Beginning of the End of the Afghan War?
By Staff News & Analysis - July 09, 2010

Ann Coulter vs. Bill Kristol: Beginnings of a Conservative Schism? … Ann Coulter's recent column, "Bill Kristol Must Resign" may have officially kicked off the next great schism within the conservative movement. At issue is the war in Afghanistan – and, more specifically, whether Republicans should support President Obama's approach to a conflict that has now lasted for Americans longer than World War II. Mocking neoconservatives, Coulter wrote: "Bill Kristol [editor of The Weekly Standard] and Liz Cheney have demanded that [Michael] Steele (left) resign as head of the RNC for saying Afghanistan is now Obama's war – and a badly thought-out one at that. (Didn't liberals warn us that neoconservatives want permanent war?)" Coulter failed at convincing Kristol to resign – she never says from what. In fact, channeling Michael Steele, who vows to stay on as party chief, Kristol responded, saying, "I ain't going anywhere." But she may have succeeded at advancing a major debate. – Politics Daily

Dominant Social Theme: Two sides to every war?

Free-Market Analysis: This is very interesting news. Ann Coulter never met a Republican president or a Republican politician for that matter about whom she couldn't find something nice to say. Coulter offers us the kind of public intellectual that America currently can support, a polarizing figure with a simplistic world-view that is either socialist or authoritarian (and Coulter obviously leans toward the latter). But now she has come out with a column blasting one of her own, Bill Kristol, a pre-eminent Neo-Conservative and founder and editor of the political magazine The Weekly Standard.

We find this significant. We are not sure of Coulter's motives here or why she decided to defend the head of the RNC, Michael Steele. What we do notice generally is that when a rhetorical shift is required in most Western countries, a statement from a prominent individual reconfigures the "goal posts." This is a Hegelian approach to the national dialectic – one that includes both a thesis and antithesis to create a new synthesis.

Without trying to be cynical about Coulter's motives – or even whether the column was entirely her idea – we would point out that Republican National Committee Chairman, Michael Steele, expressed an unusual interpretation of the relationship between Barack Obama and the war in Afghanistan at a Connecticut fundraiser Thursday. Look at the video of Michael Steele's remarks – click here to view – and ponder how "off the cuff" they seem. They actually seem fairly well thought-out. Steele went on for quite a while about Afghanistan and left a clear impression that his statements were far more than casually thrown-together . Something is changing.

And now there is Coulter. Coulter's point apparently is that the current war in Afghanistan HAS turned into President Barack Obama's war and that President George Bush, having seen the problems inherent in an ongoing Afghanistan war, opted to treat it after a point as a kind of police action and concentrate his firepower on Iraq. From Coulter's point of view, Iraq was a good war, one that the US could win because there was a core of smart, civilized young people, youthful urban sophisticates, available to build a modern political system.

The world-view that Coulter propounds is really a fairly simple one. She believes, as she writes in her latest (and possibly most controversial column), that the "irreducible requirements of Republicanism were being for life, small government and a strong national defense." She then adds the kicker, "but I guess permanent war is on the platter now, too." This is an astonishing statement, one we never thought we'd see issue from the pen of Coulter. Here's some more from the Coulter article itself:

In the entire seven-year course of the Afghanistan war under Bush, from October 2001 to January 2009, 625 American soldiers were killed. In 18 short months, Obama has nearly doubled that number to 1,124 Americans killed. Republicans used to think seriously about deploying the military. President Eisenhower sent aid to South Vietnam, but said he could not "conceive of a greater tragedy" for America than getting heavily involved there.

As Michael Steele correctly noted, every great power that's tried to stage an all-out war in Afghanistan has gotten its ass handed to it. Everyone knows it's not worth the trouble and resources to take a nation of rocks and brigands. Based on Obama's rules of engagement for our troops in Afghanistan, we're apparently not even fighting a war. The greatest fighting force in the world is building vocational schools and distributing cheese crackers to children.

There's even talk of giving soldiers medals for NOT shooting people, which I gather will be awarded posthumously. Naomi Campbell is rougher with her assistants than our troops are allowed to be with Taliban fighters. But now I hear it is the official policy of the Republican Party to be for all wars, irrespective of our national interest. What if Obama decides to invade England because he's still ticked off about that Churchill bust? Can Michael Steele and I object to that? Or would that demoralize the troops?

Our troops are the most magnificent in the world, but they're not the ones setting military policy. The president is – and he's basing his war strategy on the chants of cretins. Nonetheless, Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney have demanded that Steele resign as head of the RNC for saying Afghanistan is now Obama's war – and a badly thought-out one at that. (Didn't liberals warn us that neoconservatives want permanent war?) …

Of course, if Kristol is writing the rules for being a Republican, we're all going to have to get on board for amnesty and a "National Greatness Project," too – other Kristol ideas for the Republican Party. Also, John McCain. Kristol was an early backer of McCain for president – and look how great that turned out! Inasmuch as demanding resignations is another new Republican position, here's mine: Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney must resign immediately.

Perhaps we are seeing the beginnings of a rhetorical repositioning here. It is certainly possible that the powers-that-be might be contemplating a climb-down over Afghanistan. If so, this would be a remarkable step and one that would save numerous American lives and give the war-torn country of Afghanistan the potential for a little peace.

Of course there remain powerful forces arrayed on the other side of this perspective. The most recent argument against disengagement comes from an emergent position that the Pashtun resistance to American and NATO forces is not just partially supported by Pakistan but is entirely run through Pakistan and its intelligence agency, ISI. The idea behind this perspective is that the dominant Punjabi ethnic element of Pakistan is not only interested in controlling Afghanistan but in keeping it (and the Pashtuns) weak and divided.

According to this argument, America must not only stay in Afghanistan, but must defeat the Taliban and, in a sense, as well, the ethnic Punjabis running the war in Pakistan. This point of view is now being promulgated via articles on such leftist forums as the Huffington Post. It is also presumably the reason why the US army has been attempting to "win over" Pashtuns, believing that the Pashtuns might prefer NATO to the Pakistan-supported Taliban.

This latter point of view, certainly further complicates disengagement. However, to believe it, we would have to believe that the Pashtuns are merely pawns in a larger chess match between the Punjabi Pakistanis and NATO forces. It turns the Pashtuns, who have fought for a Pashtun nation repeatedly over the centuries, into merely peaceful observers (of their own destruction) who are simply seeking American protection.

After Thoughts

Anyone who looks at the situation via a larger historical context must grant that the Pashtuns have fought for their land and traditions in the past. The idea that the Pashtuns are mere manipulated tools of the Punjabis seems a bit simplistic. What is more likely is that certain Pashtun elements are using Punjabi support, just as the Punjabis are using the Pashtuns to fight a back door war against the West. Within this context, an emergent perspective that the West ought to rid itself of this endless conflict is probably a sensible one. Certainly, America's Founding Fathers counseled against "foreign entanglements" for a reason.

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