Afghanistan: In or Out?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Peter Bergen, CNN's terrorism analyst and author of Holy War, Inc. and The Osama bin Laden I Know: an Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader and Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of Power Rules: How Common Sense Can Rescue American Foreign Policy, offer two views for what the U.S. should do in Afghanistan.


Peter Bergen and Leslie H. Gelb

Comments [39]

Paul J. Schaefer from Clinton Coprners, New York

The idiots who criticize Obama for thinking the Afganistan problem though are no doubt the same ones who cheered on George Bush when he rushed into Iraq as his gut told him to do. When you don't have a brain that's the way decisions are made; when you do, you behave as Obama is doing --weighing your options.

Oct. 05 2009 12:32 PM

[39] calls:
I think your impression of Croton-on-Hudson is rose-colored... now take off your glasses and talk to some folks who are NOT employed by or related to the military residents of NVA.

Modest 5 bedroom- since When is THAT modest?

I can find plenty of mansions in or around your town, too. And Croton has plenty of not-quite bungalos - so drop your "all-knowing" pretense and discuss some issues!

(And I doubt you can tell if I'm liberal or not!)

Oct. 05 2009 12:22 PM
hjs from 11211

oh ok that's clearer "30s% on certain issues"
but he's not going and GOP has no plan (not one that the amerikans want to buy)

Oct. 05 2009 12:02 PM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from "McLean, VA"

He's in the 30s% on certain issues and in his general strong approval rate.

You should also know that the major network/newspaper polls are statistically invalid as they weigh the bases improperly.

Obama has been falling despite a “full court press” by him and his media lackeys.

Today’s Rasmussen Presidential tracking poll has only 31% of the nation's voters Strongly Approving of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Thirty-even percent (37%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -6 (see trends).

He's going, going gone - Congress in 2010 and the Bama by 2012. And all that with the help of the vicious left that will freak as he attempts to compromise. I suggest that you all sit out in protest like the left did in 1968 leading to Nixon's election over a great old school liberal and great American Hubert H. Humphrey.

Oct. 05 2009 11:46 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

Calls'em As I Sees'em from "McLean, VA":
I understand your support for rapacious, self centered greed and racism. What can I say, you’ve got bad family values.

Oct. 05 2009 11:45 AM
hjs from 11211

he was never in the 30's please be honest. lying just clouds your 'credibility.'

if mccain picked a useful VP he might have one. what's your point that u don't respect majority rule?

Oct. 05 2009 11:23 AM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from "McLean, VA"

To [31] Taher from Croton on Hudson - nice part of the world. I know you won't mind when the Dems impose an annual wealth tax on you or better yet “volunteer” you to house an immigrant family in that big house of yours. I'm sure you can afford that extra $10-15,000 a year that the misguided "cap and trade" and the Obama/Weiner health care disaster bills will cost you. Unfortunately 95% of the people of this country can't afford what this socialist and incompetent admin plan for them.

Oct. 05 2009 11:23 AM
Bill from WIlliamsburg

Are you talking about development in New Jersey - but the parralels to Brooklyn are uncanny.
Who will dare to speak against and challenge the Media Mogul Mayor and the Zoning Czar???

Oct. 05 2009 11:20 AM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from "McLean, VA"

hjs - his polls after he was sworn in were in the Mid- 70s%. NO President has fallen so far so fast, even to the 50% you claim. He is now down on some issues to the high 30s - and all this with 4 of the 5 networks and Spanish TV in the bag for him as well as NPR and the "major" newspapers also in the bag for him covering up his incompetence, socialism, freaks in the shadow Tsar Gov’t, corrupt Chicago contacts and other scandals.

Imagine what his poll numbers would be if all the media told the truth; probably down in the teens with Congress.

Of course if the media had been fair during the election he would have lost.

Oct. 05 2009 11:12 AM
nina klippel from upper eastside

Robert Greenwald's film "Re-Thinking Afghanistan," makes clear that a military intervention is not only futile but counter-productive. Our military presence there is adding to the ranks of the Taliban, thanks to the addition of angry afghans who've seen their families killed and maimed, their homes destroyed, by US action.

