin Laden was operating his terror network when Clinton was around defending himself from Republican attacks on his sex life, too. The difference is that few Americans died from terrorists under Clinton, and more than 4,000 have died under Bush. I know facts don't mean much to Bush's true believers, but they do to most of us.

Fact: we were safer under Clinton from terrorists than under Bush. Before and after 9/11. And your point was? Teresa Heinz Teresa Heinz Teresa Heinz Michael Moore Michael Moore Michael Moore.

Yeah, Matt's getting tedious.

Posted by: epistemology | Sep 30, 2004 6:20:28 PM

Cheeky Lawyer: "And since you know where Osama is hiding (and that he is alive)..."

Matt did not make this claim. You are wrong.

Posted by: fnook | Sep 30, 2004 6:36:24 PM

"Getting one single man, Osama bin Laden, would have been frosting on the cake and a nice PR success, but was hardly the main motivation."

Isn't that kinda like saying that the capture, conviction and imprisonment of, oh let us say, Charlie Manson, mastermind of the Tate/LaBianca massacre, is just 'icing on the cake and a nice PR success'?

I always thought it was justice.

Posted by: ken | Sep 30, 2004 7:06:57 PM

That's while, as you'll recall, he was willing to not invade if the Talbian would hand OBL over.

This is, of course, a lie.

Bush never asked that the Taliban "hand OBL over". He asked that they hand over ALL THE LEADERS OF AL QAEDA. And shut all of the terrorist training camps. And give us access to make sure the camps were shut down. As well as a few other conditions.

One wonders why the left-wing continues to out-and-out lie like this...

Posted by: Al | Sep 30, 2004 8:03:53 PM

Matt, you seem opposed to giving Bush any credit unless his motive is pure. This is the exact logic employed by conservative elements in the 40s and 50s to discredit the Communist Party's work in Civil Rights; because the CP is fomenting world revolution, they said, they should not be given any credit for fighting, more militantly than any other organization at the time, against racism and dirty capitalism. Purity of motive, Matt, is a second-order concern; what matters most is effect, and it is for this reason that the Bush administration deserves enormous credit for the transformation of Afghanistan.

Posted by: Rajeev Advani | Sep 30, 2004 8:53:53 PM


I'm not just making a guess. The motivations for invading Afghanistan were made completely clear by the Bush administration at the time of the invasion. Al-Qaeda was portrayed as a terrorist organization with "global reach", and it's reach, it was argued, depended on the fact that it had a safe base of operations for training, planning and organization in Afghanistan. Driving them out of that base, killing as many as possible in the process, and eliminating the Taliban regime that allowed them to have it were the aims of the military operation that was conducted. Getting the Taliban was especially emphasized by Bush, because the war was supposed to send a message by being a dramatic demonstration of his "you're with us or with the terrorists" policy.

It is obvious that getting Osama was not the administration's very highest priority, or else they would have made more of a sustained effort to pursue him. Getting him certainly would have been a good additional thing to do, and it would have had some modest demoralizing effect on al-Qaeda. But al-Qaeda, and the broader jihadist movement it is a part of, is much bigger than Osama himself, as we have seen, and can get on perfectly well without him.

Dropping a bomb on Osama's head might make a nice motif for internet animation shorts, and its perhaps an effecctive way to sell a war to a vengeance-seeking public. A lot of people seem to need an individual human face to put on a fight to make it comprehesible to them. Similarly, the administration now likes to inflate the role of Zarqawi in Iraq, so they have an identifiable "Black Bart" to sell to the public as the enemy. But, as much as getting osama might have been one desired end of the war, I can't believe there were many serious strategic thinkers in Washington who regarded getting Osama personally as the *primary aim* of the operation.

Posted by: Dan Kervick | Oct 1, 2004 12:03:34 AM

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