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Anatomy of a Straw Man: Liberal Doublespeak on Afghanistan

Posted on September 29 2009 10:57 pm
David Forsmark is the owner and president of Winning Strategies, a full service political consulting firm in Michigan. David has been a regular columnist for Frontpage Magazine since 2006. For 20 years before that, he wrote book, movie and concert reviews as a stringer for the Flint Journal, a midsize daily newspaper.
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Turn on any cable news channel discussion of Afghanistan right now and you will hear three words from the liberal spokesman, whether it’s a politician, Democratic party strategist or consultant, or pundit.

“Afghanistan isn’t Iraq.”

Well, yeah…  But these words aren’t just a statement of the geographically obvious.  This is the retort when the discussion turns to the idea of a “surge” in Afghanistan and the idea of pursuing a counter-insurgency strategy similar to the one that was successful in Iraq.

This is actually an argument that has merit—if made in good faith.  Iraq has had some semblance of a civil society in its history.  It has been governed—however brutally, at times—by a central government.  Despite deep divisions, there is also some nascent national identity.  None of this is true of Afghanistan, much of which has not changed since the invention of gunpowder.

However, for most of the people making the argument, there is good reason to believe they speak with a forked tongue.

By the light of their current argument, a year ago they were in effect saying “IRAQ isn’t Iraq.”

In fact, not only did most of them say the “surge” would not work, they refused to admit it was working long after the proof was all but undeniable to even the most thick-headed.

Like the guy who is now taking his time deciding on a strategy, even after he has accelerated the pace of the war and the increased casualties that go with it:

And I guess we are supposed to suspend our disbelief, and accept that this woman’s statements are now about the national interest, when a year ago they were so nakedly political.  Our troops should never suspect that you might be about to “Betray-us”:

On Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams hit us with the other ubiquitous liberal talking point.  This one isn’t just a straw man, it’s a slander:

WILLIAMS: “Look at the history of other countries who have gone into Afghanistan and tried to do what we’re talking about”.

Really?  The SOVIETS tried to set up a civil society, free the women, provide for honest elections, professionalize the Afghan Army and police to protect the people, and build infrastructure for a market economy?  They did?  I must have missed that, Juan!

All I remember from the Red Army’s tenure in Afghanistan is mines in the shape of toys to sucker children into blowing themselves up, the burning of entire villages, rape and pillage, and the setting up a KGB network of torture (real torture, not the threat of rough treatment, or pretend torture).

Of course, liberals aren’t great at making those distinctions:

Look, I’m not so sure that nation building in Afghanistan is a great—or even possible—idea.  I’m not positive that it’s what General McChrystal is advocating, or if he is saying to his Commander-in-Chief, “I need more troops in order to do the nation-building you are requiring me to do, sir.”

This is the result of two liberal myths—one that has been accepted as fact by too many Republicans, including John McCain, and was used by George W. Bush: that the anarchy in Afghanistan that led to the Taliban was our fault because we didn’t stay and build something after the Soviets pulled out.

Ballderdash.  There was nothing to build on, we had little on the ground—and other global commitments at the time.  Also, this Afghan nation would have had to have been built while being almost completely surrounded by hostile countries.

The other problem, is that liberals have spent the last 5 years saying that the war in Afghanistan is the “real central front in the war on terror” and that “George W. Bush took his eye off the ball by going to Iraq.”

For liberals, the ideal war is always the one we are not currently fighting.  Now Afghanistan is the war we are fighting, so it’s no longer so attractive and abstract and easy to idealize.  It’s messy and violent.

It’s also possible that General McChrystal is proposing a nation-building strategy because he knows the best alternative is something this Administration and Congress will never agree to: get rid of the NATO “help” and all the incredible silly Rules of Engagement (i.e. NON-engagement) that come with them, turn our Special Forces loose, and kill as many al Qaeda bastards as possible.

Our main interest in Afghanistan is In ridding it of people who want to kill Americans, and denying them a base to do it from.  Another strategic base in that part of the world would be nice, but Iraq will do—unless the President fulfills his promise of bringing “every” soldier home.

But regardless of the strategic reality, the problem is this:  We are possibly in the middle of a bait and switch that could have deadly consequences for Americans.

“Afghanistan isn’t Iraq?”  Perhaps, but that’s not really an argument anyone who is currently using it has the credibility to make.

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