President Hamid Karzai’s corrupt and irresponsible leadership has created a debate between U.S. hawks who don’t want to “cut and run” and war-weary Americans who want out. President Obama can do both.
Pull out. Don’t cut and run.
The case for withdrawal was made by Obama in his two presidential campaigns and supported by most voters. Nearly 13 years after Afghanistan nested the 9/11 attackers, it’s time to stop the loss of American life and treasure while attempting to stay relevant enough in the region to protect direct national security interests.
Obama wants to construct a limited mission focused on training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces ““ and attacking remnants of al-Qaida. The United States had reached an agreement with the Afghan government on such a mission, but Karzai reneged on the pact and refuses to sign it.
Obama responded as he should, telling Karzai in a phone call Tuesday that he had ordered the U.S. military to begin planning for a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops. The only way to prevent full retreat, Obama suggested, was for Karzai or his replacement to approve the limited-mission accord.
New York Times reporters Mark Landler and Helene Cooper, citing a senior administration official, reported that Obama “was sending a message to Mr. Karzai that there would be a cost to further delays, both in the rising chance that the United States might go down to zero troops and in the more limited size and scope of a residual force.”
At the same time, Obama retreated from its earlier insistence that the Afghan government sign the accord before the nation’s April elections. The president hopes his maneuvering might have nudged Karzai’s successor to embrace the agreement. The chances of that happening are incalculable given Afghan’s unpredictable political system.
The choice now lies with Afghanistan: Cooperate on a limited mission or kiss U.S. forces goodbye. Time to take your country back. We need to focus on ours.
Olivier Knox of Yahoo News reminded me today of a December 2008 press conference in which Karzai, standing with Bush, described the relationship between Washington and Kabul in the most cynical of terms:
“Afghanistan will not allow the international community [to] leave it before we are fully on our feet,” Karzai said, “before we are strong enough to defend our country, before we are powerful enough to have a good economy, and before we have taken from President Bush and the next administration billions and billions of more dollars — no way that they can let you go.”
Yes we can, sir. Yes we can.
Why not “cut and run”? Because, no matter what Obama does, it’s too late to use that slur against the United States, a country that has already sacrificed the lives of more than 2,000 military personnel, with another 17,000-plus wounded in action, during more than a dozen years of fighting in Afghanistan. The war will ultimately cost between $4 trillion and $6 trillion, a huge burden on a U.S. treasury swamped in red ink. Some context: Years ago, Lawrence Lindsey was kicked out of President George W. Bush’s Cabinet for estimating that the Iraq war would cost between $100 billion and $200 billion. That figure, called wildly inflated at the time, now looks like chump change.
If this is “cutting and running,” our biggest mistake may be in not retreating sooner.
CORRECTION: Initial version of this story did not make clear that Lindsey was referring to Iraq.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”