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Is Andrew Bacevich Right About Oversight Hearings for Afghanistan?
Posted by ZP Heller on March 19th, 2009

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There’s no question Andrew Bacevich has been one of the staunchest critics of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In part one of Rethink Afghanistan, from which this clip is excerpted, Bacevich called the 17,000 additional troops President Obama has committed “a drop in the bucket.” And in a recent conversation with me, Bacevich said Obama put the cart before the horse by escalating the war before finishing his policy review. So I was surprised when Bacevich, a Boston University International Relations professor and author of The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, told me we wouldn’t see congressional oversight hearings anytime soon.

Bacevich’s pragmatic assessment stemmed from the fact that Afghanistan is deemed part of the global war on terror that Defense Secretary Gates has called “the Long War.” And Bacevich is certainly correct in the sense that we haven’t seen much of an institutionalized effort to challenge the policymakers, monitor the military agencies involved, or inform the public. That said, I remain entirely optimistic about bringing about congressional oversight hearings (and I’ll explain why in the extended post).

Opposition to the war is growing within the halls of Congress and throughout the country. Yesterday, The Hill reported a bipartisan group of 15 members of the House signed a letter urging Obama to reconsider military escalation. Meanwhile, a USA Today/Gallup News Poll reveals that public support for the war is at a new low; 42% of the country thinks this war is a “mistake”–the highest mark since this poll was first taken back in November 2001.

There’s never been a better time to call for congressional oversight hearings, considering we seem to be getting mixed signals from the Obama administration. They call for a careful foreign policy review but commit 17,000 more troops before it’s complete; they want to engage moderate elements of the Taliban, try regional diplomacy, and send hundreds of US diplomats and civilian officials to Afghanistan, but then they also consider expanding military strikes that would further destabilize Pakistan. It’s high time we had some oversight hearings, which you can make a reality by signing the petition. We need to learn exactly what our military and elected leaders hope to achieve in Afghanistan, especially since they still seem to be figuring it out themselves with thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars at stake.

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to “Is Andrew Bacevich Right About Oversight Hearings for Afghanistan?”

  1. Georgia Hotton says:

    Following is a work in progress which may be faxed on to the President on 3/28/09 by a local Green Valley discussion group, Georgia Hotton

    March 28, 2009

    President Barak Obama

    The White House

    Washington, DC

    Fax 202-456-2461

    Dear President Obama,

    Before deploying additional Marines and Soldiers to Afghanistan, we believe the mission should be more clearly defined.

    While we recognize the threat of Al-Qaeda and the necessity of dealing with that threat, we do not believe Afghanistan itself is a threat to the United States. At the same time, we understand how a strong NATO presence in Afghanistan might be considered threatening to Russia.

    We, therefore, support your goal, through the leadership of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, to explore diplomatic solutions that would lessen tensions between Pakistan and India. Additionally, we support the efforts to negotiate with the primary concerned countries including Afghanistan, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, India and China in working with the United States to promote peace and stability throughout the region.

    Each of these nations has much to gain by focusing on Al-Qaeda as the real threat.

    In these negotiations, pre-conditions need to be set aside in favor of understanding, patience and respect for all parties concerned.

    We do not want to see mission creep, nor do we want a strategy without an exit plan.

    While Afghanistan may need assistance for a number of years, we do not believe this should be an American or even a NATO responsibility. Just as Chinese, Russian and American Navies may be working together against the pirates off the coast of Somalia, it is time for the major powers of the world to co-operate against common enemies such as Al-Qaeda.

    Ultimately, our most intractable enemies may well be ignorance and corruption. Throughout the region, civilian populations need protection; modern infrastructure, including good schools, needs to be put in place; and civilian rules of law should prevail. These are not things outsiders can impose.

    Sincerely,

  2. Georgia Hotton says:

    Following is a work in progress which may be faxed on to the President on 3/28/09 by a local Green Valley discussion group, Georgia Hotton

    March 28, 2009

    President Barak Obama

    The White House

    Washington, DC

    Fax 202-456-2461

    Dear President Obama,

    Before deploying additional Marines and Soldiers to Afghanistan, we believe the mission should be more clearly defined.

    While we recognize the threat of Al-Qaeda and the necessity of dealing with that threat, we do not believe Afghanistan itself is a threat to the United States. At the same time, we understand how a strong NATO presence in Afghanistan might be considered threatening to Russia.

    We, therefore, support your goal, through the leadership of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, to explore diplomatic solutions that would lessen tensions between Pakistan and India. Additionally, we support the efforts to negotiate with the primary concerned countries including Afghanistan, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, India and China in working with the United States to promote peace and stability throughout the region.

    Each of these nations has much to gain by focusing on Al-Qaeda as the real threat.

    In these negotiations, pre-conditions need to be set aside in favor of understanding, patience and respect for all parties concerned.

    We do not want to see mission creep, nor do we want a strategy without an exit plan.

    While Afghanistan may need assistance for a number of years, we do not believe this should be an American or even a NATO responsibility. Just as Chinese, Russian and American Navies may be working together against the pirates off the coast of Somalia, it is time for the major powers of the world to co-operate against common enemies such as Al-Qaeda.

    Ultimately, our most intractable enemies may well be ignorance and corruption. Throughout the region, civilian populations need protection; modern infrastructure, including good schools, needs to be put in place; and civilian rules of law should prevail. These are not things outsiders can impose.

    Sincerely,

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