June 28 2011

Do You Understand American Foreign Policy?

Charlotte Hays

The longing to bring the troops home from Afghanistan is everywhere. I am not immune and have several times thought it might be a good idea to use the killing of Bin Laden as a rationale for getting out. Speaking for myself only and not for my colleagues at IWF, however, I worry we are leaving Afghanistan in a way that could squander our gains. 

We are ending up with a reasonably successful conclusion to the Iraq war, a bad ending in Afghanistan and a truly incoherent adventure in Libya. Oh, and don't forget that the Obama administration refuses to recall our ambassador from Syria. Recalling an ambassador is an obvious way to express disapproval of a regime. It doesn't require planes or bombastic statements. You just do it and is speaks volumes. House Foreign Affairs Chair Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is urging the administration to take this action: 

"The recess appointment of an Ambassador to Syria was an ill-advised overture to the Syrian regime by the Administration.  The Administration should reverse this mistake by recalling the Ambassador immediately.

"Ambassador Ford's recent participation in a regime-organized tour of northern Syria provided legitimacy to a ploy aimed at covering up the regime's violence against the Syrian people.  It compromised U.S. credibility with freedom and pro-democracy advocates within Syria at a critical time.

Instead of recalling our amabassador from a noxious regime we are bringing the troops home from Afghanistan just in time for the 2012 election. Bret Stephens has a chilling piece on "The Coming Afghan Debacle," in which he criticizes President Obama's decision:

It emboldens the Taliban, which thanks to Mr. Obama's surge and David Petraeus's generalship had all but been ousted from its traditional strongholds in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. "My soul, and the soul of thousands of Taliban who have been blown up, are happy," Taliban field commander Jamal Khan told the Daily Beast of his reaction to Mr. Obama's speech. "I had more than 50 encounters with U.S. forces and their technology. But the biggest difference in ending this war was not technology but the more powerful Islamic ideology and religion."

It increases the risk to U.S. forces in Afghanistan, where the fatality count was finally starting to come down after peaking in 2010. Fewer troops means that U.S. commanders will have to make an invidious choice between clearing territory of enemies and holding and building it for friends. "Whether it is Nangarhar or Ghazni, Kandahar or Herat, the place where we decide to 'surge' with remaining forces will leave a window open-and the Taliban will crawl in," says a U.S. military official with experience in Afghanistan. "Any commander who has experienced a withdrawal under pressure knows that it is perhaps the most difficult operation you can conduct and certainly the most dangerous; it gives the attacker a feeling of superiority and demoralizes the withdrawing force."

More than two years into the Obama administration American foreign policy is utterly incoherent. The only thing that could be crazier is if Dennis Kucinich went on a "fact-finding" mission to Syria. Oh, wait.

Finders fee: Alana Goodman

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