, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I can’t believe this, but I’m going to defend the remarks of RNC Chairman Michael Steele, at least in part. Which is more than I can say for the response from the DNC.

Of course Steele’s accusation that Afghanistan is “a war of Obama’s choosing” is ridiculous. Afghanistan was a war of no one’s choosing, it was a response to the attacks on September 11, 2001. And the reason Afghanistan deteriorated into the situation President Obama inherited was because of the choices of the Bush administration, who neglected Afghanistan for 7 years in the misguided pursuit of the “war of their choosing” in Iraq.

But to be fair, President Obama has made some significant choices in relation to Afghanistan. He chose to increase the number of troops there soon after taking office. He chose to replace Gen. McKiernan with Gen. McChrystal, which included a choice to shift strategy from McKiernan’s more conventional approach to McChrystal’s counterinsurgency plan. Because of this change in strategy the president chose to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan by another 30,000.

When Obama replaced McChrystal recently, the president chose to bring in Gen. Petraeus and stick with counterinsurgency despite a growing number of indications, including the grumblings by McChrystal and his staff included in the Rolling Stone piece, that it isn’t working.

Steele was right on the money with this part of his remarks:

“Well, if he is such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? Alright, because everyone who has tried over a thousand years of history has failed, and there are reasons for that.”

That brought this reaction from the DNC:

“Here goes Michael Steele setting policy for the GOP again. The likes of John McCain and Lindsey Graham will be interested to hear that the Republican Party position is that we should walk away from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban without finishing the job. They’d also be interested to hear that the Chairman of the Republican Party thinks we have no business in Afghanistan notwithstanding the fact that we are there because we were attacked by terrorists on 9-11.

“And, the American people will be interested to hear that the leader of the Republican Party thinks recent events related to the war are ‘comical’ and that he is betting against our troops and rooting for failure in Afghanistan. It’s simply unconscionable that Michael Steele would undermine the morale of our troops when what they need is our support and encouragement. Michael Steele would do well to remember that we are not in Afghanistan by our own choosing, that we were attacked and that his words have consequences.”

As Greg Sargent at Plum Line points out, (and Glenn Greenwald at Salon agrees) these charges are a tactic straight out of Karl Rove’s playbook, and one which the Bush administration often leveled at Democrats over the war in Iraq. That anyone who criticizes any aspect of the war is advocating for “cutting and running” and doesn’t “support the troops.”


“Two points about this:   (1) there’s nothing “tough” or “rough” about the DNC statement; it’s actually lame, desperate and ineffective.  As I noted above, the 2006 and 2008 GOP-crushing elections both proved that these rhetorical insults do not work any longer.  Beyond that, attacking people for criticizing the War in Afghanistan is as dumb as when the Republicans attacked people who criticized the Iraq War.”

As Dave Dayen at Firedoglake points out, an amendment to the war supplemental in the House which called for a withdrawal timetable in Afghanistan got 162 votes, a majority of the Democratic caucus.

Greenwald concludes:

“I wonder what the DNC has to say about the fact that a majority of their Party’s House caucus are cowardly, solider-hating traitors who are betting against the Troops.”