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The argument about whether the ‘surge’ in Iraq worked is yesterday’s news.  The issue going forward is whether we should accept the President’s post-surge policy that includes an endless, very expensive occupation of Iraq which undermines our needs in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Our number one national security priority must be to stop al-Qaida and their allies.  They were able to hit us on September 11, 2001 and in previous attacks – including the U.S.S. Cole bombing and attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa – largely because they had a safe haven in Afghanistan.  We smashed the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan when we invaded in 2001, but as our assets and attention shifted to Iraq, they were able to regroup in the border regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.  The enemy that struck us on 9/11 once again has established a base of operations to plan and prepare for future attacks.

Iraq and Afghanistan have comparable populations and territories.  The Iraqi population largely turned on al-Qaida.  In Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan, the Taliban and al-Qaida have a potential safe haven with at least grudging local support.  But consider the contrast:  In Iraq, we have roughly 164,000 troops, including the bulk of our special operations assets, and we spend around $15 billion a month.  In Afghanistan, we have only 25,000 troops and spend less than $2 billion per month.

This imbalance means that we cannot pursue al-Qaida and the Taliban as aggressively as we need to.  It means that when armed thugs tell locals in Afghanistan that they will be tortured and killed if they cooperate with Americans or the Afghan government, we don’t have enough troops to protect them.  Our commitment to Afghanistan is essential if we hope to stop international terrorism, and we are failing in that commitment because we are so heavily invested in Iraq.

The debate on whether the surge worked is no longer constructive.  When you invest 164,000 troops and more than $160 billion a year anywhere in the world, you better be able to show some progress.  But the real issue is whether the President’s policy of unending, exhaustive occupation of Iraq is worth the cost to our fight against al-Qaida around the world.  It isn’t.

Originally posted to US Rep Adam Smith on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:21 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  With all due respect, sir (13+ / 0-)

    You have it wrong. The nation's biggest threat is not al-Qaida but our response to al-Qaida, which has led to ridiculous security restrictions, illegal wiretapping, imprisoning of Americans and non-Americans alike without charges and torture. You guys had your chance to end the Iraq War - and you blew it. You guys couldn't muster opposition to a deeply unpopular war, led by a President whose approval ratings were in the 20s. Shame on you all.

    Truthiness? You can't HANDLE the truthiness!

    by calipygian on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:25:40 PM PST

  •  actually (10+ / 0-)

    our number one national security policy should be not creating situations that produce anti-American blowback.  Perhaps then we wouldn't have the like of AQ and their ilk in the first place.  I good place to start is getting out of Iraq, now.

    "Jedoch ich wollte, dass ihr nicht schon triumphiert: Der Schoß ist fruchtbar noch, aus dem das kroch." -Bertolt Brecht

    by Jeffersonian Democrat on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:26:08 PM PST

    •  Blowback (8+ / 0-)

      I agree that we should have a better grasp of how our policies play and take that into consideration.  Our occupation of Iraq gives extremists a rallying point, no question.

      We also have to do a better job taking into account how our public diplomacy is received.  I held a hearing on it in my subcommittee, which you can learn more about at: http://armedservices.house.gov/...

      •  Do you understand. . . (10+ / 0-)

        How heartbreaking it is for so many of us to see our country destroyed from within, as nothing is done to stop the degradation of the constitution?  How helpless we feel to do anything to stop our government from sanctioning torture?  

        It is more than grasping "how our policies play."  It is preserving the basic principles of human rights that we cherish.

        At least today we hear that there has been agreement on language that would apply the prohibitions on torture contained in the Army Field Manual to the CIA. We can only hope that you and your colleagues will muster the votes to override the inevitable veto.

        Not a Cent to those who won't fight torture.

        by not a cent on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:39:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  If you can't restore Congressional authority (5+ / 0-)

          over war powers and the creation of laws, the country is lost.  We'll be stuck with a dictatorship of the President.

          It's all very well to support the right policies,  but as long as Bush is treating Congress as a debating society (remember "signing statements"?) it's not very relevant.  What we need to hear is how Congress will force a change of policy, given that we know Bush will ignore laws passed by Congress.

