Thursday, September 16, 2010

U.N. running from Afghanistan; war means higher U.S taxes or program cuts


It's getting hot in Afghanistan. Afghans are about to hold an election. Remember the last one? International monitors agreed the current President, Hamid Karzai, had stolen it fraudulently, but it was treated as legitimate anyway. This time, international monitors figure they better run for their lives.

The UN has evacuated about a third of its permanent international workforce from Afghanistan amid fears that this weekend's parliamentary elections will be marred by violence and fraud. ...The decision highlights the risks to international organisations involved in the election ...

The Guardian, 9-15-2010

Meanwhile the commander of British troops over there isn't exactly a model of optimism.

"I am not, and never have been from my time in Afghanistan, optimistic. The reality is that the insurgency will have a go on election day. I just hope they don't do as well as they did last year". ... Carter compared Kandahar to Moscow in the 1990s, with "mobs, mafia and protection rackets" as well as the Taliban. The police were loyal to powerful individuals rather than to the Afghan state, he said. Afghan security forces had to "wrestle with the influence of power brokers".

Guardian, 9-15-2010

Too bad our General Petraeus can't give us that sort of straight talk. But no, he has to spin fables of progress or even more than the present 54 percent
of us would think the U.S. should just get out.
***
The need to spin our wars is polluting all of our political choices. Matthew Yglesias, writing for The American Prospect points out the slight of hand involved in Defense Secretary Robert Gate's ballyhooed plan to cut military spending.

The United States built up a globe-spanning military capacity in the 1940s to fight simultaneous wars against Germany and Japan. We kept such a capacity in place to face down the Soviet Union. Today we're doing … what, exactly?

Not nothing. But considering that Afghanistan's entire gross domestic product is only $14 billion per year, it's hard to believe that spending $5.7 billion each month on the war is a cost-effective way of doing business. If our allies' problem in Afghanistan is really the Taliban's awe-inspiring operating budget, it should be possible to level the playing field for a fraction of total current spending.

The out-of-whack costs of the war have implications not just for Afghanistan but for the entire American military posture around the world. Spending hundreds of billions a year to maintain a worldwide military presence whose main job is now posited as fighting ill-financed insurgent groups in sundry backwaters simply doesn't seem very sensible. ... More money for defense means higher taxes or less for other programs. Ignoring that point has been key to the politics of national security for the past 15 years, but it's nonetheless true. ...

And Yglesias, though thoughtfully critical, has not yet even called for ending the Afghanistan war -- this dire summation is how crazy our bloated military spending looks to someone who as recently as last June was still opining about how Afghanistan could be won!

Photo shows an Afghan response to Pastor Terry Jone's planned Qu'ran buring. AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq

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