Afghanistan

Intervention comes in all shapes and sizes: U.S. spent over $32 million in failed soy farms in Afghanistan

Afghanistan soy farmers

Interventionism is pretty bad. Disguising it as economical jumpstart measures with honorable goals is just as bad.

You might be used to referring to intervention solely as policies related to military involvement overseas, but often enough, the U.S. government involvement in the economical lives of other nations is linked to what the government officials, not entrepreneurs or seasonal investors, see as a viable project.

Because knowledge regarding prices and production is dispersed, meaning that not all agents are fully aware of all conditions signaling when it’s time to invest and produce, and when it’s time to lay low, government officials often miss the mark in a big way when attempting to determine what kind of interventionist policy they want to embrace next.

The United States government has ignored these lessons too many times in the past, but most recently, its brutally foolish assertiveness has cost taxpayers $34 million.

Over the past four years, the U.S. has been investing in a campaign to change how Afghans eat, and a major part of the project is associated with aiding the country by helping its farmers to grow soy.

Top taxpayer dollars were used to sustain an effort that involved getting the U.S. into growing soybeans in Afghanistan in the hopes that the crops were a viable commercial crop that would also help Afghans to fight some of its malnourishment issues. Soybeans, some U.S. officials thought, will raise the level of protein in their diets and lead to an agricultural jumpstart, helping the struggling country’s economy to flourish.

Unfortunately, the project was doomed from day one. The first 2011 crop failed. Any other harvest after that also failed to produce enough soybeans, making the project impossible to be carried out.

Americans are tired of war: Old Guard Republicans attacking Rand Paul show how truly out of touch they are

Power structures and ideological dynamics change quickly in Washington, and when a sea change happens you almost feel sorry for the losing side, who usually doesn’t realize it for a while, still clinging to their anachronistic worldview and thinking it’s mainstream. But there comes a time when you just have to point and laugh at people who have lost, and lost big, and don’t even realize it.

Politico has a new summary of all the defense hawk attacks on Rand Paul’s alleged “isolationism,” including Rick Perry, Dick Cheney, Elliott Abrams from the Council on Foreign Relations, and Mackenzie Eaglen from the American Enterprise Institute. In denouncing the freshman Senator’s skepticism of interventionism, they cite the current situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and of course 9/11.

Yes, “it’s been a long time since 9/11,” as Cheney said, lamenting what he sees as forgetfulness about the threat of terrorism, but also, it’s been a long time since 9/11. At a certain point you have to stop buttressing your entire foreign policy narrative with the biggest failure of our national intelligence and defense systems since Pearl Harbor. We haven’t reverted to a pre-9/11 mindset, we’ve evolved to a post-post-9/11 mindset. The world has changed, again; global interventionists haven’t.

Perhaps sadder still than their reliance on the 9/11 shibboleth is the delusion that hawks are still the mainstream of public opinion or even the Republican Party:

He’s right: Glenn Beck says it’s time to bring our troops home

Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck went into a lengthy, brilliant monologue on his talk show on Tuesday in which he offered a mea culpa over his support for the Iraq war and called on the United States to alter its approach to foreign policy and bring its troops home.

The conservative talk show host reflected on some areas of agreement in American politics, including the bipartisan outrage over the VA scandal, though he admitted that the United States is polarized, and suggested that “[m]aybe we could come together now on this nightmare in Iraq.”

“Now, in spite of the things I felt at the time when we went into war, liberals said: We shouldn’t get involved. We shouldn’t nation-build. And there was no indication the people of Iraq had the will to be free. I thought that was insulting at the time. Everybody wants to be free. They said we couldn’t force freedom on people,” said Beck on his show. “Let me lead with my mistakes. You are right. Liberals, you were right. We shouldn’t have.”

Beck, who sounded an awful lot like Ron Paul in the nearly 16-minute monologue, lamented the human cost, the deaths American soldiers and innocent Iraqis who were killed in the war, as well as the $2 trillion fiscal impact. But, he explained, the people of Iraq need to work the problems they face out for themselves.

If his lips are moving, he’s probably lying: Obama goes back on campaign promise to remove all U.S. troops from Afghanistan

Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal

“We are bringing our troops home from Afghanistan. And I’ve set a timetable. We will have them all out of there by 2014.”

President Obama spoke these words at a campaign stop in Boulder, Colorado, just a few weeks before the 2012 Presidential election. Taking a swipe at Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who didn’t have a timetable for troop withdrawal, Obama warned, “That’s what’s at stake in this election.”

Nearly two years later, President Obama has decided to keep nearly 10,000 American soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan past the initial 2014 deadline, the Associated Press reports:

The two-year plan is contingent on the Afghan government signing a bilateral security agreement with the U.S. While current Afghan President Hamid Karzai has declined to sign the agreement, U.S. officials are confident that either of the candidates seeking to replace him would give his approval.

The plan calls for the U.S. military to draw down from its current force of 32,000 to 9,800 by the start of next year. Those troops would be dispatched throughout Afghanistan and focus on counterterrorism missions and training Afghan security forces. They would not be engaged in combat missions.

