The Real Reason Obama Is Escalating In Afghanistan

The real goals of the Afghanistan escalation are domestic and electoral. Like Lyndon Johnson, who escalated in Vietnam, Obama lives in mortal fear of being called a wimp by Republicans.

To cover his flank and look tough in the next U.S. election, Obama is expanding the war in Afghanistan. To look strong in front of swing voters, he will sacrifice the lives of hundreds of U.S. soldiers, allow many more to be horribly maimed, waste a minimum of $30 billion in public money and in the process kill many thousands of Afghan civilians.

It is political theater, nothing else. What are the other possible explanations for Obama's escalation? And why has he pledged to start drawing down the new deployment after only a year of fighting?

Is it to get the job done? To rebuild Afghanistan? To kill Osama bin Laden and crush Al Qaeda? No, all those goals are nearly impossible. And Al Qaeda is too small and internationally defused to destroy.

Some say the Afghanistan war and the escalation are about building a pipeline to export gas from Central Asia. Nonsense -- only a maniac would invest large sums of money in building a pipeline there. In the late 1990s the Argentine firm Bridas and the U.S. firm Unocal jockeyed for the right to build such a project. But that dream, always tentative, has evaporated. It will be many decades, at best, before Afghanistan is safe enough to host a new, foreign-owned gas pipeline.

Others say the Afghanistan war is about establishing US military bases to menace China, Russia and Iran. Indeed, because of its occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. now has bases on either side of Iran and small bases in Central Asia. But these do not require this escalation.

The real purpose of these 30,000 soldiers is to make Obama look tough as he heads toward the next U.S. presidential election.

As a landlocked, underdeveloped, fragmented buffer state with few resources, Afghanistan has long served as a means to get at other issues. Consider the history of how the United States has used Afghanistan.

First, during the cold war Jimmy Carter and then Ronald Reagan used the country as the Soviet "bear trap." Later, George W. Bush used it to trampoline into Iraq. The Bush administration discussed regime change in Iraq at one of its first cabinet meetings. Among other things, the administration wanted direct economic control, and indirect geostrategic control, over Iraq's vast oil wealth. That has been partially accomplished, as witnessed by the recent Exxon and Royal Dutch Shell deals there.

The only credible way into Iraq was via Afghanistan. On September 15, 2001, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz actually suggested that the United States skip an invasion of Afghanistan and go directly to Iraq. But that would have made coalition-building impossible. After all, Al Qaeda was in the Taliban's Afghanistan.

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