In a New York Times story posted Tuesday, it appears that Hamid Karzai, the “Mayor of Kabul” and former (current?) CIA operative, is on the outs with the new Obama administration. Apparently Karzai’s complaining about the U.S. at-will blowing up of Afghan civilians, compounded with his failure to rein in the warlords and unseemly elements of the government has left him much less useful than embarassing to the new administration.
No doubt, Karzai has been little more than a pawn to make the Bush administration look like it was doing something, but as Obama plans on escalating the war in the country, he seems to be looking for a more competent ringleader. In any case, Karzai’s days are numbered as Afghan head of state.
Mr. Obama is preparing to increase the number of American troops in Afghanistan over the next two years, perhaps to more than 60,000 from about 34,000 now… He [Gates] outlined plans for an increase of about 12,000 troops by midsummer but cautioned that any decision on more troops beyond that might have to wait until late 2009, given the need for barracks and other infrastructure.
So one campaign promise that Obama is living up to is upping the ass-whooping on Afghanistan. I hate to bring up inconvenient lessons in history, but didn’t yet another superpower put all its eggs in the Afghan basket (while experiencing severe economic strains) and end up becoming a moot point?
Mr. Gates added that the United States should focus on limited goals. “My own personal view is that our primary goal is to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a base for terrorists and extremists to attack the United States and our allies, and whatever else we need to do flows from that objective,” he said.
Here’s a good thought experiment – did Gates make the above statement 6 years ago, or yesterday? (Hint: We’ve seen this foreign policy already, and it hasn’t turned out so good).
In other news, the House passed Obama’s $800+ billion stimulus package, with absolutely no Republican representative voting in favor [Huffington Post]. The package is actually not so bad – perhaps even could be described as “good” – as it contains money for public works projects, food stamps, Head Start, Pell Grants [Democracy Now!], and so forth, very much in the style of Roosevelt-era economic packages. The only real odious part of the package was this:
Obama also persuaded House Democrats to remove provisions related to family-planning from the stimulus and — over the objections of many Democrats — inserted large tax cuts for businesses that Republicans wanted.
… and still no Republicans voted for it. One wonders what the hell the Republican party, as a whole, would actually do if they had the agency or inclination to deal with the current economic crisis. And one can’t help but be angry with them – not so much for opposing the stimulus package, but for setting the bar so low that they make the Democrats look responsible.
Finally, the St. Petersburg Times has started an “Obameter” website to keep track of Obama’s promises and whether he’s delivered on them. In all, they’re tracking about 500 campaign promises, particularly along the lines of Iraq, the economy, and taxes. A valiant effort, though subjective to be sure, but it’s nice that someone’s doing it.
This post was written by Jeff Napolitano on January 28, 2009