Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Democratic Congressional Candidate Speaks Out On Afghanistan-- Meet Jim Holbert


Last night one of the few Democratic incumbents to come out squarely against the Bush-Obama war against Afghanistan, North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, triumphed decisively over the pro-war Inside the Beltway establishment and their conservative shill. Two years ago Kentucky populist Jim Holbert ran for Congress, as an independent, against slick GOP corporatist Hal Rogers. Jim was against the war then and, running as a Democrat this year, he's against the war now. His opponent, known locally as the "King of Pork," is loaded with corporate campaign cash and Jim is running a grassroots campaign but with Democratic enthusiasm running high-- in part because of the face-off between Jack Conway and a bewigged Cookie Monster in the Senate race-- Jim is ready to surprise the usual crew of Beltway pundits and prognosticators who have already declared Rogers reelected.

When he ran against Rogers last time he told me it was "out of a sense of outrage that games were being played while the country was melting down." Following the 2008 election, where he garnered 16% of the vote while Rogers outspent him 300-to-1, Jim re-registered as a Democrat, continued building a base of popular support, and has emerged as the Democratic nominee to take on Rogers this November, winning 41% of the vote in the Kentucky three-way primary held on May 18th.

Jim's platform has remained consistent, and he pulls no punches.  "We need an immediate end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a commitment to returning jobs to America and moving toward a full-employment economy, and a national energy plan that makes sense for America's future," he says. 

Jim's stand on the issues is backed by twenty years of military service as an officer in the Army and Coast Guard, and experience as a professional pilot working throughout America and overseas.  You can learn about Jim's campaign at and you can donate to his campaign through ActBlue. Between McChrystal's insubordination yesterday and Marshall's spectacular win as an anti-war candidate, I got in touch with Jim, a career military officer, and asked him to pen a guest post on Afghanistan.
Afghanistan, America’s longest war, is scheduled by the Obama administration to begin winding down as troop pullouts start a year from now. But the only course that will truly serve America’s interest now and in the long term is an immediate end to the conflict. 

As a young person coming of age during the Vietnam period, I followed that war’s military and political events closely. What was obvious to the majority of Americans then should be just as obvious now, as the mistakes of Vietnam are being replayed in southwest Asia: There is no “victory,” in a military sense, to the type of counterinsurgency struggle into which we’ve let ourselves become repeatedly mired.
The counterinsurgency strategy to which General McChrystal is wedded demands the utmost fortitude from the military component of what must be a joint effort between administrators, politicians, and warfighters. It will demand heavy sacrifices in blood and suffering from the troops who do the fighting, and if successful, it is a process which will be measure in decades. But General McChrystal and his adherents both in uniform and out, ignore one crucial lesson which was made plain by Vietnam and still applies: Reform and pacification and transformation of a nation and a society can never occur unless that nation’s commitment to these things exists, and is the primary goal of the indigenous people. It can never be sold or forced upon them by any military or political force from outside.
As in Vietnam four decades ago, the reality in Afghanistan today is a corrupt government, payoffs and bribery on a massive scale, and an entrenched narcotics trade that funds the resistance. The brutal geopolitical and historical reality is that Afghanistan has never rested under what the Afghan people perceive as foreign occupation, and that an Afghan society anchored in custom and tradition more than a thousand years old is not going to be re-made in the image of a Western democracy.   

Let’s once again be clear: Opposition to continued American military involvement in Afghanistan is not failure to support our troops. In Afghanistan, as in all American wars, our fighting men and women have done all that they have been asked to do, and more. The key tasks serving the interests of freedom and the American nation were all accomplished in the early days of the Afghanistan involvement, namely, deposing a brutal and tyrannical regime, providing a chance for the Afghan people to make a new start in their own government, and the major disruption of Al Qaida networks. But the the war simmered on and the inevitable internal Afghan opposition to outside occupation coalesced and asserted itself, as it has throughout history.
Now the commitment to counterinsurgency strategy is a real possibility as Obama harkens to the McChrystal school, seemingly just as Lyndon Johnson allowed himself to be seduced by the arrogance and ignorance of Westmoreland and other Generals and Admirals of the Vietnam era, and with a similarly predictable result.   

Recent comments by McChrystal and his staff have made clear their disdain for the Obama administration’s direction of the war and raised serious questions as to their commitment to civilian control of the military. As I write this, it is unclear whether General McChrystal has resigned in the wake of these comments being made public, but he should tender his resignation and if he does not, President Obama should relieve him of his command in Afghanistan. 
For the sake of our country and its future, the American people must unite in demanding an immediate end to the wars in Afghanistan, and also in Iraq. These prolonged, politically mismanaged, and indecisive struggles have cost the lives of thousands of our troops, are grinding down our military and driving our country further into bankruptcy, and serving to recruit more enemies of the United States. We will only defend America effectively in this global long-term struggle through more intelligent and reasonable diplomatic, trade, economic, and energy policies, not by endless warfare.

-Jim Holbert, email:
Watch how a real populist talks to voters without playing the Republican-lite game:

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