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Why Jim Hightower Shouldn’t Be the Only One Debating John McCain on Afghanistan

Posted by ZP Heller on March 31st, 2009

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The same neocons who orchestrated the war in Iraq and undermined US efforts in Afghanistan the first time around are at it again, determined to sink us deeper into the costly Afghan quagmire. They have resurfaced in the form of the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), a Washington think tank headed by Robert Kagan, Bill Kristol, and Dan Senor. As Sam Stein reported last week on The Huffington Post, the FPI will hold a summit today titled “Afghanistan: Planning for Success.” And slated to attend the event are powerful Republicans and Democrats like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Rep. John M. McHugh (R-NY), and Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA). What’s particularly troubling about McCain and a think tank like the FPI is that they are trying to manipulate President Obama’s plans for military escalation into a massive, limitless war of Iraq proportions.

We already know where McCain stands on Afghanistan. He and fellow warmonger Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) celebrated the sixth anniversary of the Iraq war by urging the Obama administration to support an all-out military commitment in Afghanistan, regardless of cost. McCain clearly shares the FPI’s warped notion of “success” in Afghanistan, which he has discussed everywhere from the Op-Ed pages of the Washington Post to his recent speech at the American Enterprise Institute. He envisions a Utopian outcome to this war, one in which our military engages in a broad-based, long-term counterinsurgency to create “a stable, secure, self-governing Afghanistan that is not a terrorist sanctuary.” Compounding that highly improbable scenario is the fact that McCain and the FPI are getting away with defining “success” in Afghanistan because not enough mainstream journalists or members of Congress are contesting their views.

You know your foreign policy is highly questionable if Bill Kristol goes on FOX News and says he supports it, which is what happened Sunday. Kristol was able to sweep Obama’s plan into the neocon call for a major counterinsurgency, falsely claiming an all-out war is in the interest of national security and defeating al Qaeda. Kristol even managed to suggest Obama is now divided with his own administration on Afghanistan, and in a twisted retrospective kicker, Kristol compared the Afghan and Iraq surges to imply President Bush actually showed good leadership.

Because Obama is toying with escalation by sending 4,000 trainers (in addition to the 17,000 troops he already pledged), McCain, Kristol and their FPI cohorts are now taking that foreign policy to the logical extremes of military commitment. But where are the journalists to call out Kristol? Where are the members of Congress who will hold oversight hearings that bring in real experts to explain to us what escalation will mean for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States? More people ought to be picking apart McCain’s wholly unrealistic notion of victory and reclaiming the frame of success in Afghanistan; just watch Jim Hightower show you how it’s done.

The reality is that the kind of success McCain and the FPI dream of would require an commitment of at least 640,000 troops–a far fry from the 21,000 Obama has called for. And if the current rate of escalation could cost our country $1 trillion by the end of Obama’s first term, as Tom Hayden has predicted in his must-read piece “Don’t Go There, Mr. President,” then you can only imagine how much this war could cost (and how exponentially difficult it will become to pull ourselves out of this recession) if we keep allowing McCain and his neocon pals at the FPI to manipulate foreign policy.

It’s time to reclaim the frame on Afghanistan, and that starts with real debate in the mainstream media and the halls of Congress.

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