          There are several possibilities which have been covered here before for Congress to force compliance from a runaway executive.  (Inherent contempt citations, impeachments, refusing to appropriate funding, and some others.)  Yet the Democratic Congress has been unaccountably wimpy, failing to use, basically, any of these methods.

          That's what we want to hear about.  How are you going to render yourself significant on these issues about which you speak so eloquently?

          -5.63, -8.10 | Impeach, Convict, Remove & Bar from Office, Arrest, Indict, Convict, Imprison!

          by neroden on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:46:09 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  (P.S. Thanks for your time.) (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mike S, not a cent

            I know I'm asking for more from you, and it's appropriate to demand more from Congress, but I want to be clear that I'm very, very glad that you're reading our comments!

            -5.63, -8.10 | Impeach, Convict, Remove & Bar from Office, Arrest, Indict, Convict, Imprison!

            by neroden on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:49:34 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  This can be expanded to take into (4+ / 0-)

        account our failed "enemy of my enemy" policy. The times that came back to bite us in the ass is uncountable.

        As far as Iraq and the surge go, yes it seems that the surge has worked in as much as the violance has decreased. But the political situation is still untennable. All the troops in our services won't fix that.

        I don't have a candidate yet but if forced to choose today it would go Dodd, Richardson, Obama, Biden or Edwards, Clinton, then a write in for Mike S.

        by Mike S on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:41:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I also think that our failed` (3+ / 0-)

          policy toward the GITMO prisoners should be scrapped and a Nuremberg style system put in
          it's place. The world shoud see what we are up against, the moderate Muslims should be forced to look at the terorism out in the open, and our western style of law should be highlighted.

          We did it with Germany and it worked great. We didn't do it with Japan and the denial is Japan is strong.

          Our system is the best out there. What better way to show it than by using it against "the worst of the worst" while making sure the innocents caught up in it are able o go free?

          I don't have a candidate yet but if forced to choose today it would go Dodd, Richardson, Obama, Biden or Edwards, Clinton, then a write in for Mike S.

          by Mike S on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:57:08 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you, I took the time to read that. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        calipygian, alizard

        Mr. Smith, I appreciate your work on the matter.

        Nevertheless, it seems to me that we have an inverse pyramid, if you will, of problems.

        Too much effort is spent reactively rather than proactively, chasing our tail.

        We need to dig deeper and as we do, the problems narrow to their root sources.

        We have a problem with terrorism, why?

        AQ originally declared us an enemy because of troops on Saudi soil, why?

        SA is critical to our economy, therefore national security, because of energy, why?

        Alternative energy is not yet developed, why?

        Oil is too profitable, why?

        money...

        simple analysis, and if we change the roots of the problem, or the inverse tip of the problem pyramid, a lot of those layers of problems work themselves out and soon disappear.

        or to paraphrase Mr. Jefferson: entangling alliances with none, fair and free trade with all.

        Additionally, keeping our own house in order within the Constitution and rule of law, we set and example that others wish to become.  We don't do that by exporting Democracy at the barrel of a gun... if that was ever the intention in the first place.

        "Jedoch ich wollte, dass ihr nicht schon triumphiert: Der Schoß ist fruchtbar noch, aus dem das kroch." -Bertolt Brecht

        by Jeffersonian Democrat on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:59:49 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  1,000 recommends for that (5+ / 0-)

      We have been the Dick Cheney of the world, meddling ignorantly in everything. Less of that, please.

      Also, could any tell me why Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are our allies in the so-called "War on Terror?"

      No laws but Liberty. No king but Conscience.

      by oldjohnbrown on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:35:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  There's something about the tone and content... (7+ / 0-)

    of this diary I don't quite like.

  •  Thanks for posting. "Surge working" was never (8+ / 0-)

    the question, if by that one meant would we be able to tamp down violence in areas we flooded with troops. The surge was a tactic argued to be necessary to achieve the goal of forming a stable, cohesive Iraq government that could operate on its own. That goal is no closer now than it was a year ago. Arguably, it is father off since we now know that the violence was not the cause of the government failing to function.

  •  You can fill blank with scores of good answers (4+ / 0-)

    whether the President’s policy of unending, exhaustive occupation of Iraq is worth the cost____.

