Friday, September 21, 2007

What Were They Thinking?

It's difficult to understand how any Senator could vote against this Sense of the Senate Resolution but 24 Democrats and 1 Independent found it within themselves to do so and several of them, including Barack Obama and Joseph Biden, chose not to vote at all:

It is the sense of the Senate-

(1) to reaffirm its support for all the men and women of the United States Armed Forces, including General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq;

(2) to strongly condemn any effort to attack the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all the members of the United States Armed Forces; and

(3) to specifically repudiate the unwarranted personal attack on General Petraeus by the liberal activist group

The Senate voted unanimously to confirm General Petraeus and to send him to Iraq to bring stability to the region. By all accounts he's handling that mission honorably, but when he came home to report to Congress on what he sees happening there Hillary Clinton essentially called him a liar and accused him of treason.

No one has presented any evidence that Petraeus has done anything dishonorable yet his character and reputation are besmirched and smeared by people who simply can't bring themselves to entertain the possibility that things are not as bad in Iraq as they believe them to be.

For the full text of the resolution and a list of the twenty five senators who voted against it go here.

With this vote twenty five senators have by implication chosen to attack the reputation and character of a good man serving his country rather than repudiate's disgraceful ad. Why would they do that?


Have the Taliban Admitted Defeat?

Strategy Page argues that the Taliban have acknowledged defeat in Afghanistan, at least for the time being:

The Taliban has offered to begin negotiating with the Afghan government. In Afghan parlance, that's the Taliban way of saying they are defeated and want to discuss peace terms. Over the past few months, Taliban attacks have become increasingly desperate and bloody. But most of the dead have been Taliban. The only "successful" attacks have been those using suicide bombers, and these kill mostly Afghan civilians.

The Taliban were able to build up a war chest in the last few years, allowing them to hired thousands of unemployed young men. But casualties have been high, with over a third of these hired gunmen getting killed, wounded or captured. In the last two weeks, over 200 Taliban gunmen have been killed in battles with Afghan and foreign troops. But the biggest source of problems has been the stupid things they do. Recently, a Taliban group kidnapped a dozen deminers (people who disarm and remove land mines).

This sort of thing is very unpopular with Afghans, as even the Taliban (officially, anyway) recognize the deminers as immune from attack. The millions of mines and explosives still in the ground don't discriminate between Taliban or non-Taliban. The deminers are arguably more important to the Taliban, who often sneak around at night in out-of-the-way places.

The Taliban also make themselves unpopular by attacking food relief convoys. One recent attack saw 13 Taliban and two police killed in such an unsuccessful attack. The Taliban want to shut down humanitarian and reconstruction projects, and thus force Afghans to support the Taliban in order to get any help at all. Most Afghans resent this sort of intimidation.

I'm not sure we should put too much hope in this acknowledgement of their tactical difficulties. It's true that the Taliban have suffered grievous losses, losing ten men to every policeman or soldier they've killed, but they will continue to be a threat to the Afghan people as long as they have safe havens in Pakistan and as long as there's a large pool of poor, uneducated young men for them to draw upon for cannon fodder.