December 7, 2009

Katrina Vanden Heuvel, the lone liberal voice during the panel discussion on This Week pointed out the obvious about our war on terror and what we're doing in Afghanistan.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... let me put the counter… and let me put it, the question, to you this way. If they see us leave Afghanistan, wouldn't the Pakistanis say, "We're next. They're going to abandon us again"?

VANDEN HEUVEL: No, I think it's much more complicated, and our occupation of Afghanistan is going to deepen divisions in Pakistan and destabilize an already fragile civilian government.

I mean, we are already engaged in a secret war in Pakistan. The Nation's cover story this week, based on multiple sources, shows that Blackwater is working with the Joint Special Operations Command, planning targeting assassinations and drone campaigns. This is fundamentally destabilizing. We need another policy.

The larger overlay of all of this, in my view, is our overreaction to the terrible, horrible tragedy of 9/11 has led us to wage war against terrorism. You cannot wage a conventional war, which we are doing in Afghanistan, against an odious, horrifying set of ideas or tactics. And until we end that, we are, as an American people, going to have a de facto policy of permanent warfare. Do we want that in our country?

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... bring in a Pew poll that shows perhaps we don't right now.


STEPHANOPOULOS: It was fascinating this week. The Pew Center did a look at the sense of isolationist sentiment in the country. Should we be minding our own business? Forty-nine percent say that -- that -- that we should minding our own business more. That's the highest it's been in -- in years, the highest in 40 years.

And -- and, Peggy, that gets to your point, not only are we a weary nation, a nation turning inward.

NOONAN: That's a post-9/11 poll, do you know what I mean? That was not the mood after September 2001.

A number of things to say. One is that I worry about the vacuum that might created and suck in more trouble if American troops just abruptly left. It -- it seems to me...

HAASS: And we should not...

NOONAN: ... that is a destabilizing move. And if Obama is just buying time, in effect, as those -- as Russ Feingold said, no, it's going to take time, then I think that'll probably seem reasonable to people.

HAASS: We should not just leave. And there's a choice between doing as much as we're now doing and leaving. You know, sometimes there is a gray in-between area. The middle course is not always wrong. And rather than simply surging more troops, which is not clear to me is going to work, we can take a lot of the rest of the strategy, which is, by the way, where we're going to end up, which is more emphasis on training, not just in Kabul, but around the country, greater emphasis to win over some of the Taliban, some counterterrorism and so forth. We're going to end up with a strategy that's probably more commensurate with our interests.

We have to avoid these situations where we do everything, which is more than situations warrant, or we simply abandon a country like Afghanistan.

VANDEN HEUVEL: But at the end of the day, Afghanistan, Pakistan, this region will require political and diplomatic solutions. I interviewed Gorbachev in September. Secretary Gates, in my view, took the wrong lessons from the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev says very clearly -- and he has had insight into this -- political, diplomatic, regional work needs to be done.

No one is talking about abandoning. But the idea of pouring money and troops in, the U.S. footprint growing larger is -- we are going to be an occupying force. Barack Obama spoke eloquently about we are not an occupying force. We are perceived as such.

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