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Eight Weeks of America’s War, Not Eight Years of “Obama’s War”

September 11th, 2009

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Originally appeared on Small Wars Journal & The Huffington Post.

Many of those advocating drawing down from Afghanistan argue that we have been fighting in Afghanistan for eight years, and if we haven’t won the war by now, we never will. The reality is that the White House has only really dedicated the effort to win for just over eight weeks, not eight years. This a worthy cause. Only if we control the ground in Afghanistan can we hunt and kill Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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Not Building the Afghan State, Protecting the United States

August 20th, 2009

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Originally published on The Huffington Post.

President Hamid Karzai is the favorite in this Thursday’s Afghan elections, but his reelection is no sure thing. It is quite possible that Karzai’s main challenger, the former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, will force a run-off and even pull off an upset victory. No matter who wins, the imperative of America’s military remaining in Afghanistan will not change. This is not a mission of charity and it is not a mission to build the Afghan state; this is a mission to defend the people of the United States. While democratic elections are a wonderful achievement, our mission remains the same as it was eight years ago — to eliminate the Taliban and al Qaeda as deadly threats to us and our allies.

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Dems try to right the intel ship

July 15th, 2009

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Originally published in Politico.

When the story broke recently that the CIA had concealed a secret program from Congress for more than eight years, Republicans reacted with the predictable but laughable claim that Democrats were politicizing intelligence. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The real story here is the rank politicization of intelligence by Republicans, led by former Vice President Dick Cheney, and how Democrats have stepped in to clean up his mess.

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An Endstate Strategy in Afghanistan, Not Exit Strategy

July 14th, 2009

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Originally published on Huffington Post.

On June 25th, 131 Democrats, and 7 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to require the Obama administration provide Congress “a report outlining the United States exit strategy for United States military forces in Afghanistan.” It is entirely appropriate that many members want to ensure the new administration has both developed the right plan for Afghanistan and begun implementing it since Afghanistan remains central to our national security interests. However, we therefore need to focus on an endstate strategy that will allow us to withdraw once we have achieved our goals, rather than an exit strategy.

Because the Iraq War was a bungled distraction, not a national security imperative like Afghanistan, pushing for an exit strategy from Iraq was an appropriate course for progressive groups and the country. However, as Representative Barney Frank said in late 2006, we should have been focusing on “capturing Osama bin Laden. He is not in Iraq. He is in the Afghan-Pakistan area. That’s where the fight ought to be.”
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Korea’s Missiles, Obama’s Maneuvers and Neocons’ Mad-libs

July 3rd, 2009

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Originally published on The Huffington Post.

On Saturday, while the rest of the country is celebrating the 4th of July, the President’s national security team will be camped out in the White House situation room. President Obama and his team will be monitoring a North Korean missile test, launched in the direction of Hawaii. We can all celebrate in peace though, assured that the administration’s response to the launch will be in line with the new, multi-tooled Smart Power philosophy the Administration has employed for its first half year in office. It is a strategy that has begun to make us and the world safer.

Of course, the president won’t be the only one watching the missile launch. So too will former Vice President Dick Cheney and other leading neoconservatives. Unlike President Obama, they feel the appropriate response to every national security issue is “shoot first and ask questions later” with no regard for how non-military tools could be used more effectively. After eight years of bungling virtually every foreign policy dilemma, sowing instability and mistrust across the globe, Mr. Cheney and others now sit back and heckle the president like those two cranky old guys on the balcony of the Muppet Show.

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Yoo-thenizing the Constitution

April 3rd, 2008

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While I was living in Mexico City in February 1995, the newly elected Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo arrested Raul Salinas, the brother of Zedillo’s powerful and wealthy predecessor, Carlos Salinas. Raul was arrested for a high profile assassination among other suspicions. It was a glorious moment in Mexican history.

As a friend told me the story at the time, Carlos, despite having completed his Presidency a few months prior, sent security forces loyal to him and his allies, to intervene in the arrest. In response, Zedillo sent the military to ensure the arrest took place. Additionally, Zedillo made a grand declaration that would fundamentally alter the future of Mexico and begin its transformation from a corrupt third-world banana republic into a free, liberal democracy. Zedillo asserted that “Today, nobody… absolutely nobody, is above the law. We are no longer a country of powerful men, but a country of powerful laws!” Because, in essence, THAT is the difference between democracy and dictatorship, the difference between freedom and authoritarianism. The rule of laws and equal justice under the law for all, rather than the rule of the whims of men regardless of how they arrived at their position.

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