Most of the press and the politicians have been fawning over Obama’s recent decision to replace Gen. McChrystal with Gen. Petraeus. Following the publication of the Rolling Stone article, President Obama accepted General Stanley McChrystal’s resignation on Wednesday, calling it “the right thing for our mission in Afghanistan, for our military, and for our country.”
Ironically, it was only three years ago when President Obama, back then Senator Obama, questioned General Petraeus, during the 2007 Senate hearings, about the “disastrous foreign policy mistake” in Iraq and called for troop withdrawals.
[Excerpt starts around 1:40, emphasis mine.] It is to suggest that if the American people and the Congress had understood then that after devoting $1 trillion, which is what this thing optimistically will end up having cost, thousands of American lives, the creation of an environment in which Al Qaida in Iraq could operate because it didn’t exist prior to our invasion, that we have increased terrorist recruitment around the world, that Iran has been strengthened, that bin Laden and Al Qaida are stronger than at any time since 2001, and that the process of Iraqi reconstruction and their standard of living would continue to be lower than it was pre- invasion, that if that had been the deal, I think most people would have said that’s a bad deal, that does not make sense, that does not serve the United States’ strategic interests.
And so I think that some of the frustration you hear from some of the questioners is that we have now set the bar so low that modest improvement in what was a completely chaotic situation […] is considered success, and it’s not. This continues to be a disastrous foreign policy mistake. […] the general theory has been that we will draw down when Iraqi security forces stand up and or the Iraqi government stands up.
General Petraeus, in the counterinsurgency manual that you wrote, it says that even the strongest U.S. commitment will not succeed if the populace does not perceive the host nation government as having similar will and stamina to our own. The question, I think, that everybody is asking is, how long will this take? And at what point do we say enough?”
Three years later, and we are still asking the same questions about Afghanistan. How much longer? How many more lives do we sacrifice and how much more money do we spend on these wars that are not serving the American people’s interests? At what point do we say enough is enough? With all the commotion over General McChrystal’s resignation and the nomination of General Petraeus as the new commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, let’s not lose sight of the more serious issue, and that is the current strategy in Afghanistan. As best put by Senator Obama, “the question is one of strategy, not tactics.”
Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA-10) provided a welcome voice of skepticism, and had this to say in an interview with Politico:
Politico: President Obama said this doesn’t mean a change in policy in Afghanistan – what is your reaction to that? Do you believe there needs to be a change?
Garamendi: My view is that our policy is inappropriate, that we will not be able to succeed with the program and with the policy in place, and that it’s time for us to leave Afghanistan and continue the civilian engagement there. Al Qaeda is the problem and our focus should be on that.
P: Since Gen. Petraeus was behind the surge strategy in Iraq and you oppose the current strategy in Afghanistan, are you dissatisfied with the decision to choose Gen. Petraeus?
G: The president made it clear [that Petraeus] will continue the present policies with which I disagree … I think those policies will ultimately fail.
If not the current strategy in Afghanistan, what do you want to see? I do not believe that we will be successful in Afghanistan with a military strategy and that a different strategy based on economic and social development … and with a clear, laser-like focus on al Qaeda, that those three things [have] a greater chance of success. And the sooner we leave behind the military strategy, the better we’ll be.”