Archive for September 25th, 2009|Daily archive page

Shifting Goalposts Forever

Here is a piece of really solid analysis on the troop level increase proposed Fred and Kim Kagan, which I think speaks to a lot of broader issues in politics.

Spencer Ackerman:
(Via Andrew Sullivan)

The sun rose today and its gravitational force kept the planet twisting around it through the void, so naturally Fred and Kim Kagan, the neoconservative wing of counterinsurgency, have put out a call for between 40,000 and 45,000 additional troops to be sent to Afghanistan in the next year …

It’s difficult to understand how the Kagans think there are 40,000 – 45,000 U.S. troops available for deployment — the Pentagon doesn’t think the Army can deploy a single additional combat brigade to Afghanistan in the next six months — and the report is silent on whether to increase the pace of withdrawal from Iraq (formerly a Kagan no-no); whether to decrease the time in between deployments, which the Army and the Secretary of Defense will resist after having to do it to sustain the 2007 Iraq troop surge; or whether to … I don’t know. They just want the politically treacherous 40,000-45,000 troop increase, and now the GOP will have a troop figure to say Afghanistan requires if Obama doesn’t provide such a ginormous increase. (emphasis added)

Andrew Sullivan adds:

What is the point of arguing for a strategy that simply cannot be done? My suspicion is that, like most neocon projects of the recent past, this is not an actual strategy for resolving the problem. It’s a domestic political move designed to set up Republican cries of “retreat!” and “surrender!” if the president decides that pulling an LBJ on Afghanistan isn’t a good idea. The way the McChrystal report was leaked also suggests a domestic political strategy of bouncing Obama into a deeper, longer war (on top of the eight years already invested).

On Afghanistan the Kagans got pretty much exactly what they wanted from the Obama Administration in the first 8 months, and despite the lack of available resources they still want more. You see this type of hyper-aggressive goal post shifting in many areas of domestic policy. When people started digging into the Obama claim that there is agreement on “80%” of Health Care Reform, it became apparent people just hadn’t gotten around to demanding revisions to the allegedly middle of the road proposals which make up the other 80%.

And when there is no agreed upon goal posts there is no 50 yard line either. The whole concept of moderation falls apart. Most advocates and politicians aren’t nearly so willing to ask for the impossible as the Kagans, but when the goal posts of starting shifting, the goal of moderation isn’t going to mean much to anyone that needs to craft a real world strategy.