Sunday, June 12, 2011

Does Lindsey Graham Want US Boots on Pakistan's Ground?

The Hill reports that Sen. Lindsey Graham - one of the usual suspects when it comes to spouting US-must-kick-ass rhetoric - has declared that he's fed up with the Pakistanis, who (says he) must "choose who you're with."  (A phrase remarkably reminiscent of W's "you're either with us or against us" after 9-11.)  Moreover, says Graham (and btw,  here's the CBS video):
“We're on a collision course with Pakistan. If this doesn't change soon, I would urge the president to use more aggressive military force against safe havens in the Pakistan side of the border being used to kill our troops and undermine progress in Afghanistan."

This remark comes atop a report of evidence that members of the Pakistani military (perhaps of the reviled ISI) may be giving Pakistani Taliban groups a heads-up just prior to raids for which the US had provided the Pakistanis the where-and-when intel.  If this is indeed the case, it surely provides more evidence that the Pakistani military are not entirely on-side with the US.  But by now, that ought to be no surprise to anyone in the US political or military leadership.  Daniel Dombey puts it well at the FT
It is worth saying that finding a US military official who believes Pakistan is really going to crack down on Taliban havens in North Waziristan is about as unlikely as finding an American diplomat who thinks Kabul will crack down on corruption.

It's hard to imagine exactly what kind of "more aggressive military force" Graham has in mind, unless it's to insert US forces into Pakistan a la the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden.  Even though that raid gave US chest-thumpers a lot to bray about, its impact on Pakistan's military leaders, as well as Pakistani public opinion, was terribly destabilizing, and, from the standpoint of encouraging the Pakistani leadership to cooperate with the US, highly counter-productive.  Perhaps Graham was using a nationally televised forum to score points with conservative South Carolina voters, but threatening Pakistan with more incursions of US troops achieves nothing positive as far as American interests are concerned.

Let's hope, rather, that the US follows through on the "exclusive" report that Leslie Gelb advertised today at the Daily Beast as Obama's "secret  Afghan exit formula": a drawdown of 30,000 US troops over the next 12-18 months.  That's not yet locked down, of course - Hillary Clinton and David Petraeus may have other ideas - but it's especially noteworthy that the White House is talking more openly about the need to reduce war expenditures to cope with the nation's budget crisis.  Gelb expands nicely on this point:

Nor should the president shy away from establishing the centrality of the U.S. economy in U.S. national security. Saving money in Afghanistan is nothing to run away from, as White House press secretary Jay Carney sought to do last week. “Obviously every decision is made with a mind toward cost,” he said, “but this is about U.S. national-security interests, primarily.”

Quite the contrary—reducing America’s debt is essential to maintaining U.S. military strength and diplomatic power. Obama could save more than $100 billion a year on the Pentagon budget just by sequestering savings after exiting the Iraq and Afghan wars. That goal is a good reason to start the withdrawal process this July at 30,000 and remove them within a year—and then take most of the remaining forces out by the end of 2013. Whatever happens in Afghanistan now or five years from now won’t determine America’s future; what happens with America’s crushing debt will.

But in Lindsey Graham's world, if you're going to insert more US military force in one country . . . why, what the hell, why not threaten to do it somewhere else while we're at it?  Let's take 'em all on!  Budget be damned.  We've got the muscle!

To what do I refer?

With the support of the other usual suspects that make up his troika - I speak of John McCain and Joe Lieberman --   Sen. Graham wrote yet another extremely counter-productive prescription during his CBS interview: the US - with its regional "allies" - should put the military option on the table with Bashar Assad in Syria.  In doing so, Graham liberally invoked the s-word ("slaughter") to describe what "we" stopped Qaddafi from doing in Libya.  Even though, at last reports, the slaughter was continuing, unabated, in Libya, and Qaddafi has not stepped down, Graham talks as if the mess has already been cleaned up, and that now is the time to look to the east to stop Assad in Syria.   To conjure up even more fear of carnage and chaos, Graham exclamined that Turkey is now being "overrun" by refugees from Syria; at last notice though, the count was 5000 - which indeed is bad enough.  But, "overrun"?

Perhaps Graham thinks he's being a good bipartisan politician by saying that he supports Obama's call on intervening in Libya.  Perhaps he's bought into Samantha Power's idea of humanitarian interventionism.  It certainly would provide a hawk like Graham with a kind of Good Samaritan cover for advocating yet more military intervention.

But when are the Grahams  and McCains among our leadership going to wake up to the lessons - and the losses - of the last 10 years?


Anonymous said...

Get real, we are in Libya because of Obama. Nobody criticizes him, they can always blame it on Lindsey Graham

Anonymous said...

This John Robertson probably hasn't served a day in the military in his life. It was Obama would got us in Libya, but he doesn't criticize him. Professors usually don't have a clue as to what is going on in the real world. This one sounds like another idiot. Except for those who hate Lindsey Graham, nobody would waste time even reading about what he has to say

John Robertson said...

Not that I'd have expected "Anonymous" to have read any of my earlier posts, but I have indeed been critical of Obama's decision to intervene in Libya. Nor do I blame Graham for getting the US into Libya - but I'm opposed to Graham or anyone else who wants to step up our involvement there, or who argues (as Graham seems to be) for possible military involvement in Syria.

As for what any of that has to do with my having served in the military or not . . .?!

Anonymous said...

Graham makes it clear that nothing can or will be done without NATO. Naturally people like Robertson wouldn't want to intervene in Syria. There is no oil there. If there were he'd be out front beating the war drums.

John Robertson said...

But isn't Graham (along with his pals Lieberman and McCain) one of those who keep complaining that we've left too much in NATO's (Brits, French?) hands in re Libya, and that the US ought to be re-taking the lead? I imagine Graham knows full well that any intervention in Syria would have to be led by the US. The NATO "partners" already have more than they can handle in Libya.

As for beating the war drums if Syria had oil - - anyone who's been reading my stuff knows how foolish a comment that is. Iraq has oil, and I was opposed to Bush's adventure there from the get-go.


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