Monday, July 06, 2009

Don't blame Obama for the economy

In regards to Biden saying they "misread" the extent of the recession, John Boehner and other Republicans are attacking Obama for presiding over the loss of 2 million jobs since he took office.

This is just stupid, for reasons of simple reality and political strategy. Everyone knows that this recession started under the Bush administration. Obama is not responsible for the recession unless you can point to something stupid he did to harm the economy. Since the only candidate policies that might do that(cap and trade, tax increases) haven't gone into effect yet, or even been signed by the President, it's silly to accuse him of economic mismanagement.

The only thing Obama is responsible for is wasting all that stimulus money. That's where the Republicans should be hitting him, especially when you've got prominent liberals calling for a second stimulus before the first one is even half spent. Focus on the failed stimulus like a laser and don't let another one get by you. The nation can't afford it.

Attacking Obama on the economy is just stupid, because voters know Republicans got us into this mess, and because if Obama senses that it is hurting him, he'll do something stupid like sign another stimulus. The stimulus is the failure, not Obama's overall economic management.

The war in Afghanistan

With the war in Iraq winding down after it took a good five years to come up with a winning strategy, the Obama administration is now focusing on winning the war in Afghanistan. This is all good.

However, despite what the Iraq war cost us, I think most of us realize that Afghanistan is a much tougher job. Since the load is being widely shared among NATO, and we have fewer troops over there, the casualties don't seem as high. But at least for the last three years, they have been near Iraq levels. With more troops being committed and us getting more serious about fighting the remnants of the Taliban, our casualties will continue to rise, probably to the point where we're losing as many of our men and women as we did at the height of the Iraqi insurgency. And this may go on for a long time, much longer than it went on in Iraq.

The generals say they don't have enough troops yet. Obama has made a very good decision to raise troop levels to 66,000, but that's just not going to cut it. That's not Obama's fault, that's probably all that can be committed until we are first out of Iraq, and second, our military has had a couple of years to recover from the Iraq debacle. But eventually, we are going to have to ramp up to near 200,000 if we want to actually win this war. That won't happen until 2013 at the earliest. Once we do get to that troop level, we can probably win the war in another four to six years, given good political and military leadership.

I think we're going to have significant forces in Afghanistan until 2020, and I also think we'll incur 10-15K combat fatalities. Iraq has been in the headlines since 2003 while Afghanistan has been a sideshow, but I think when the histories are written, Afghanistan will be the big war and Iraq the sideshow. Iraq will be seen as a blunder that diverted troops from the real battlefield and made our eventual victory that much harder.

For those who think we won't have the political will to expend that much blood and treasure in Afghanistan, think again. 3000 Americans died because of Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The threat that they pose still exists. There's no way we can retreat from Afghanistan. It's not an elective war like Iraq was, or the Soviet Afghan war was. We either win, or we are defeated. Al Qaeda and the Taliban cannot win a political victory because political victories are only possible in elective wars like Vietnam or Iraq. So the only question to answer is, how long will it take for us to defeat them, not whether we'll stick it out to the bitter end.

That means that the war in Afghanistan is only just beginning.