Tuesday, October 09, 2012

In Afghanistan, the "Americans are increasingly going to be spectators. There’s no more money. We’re seeing America’s retreat into itself"

In his speech at the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney avoided any mention of the war in Afghanistan 
wrote John Vinocur in his International Herald Tribune column prior to the governor's speech on foreign policy.
A week later, in accepting the Democratic presidential nomination, Barack Obama gave a pass to the word “success” in describing the outcome of what he had once called the “war of necessity.” 

The president asserted instead that “we’ve blunted the Taliban’s momentum.” That’s a retreat from “breaking the Taliban’s momentum” —  the specific task Obama attached to announcing a surge of 33,000 troops to fight the officially right and good war in December 2009. And a step back from an objective that the incumbent had pointed to this May 1 as a mission accomplished. 

Romney? In his clearest statement on Afghanistan, made in January, he said, “We should not negotiate with the Taliban. We should defeat theTaliban.” 

No plan explaining how to do that has been offered by the Republican challenger. At the same time, he maintains — in tune with Obama’s timeline for withdrawal — that almost all U.S. troops should be out of Afghanistan in 2014.

… For months, Romney, alongside Obama, has sustained the nondiscussion of a double concern that allied officials see in the presidential election: whether America is now inured to failing to win its good wars, and how much of an obligation remains in the minds of its two presidential candidates that the United States must function as global good cop and ultimate recourse in maintaining international stability. 
Six years ago, Obama wrote that not only would the United States have to continue in its sheriff role, he insisted that “this will not change — nor should it.”

… This is more certain: No one running for president shows any inclination to talk about what becomes of a broken, corrupt and prospectively dysfunctional country after 2014. Or the enormous costs that would be tied to Afghanistan’s continued maintenance by the United States and its allies. Or, in the end, what the candidates’ flight from focusing more sharply on the war says to the world about the wavering status of America as the single global force able to say no to chaos. 

It tells us “that this is a much less safe world.” The phrase belongs to Pierre Lellouche, who served as the former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He said: “The Americans are increasingly going to be spectators. There’s no more money. We’re seeing America’s retreat into itself, with no more boots on the ground, but a reliance on military technology like drones.”