US President Barack Obama campaigned on ending the wars and ending Neocon policies in the Middle East. But, Neocon Frederick Kagan has been brought onboard to work with General David Petraeus in Afghanistan.
Given the push for a surge in Afghanistan, radio host Thom Hartmann said he is not surprised the administration has brought in a cheerleader for the policy.
Kristen Soltis, the director of policy research at The Winston Group was also unsurprised, explaining that the view from the campaign trail can be very different from the one you see when you are inside the presidency. Afghanistan and Iraq are different places, but some of the same principles can be applied, she argued.
“The surge worked in Iraq. We’re able to bring our combat troops home,” said Soltis.
She argued that the US could apply a similar strategy in Afghanistan, as Kagan would, and garner greater success. While both are different, some basic principles can be applied based on the success in Iraq.
“The surged worked is a joke. What worked was we started paying off Sunnis that were shooting at us, and in a large way, and that worked. And that coincided with an increase in troops,” said Hartmann.
Hartmann argued buying off people was really the most effective part of the strategy, not the troop increases. He further argued that simply paying off the people would be cheaper than continuing the military campaign.
“Simply going in and trying to buy off the population is not necessary the smartest strategy,” said Soltis. “You have to create a real sense of safety and security.”
In US policy under Bush administrated it was demonstrated that buying off the population was both more effective and cheaper than bombing them, argued Hartmann.
Kagen will likely bring increased military operations and more troops to Afghanistan.
Hartmann said he is concerned the idea that there is always a military solution will come back to get the United States.
“I’m very concerned that Afghanistan is going to be Obama’s Vietnam,” said Hartmann.
The United States needs to do more to help Afghans rebuild the civil and business infrastructure of the country in order to see success.
Soltis agreed, arguing that it is imperative to make sure Afghan citizens feel safe and secure. She argued that this is part of the counter insurgency strategy which requires an influx of military troops to ensure security.
“The problem with the counter insurgency strategy is that you’re dealing with insurgents,” said Hartmann. “A counter insurgency strategy assumes that you can kill or or pacify or somehow satisfy all those people who frankly don’t want you there. Better for us to be moving out rapidly and giving them the tools and means, ideally I think through NGOs, to rebuild their country and frankly undo the damage that we’ve done with a lot of bombs.”
Hartmann further argued that a counter insurgency strategy is repressive and that it does not work over the long term.
While this transition is taking place, Obama has been on vacation, causing many in the media to comment on the timing. The US president is currently in Martha ’s Vineyard wit his family. Obama has taken about 50 days of vacation since the beginning of his presidency, former US President George W. Bush had taken 115.
“This is a perception thing” said Soltis. “Bush would vacation at his house in Crawford, where as the Obama’s are going to these fancier locations.”
Soltis said it should not be held against them; Obama and his family should vacation and take time to clear their heads. She explained that under the Bush presidency however the economy was not as low as it is today, adding to the issue of perception.
Hartman agreed that is mainly a perception problem.
“I don’t think that there’s anything that Obama could do that would cause Fox News not to attack him,” said Hartmann.
Many Americans are beginning to feel that Obama is disconnected from the rest of the county.
“Yea he’s taking too much time off. So, yea get off your ass Obama!” said one New Orleans resident.
Soltis explained that being president makes it nearly impossible for a normal vacation. The perception that Obama is out of touch with America has lingered for a while, his vacations have only added to it.
Hartmann agreed, saying Obama does come across differently from previous presidents, which allows some to feel he is out of touch.
“He doesn’t do the ‘hey I’m a good old boy from Texas’ routine quite so well,” said Hartmann.