“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

40,000 more for Afghanistan. Not so fast says Obama.

Obama: No quick decision on troops to Afghan

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Wednesday there will be no quick decision on whether to send more U.S. troops into the widening war in Afghanistan, saying "my determination is to get this right."

The president's comments came one day after Adm. Mike Mullen, his top military adviser as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, endorsed an increase in U.S. forces as likely necessary to battle a deepening insurgency. The U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, also has delivered a grim assessment of the war and is expected to follow up soon with a request for thousands of additional troops.

"I'm going to take a very deliberate process in making those decisions," said Obama, taking questions from reporters as he sat in the Oval Office with visiting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "And so I just want to be absolutely clear, because there's been a lot of discussion in the press about this: There is no immediate decision pending on resources."

Even as Obama spoke about a methodical war review, administration officials were briefing key lawmakers on McChrystal's review and on White House proposals for 46 benchmarks to gauge progress in the stalemated Afghan war and the hunt for al-Qaida in neighboring Pakistan.

The Obama administration's road map to winning the war in Afghanistan relies heavily on clearing terrorists from Pakistan, according to the list of benchmarks provided to lawmakers.

Stabilizing Pakistan always has been a key part of the administration's strategy for South Asia. But its prominence in the long-awaited benchmarks for the Afghan war signals a longer regional view than just gauging whether the conflict is being won.

"It's going to be much broader than just combat troops," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said after being briefed by top Obama administration officials Wednesday about an on-the-ground assessment of the situation in Afghanistan. "Everybody ought to realize that this is a much broader issue than that."

His Republican counterpart on the committee, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., emerged from the briefing calling the proposed Obama benchmarks "a start," but not specific enough.

The president has already ordered 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan, increasing the U.S. commitment there to 68,000 by year's end. Yet violence in Afghanistan has soared to record levels. More U.S. troops — 51 — died in Afghanistan in August than in any other month since the U.S.-led invasion in October 2001.

Obama faces mounting pressure on what do next, both from an anxious and war-weary public and from members of his own Democratic Party. He said he will follow his plan of doing a broad assessment of military, diplomatic, civilian and development efforts in Afghanistan before deciding his next steps.

"One of the things that I'm absolutely clear about is you have to get the strategy right and then make determinations about resources," Obama said.

"You don't make determinations about resources — certainly you don't make determinations about sending your men and women into battle — without having absolute clarity about what the strategy is going to be."
Asked if U.S. and NATO forces were winning the war in Afghanistan, Obama did not answer directly.
But he said it is clear that "we have lacked as clear of a strategy and a mission as is necessary in order to meet our overriding objectives."

Obama described that as disrupting the al-Qaida terrorist network so that it cannot launch attacks on the U.S. and its allies. "That has not yet occurred," he said.

Harper said the Taliban in Afghanistan do not constitute a viable alternative government and in that sense, progress had been made. But he said "we are concerned about the strength of the insurgency" and in Afghanistan's ability to take long-sought, day-to-day responsibility for its own security.
Canada, which has 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, plans to withdraw them in 2011.


  1. President Barack Obama said he’ll hold off deciding whether to add more U.S. troops to the war in Afghanistan, as Democratic lawmakers raised concerns that he lacks a clear plan and measures of progress.


    “I want to underline the fact that this is a matter of national security,” said Representative Ike Skelton, a Missouri Democrat who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “We ought to listen to General McChrystal, and I’m of the opinion to give him what he needs.”


    Retired Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday that a rule of thumb in counter-insurgency theory requires one trained counter- insurgent to protect 50 citizens. That would mean about 600,000 personnel for Afghanistan.

    Criticism Deepens

  2. Mr. President, meet LBJ.

    "That's LBJ's Ghost"

    Have it your way:
    Ghost, meet Toast.

  3. Your gonna love this, Rufus:
    Obama Will Allow Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Gaddafi, Castro Into US For UN General Assembly But Will Ban Ally Honduras (Video)

    Next week the Obama Administration will allow Ahmadinejad, Castro, Chavez, Gaddafi and several other international thugs into New York City to speak in front of the United Nations General Assembly.
    However, one country's president will not be allowed into the United States.

    President Roberto Micheletti from Honduras will not be allowed to enter into America. The leader of our Central American ally is banned from the UN.

    For the first time in this country's history, our leaders in government are siding with Marxists Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, Raul Castro and Evo Morales against a democratic foreign leader.
    Tonight, Greta Van Susteren interviewed the leader of Honduras Roberto Micheletti.

  4. And Ashie says it must be our racism compelling us to call him the "M" word!

  5. Lest we forget.


    I, on the other hand, prefer to respond non-militarily but decisively to propel useful change. Sovereignty should not be a crutch for abuse. Democracy is messy and often inefficient but I much prefer it over authoritarian top down governing. Do I think we should intervene militarily in Honduras to help them, no, but the responses of the current administration, and most of the rest of the world regarding Honduras seems appropriate. It is a tough nut, their stand-off, and we need to take a principled position.

    A thoughtfully nuanced position on a "tough nut", while sitting on his fucking ass at home, churning out smarmy barbs to [his] fucking heart's content.