NEW YORK—So there is a difference between the two parties. Republicans want us to spend, die and lose in Iraq. Democrats want us to spend, die and lose in Afghanistan.
There's a difference between the two wars, too. Afghanistan is even less justifiable than Iraq. It's also less winnable.
The lily-livered libbies' "Bush took his eye off the ball in Afghanistan when he invaded Iraq" meme is back. "Six years after we took our eye off the ball in Afghanistan—the origin of the 9/11 attacks—we still don't have our priorities straight," Barack Obama said in Des Moines. That followed an October speech in New Hampshire in which he described George W. Bush's response to 9/11 as "perfectly reasonable."
"I supported the invasion of Afghanistan because the Taliban had been supportive and the base camp for al-Qaida," Obama said. "So I had no problem with that."
In fact, Afghanistan had nothing to do with 9/11. The Taliban were not involved. The "base camp" for al-Qaida was, and is, in Pakistan. (Different country! Look it up.)
Democrats, reports Tom Curry of MSNBC, have embraced an election-year "out of Iraq, shift to Afghanistan" strategy. It's a drone of rhetorical distraction worthy of Karl Rove, and not one mainstream media outlet has thought to question. Obama and his fellow Democrats (John Edwards is, as usual, a laudable exception to the lunacy) say they were for Bush's first war—the one he lost because he didn't spend enough money or enough lives—before they were against the second one.
Obama's hoary sports metaphor, regurgitated since 2005 by Howard Dean, John Kerry, Joe Biden, Harry Reid and virtually every other luminary of the lame left, followed a Dec. 17 vote by Congressional Democrats (201 to 30) to send $30 billion for war against Afghanistan, but nothing for Iraq.
"Afghanistan is the primary front of the fight against Islamic extremism, but for too long we have taken our eye off the ball," parroted Rep. Ike Skelton, Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
In fact, Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan the whole time U.S. forces were "looking" for him in Afghanistan. So was al-Qaida and most of its training camps. The money for 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia. The hijackers were supplied by Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Hey, never let the truth get in the way of a good sound byte.
I'm not convinced the military can fight terrorists. Blowing up schools and weddings is a lousy way to fight Islamic extremism. The history of counterinsurgency shows that it's easier to kill your enemies with an open mind than with bombs. If you're gonna go the military route, however, you'd be better off taking on Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt—in that order.
The New York Times, comrades in clueless centrism with the (oxymoron alert) Democratic leadership, reported that the usually implacable Bush administration is gripped by "a growing apprehension that one of the administration's most important legacies—the routing of Taliban and [al-Qaida] forces in Afghanistan after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001—may slip away."
The paper editorialized: "Unless the United States and Europe come up with a better strategy—and invest more money, attention and troops—the 'good war' will go irretrievably bad."
Ugh. Good war, indeed. Doesn't anyone care that Afghanistan and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are whole different countries?
Committees are being empanelled to analyze why Afghanistan is still such a mess of warlords, opium farmers and suicide bombers. Could it be the decision to send one-tenth as many troops as Iraq to a nation the same size but with more daunting terrain and a fierce population of warriors renowned for slaughtering invaders? Was it a PR mistake to replace the Taliban, who stoned rapists and murderers to death, with the Northern Alliance, whose officials are rapists and murderers? Did the lack of reconstruction increase resentment? How about the grinding poverty, which the U.S. invasion has made worse?
But here's what we're hearing instead: "I have a real concern that given our preoccupation in Iraq, we've not devoted sufficient troops and funding to Afghanistan to ensure success in that mission," said Skelton, the Congressional Democrat.
The cold, hard truth is that Afghanistan can't be won. Not with more money, and not with the 6,000 more troops Obama wants to send there. Not with 60,000, or 600,000.
With the recent exception of 9/11, America's wars have been fought overseas. We have a deadline: We can't stay forever. The Afghans, on the other hand, live there. They have time—all the time in the world. They know that all they have to do is wait us out and hassle our forces in the meantime. They're good at it—ask the Brits and Russians.
Not everyone is falling for the Democrats' "forget their war, let's fight our war" spiel. A letter to the editor of the Times began: "I hope that when the Bush administration and NATO conclude their analyses of the Afghanistan mission they will reach one inescapable, commonsense conclusion: that Western-style democracy cannot be militarily imposed on a culture that is based on tribal loyalties. Maybe at that point, our nation and the world will be able to finally use our economic and human resources in a more efficient manner." The letter writer's name was Bill Gottdenker. Too bad he's not running for president.
Ted Rall is the author of the book Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?, an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge.