Taylor Jones Taylor Jones, 12/6/2009 [Archive]

Obama's Surge

Obama'sSurge

By Taylor Jones

I admit to swinging both ways, sometimes, when I express my editorial viewpoint. It's just too easy to poke fun of politicians whether or not I disagree with their policies. Like most editorial cartoonists, I'm easily amused but rarely outraged by the shenanigans in Washington.

So, judging from the cartoons that illustrate this column, just how do I feel about President Obama's new strategy in Afghanistan?

Basically, I remain dubious that our continued involvement in Afghanistan will lead to anything worthwhile. The "graveyard of empires" cliché, in my opinion, has a ring of truth to it. And Barack Obama's effort to defuse the I.E.D. that is Afghanistan, without setting off a chain-reaction in Pakistan, Iran and beyond, may prove the most daunting task of his presidency.

On the other hand, I don't really agree with my cartoon here. You might think I oppose the 18-month deadline we've set before the scheduled draw-down of troops begins. But that was just a cheap shot. Actually, I think the deadline is a fine idea, and I suspect politicians opposing Obama's public timetable are being disingenuous.

Their argument, of course, is that we're "telegraphing" our departure time to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. That they'll sit back and sip tea, set off roadside bombs, and wait until we leave.

But we've already been in Afghanistan for eight years! It seems clear to me that the Taliban will remain in Kandahar, in some form, whether 18 months or 18 years from now. I guess John McCain and Lindsey Graham (among the most mild of Republican skeptics) actually believe that we can achieve a concrete victory against the Taliban -- ending with Mullah Omar signing surrender papers aboard a U.S. warship in the Persian Gulf. And if they DON'T believe that nonsense, perhaps they would prefer an open-ended occupation of Afghanistan -- which, you'll recall, worked so well for the Soviets 20 years ago.

Hey -- how about a DMZ stretching along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan's tribal provinces? Our brave soldiers, artillery at the ready, could peer through binoculars at baggy-clothed Islamic extremists leading their donkeys through the narrow, rocky passages of North Waziristan, laden with Persian rugs concealing poppies and pipe bombs. For the next 50 years!

No, it seems to me that Obama has set a deadline to determine whether General Stanley McChrystal's surge can win Afghan hearts and minds. To determine whether Hamid Karzai can get his act together and clamp down on the kleptocracy he and his brother lead. To determine if Pakistan can decide which side of the War on Terror it's actually on. And, who knows, maybe see if the Taliban has a few practical politicians amidst its legions of murderous malcontents -- people with whom Washington, Kabul and Islamabad can deal with in mutually self-serving ways.

Nothing good may come of Obama's deadline. We'll find out soon enough. But eight years of open-ended, rudderless American military intervention in Afghanistan has only made matters worse. Does anyone, including McCain, Graham, Mitch McConnell or Glenn Beck, really believe that an open-ended surge (let's call it "Operation Petraeus Forever") could truly pacify southwest Asia? And that such a military strategy would maintain the unwavering support of our men and women in uniform, their families back home, and the American taxpayers? Perhaps that's exactly the policy our enemies would like us to follow?

So, maybe Obama's 18-month strategy deserves a chance to succeed? Besides, had the president decided to withdraw troops from Afghanistan now, it would surely take at least 18 months to bring everybody home.

As for General McChrystal, I don't really think of him as another William Westmoreland, let alone Custer. I wish him, and our troops, all success. My caricature of McChrystal is just another cheap shot. It's how I earn a living.

OBAMA'S SURGE...

I admit to swinging both ways, sometimes, when I express my editorial viewpoint. It's just too easy to poke fun of politicians whether or not I disagree with their policies. Like most editorial cartoonists, I'm easily amused but rarely outraged by the shenanigans in Washington.

So, judging from the cartoons that illustrate this column, just how do I feel about President Obama's new strategy in Afghanistan?

Basically, I remain dubious that our continued involvement in Afghanistan will lead to anything worthwhile. The "graveyard of empires" cliché, in my opinion, has a ring of truth to it. And Barack Obama's effort to defuse the I.E.D. that is Afghanistan, without setting off a chain-reaction in Pakistan, Iran and beyond, may prove the most daunting task of his presidency.

On the other hand, I don't really agree with my cartoon here. You might think I oppose the 18-month deadline we've set before the scheduled draw-down of troops begins. But that was just a cheap shot. Actually, I think the deadline is a fine idea, and I suspect politicians opposing Obama's public timetable are being disingenuous.

Their argument, of course, is that we're "telegraphing" our departure time to the the Taliban and al-Qaeda. That they'll sit back and sip tea, set off roadside bombs, and wait until we leave.

But we've already been in Afghanistan for eight years! It seems clear to me that the Taliban will remain in Kandahar, in some form, whether 18 months or 18 years from now. I guess John McCain and Lindsey Graham (among the most mild of Republican skeptics) actually believe that we can achieve a concrete victory against the Taliban -- ending with Mullah Omar signing surrender papers aboard a U.S. warship in the Persian Gulf. And if they DON'T believe that nonsense, perhaps they would prefer an open-ended occupation of Afghanistan -- which, you'll recall, worked so well for the Soviets twenty years ago.

Hey -- how about a DMZ stretching along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan's tribal provinces? Our brave soldiers, artillery at the ready, could peer through binoculars at baggy-clothed Islamic extremists leading their donkeys through the narrow, rocky passages of North Waziristan, laden with Persian rugs concealing poppies and pipe bombs. For the next fifty years!

No, it seems to me that Obama has set a deadline to determine whether General Stanley McChrystal's surge can win Afghan hearts and minds. To determine whether Hamid Karzai can get his act together and clamp down on the kleptocracy he and his brother lead. To determine if Pakistan can decide which side of the War on Terror it's actually on. And, who knows, maybe see if the Taliban has a few practical politicians amidst its legions of murderous malcontents -- people with whom Washington, Kabul and Islamabad can deal with in mutually self-serving ways.

Nothing good may come of Obama's deadline. We'll find out soon enough. But eight years of open-ended, rudderless American military intervention in Afghanistan has only made matters worse. Does anyone, including McCain, Graham, Mitch McConnell or Glenn Beck, really believe that an open-ended surge (let's call it "Operation Petraeus Forever") could truly pacify southwest Asia? And that such a military strategy would maintain the unwavering support of our men and women in uniform, their families back home, and the American taxpayers? Perhaps that's exactly the policy our enemies would like us to follow?

So, maybe Obama's 18-month strategy deserves a chance to succeed? Besides, had the president decided to withdraw troops from Afghanistan now, it would surely take at least 18 months to bring everybody home.

As for General McChrystal, I don't really think of him as another William Westmoreland, let alone Custer. I wish him, and our troops, all success. My caricature of McChrystal is just another cheap shot. It's how I earn a living.

Taylor Jones is a cartoonist and caricaturist based on Staten Island, N.Y., where he spends his free time fidgeting, breeding North American giant silk moths, vacuuming water out of his basement, and pretending to be a good dad.



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