    I can go silly. The cost of the Iraq occupation is not worth the cost of depriving titmouse farmers a governmental stipend. Nearly anything is better than continuing; anything.

    roman catholic by birth---- thoroughly confused by life

    by alasmoses on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:30:50 PM PST

  •  Fight Against Al-Qaeda (7+ / 0-)

    Well, according to Michael Ware on CNN yesterday, the "surge" is working because the U.S. has cut a deal with Sunni insurgent groups in Baghdad.  These are the very groups that the U.S. has been telling us all along were tied to Al-Qaeda.

    So, are we fighting Al-Qaeda, or are we helping them or their proxies?

    I think Sen. Clinton would make a very good president.

    by bink on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:32:53 PM PST

  •  Misses the primary issue (11+ / 0-)

    Our number one national security priority must be to stop al-Qaida and their allies.

    With respect, Congressman Smith, Congress' failure to ensure that appropriate actions were taken to address the al-Qaida threat and ONLY the al-Qaida threat has given al-Qaida the victory they most wanted: the bankrupting of the United States (similar to what they did to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan). We now have trillions of dollars in debt due to a war that should not have happened. The dollar is disintegrating. We are experiencing recessionary AND inflationary pressures. The housing market is moribund. The credit markets are a mess. Etc. etc.

    I respectfully submit to you, sir, that al-Qaida is not nearly as much a threat to our way of life at this point as the debt that you and your colleagues in Congress have allowed to pile up by failing to stop President Bush's insanity.

    Stop it now if you can. I pray you will. But our grandchildren will be paying for your failures. And I want to know where you think we can now come up with the money to beat al-Qaida now when Congress' years of capitulation to the Bush administration (and their supposed insane spending to "beat al-Qaida") has left us with the worst debt our country has ever seen.

    It is for us to pray not for tasks equal to our powers, but for powers equal to our tasks. ~ Helen Keller

    by twilight falling on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:35:07 PM PST

    •  Amen (10+ / 0-)

      I respectfully submit to you, sir, that al-Qaida is not nearly as much a threat to our way of life at this point as the debt that you and your colleagues in Congress have allowed to pile up by failing to stop President Bush's insanity.

      IF (and that is a big if, I fear) an objective history is written a hundred years from now, Bush will be villified and Congress will be protrayed as the Nero that fiddled while the world burned. Congress could have stopped all of this, but they were intimidated by a President with approval ratings that haven't been above 50% since 2003.

      Disgraceful.

      Truthiness? You can't HANDLE the truthiness!

      by calipygian on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:40:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  twilight falling, can rec only once so I repeat (7+ / 0-)

      I respectfully submit to you, sir, that al-Qaida is not nearly as much a threat to our way of life at this point as the debt that you and your colleagues in Congress have allowed to pile up by failing to stop President Bush's insanity.

      roman catholic by birth---- thoroughly confused by life

      by alasmoses on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:40:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  And since the CIA definition of terror (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      neroden, twilight falling

      acknowledges that the goal of any terrorist is to coerce governments to become intolerable police states so that they topple. where does that leave all the government officials who have so wantonly curtailed our freedoms and civil liberties? Where does that leave the goverment officials who lied us into war, looted our economy with "disaster capitalism," privatized the armed forces and sold mind-shattering amounts of debt to China to finance it all?

      The disproportionate and opportunistic response to 9/11 is what OBL hoped for. The people involved in that response are, however unwittingly, furthering the terrorists' ends. That is the root of the problem.

      al-Qaeda should not ever have had the full attention of our government. They should have been the target of a small, focused operations group or perhaps a UN police force while we focused on more important things, like using all the goodwill we were freely offered from all over the world to secure peace and prosperity for the world and take away the poverty, the anger and the sense of disenfranchisement that inspires radical actors and terrorists. Instead we've gone the other way with a vengeance.

      No laws but Liberty. No king but Conscience.

      by oldjohnbrown on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:47:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Obviously we agree. Bit late. (6+ / 0-)

    What you write is frankly obvious to us here.  Perhaps if published somewhere else it might not be obvious to those readers.

    Around here we also recognize that the Bush administration has gone rogue, and is insistent on pursuing unilateral policies without paying attention to the opinions of Congress.

    We're fed up with waiting for Congress to force the rogue administration to change policies.  (Since force is clearly all that the Bush administration understands.)

