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July 16, 2008

Amb. Holbrooke on Afghanistan/Pakistan: McCain has never made clear what he believes
Posted by Adam Blickstein

The National Security Network and the Center for American Progress Action Fund held a conference call today examining Sen. John McCain's record on and plan for Afghanistan with Amb. Richard Holbrooke, Larry Korb, and NSN President Rand Beers. The audio can be found here, and below are some quotes from the call:

"First of all, by now everyone recognizes that the Administration made a grievous miscalculation on Afghanistan, a combination of mismanagement miscalculation and simply bad implementation. Even the Administration has admitted it...Sen. Obama has called for two more brigades. Suddenly, Sen. McCain, who's never called for any, has tried to leapfrog him with three new brigades."

"What is absolutely critical is that the next President of the United States create a new strategy for the theater of war that you might call AfPak: Afghanistan and Pakistan...In order to do this, we have to have a very sophisticated mix of
political, military and diplomatic strategies. None exists in the current Administration and Sen. McCain has never made clear what he believes. He has been very dismissive of this. Sen. Obama has laid out his positions much more clearly."
-Amb. Richard Holbrooke

I think it's great that Sen. McCain has recognized that we need more forces in Afghanistan, however he still has not made the transition to realize that you cannot put those forces into Afghanistan as long as you have significant numbers of troops in Iraq...I think if you go back and look at  the statements that Sen. McCain has made up until his most recent statement yesterday on Afghanistan, he has continually said that Afghanistan is going well and that Iraq was more important.
-Larry Korb, Center for American Progress Action Fund


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Has anyone at the NSN noticed that the more you guys try to be politically topical and relevant, the less commentary your posts draw? It's your own funeral, but these sorts of intellectually closed, safe and tiresome emissions of talking points and news clippings, which seem like little more than campaign press releases, really do nothing to engage the mind of the reader. It's quite boring. If one wants this kind of political boilerplate, one can go to the DNC website or the Obama campaign website.

I agree with Dan. I haven't visited this site in months and the change is very visible. One, it seems like the senior people are all busy with the Obama campaign. Two, it looks like the interns remain, and they're just trying to please their bosses, who are trying to please Obama.

Please change your name to, because this isn't an independent source of policy analysis, but a bunch of Democrat foreign policy analyst/advocates who are now in election mode. YAWN. I feel like I'm at some pro-Obama college student's blog!

Dan and Melky, do you even know who Holbrook, Kolb, and Beers are?

You are whining like two bit right wing troll commenters. Not very informed, but very negative and nasty.

This is an important and well done post.

It's funny how right wingers yell when facts get in the way of their world view.

Bill Lenner,

Yes, I know who Holbrooke, Korb and Beers are. I am not a whining right wing troll. I am a whining left wing troll. I voted for Obama in the New Hampshire primary, and plan to vote for him in the general election. But I have never come to Democracy Arsenal to receive the equivalent of a mailbox pamphlet, campaign email blast or dinner hour robo-call. My guess is that, based on the declining number of comments that the posts on this site have been receiving lately, this is the reaction of other readers as well. Most of the people who visit this site are politically well-informed, know their own minds, and don't need to have their intelligence assaulted by political pitchmen.

We have different notions of what constitutes a "well-done and important post". Cutting and pasting the comments from some staged political pseudo-event in the form of a "conference call" doesn't do it for me.

Not commenting every day, or even every week, I still hit this site daily. I like the NSN daily summaries, and appreciate the attempts at grand strategy. Lot's of McCain bashing, but he deserves it, and he gets a pass on foreign policy so often that this place is kind of a balance. Often willing to give Obama a pass, as with FISA. Still, worthwhile IMHO.

I've already said what I had to say about the declining quality of this site, and won't repeat myself.

I did think it was interesting that Richard Holbrooke, who by some accounts was pretty heavy-handed for a foreign policy professional in exprssing his support for Sen. Clinton during the primaries, appears to be trying to make up for it now.

I'm actually a supporter of Obama.

Well, sort of. I will certainly not be voting for McCain.