Over the course of next year, the number of troops would be cut in half and consolidated in the capital of Kabul and at Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan. Those remaining forces would largely be withdrawn by the end of 2016, with fewer than 1,000 remaining behind to staff a security office in Kabul.

The Drone Dilemma

Yesterday, I read an article from the Council on Foreign Relations called “Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies.” The opening paragraph read:

Over the last ten years, drones have become a critical tool in the war against terrorist and militant organizations worldwide. Their advantages over other weapons and intelligence systems are well known. They can silently observe an individual, group, or location for hours on end, but take immediate action should a strike opportunity become available—all without putting a pilot at risk. This combination of capabilities is unique and has allowed the United States to decimate the leadership of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and disrupt the activities of many other militant groups.

The paragraph seems to be a wholehearted endorsement of drones. But everyone knows what happens when you start peeling the layers of an onion. What appear to be reasons for drone strikes also happen to be reasons against them.

Real Defense Budget Alternatives

With the “fiscal cliff” behind us, it’s important to remember that in less than two months, the Congress will be dealing with another manufactured crisis: The budget cuts of the 2011 Budget Control Act known as “sequestration.”  The Department of Defense will bear 41% of the prescribed cuts, eliminating an additional $492 billion over 10 years.  Although entitlement spending will also be on the table, the initial fight will be over cuts to the Defense budget.

A new study by the nonpartisan RAND Corporation concludes that the defense budget cuts cannot be taken without altering our overall defense strategy, and that “the department should modify defense strategy to fit the new resource constraints and prepare its course of action sooner rather than later.”

The authors highlight three alternative strategies, which anyone interested in this topic should read and consider.  An accompanying article by the authors states, “Reductions of the magnitude implied by sequestration—some $500 billion over the coming decade—cannot be accommodated without a re-examination of current defense strategy.”

United States is meddling in a Civil War

Before Christmas, amid the drama of the fiscal cliff, and before the horrible shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama announced that our government would recognize the Syrian opposition as the legitimate representative of the country’s people, stating:

“The Syrian opposition coalition is now inclusive enough, and is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population, that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime.”

Chuck Hagel Would Be an Excellent Secretary of Defense

Written by Christopher Preble, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

The rumors that President Obama will nominate Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defenseshould be welcomed by anyone frustrated by years of war and foreign meddling, and out-of-control spending at the Pentagon. Which is to say, nearly everyone. I hope the reports are true.

The biggest boosters of the Iraq war, the Afghan war, the Libyan war, and possible war with Syria and Iran, are apoplectic. And they should be. Hagel, a decorated Vietnam war veteran, understands war, and doesn’t take it lightly.

Although the president will obviously make the decisions, I expect that Hagel will generally advise against sending U.S. troops on quixotic nation-building missions. We might even see a resurrection of another Republican SecDef’s criteria for restraining Washington’s interventionist tendencies. At a minimum, Hagel will reflect Colin Powell’s view that “American GIs [are] not toy soldiers to be moved around on some sort of global game board.”

VP Debate: The Joker vs. The Boy Wonder

Joe Biden

While the vice presidential debate offered something everyone could point to as evidence that their side scored political points, I think the overall result can be encapsulated by a single sentence uttered by my eighteen-year old daughter Naomi about halfway through the debate, when she said “Daddy, Joe Biden really creeps me out.” It seems she wasn’t the only one. Afterwards, one of the main topics of discussion from the punditry was Biden’s creepy grins and inappropriate laughter. It was like watching The Joker from the Batman movie (the one played by Jack Nicholson), only without The Joker’s likeability or charm. That was on top of the constant interruptions, the bold face lies, and the general obnoxiousness of Biden, a man just a heartbeat away, as they say, from the presidency. It was really almost pathetic to watch, like watching a respectful young man patiently endure the idiocy and bellicosity of his weird uncle who gets angrier the drunker he gets.

Stylistically, it was fairly evenly matched. Biden was the more assertive candidate, and dominated the debate on the “visuals”, but on those occasions where Ryan was allowed to speak without being interrupted by Biden or having the moderator cut him off and change the subject, Ryan proved himself as the clear victor based on mastery of the facts and policy. Biden was far outclassed in this area, limited to recycling discredited talking points, regurgitating class warfare arguments, and gazing into the camera at the American people and offering up his version of that old Groucho Marx line “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” Creepy, indeed.

How the United States recruits terrorists

From the New York Times:

KABUL, Afghanistan – The American military claimed responsibility and expressed regret for an airstrike that mistakenly killed six members of a family in southwestern Afghanistan, Afghan and American military officials confirmed Monday.

The attack, which took place Friday night, was first revealed by the governor of Helmand Province, Muhammad Gulab Mangal, on Monday. His spokesman, Dawoud Ahmadi, said that after an investigation they had determined that a family home in Sangin district had been attacked by mistake in the American airstrike, which was called in to respond to a Taliban attack.

Whatever you think about the war in Afghanistan, there is no disputing that this is recruitment fodder for terrorist organizations. In a region where objective information is scarce, the narrative that America is an evil empire is easily spread unchallenged, and when your family is killed by Americans, you seek vengeance. Events like this only serve to aid those we are truly at war with.


The views and opinions expressed by individual authors are not necessarily those of other authors, advertisers, developers or editors at United Liberty.