Monday, October 19, 2015

The 2016 Primary: A Proxy Vote on the Afghan War?


Credit: Finbarr O'Reilly, file photo, Reuters (source; click to enlarge)

by Gaius Publius

We have yet to write much about Clinton's foreign policy, partly because so much of it is inferencial, and partly because so much has been held in reserve. But recently Clinton came out strongly opposed to the actions of Edward Snowden, taking a position very close to Obama's tough stance on the matter.

And now she has come out in support of continued war in Afghanistan. I'll have more later on a Clinton foreign policy — a discussion the "left" is not yet having — but I want to open the door to that discussion, as Clinton has done, with this news, from a recent interview with Jake Tapper.

Clinton Endorses Continued War in Afghanistan

Lauren McCauley at Common Dreams (note that her framing may not be yours; my emphasis):
Clinton Backs Plan for Endless War in Afghanistan

Democratic frontrunner says she "supports the president's decision" to keep troops there until at least 2017

Presidential contender Hillary Clinton on Friday [October 16] declared her full support for President Obama's plan to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan until at least 2017, saying the move reflects a knowledge of "what's going on in the real world."

In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, the former Secretary of State reiterated Obama's position, saying that while the U.S. government doesn't want troops engaged in on-the ground content, "we want them to help support and train the Afghan army."

"So I can't predict where things will be in January of 2017," Clinton said. "But I support the president's decision."

She added that the move reflects that of "a leader who has strong convictions about what he would like to see happen but also pays attention to what's going on in the real world."

The interview followed the President's announcement Thursday that as many as 5,500 soldiers will remain in the country for at least another year, reversing previous pledges to end the United States' war in Afghanistan.
Two takeaways: One, this puts Ms. Clinton on the warrior side of the ledger. Do progressives want another warrior president? Some might, I realize, and some might not. This at least starts that debate.

Second, when Clinton talks about "support[ing] the Afghan army" — this is the kind of trouble our support gets us into:
The Doctors Without Borders Bombing Is Looking More and More Like a War Crime

On NBC Nightly News on Thursday, Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski reported that, based on the accounts of Defense Department sources, cockpit recordings from the AC-130 gunship involved in the incident “reveal that the crew actually questioned whether the airstrike was legal.” He also quoted a U.S. defense official suggesting that the attack “may in fact amount to a war crime.” The video and audio cockpit recordings of the incident, which feature conversations between the plane’s crew and U.S. troops on the ground, are at the center of the military’s investigation into the incident, as the Daily Beast’s Nancy Youssef reported last week.* The recordings have not been released publicly or even to the members of Congress who received a classified briefing on the incident. ...

The U.S. explanation for how the incident took place has shifted several times and the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Campbell, reportedly believes that U.S. troops did not follow proper procedure. MSF, which has alleged that a war crime took place, is calling on the U.S. and Afghan governments to consent to an independent investigation, a request that has so far been rebuffeds.
One of those shifting U.S. explanations for the air strike was that Afghan forces called it in — the form of support called "air support."

Sanders on Afghanistan

This is Bernie Sanders' statement about the Afghan War, from his Issues page at
Sen. Sanders called on both Presidents Bush and Obama to withdraw U.S. troops as soon as possible and for the people of Afghanistan to take full responsibility for their own security. After visiting Afghanistan, Sen. Sanders spoke-out against the rampant corruption he saw, particularly in regards to elections, security and the banking system.
If he holds by this and draws a clear distinction with Ms. Clinton, it's possible the 2016 Democratic primary will also be a proxy vote on the future of the Afghan War. 


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