I'm not a hardcore supporter of Obama. He's not perfect and is worthy of criticism (like any other human being).

I would say I'm more of a paleocon/realist who is drawn by Obama's intelligence, worldiness, and appreciation for the nuances of statecraft (at least right now, rhetorically). Maybe the latter is an exaggeration since the present administration seems to follow the Tazmanian Devil approach to global affairs.

But in the past two weeks the foreign policy discourse has become so oriented around the campaigns, it makes me want to barf. Some people have to get out of the trenches and be more objective. I figured this site would do that since it isn't affiliated with the DNC, Obama campaign, nor isn't overly tied to the Dems like Third Way or the Center for American Progress.

Oh well! You can go back to copying and pasting the talking points from Obama's 300 foreign policy advisers. I'll get my commentary elsewhere:-)

In the 1950s, in the wake of Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” plan, Pakistan obtained a 125 megawatt heavy-water reactor from Canada. After India’s first atomic test in May 1974, Pakistan immediately sought to catch up by attempting to purchase a reprocessing plant from France. After France declined due to U.S. resistance, Pakistan began to assemble a uranium enrichment plant via materials from the black market and technology smuggled through A.Q. Khan. In 1976 and 1977, two amendments to the Foreign Assistance Act were passed, prohibiting American aid to countries pursuing either reprocessing or enrichment capabilities for nuclear weapons programs.

These two, the Symington and Glenn Amendments, were passed in response to Pakistan’s efforts to achieve nuclear weapons capability; but to little avail. Washington’s cool relations with Islamabad soon improved. During the Reagan administration, the US turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s nuclear weapon’s program. In return for Pakistan’s cooperation and assistance in the mujahideen’s war against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the Reagan administration awarded Pakistan with the third largest economic and military aid package after Israel and Egypt. Despite the Pressler Amendment, which made US aid contingent upon the Reagan administration’s annual confirmation that Pakistan was not pursuing nuclear weapons capability, Reagan’s “laissez-faire” approach to Pakistan’s nuclear program seriously aided the proliferation issues that we face today.

Not only did Pakistan continue to develop its own nuclear weapons program, but A.Q. Khan was instrumental in proliferating nuclear technology to other countries as well. Further, Pakistan’s progress toward nuclear capability led to India’s return to its own pursuit of nuclear weapons, an endeavor it had given up after its initial test in 1974. In 1998, both countries had tested nuclear weapons. A uranium-based nuclear device in Pakistan; and a plutonium-based device in India
Over the years of America's on again off again support of Pakistan, Musharraf continues to be skeptical of his American allies. In 2002 he is reported to have told a British official that his “great concern is that one day the United States is going to desert me. They always desert their friends.” Musharraf was referring to Viet Nam, Lebanon, Somalia ... etc., etc., etc.,

Taking the war to Pakistan is perhaps the most foolish thing America can do. Obama is not the first to suggest it, and we already have sufficient evidence of the potentially negative repercussions of such an action. On January 13, 2006, the United States launched a missile strike on the village of Damadola, Pakistan. Rather than kill the targeted Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s deputy leader, the strike instead slaughtered 17 locals. This only served to further weaken the Musharraf government and further destabilize the entire area. In a nuclear state like Pakistan, this was not only unfortunate, it was outright stupid. Pakistan has 160 million Arabs (better than half of the population of the entire Arab world). Pakistan also has the support of China and a nuclear arsenal.

I predict that America’s military action in the Middle East will enter the canons of history alongside Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the Holocaust, in kind if not in degree. The Bush administration’s war on terror marks the age in which America has again crossed a line that many argue should never be crossed. Call it preemption, preventive war, the war on terror, or whatever you like; there is a sense that we have again unleashed a force that, like a boom-a-rang, at some point has to come back to us. The Bush administration argues that American military intervention in the Middle East is purely in self-defense. Others argue that it is pure aggression. The consensus is equally as torn over its impact on international terrorism. Is America truly deterring future terrorists with its actions? Or is it, in fact, aiding the recruitment of more terrorists?

The last thing the United States should do at this point and time is to violate yet another state’s sovereignty.

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