    I'm sure we'd be very interested in hearing your views on how you plan to force a change from the Bush administration's frankly insane policies to the more rational policies you advocate.  We need actual, constructive plans at this point.

    (Defunding?  Deauthorizing?  Simply refusing to provide funding bills to Bush?  Inherent contempt citations for the administration officials who are lying to Congress or refusing to testify?  Impeachment for the administration's many crimes?)

    -5.63, -8.10 | Impeach, Convict, Remove & Bar from Office, Arrest, Indict, Convict, Imprison!

    by neroden on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:39:25 PM PST

  •  if you are (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jeffersonian Democrat, forgore

    whom you represent to be, let me tell you a little well known secret.

    We really want to see impeachment proceedings started  against Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, of course.

    Now, if you just could seat down with Nancy, an tell her how we feel, that would be great.

    Don't forget to add that we are looking forward to a change in the House in '09 and that if she doesnt listen to the people, the people will not listen to her.

    So, Adam, and I hope you don't mind me calling you in such a friendly manner as I'm so much older than you, I'm sure many of us will be waiting with our breath in our lips waiting to learn what was the outcome of your conversation with Nancy.

    I'm hoping to hear from you soon

    "All we are saying is give peace a chance" (JL)

    by duende on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:40:48 PM PST

    •  Don't speak for everyone. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jj32, not a cent

      I think impeachment would be a waste of time with only a year to go. I'd rather they just shut down Bush's rediculous policies and work toward our own policies and a biiger majority. Not to mention getting a Democrat elected President.

      I don't have a candidate yet but if forced to choose today it would go Dodd, Richardson, Obama, Biden or Edwards, Clinton, then a write in for Mike S.

      by Mike S on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:44:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I Believe Impeachment Is Absolutely Essential (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mike S, neroden, dallasdave, forgore

        Without it our Constitution is null and void.  It is simply reduced to a quaint set of mere suggestions, which no future president ever need obey.  We will be left to the tender mercies of future presidents, some of whom might be a Rudy.  We will be a country of men, not laws, men with power.  That is just too frightening a prospect for me.

        I do not like thee, Doctor Fell, The reason why I cannot tell; But this I know, and know full well, I do not like thee, Doctor Fell.

        by opinionated on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:54:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Who here at dKos is still stuck (5+ / 0-)

    on a surge debate anyway?  This diary is somewhat presumptuous, if not rude in tone--reads like something that was written for a different audience, then reposted here for expediency's sake...Not a smooth move.  And then there's the content itself, which is pretty bellicose....Go away, please.

    ...the White House will be adorned by a downright moron...H.L. Mencken

    by bibble on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:41:47 PM PST

  •  In Afghanistan and Iraq (5+ / 0-)

    you have flawed and failing policies.

    First Iraq: When you go to war and you get weaker while your opponent (Iran) gets stronger, you have a failed policy. Damping down the violence will not change the fact that Iran came out ahead.

    Afghanistan: We've never had a winning strategy/policy.

    The problem goes well before the troop numbers. Isn't it time to call in the adults and get the job done? Policy. Policy. Policy.

  •  I read this diary in the context (4+ / 0-)

    of "getting ready" for "debates" with family members who will be spouting FoxNoise talking points about how great Iraq is turning out.

    The fact that Afganistan is being ignored, they had a bumper opium poppy crop this year, Bin Laden is still a free man, and the people who really did attack us on 9-11 get a free pass, is the real issue

    while we focus obsessively on Iraq. (And I do mean obsessively).

    What percentage of Al-Queda is currently in Iraq?  If it's about 5% (as I suspect it is) we have some catching up to do (and no money or fresh troops to do it with)

    •  That's the right context to read it in (4+ / 0-)

      Thanks for reading and commenting

      •  thanks for showing up and sticking around (0+ / 0-)

        to respond to reader comments.

        Too many politicians are using DailyKos as a place to dump political speeches and then bailing out. All informed readers get from those diaries is that Yet Another Democratic Politician is talking at us rather than with us.

        By the way, would you like to explain your "YES" vote on HR1955?

        Informed observers see "H.R. 1955: Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 (Vote On Passage)" as a tool for suppressing dissent among Americans, NOT suppressing terrorism.

        Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

        by alizard on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 02:09:11 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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