Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Losing Iraq and Afghanistan

By Ivan Eland
March 6, 2008

Unfortunately, this tin ear for global affairs sometimes afflicts U.S. leaders and media, too.

Read on.


fact checker said...

Dr. Eland, perhaps you should use your influenece and get on the horn with Senator Obama and suggest he begin taking a leadership role. Afterall, one would think the next POTUS wannabee would want to assist the upcoming administration and be ready on Day One, eh?


In one of the more pointed barbs in a Feb. 26, 2008, debate, Sen. Hillary Clinton charged that Sen. Barack Obama has been so busy running for president that he hasn’t done much of anything as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs.

“I also have heard Senator Obama refer continually to Afghanistan, and he references being on the Foreign Relations Committee,” Clinton said. “He chairs the Subcommittee on Europe. It has jurisdiction over NATO. NATO is critical to our mission in Afghanistan. He’s held not one substantive hearing to do oversight, to figure out what we can do to actually have a stronger presence with NATO in Afghanistan."

Obama responded: “Well, first of all, I became chairman of this committee at the beginning of this campaign, at the beginning of 2007. So it is true that we haven’t had oversight hearings on Afghanistan.”

Although Obama acknowledges the point, we sought to confirm what the subcommittee has been doing.

Congressional records show, and spokesmen for several subcommittee members confirm, the subcommittee has not held any policy hearings since Obama was appointed chair in early 2007. The subcommittee’s jurisdiction includes “all matters, policies and problems concerning the continent of Europe, including the European member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.”

The chair sets the agenda for a subcommittee and Obama could have asked to hold a hearing on NATO and its role in Afghanistan.

But Clinton’s claim, while technically true, is unfair, said Andrew J. Fischer, a spokesman for Republican Sen. Richard Lugar. Lugar now serves as a minority member of the Foreign Relations Committee, but he was the chair, from 2003 to 2006, when Republicans controlled the Senate. He is the ranking Republican on the committee.

Fischer, who is a minority staff member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said something as major as NATO’s role in Afghanistan would typically be held before the full Foreign Relations Committee, rather than Obama’s European subcommittee.

In fact, the Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on Afghanistan on Jan. 31, 2008, and NATO was a part of the discussion. Obama attended a Democratic debate in California that day. Clinton is not on the committee.

The Clinton campaign put out a statement reiterating Clinton’s comments to reinforce the theme that Obama is more about talk than action.

“Given the opportunity to take the reins of leadership and shape two critical areas of U.S. foreign policy — Afghanistan and our alliances in Europe — Senator Obama has done next to nothing,” the statement said.

Obama’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

So let’s look at Clinton’s statement:

“He chairs the subcommittee on Europe.” Yep.
“It has jurisdiction over NATO.” Yep.
“NATO is critical to our mission in Afghanistan. He’s held not one substantive hearing to do oversight, to figure out what we can do to actually have a stronger presence with NATO in Afghanistan.” Yep.

Some may argue that the issue of NATO’s role in Afghanistan typically and more appropriately would come before the full Foreign Relations Committee. But Clinton is right when she says Obama’s subcommittee has been largely dormant while Obama has campaigned for president. We rate her comment True.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Eland, I read with interest your columns because you usually have very good insight and knowledge of foreign affairs and related issues. I would like to hear from you what makes you affirm that AlQaeda members, or some other group you might suggest, were the perpretators of 9/11. From day zero to present, none of the arguments or "proofs" presented by the administration has been convincing. Do you know of something really solid?

(As an additional note: there were very good reasons for US and NATO members to have the talibans out of Afghanistan government even before 9/11, while none for the NATO members to invade Iraq.)