Bush’s negligence doesn’t absolve Obama of his responsibilities

True to form, the administration’s response to the biggest intelligence leak ever has been tactical and clichéd.

“The United States strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security,” National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones said in a statement released by the White House.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry had a somewhat more serious response, The Hill reported:

“However illegally these documents came to light, they raise serious questions about the reality of America’s policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Kerry said. “Those policies are at a critical stage and these documents may very well underscore the stakes and make the calibrations needed to get the policy right more urgent.”

But how long can this critical stage last?

In The Guardian, Simon Tisdall observes:

That the Afghan campaign lacks a clear strategy, has been politically misdirected and militarily under-resourced, and is essentially unwinnable as presently conceived is something the British public, like its counterparts in the US and western Europe, has increasingly suspected. Opinion polls in most Nato countries show strengthening opposition to the western alliance’s longest ever war.

The war logs, an official accounting of murderous missions, tragic incompetence and abject failure from 2004-2009, put factual flesh on the bare bones of these negative perceptions. Their publication may further undermine public support just as the campaign supposedly reaches a “critical” juncture following June’s record casualties and the sacking of General Stanley McChrystal.

The White House’s defence — that this serial bungling occurred on George Bush’s watch — appears problematic. Since Barack Obama concluded a policy review last December and decided on a “surge” of 30,000 additional troops, overall levels of violence have risen further while confusion about counterinsurgency strategy and the exit timetable has deepened.

“Obama has had several opportunities to reassess US goals and interests and in each instance he has chosen to escalate,” said Richard Haass, a former senior Bush administration official and president of the council on foreign relations. “Today the counterinsurgency strategy that demanded all those troops is clearly not working.” Afghanistan was now Obama’s war, Haass said, and he was losing it. “It’s time to scale down our ambitions and reduce and redirect what we do.”

When it comes to understanding this war, subjective impressions sometimes tell us as much as any of the raw facts. It’s even possible that a poem — and one written hundreds of miles away from the battlefield in another country — might provide us with as much insight as do reams of intelligence reports.

Megan Stack covered the war in Afghanistan for the Los Angeles Times and in her new book, Every Man in This Village Is a Liar, chronicles her experiences as a war correspondent.

In an interview on NPR this morning, Stack described the way a government-backed anti-terrorism program in Yemen failed to resonate with the experience of ordinary Yemenis — people whose sentiment is no doubt shared by much of the population in Afghanistan.

On one of her last evenings in Yemen, Stack traveled to a remote village to meet a poet who was known for his anti-terrorism poems and had been hired by the government to travel around the countryside, reciting his poetry and encouraging people to write their own anti-terrorist verses.

But what Stack heard the villagers recite that night was quite a bit different:

The more we try to be Muslim, the more American they try to make us.
Our literary teaching and great heritage have been invaded by the West.
They drove us crazy talking about the freedom of women.
They want to drive her to evil.
They ask the woman to remove the hijab and replace it with trousers, to show their bodies.
Now people who do their village rituals are accused of being extremists.
Even the music is now brought in instead of listening to good, traditional music.
Now people are kissing each other on television.

Cultural imperialism results in no casualty reports, no visible scars, but the destructive effect of America’s wars should not simply be measured in the amount of blood shed.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

3 thoughts on “Bush’s negligence doesn’t absolve Obama of his responsibilities

  1. Vicente V. Jungstedt

    This site is always excellent!!!!! I understand the leak is very recent, but browsing around there has been little analysis and real jornalism about it.
    War in Context, great site!

  2. scott

    I don’t know how accurate that is. Your conclusion I mean. There is cultural imperialism and then there’s imperialism and cultural expression against it. At least that’s the impression I get considering that my Algerian wife remembers all her sisters dressing Western, always attuned to the trends in Paris. This is in the 70’s, after the French were driven out, after the cities were taken over apt, by apt, vacated by their fleeing French families. Much jockeying and fighting occurred when the natives took their cities back, remade in French form.

    Our friends from Pakistan, Morocco, Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine also are all fairly well informed. Many still cover their hair in stylish scarves, but their dress is modern American, though no low cut blouses. I’m, we’re all in our early 40’s and many of these people got here before 9/11. Things were changing culturally before 9/11. The Palestinian issue lingered, the Iraq sanctions played different. The tyranny that stifles if democracy or more importantly economic opportunity. Arabs are the South Americans/Mexicans of Europe, they feel that way, they’re treated that way by us and our trade policies. They have little redress for wrongs in courts, Western companies have carte blanche there. All of that has led to an entrenchment of Arabization in Algerian schools particularly, where French had formerly carried more weight.

    The hijab today is perhaps an unconscious fashion statement. But, it is no doubt there. The West is there, the internet. My wife has a facebook page here with many nieces and nephews in Algeria. This is throughout the world, they are seeing a diversity of friends, all sorts of people dressed in all sorts of ways.

    Women don’t really go out socially there on a day to day basis, though discos are quite common. You can find and live in whatever world you want there. But, it’s easy for men to encourage the hijab, they believe it is the righteous thing to do, so they do it reflexively. But, I believe this is driven by the fashion magazines. We want to see Arab women stand up and distinguish themselves? Well guess what, they aren’t gonna do that by dressing Western. They look simply Western.

    But, just as my grandfather hates to see me with facial hair, as, “it makes it harder to do business with some people;” a Muslim woman in a hijab can go anywhere, even to the disco, or the beach. Which disappointed me, cause some of my wife’s neices aren’t 40 but in their 20’s and I was a bit disappointed to see them swimming in this one piece long sleaved, legged leotard. My wife swam in her regular one piece, hair out, as nearly always. I saw any assortment of garb on and around the beach. I don’t know if they were forced to dress any certain way, I believe many choose to dress all sorts of ways.

  3. Christopher Hoare

    So everyone desperately believes their own culture is the only one worth fighting for. What happened to the global village? Global madhouse more like it, but there’s a serious lack of the people in the white coats with the key rings.

    Those who suffered most in two world wars set up institutions they hoped would be the moderators of the madhouse and the latest, the UN, does quite well when given the chance. However the chance has been hazarded ever since Bush decided the wiser heads were getting in the way.

    Time for the pendulum to swing back — renewal in the Security Council, perhaps lessening of veto powers — what about a General Assembly appointed by worldwide direct election?

Comments are closed.