Sestak: Wrong on Afghanistan

In the race to appeal to the Democratic base, Arlen Specter takes the lead.

By Brendan Skwire
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 12 | Posted Dec. 6, 2009

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For a guy who's received the backing of the White House for re-election, and who's not exactly known as a peacenik, I think this takes a lot of courage. Not only is he defying the president, he's taking --ulp-- the progressive position.

Whenever I have a question about the Middle East or Afghanistan, I visit the blog of Juan Cole, probably the US's foremost expert on the area. And Cole points out a number of problems with the president's strategy, of which I'd like to highlight two:

Obama's plan depends heavily on training 100,000 new soldiers and 100,000 new policemen over the next three years. It has taken 8 years to train the first 100,000 soldiers fairly well, and the same period for the Europeans to train a similar number of police badly. Can the pace really be more than doubled and quality results still obtained?

The biggest threat of derailment comes from an American public facing 17 percent true unemployment and a collapsing economy who are being told we need to spend an extra $30 billion to fight less than 100 al-Qaeda guys in the mountains of Afghanistan, even after the National Security Adviser admitted that they are not a security threat to the US.

I think Cole hits the bullseye with these observations. Lately, Sestak's gotten a lot of mileage out of Specter's idiotic decision to insist that Obama's stimulus be cut down to size, which has directly exacerbated Pennsylvania's budget crisis. But by supporting an expensive escalation in Afghanistan, isn't Sestak undermining his own case against Specter and his own rational for election? Does Sestak really want to tell Pennsylvania's unemployed workers that we need to spend billions of dollars and send our kids into harm's way when we're in desperate need of nation-building right here at home? The president says he'd like to do more to create jobs, but warned “our resources are limited.” Does anyone remember Eisenhower's observation that ""Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed"

Even some of Obama's most ardent supporters are feeling queasy over escalating a war in a country nicknamed the "graveyard of empires."

The $30 billion dollars we intend to spend on Afghanistan could, in my opinion, be spent a lot better at home. It's a damn pity that a warmed-over Republican dressed in a donkey suit gets it, and more so that Joe Sestak's voting to continue a mission only a jackass could embrace.

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Comments 1 - 12 of 12
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1. Tom O'Drain said... on Dec 6, 2009 at 09:06PM

“I could not agree with you more. I think that is a war that can't be won, just ask the russians.”

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2. Jeff said... on Dec 7, 2009 at 02:31AM

“Agree w the article... this is an economic blunder as well as a military one. Glad Specter is taking the lead on this for us progressive dems. One correction... now its clear snarlin Arlen is definitely Democrat :) We need to kick Lieberman out. Sestak's true colors are those of a hawk.”

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3. David said... on Dec 7, 2009 at 03:09AM

“"and more so that Joe Sestak's voting to continue a mission only a jackass could embrace."
Sestak's got that qualification down pat. :-)
Jeff, I agree that this hawk is showing his true feathers.

I'm willing to give Obama some leeway here, because I trust that this is a decision he did not come to lightly and that he asked all the right//tough questions, unlike Bush. I agree that setting timetables is probably a better strategy to prevent the Afghans and other allies from putting things off till the last minute. Sestak spent the entire 2006 election talking about timetables (before abandoning them in 2007 to vote for Iraq War funding).

I appreciate Specter's caution,honest disagreement with Obama and independence. I don't respect that Sestak is against the timetable aspect and is talking about 3-5 time frames.”

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4. Mary said... on Dec 8, 2009 at 10:02AM

“You say "isn't Sestak undermining his own case against Specter and his own rational for election?" You mean by standing up for what he believes,
even if you may disagree and it isn't the politically convenient position?
It seems to me one of the strongest cases to support Sestak is that he actually has personal convictions and knows where he stands-which is as
a progressive on most issues. I never want to see any Americans, much
less 30,000 more, be sent into a sitaution like this war. It makes this
me sick, though , to watch Specter, who voted for Iraq and supported the
surge, take a position on a war based purely on politics. The guy has been
a Republican for 50 years and said he only switched because of a poll.
He'll be less reliable than Leiberman if he gets another term.”

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5. brendancalling said... on Dec 8, 2009 at 12:54PM

“"standing up for what he believes in" is a good thing or bad thing depending on the belief. But i don't give him a pass for their sincerity when I disagree with the belief.

For example, Sestak ALSO stood up for warrantless wiretapping, and a number of sources who have spoken personally with him tell me he really believes it's necessary. So he's standing up for what he believes in, but what he believes in is "the Forth Amendment is obsolete." is that a good or bad thing?

Bart Stupak, to take another example, sincerely believes that abortion should be outlawed, 100%. In fact, if the language in his amendment to health care passes (and by the way, bob casey co-sponsored the Senate's version of Stupak), women will be prohibited from obtaining abortion coverage even if they pay for it with their own money. Sincere? yes. Politically inconvenient? yes. Does Stupak get a pass? Not if you're pro-choice.

of course specter's position is political. he's a POLITICIAN. it's what they do.”

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6. Anonymous said... on Dec 9, 2009 at 02:27AM

“Brendan says:
"women will be prohibited from obtaining abortion coverage even if they pay for it with their own money. "
Not exactly accurate. The plan, if passed, would allow people to purchase their own insurance, but with government assistance. That is not exactly paying for it themselves. Taxpayers will be contributing to the plan.”

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7. Anonymous said... on Dec 10, 2009 at 06:04AM

“@ Mary
People like Brendan are not concerned about "convictions".

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8. brendancalling said... on Dec 10, 2009 at 11:45AM


I call bullshit:

"The Stupak-Pitts Amendment severely limits private plans’ ability to cover abortions. The Stupak-Pitts Amendment would prohibit any abortions beyond the Hyde exceptions within the public option and any plans sold in the Exchange to individuals who receive affordability credits. Although insurance companies are permitted to offer plans that cover abortion to individuals who do not receive affordability credits, they would only be able to do so if they offered two nearly identical plans with the only difference being coverage and exclusion of abortion services. Furthermore health insurance companies would be unlikely to even offer a plan that does receive any funding from affordability credits because the risk pool would be too small. In effect, this ensures there will not be any private plans covering abortion available to individuals and small businesses tha”

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9. Jeff said... on Dec 10, 2009 at 10:03PM

“hello friends, good point about the warrantless wiretapping, thats the biggest civil liberties issue there is and specter has been a strong protector of it, whereas sestak approved the warrantless wiretapping program. But this Afghnistan... man this is something i cant get over.”

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10. Anonymous said... on Dec 11, 2009 at 05:25PM

“the war should end now.”

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11. RichardKanePhillyPA said... on Dec 13, 2009 at 01:29PM

“Update on Specter & Sestak in the Huffington Post, Robert Naiman & Just Foreign Policy which clearly states how important this race is to the future peace movement. Google him at Huffington Post’s websight

Also what the Obama administration publicly states may not be what is really important. According to Foreign Policy in Focus, and Shibil Siddiq there are behind the scenes negotiations with the Taliban. It seems to have something to do with wanting the entire Taliban to renounce al Qaeda, not just the bought off sections of it,
It’s the first story at the FOIF websight.

After Obama works America into war frenzy, the American people will be very upset if Sharia Law being imposed in Kabul is part of the peace agreement.

The troop level has been steadily rising without the surge speech. Obama is impressing the Taliban to demand less, but the worked up American people will be very unhappy to learn how little all the fighting gained if the war ends.

Specter is the best hope.

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12. Anonymous said... on Dec 16, 2009 at 06:26PM

“I have supported Sestak in the past.

I think this ends that.”


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