Rachel Maddow weighs in on President Obama's decision to send more troops to Afghanistan and his continuation of the Bush doctrine of preventive war i
December 2, 2009

Rachel Maddow weighs in on President Obama's decision to send more troops to Afghanistan and his continuation of the Bush doctrine of preventive war in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Rachel brought up our CIA's covert action in Pakistan, but she forgot to mention Blackwater. She should have Jeremy Scahill on sometime soon if she wants to get into what we're doing in Pakistan.

OBAMA: And as commander-in-chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

We‘re in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country. But this same cancer has also taken root in the border region of Pakistan. To abandon this area now—and to rely only on efforts against al Qaeda from a distance—would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our homeland and our allies.


MADDOW: Tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, this year‘s Nobel Peace laureate escalated the war in Afghanistan—for the second time in just the first year of his presidency.

In March, you will recall this president announced that his new administration had concluded a careful policy review of the options available in Afghanistan then and had decided to send 21,000 more troops.

To put that first escalation in context, this is what American troop levels were like eight years ago—the first December after we invaded. See that little tiny blip down there in the left? This is how they changed over time through the Bush administration and through, frankly, the election of Mr. Obama.

This is what‘s happened during President Obama‘s first year in office. And this is what he‘s just announced he‘s going to do by next summer. And then nine days after that, he flies to Oslo to get his Nobel Peace prize.

The president‘s speech tonight at West Point in a way is an awkward bookmark to the previous president‘s famous West Point speech when the Afghanistan war was only eight months old, not eight years old.


GEORGE W. BUSH, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT: Our war on terror is only begun, but in Afghanistan, it was begun well.


MADDOW: It turns out that wasn‘t very true. And eight years later, the next president is stuck explaining his choice among all the, frankly, pretty bad options available to fix Bush‘s supposedly “begun well” war.

The President Bush bragging at West Point about how awesome he thought things had gone in Afghanistan at that point is not what that speech is remembered for. President Bush bragged in a lot of places about how awesome he thought things had gone in Afghanistan, even as both Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, not only survived, but survived unscathed and stayed in business as militant leaders, just now relocated eastward slightly. If Omar went from Kandahar to Quetta in Pakistan, that means he moved slightly less than the distance between Wichita and Topeka.

Now, President Bush‘s West Point speech is remembered not because he was uniquely wrong in his comments there about Afghanistan itself, he was wrong a lot about his comments about Afghanistan itself. That speech is remembered because it was at West Point where he unveils what may have been the single most radical thing about his presidency.


CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

SARAH PALIN, FMR. ALASKA GOVERNOR: In what respect, Charlie?

GIBSON: The Bush—well, what do you—what do you interpret it to be?

PALIN: His world view?

GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated in September 2002, before the Iraq war.


MADDOW: President Obama tonight spoke at the site where President Bush unveiled the Bush doctrine—the proclamation that the United States would no longer reserve the right just to wage war against countries or forces that threatened us, but that we would wage war to stop the emergence of threats in the future.


BUSH: If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long. The war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge.


MADDOW: Before they emerge, before they emerge. We must confront threats that might happen someday.

And thus was born not only the justification for, in the name of 9/11, attacking a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, but also the maximalist Bush doctrine concept of America at war globally, indefinitely, against anyone at our own discretion.


BUSH: Our security will require transforming the military you will lead, a military that must be ready to strike at a moment‘s notice in any dark corner of the world. We must uncover terrorist cells in 60 or more countries. All nations that decide for aggression and terror will pay a price.


MADDOW: The Bush doctrine was probably the single most radical thing about the Bush presidency, because it dropped the requirement that the United States actually be threatened before we‘d start a war with someone, instead saying that if we just thought we might be threatened sometime in the future, that would be justification enough for us now to start a war. It is a really radical concept, if you think about it, not only about war, but about us, about America.

And it may have survived the Bush presidency. President Obama tonight is explaining his second escalation of the war in Afghanistan, announcing that the 32,000 Americans who were in Afghanistan when he took office will become 100,000 by next year. A war reborn in what the president is describing as his own image, his own strategic terms, but which is justified fundamentally by what sounds like the Bush doctrine.

The administration admitting that we are not actually threatened now as a nation by Afghanistan.


GEN. JAMES JONES, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Obviously, the good news that Americans should feel at least good about in Afghanistan is that the al Qaeda presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country, no bases, no ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies.


MADDOW: No ability to attack us or our allies.

Afghanistan poses no threat to us, and yet, our war there is being

doubled and tripled in size. Why? It‘s because we think there might be a

threat from Afghanistan in the future, if a safe haven for terrorism there

re-emerges in the future. In other words.


BUSH: If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge.


MADDOW: Is the massive escalation of the war in Afghanistan announced tonight President Obama‘s own implementation of the preventive war Bush doctrine that Sarah Palin couldn‘t understand and that no one has really been able to justify?

This war is not about threats to the United States from Afghanistan. To the extent that it is justified by preventing threats to us from emerging from Pakistan sometime in the future, that‘s preventive war. That‘s the Bush doctrine—in all its Orwellian extremism.

To the extent, though, that this war is not about some potential future threat but a real current one, like the president described tonight, a current one that—he didn‘t say it bluntly, but he meant it—one that exists in Pakistan. To the extent that our 100,000 troops in Afghanistan are there simply to backstop and contain the real war against the real threat next door in Pakistan, then tell me this—how are we fighting our war in Pakistan?

We‘re fighting it using the CIA, which effectively functions as a fifth secret branch of the U.S. military now. They even have their own Air Force. They‘re a fifth secret branch of the military now which our civilian leaders as a matter of policy do not answer for. They don‘t even bother explaining what they‘re doing.

Do you remember when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was questioned about our secret CIA drone war when she was recently in Pakistan?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At the same time, the drone attacks are still going on in Waziristan. What does madam or America in general plans to do with that, because it‘s creating a lot of frustration among our people.


HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I will not talk about that specifically, but generally, let me say that there‘s a war going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Pakistani parliament, of course, has also requested that these drone attacks be stopped yet they continue and the Pakistani people have begun to resent them and associate them with U.S. policy towards Pakistan as a whole.

CLINTON: You know, I think what‘s important here is that there—there is a war going on, as several of you have said. And I won‘t comment on that specific matter.


MADDOW: I won‘t comment on that specific matter. I won‘t talk about that specific thing, but there is a war. That war, that secret one—because CIA actions, even when there‘s a war, are covert and deniable.

If the real war is Pakistan and we‘re fighting this war not to prevent some threat to us in the future, not as an extension of the Bush doctrine, but rather than to respond to a real threat now, why are we fighting it with our secret military that we don‘t admit to? Why are we fighting it with our CIA?

Maybe there will someday be an Obama doctrine to replace the Bush doctrine. If that‘s going to happen, then, first, the Bush doctrine needs to be ended. No more wars to prevent future threats that may or may not emerge.

But, secondly, at some point, this president will need to be able to explain and take the credit or the blame for his real wars that right now are still getting only a “no comment.”

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