Decision Day

afghan landscapeIt's finally here, and I must say, worth the wait. Given the box General McChrystal's request put him in, President Obama did about as well as he could have. After the ninth strategy meeting earlier this week, leaks said that the decision has been made. 34,000 total soldiers and marines, comprised of 23,000 combat and support troops, 7,000 for a division headquarters in southern Afghanistan, and 4,000 trainers. And in a diplomatic coup, 5,000 additional troops from NATO allies. So in the end, Obama can say that he basically provided the 40,000 troops requested.

Beyond the numbers, the strategy and justification for the increase is vitally important. That will be addressed on Tuesday, the official announcement date, and I look forward to the speech Obama will give. He's set the bar pretty high for himself with campaign and inauguration orations, I expect him to rise to this level again. Until then, here are a few issues I've found this week.

Via Spencer Ackerman, two money issues. The Pentagon says that it costs $500,000 per service member per year to deploy to a war zone. The administration says it's closer to $1 million. A Los Angeles Times article, "Pricing an Afghanistan troop buildup is no simple calculation," addresses this gap. Rep. David Obey (D-WI), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee has introduced the Share the Sacrifice Act, which would start a surtax on income in 2011 to pay for the full cost of the Afghanistan war. Co-sponsored by my Representative, Betty McCollum (D-MN), I'm proud to say.

Afghan tribesmenBoth our allies and our enemies in Afghanistan look like the men in this picture. In fact, the same person could be both at any given time. For instance, 10 to 20 percent of supply contracts are diverted to insurgents for protection. Read Aram Roston's article in the The Nation, "How the US Funds the Taliban" to find out how and why this happens.

Finally, for a look at the opportunity cost of spending money in Afghanistan, read a post by David Rothkopf, who blogs at, "The Choice."
Today's Washington Post carries a story saying that 34.5 percent of young African American men are unemployed. That number, like all such numbers, almost certainly understates the problem. That is not an economic challenge. That is a failure of our system and a wound to our society that makes anything that terrorists could do to us pale by comparison. It is time we started to understand and address the real threats we face.


Anonymous said...

"Given the box General McChrystal's request put him in, President Obama did about as well as he could have." Huh? General McChrystal WORKS for Obama. Obama appointed him; Obama can fire him (just like he fired the previous general). Sending 34,000 more troops is 100% Obama's decision. Jim

Norwegian Shooter said...

You're right, Obama put himself in this box. From the campaign through a couple of weeks ago. I am apologizing for him. I'm grasping at straws for some good news, anything at all.

I was about to say you and someone at Thanksgiving slapped some sense into me, but I just figured out that you were at Turkey Day!

My longstanding complaints with the McChrystal report:

1) Petraeus has orchestrated the whole thing and is getting zero scrutiny. Just a hunch, admittedly. But he is my dark horse pick for the GOP in '12. You heard it here first.

2) The neo-cons who wrote the dang thing. I'll find a link from an earlier post and put it in an update.

3) Making the first leak of the report to Bob Woodward. The first big story line from this was "We will lose!!! Unless you do as I say"

4) Creating the three options with the Goldilocks choice of 40,000 troops. It was even spun as "medium-risk" without ever explaining what the risk was.

So there it is, thanks for writing! I really do need to step away from the Afghanistan.

foutsc said...

Petraeus is my 2012 dark horse, too. Doubt it will happen though.

It's encouraging to hear a liberal discuss opportunity costs, since many seem to believe in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, pixie dust, etc.

I also must grudgingly give a hat tip to those who want to pay for the war. Of course, it's a backhand way to oppose the war, but being a small-government type, I believe everything should be paid for.

Is sounds heartless, but we should don the green eyeshades when contemplating foreign action. And really, that's the least of it. The human toll cannot be calculated.

Jeremiah Whitmoore said...

"It's finally here, and I must say, worth the wait. Given the box General McChrystal's request put him in, President Obama did about as well as he could have."

Do we still have a civilian government in the USA? Maybe Obama should dress in a military uniform with fake ribbons and medals upon his holy chest much like other fascist leaders did.

Norwegian Shooter said...

Hey, Jeremiah, thanks for commenting. You're right, I overdid this. After months of being super-pissed at Obama for about everything, I succumbed to an unworthy defense of his actions. I'll go back to the salt mines soon.

dezmembrari auto said...

Obama make a big mistake. That is my opinion and the history will told us the thrue.

Troy said...

Shooter, what's the word? The holidays are over.

Norwegian Shooter said...

Troy, I've started posts several times, but haven't followed through. Thanks for the prodding, I'll promise two posts by the weekend.