In the race to appeal to the Democratic base, Arlen Specter takes the lead.
I hope you're having fun
Where's your uniform? Where's your gun?
Better rub up that suntan oil
'Cause you'll be fighting in the desert sun
It's not Vietnam
Just another oil company scam
Better salute that flag for Uncle Sam
Get your money out place your bets
Circle Jerks, "Paid Vacation," 1980
Afghanistan is on the table. Again.
I supported the initial invasion into that country, with serious reservations. The Taliban had sheltered Osama bin Laden, and the killer was hiding in Tora Bora. But as the war dragged on and led to revelations that bin Laden escaped to Pakistan (a claim Pakistan denies), that Afghan President Karzai stole the recent election (which President Obama reluctantly acknowledged in last week's speech committing troops), that Karzai's brother is a heroin trafficker on the CIA's payroll, and that President Karzai maintains close ties to the very warlords who have helped tear Afghanistan's society to bloody shreds, my support has dropped.
My taxes are going to pay for 30,000 troops to prop up a corrupt dictator? To fight the 100 or so al Qaeda members that remain in that shattered country? We're spending blood and treasure to back a guy whose power stops at the Kabul city line? What gives?
Politicians like to say what a difficult decision it is to go to war, but really we're always fighting someone, whether it's hot wars like Iraq and Afghanistan, the Cold War that took up most of my childhood, covert wars like our excursions into El Salvador and Nicaragua, wars for political reward like Panama and Grenada, and even figurative wars like the War on Drugs. That's why our military budget is bigger than the rest of the entire world, combined! We love wars. We're the most war-making nation on Earth. We love wars like children love chocolate ice cream!
So I wasn't surprised when I got Joe Sestak's response to President Obama's speech last week:
President Obama has presented a plan that will allow us to finally complete a mission that is as indispensable today as it was eight years ago: the elimination of the Al Qaeda terrorists who struck us on 9/11," said Joe Sestak. "It is a difficult decision. After years of war and with economic challenges at home, the American people are justified in their concern about an increased commitment in Afghanistan. But the President has made the right call. If we leave Al Qaeda behind in a safe haven and are struck again, what can we ever say to those we swore to protect?
What DID surprise me was Arlen Specter's response:
While Sestak voiced support for the president’s plan, albeit with a desire to hear more details, Specter opposed it outright, bucking a White House that has thrown its political weight behind his reelection.
“I oppose sending 30,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan because I am not persuaded that it is indispensable in our fight against Al Qaeda,” Specter said in a statement. “If it was, I would support an increase because we have to do whatever it takes to defeat Al Qaeda since they’re out to annihilate us. But if Al Qaeda can operate out of Yemen or Somalia, why fight in Afghanistan where no one has succeeded?”
Specter added: “I disagree with the President’s two key assumptions: that we can transfer responsibility to Afghanistan after 18 months and that our NATO allies will make a significant contribution. It is unrealistic to expect the United States to be out in 18 months so there is really no exit strategy. This venture is not worth so many American lives or the billions it will add to our deficit."