Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele actually said some smart things about the war in Afghanistan.
Needless to say, this has gotten him in a lot of trouble… with Republicans.
In a videotape from a Republican fund-raising event held Thursday in Connecticut, where it should be noted that hardly any of the attendees seem to be listening to him, the RNC chair says:
"The [General] McChrystal incident, to me, was very comical. I think it’s a reflection of the frustration that a lot of our military leaders has with this Administration and their prosecution of the war in Afghanistan," Steele begins. "Keep in mind again, federal candidates, this was a war of Obama’s choosing. This was not something that the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in. It was one of those areas [where] the total board of foreign policy [argued] that we would be in the background sort of shaping the changes that were necessary in Afghanistan as opposed to directly engaging troops. But it was the president who was trying to be cute by half by building a script demonizing Iraq, while saying the battle really should in Afghanistan."
Banging away at Obama, Steele argued that, "if he is such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? Alright, because everyone who has tried over a thousand years of history has failed, and there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan…"
The RNC chair went on at some length about how the committee’s research operations would help Republican candidates to frame this essentially antiwar argument.
Apart from the fact that George Bush and Dick Cheney laid the outlines for the Afghanistan occupation and then implemented it, apart from the fact that Republican Party leaders cheered on Obama’s escalation of the conflict, and apart from the fact that the primary support for maintaining a massive and open-ended occupation in Congress is coming from GOP members—two-thirds of Democrats in the House voted Thursday for amendments to a supplemental funding bill that called for development of an exit strategy—Steele’s argument is sound.
Students of history have, indeed, argued that the one thing you don’t do is engage in a land war in Afghanistan.
Every country that has tried over the past thousand years of history—including, most recently, the British Empire and the Soviet Union—has failed to successfully occupy Afghanistan.
Military strategists and international development specialists, as well as honest players in Afghanistan’s political class, have long argued that there are other ways to engage with Afghanistan.
As a candidate, Obama was being "too cute by half" when he framed the fantasy that Iraq was a bad war while Afghanistan was a good one.
And, while Bush may have created the mess, it can reasonably be argued that the current president’s moves to expand the occupation—with a troop surge and substantial increases in military spending on a mission that can’t seem to get traction—have made the current character of the conflict "a war of Obama’s choosing."