I had thought we needed to defeat the Taliban to prevent the return of their grim rule, especially as it affected women. The film shows that violence against women is increasing, but it is domestic violence.

In the film, experts from the CIA and others make clear that what's needed there is support for civil life, for jobs, education, infrastructure.

Oct. 05 2009 10:54 AM
The Groundhog from Da Bronx

Both the liberal view (this is a law enforcement problem), and the neocon view (we can transform in our own image), are wrong; both suffer from too much poli sci, not enough history. What is required is old-fashioned balance of power, unimpeded by 21st century niceties about innocent people. During WW II, we allied with Stalinist Russia against the Nazis (only an odd form of right-winger laments that). Today, we should realize that PAKISTAN IS PART OF THE PROBLEM NOT THE SOLUTION. We should tilt towards India, and be less bellicose towards Iran (also an enemy of the Taliban); Holbrooke cannot be serious when he says taht the governments of the the US, India and Pakistan are on the same side. To cripple Islamist terror, we must be willing to inflict disproportionate damage. Example: Terrorists attack Mumbai; intelligence shows terrorists are from region ___________ in Pakistan. That region should be hit hard; Pakistani sovereignty, civilian lives, India's public image, be damned. Should Pakistan want to retaliate, we have to make clear that we will take it as as a retaliation against us. Should Civilans gather to protest in the streets, they become legitimate target as well. Vonnegut was wrong, dead wrong, about Slaughterhouse 5. We must be able and willing to make the costs of terrorism too high. We must be able and willing to kill. (For those who thin this brutal, ask your Carthaginian friends at lunch...)

Oct. 05 2009 10:53 AM
hjs from 11211

"Bama’s poll numbers have fallen drastically and continue to head south."

i won't say "drastically" he was elected with 53% of the vote and his polls are at 50 and NO LONGER FALLING. he'll be just fine when the ecoonmy picks up. don't over play your hand. people know the facts

Oct. 05 2009 10:49 AM
antonio from park slope

hjs: that was a good point on post on #16.

However, although I am not a isolationist but why are we the worlds police force...? I mean I think rebuilding our infrastructure, getting our people good paying jobs, and a better education should be a priority number one..

Oct. 05 2009 10:43 AM
Mark Heffern from Brooklyn

Do we really want to create a political situation where Presidents are married to every position they take regardless of changing events. Perhaps Obama should not have portrayed Afghanistan as the "good war". However, don't we want our leaders to weigh current events when makiing decisions-especially those that put American lives in harms way-and not be tied to a previous position simply because it was their previous position. Don't we want them to adapt? And in fact Obama consistently said that he would make decisions based on what was happening on the ground.

Oct. 05 2009 10:42 AM
nina klippel from upper eastside

Having just seen Robert Greenwald's film "Re-Thinking Afghanistan," the ambivilence I had about the war is completely gone -- I thought, like your current caller, it was important to prevent the return of the Taliban regime to prot ect women.

The film makes clear that our presence is increasing the Taliban (anger of civilians killed in our actions etc) .. and domestic violence against women is increasing (not by Taliban).

Experts like Andrew Bacivich, Bob Baer and many othrs point to the futility of military acton in Afghanistan - what's needed is suppot for civil life (schools, infrastructre etrc)

As for listening to the generals: first, strategry has to determined before the question of troop stregth.

Second - remember Doughas McArthur! He wanted to go into China -- and Truman fired him!

Third: The film points out that it costs $800,000 to keep each US soldier in Afghanistan. By contrast, it cost just $50,000 per soldier in Wolrd War II.

What if that money was used for security here at home? Ports, improved anti terrorism etc etc.


