Real Time Thoughts on Meet the Press (December 06, 2009)

Today’s broadcast features Secy’s Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton.

David Gregory has so far peppered his guests with some interesting questions. The most important one is: in Iraq, Secy. Gates and Clinton (when she was the junior senator from NY) you thought determining a time line in Iraq was a bad idea.  Why is it now a good idea in Afghanistan now?

BG: I do not support a drop dead deadline.  What was involved in Iraq was a deadline when we would pull out our troops.  The July 2011 deadline is the beginning of the process, where the pace of withdrawal will depend on the facts on teh ground determined by our military officers and the places from which our troops are withdrawn will similar depend on the facts on the ground.  (This strikes me as a dodge and not a good one at that.)

DG: But what about the involvement in Afghanistan?  How long will we remain in the region.

HC: We do not wish to have an open-ended involvement.  We will be involved in Afghanistan where we will have a large civilian involvement in Afghanistan.  We will not walk away.  (Its interesting to note that Clinton required Karzai to commit to taking over security in Afghanistan within 5 years in his second inauguration speech, BEFORE Obama would commit to a specific troop deployment numbers.)

DG: We are also at war in Pakistan.  The baddest of the bad are in Pakistan, not in Afghanistan.  What is Pakistan prepared to do to defeat the Haqqani network, the Quetta Shura, etc?

HC: The Pakistanis are now going after those terrorists who are now threatening their political existence.  What we are now doing is talking about how ALL these terrorists are now threatening their existence.

DG: If the USSR were getting deeper into Afghanistan, what makes this venture different for us?

BG: This is entirely different: The Soviets were terrorizing the Afghans and were trying to implant an alien culture.  They were completely alienated politically within the international regime.  We are not involved in any of the above.

John McCain is speaking out for the Republican view.

(He is specifically talking to the date certain of July 2011.   He is speaking about the political repercussions. Leaders in countries are in effect hedging against the troop deployment and the eventual withdrawal.  He is clearly correct on his assessment.)

DG: If those who oppose the war do so because they claim Karzai will not change, cannot change and that Pakistan will not seek to challenge the Taliban, how do you suppose those claims will be met by those in the field?

JM: Well that was the case in Iraq as well.  Before the surge, there was talk about Maliki being removed from office.  They were engaged in sectarian conflict.  The way governments govern is by having stability on the ground.  I think if we can establish stability the players on the ground will do what they need to do.

DG: Is the stimilus working.

JM: No.  If you throw enough money at anything, things will hold.  But main street is hurting because we are engaged in the biggest generation theft against our children.

DG: On Sarah Palin.

JM: Dodge, dodge dodge.  We have a wonderful relationship.  I’m very proud of her. We need vigorous debate.

(Bob Woodward and Tom Friedman are on next. Prepare to be inundated by Friedman’s populist homilies and platitudes.)

TF: Misplaced focus on the deadline.  What matters more is how we start.  I think the key issue is who Karzai is.  He is the cause and the beneficiary. We are having to surge because Karzai essentially lost his own people who then turned to the Taliban for security.

BW: What we need to do is see: 1) Can the military do their job? 2) Can the intelligence services assess the situation on the ground to give us actionable choices? 3) the diplomatic area.  Can Holbrooke get Karzai to change.  Can we negotiate with the Godfather.

DG: Can we do all teh things we need to do in 5 years within which time Karzai has said he will pick up the reins of Afghan security?

TF: We need to have the Afghans stand up and fight for their own government.  When that happens we will have achieved victory.

BW: What we have is a nonwithdrawal withdrawal date.  I think the X factor is teh leadership in the US military, diplomatic corp and the intelligence agencies

DG: Is Afghanistan the key to controlling terrorism?

TF: What’s happening here is that Islamic terrorism is essentially the consequence of a battle between 2 versions of a faith community.   Moderate Muslims vs. Islamicism.  What happened to the protests against the recent bombing in Rawalpindi a week after the Eid prayers?  ( I might think that when terrorists come in and blow stuff up, it might not be a good idea to protest such actions, because such protests are also vulnerable to terrorist action.  Jeez.  Maybe Mr. Friedman could study some game theory or some logic.)

DG: What are the consequences of failure?  The President said that failure is an option because we cannot continue this war.

BW: We cannot directly control the consequences of our involvement in Afghanistan.  This implies that failure is possible.  But I think we are going to try to satisfice.  (This is of course, my take on what he said.  I seriously doubt whether Bob Woodward would speak in poli-sci lingo)

TF: Afghanistan and jobs.  Gasoline.  Increase taxes on gasoline by a dollar.  Yeah brilliant idea genius!.  You’re married to a multi-millionaire. Maybe you wanna look into the regressive taxation this proposal entails!!  Wow.  Genius.

~ by Faheem Haider on December 6, 2009.

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