Saturday, July 24, 2010

Afghanistan doesn't compute

This is (so far) the only session I've attended at Netroots Nation to be filmed for possible C-span use. Watch out for the back of my thinly haired head in the second row in front of the panel, moderated by Darcy Burner (above). She ran for Congress in 2008, Washington's 8th District, and was one of the favorite candidates of the national progressive crowd. Now she's executive director of

The question for the panel was Afghanistan, what's it about now in the 9th year, and how to get out. About the only clear result was another question (which I've tweeted to #2010Pelosi as a proposed question to Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the post-breakfast panel today):

What's the logic of spending $100 billion a year to harass 50-100 Al Qeda in Afghanistan? Why are we in another civil war?

Darcy Burner asked that herself during the panel, and it must be rocketing around the brains of anyone in Washington at the decision-making level.

Former Congressman Tom Andrews and retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton were in pretty close agreement that the military-industrial complex has Congress in its pocket on this issue -- a depressing assessment. What do our Miami-Dade members of Congress say? Our candidates? I'd like to know.

Another idea that emerged from the panel was that if the Obama administration policy is reasonably successful in dialing conflict way back and helping launch development in Afghanistan, after quite a few years you'd have a country roughly as well off as Chad. Is this worth $100 billion a year when we're firing teachers?

Some of the questions were apples and oranges, to be sure.

Eaton alarmed me by saying that Washington was dysfunctional. Afterward I asked him if he meant this to refer to the president. No, was his answer, he was talking about the way Washington is a bunch of "stovepipes" with not enough cross-capability, so that the wonderfully competent Agriculture Department, for instance, is not capable of helping ag development in Afghanistan, so the job is given to the military, which is no good at ag. Only 320 US civilians are at work outside Kabul, he said -- far fewer than needed.

Andrews, who was in the US House from Maine and lost a Senate bid to Olympia Snowe, said it was essential to solve the Afghanistan issue -- "get this albatross off our necks" -- because we want Obama to succeed.

You can watch the Pelosi session by clicking on the Netroots Nation link at the top of this post and getting over to Ustream.


Lisa said...

"...after quite a few years you'd have a country roughly as well off as Chad. Is this worth $100 billion a year when we're firing teachers?"

Thank you. The answer: "NO".

I would add, the shocking rate with which we are losing personnel daily in local governmental positions, civil service, and the crumbling state of our infrastructure.

I guess the politicos inside the beltway never have to wait on line in the P.O. or send their kids to public schools, or drive on the rotten roads out here in the hinterlands.

Probably too busy on their Blackberry while the chauffeur navigates around the potholes...

Larry Thorson said...

Thanks, Lisa.