Oct. 05 2009 10:38 AM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from "McLean, VA"

hjs [8] - The Bama’s poll numbers have fallen drastically and continue to head south. He has alienated the left and the right and most of the middle is unhappy as well. Notice that the mainstream and liberal media has stopped reporting polls about how people feel about him and his disastrous health care proposals. It is highly unlikely that he will win a second term and he might still be impeached before the end of his first term.

He has accomplished nothing positive, has failed to keep any of his promises, has destroyed the American auto and banking industries, is trying to destroy the medical segment of our economy and quite frankly is a bit shaky on everything but the speech making and talk show appearances. He is an empty suit - a lame state senator who got where got by fraud, subterfuge and by good people looking away and refusing to say that the emperor had no clothes.

He is a failed President and that with a super majority in the House and Senate. Must be that "racism" thing and Glenn Beck (who's on the air opposite this show in NYC at WOR 710 AM from 9-12; breaking Democrat scandals daily and taking more calls then Brian or Lenny). Big ups on the LOLs!!!

Oct. 05 2009 10:37 AM
Rob from East Village

Your show On The Media, recently talked about Kennedy being the lone standout in a room full
of "experts" and generals wanting to bomb Cuba.
He said no & there is no argument now that it was the right decision.

Oct. 05 2009 10:37 AM


Oct. 05 2009 10:35 AM
Richard Johnston from Upper West Side

It is not in America's national interest to try to protect women's rights everywhere in the world.

Oct. 05 2009 10:33 AM
john from office

The second guessing and arm chair quarterbacking is the reason why Democrats cannot manage a war. At least Bush took a stand and held it over public ridicule.

Oct. 05 2009 10:33 AM
hjs from 11211

pakistan has nuclear weapons, we can't mess with them

Oct. 05 2009 10:33 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from manhattan


A balanced and informative session on a difficult question!

Oct. 05 2009 10:32 AM
Ellen from Brooklyn

Everyone seems to agree that winning the war in Afghanistan depends on improving the lifestyles and opportunities of ordinary people in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Education for women, the opportunity to make a living wage, etc.

Why not have a war that targets these issues? Why do we ignore strategically, what we all know ideologically?

Oct. 05 2009 10:32 AM
hjs from 11211

the lesson I learned from afghanistan is this: in the 80's the citizens of the USA used the afghans to fight a proxy war with the soviets (as part of the cold war). after that war we walked away, making no attempt to rebuild a country we helped to destroy, leaving afghanistan a basket case. 11 years later we paid the price for that failed state with 4000 lives. we can't just walk away and think it's not our problem. every failed state is a threat

Oct. 05 2009 10:31 AM

One of the callers stated that the VP (Biden) is no expert on Afghanistan...
What does 4 decades in the foreign affairs committee make you... a Dan Quayle?

(just a bit tired of right-wing mismanagement followed by bashing the left-wing servants)

Oct. 05 2009 10:30 AM
Catherine Roskam from Yonkers

Whether we send in more troops or not, no strategy will work in Afghanistan without nation building. Should we be doing it here in the U.S.? Absolutely, but it is not "either or"; it is "both/and."

Oct. 05 2009 10:28 AM
Kadijah from Brooklyn

As an Afghan native absolutely opposed to the invasion and occupation of my country, I cannot fathom why the focus is never put on what is at the heart of the matter: Pakistan and Pakistani interest in sustaining and expanding Taliban and al Qaeda forces. And, given that, why do we continue to funnel billions of dollars into that country? What I think would work and has not yet been tried is economic sanctions against and isolation of Pakistan.

Oct. 05 2009 10:27 AM
Nick from UWS

The "war" in Afghanistan is one of the most idiotic activities in modern times; stupid beyond imagining. What a waste of money and lives - of course it's being pushed by those who have a monetary interest in it. Eisenhower's military industrial complex has not gone away.

Terrorism IS a police matter, and the techniques of modern law enforcement are infinitely more effective in controlling it than this farcical attempt to eradicate it with military action.

Oct. 05 2009 10:26 AM
hjs from 11211

the military ALWAYS wants more troops! I think that special forces and drones can clean up the last of those theocrats

Oct. 05 2009 10:26 AM
uos from queens

Vietnam escalated to 500,000+ troops, and that turned out well.

