Though he rose to prominence by opposing the war in Iraq as a presidential candidate, Howard Dean has always been more hawkish than his antiwar reputation suggests. Dean supported the Clinton administration’s interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo, along with the Obama administration’s troop surge in Afghanistan and military campaign in Libya.
So it’s noteworthy that Dean no longer backs Obama’s Afghan mission and believes US troops should begin to withdraw. “I actually supported the president when he sent extra troops to Afghanistan,” Dean told the Daily Beast over the weekend. “But I’ve come to believe that’s not a winnable war.” Dean cited Karzai’s corruption, weak record on women’s rights and the US quagmire in Vietnam as the reasons for his change of heart.
From the article:
“I supported (ramping up troop presence) because I was concerned with what would happen to the women in the country” if the Taliban took control, Dean said. “But I recently read about Karzai saying some very sexist, terrible things, and it’s become obvious that there’s not a whole lot of difference between the two sides.”
He continued: “As much as I feel terrible about what’s happening to the women there, Karzai has shown he can’t be trusted any more than the Taliban to help them.”…
“The Vietnam War showed us we shouldn’t prop up corrupt governments, and that’s what we’ve got in Afghanistan.”
Polls show the country has been skeptical of the war in Afghanistan for quite some time. In the latest Pew Research Poll, 50 percent of Americans said the US and NATO should “remove troops ASAP,” while only 44 percent wanted military troops to stay until the “situation has stabilized.” Yet Afghanistan has remained a backburner issue in the American public’s mind, and the link between America's soaring debt and the $10 billion the US government spends per month in Afghanistan has often been missed. As Bill Hartung wrote recently, “If the Afghan war ended and the funds allocated for it were returned to the states, no state in America would run a deficit next year.”
Perhaps Dean can add some visibility to the US antiwar movement and push for the Obama administration to spend its finite budget resources where it matters most—back home.
Ari Berman is the author of Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics