I listened to Richard Holbrook being interviewed on CNN Thursday and I was so struck by the meaninglessness of his statement that I replayed the segment and transcribed it. Most of his words lack any clear referent to reality; they sound good but are empty of substance. Anyway, you can judge for yourself (if you ignore my few editorial comments).
Wolf Blitzer: President Obama is ordering an additional 17,000 more forces to Afghanistan, a controversial move with no guaranteed results.So is the Obama Administration making the right move?
We’re interviewing Richard Holbrook – former ambassador to Iraq and current special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
WB: You’re just back from a critically important mission to Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region.A lot of folks are fearful that this whole troop buildup in Afghanistan right now could turn out to be a waste, given the inherent problems in that country.Can you look in the camera and tell the American people right now that it’s not a waste, that this is going to work?
Richard Holbrook: There’s no question that these troops are necessary.(WHY?)This is a request by Gen McKiernan, the commander in Afghanistan, and General Petraeus that was put to President. Bush last summer. It did not get acted upon and it landed on President. Obama’s desk on Day One.There was no question, and I can tell you this having just been in Afghanistan, that these troops are needed to stop the deteriorating situation. (WHAT SITUATION IS THAT?)
WB: but will it work?
RH: It will turn the tide but I cannot tell you for sure what will happen after that because there are many other variables.(HUH?)This is a war that includes political components, military components, (WHAT ARE THOSE COMPONENTS?) and the president has asked us to give him a full scale strategic review, which we’re doing right now, and we are going to try to revamp strategy in a way that upgrades the civilian and economic and reconstruction components and above all, Wolf, we’ve got to deal with Pakistan.We’ve got to stem the deterioration in the tribal areas.
WB: I want to get to Pakistan in a minute but Russ Feingold, the Democratic senator from Wisconsin, a member of the Intelligence Committee, says that you guys may have it reversed..“We need to have a strategy in place for Afghanistan that will actually work before we commit thousands more American troops. A military escalation without a strategy to address the complex problems facing Afghanistan and the region could alienate the Afghani people and make it much more difficult to achieve our top national security goal of defeating Al Qaeda.”
WB: So you saying you’re going to come up with a strategy, but the decision to send troops, additional troops, double the current U.S troop presence has already been made.
RH: It’s not a doubling, Wolf, it’s about a 40 or 45 percent increase, the doubling is some kind of misunderstanding.But let me go to my friend Russ Feingold’s point because in an ideal world, Senator Feingold would be correct.You do everything in the core order he suggested, but in the real world, the military, having waited for six or seven months for action on their request, made the case to the pres. That if these troops were not sent immediately, the effect on the situation, our ability to support the government of Afghanistan in their elections, and to help with reconstruction would be severely compromised. (SO IN THE REAL WORLD, STRATEGY COMES SECOND? AND WE HAVE TO SEND THE TROOPS BECAUSE WE HAVE TO SEND THE TROOPS?)
"Afghanistan needs troops--but it needs troops of doctors, troops of teachers, troops of Peace Corps volunteers, and troops of farmers to go and replant the fruit orchards."
--Kavita Ramdas, President and CEO of Global Fund for Women Photo from Reuters/Omar Subhani