Military commanders always want more troops. They will take on any challenge, realistic or not.

Oct. 05 2009 10:25 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

Is United States and NATO prepared to be in Afghanistan for decades asupporting corrupt governments that engage in voter fraud, and have connection to and benefit from the heroin trade? Specifically Mr. Karzi’s brother- who is known to have a hand in the trade.

Will then the US and NATO become a military protection arm of Afghanistan's corrupt government?

Oct. 05 2009 10:24 AM
hjs from 11211

and yet the president's poll numbers are still high. he'll get a 2nd term, no doubt!

Oct. 05 2009 10:20 AM
seth mosler from nyc

has anyone thought about spending billions on nation building here in the USA??

Oct. 05 2009 10:17 AM
Caitlin from Jersey City

In my highly amateur opinion, killing off the Taliban seems like playing a high-stakes game of Whack-a-Mole; no matter how many we kill, more will pop as long as a vacuum is left behind. And the current ridiculously corrupt government and total lack of infrastructure is one heck of a vacuum. As for how to fix this, I have no idea, but I don't think it can be solved entirely with firearms and explosives.

Oct. 05 2009 10:16 AM
whoindatgarden from Brooklyn

The U.S would be best served by walking out completely from Afghanistan. This war is a bottomless pit and we will never be able to convert/change the environment out there.
The Afghan's patience is far greater than our will and it is not likely to bring about the changes we want.
We would be better served to work through economic development program.

Oct. 05 2009 10:13 AM
Hugh Sansom from Brooklyn NY

Leslie Gelb and Peter Bergen -- both with a nearly unbroken record of being wrong on Iraq. Why can't we get actual critics instead of moderate hawks?

"I always agree with Les Gelb" -- what kind of statement is that? Certainly not one from someone who is *thinking*!

Oct. 05 2009 10:10 AM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from "McLean, VA"

One of the very few decent things that Obama has done is publicly identify Afghanistan and Pakistan as places where U.S. and the West need to be and need to win. Unfortunately he probably doesn’t have the experience, insight, temperament, management skills or just plain political or personal “guts” to do the things that need to be done.

He is increasing seen as a dangerous incompetent and inconsistent by the military and intelligence communities.

We can win in Afghanistan if we deploy the needed assets for such. Our technology and strategies are much more advanced then the Soviets. We have significant public support as we are truly there to help while the Soviets and little public support and were randomly brutal.

It’s the Bama’s war to lose. Maybe he can go into the hills and make a few speeches. I doubt Oprah will be going with him this time.

Oct. 05 2009 10:09 AM
Peter from Sunset Park

Obama does not instill confidence. He is an amateur and is unable to decide what he wants to do in Afghanistan. After reading Longstreet's post the first thought that came to mind was that WNYC would have instantly deleted it during the campaign. The media did not challenge Obama in any significant way and did not allow challenging voices to be heard. Now we are paying for it. Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Obama...ugh.

Oct. 05 2009 06:54 AM
longstreet from NYC area

Our President is daily proving his detractors were right in their assessment of him during last year's campaign.
In short, he is completely unprepared to govern in a responsible manner. The vacillation on Afghan policy, coupled with the inattention to the ongoing battle, which he termed a necessity, are not exactly the defining characteristics of a resolute leader.
Yet the man brags that making tough decisions in the Oval office comes easy to him.
Throw in his character flaws, like continually talking down the US before other nations (most recently at the UN and in Denmark), zero executive experience prior to January 20, 2009, and a Marxist ideological core and we've got a blueprint for US foreign-policy disaster.
And does having an angry wife at his ear each night allay or exacerbate your concerns?
Let's fervently hope that the great pretender proves folks like me completely wrong. Not too likely, after what we've seen thus far.
We are in for it, folks. For at least 3 more years until this shooting star burns out.

Oct. 04 2009 11:17 AM

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