Thursday, February 7, 2008

Charlie Wilson's War ...

Unlike almost everybody I've read on the subject, I don't get all fuzzy about looking back on the time Charlie Wilson was conjuring his 'magic' in Afghanistan. I was serving at the time and knew some of the operators who risked (and lost) their lives in an adventure that was, for all intents and purposes, useless. The blowback from arming Osama's Mujaheddin in their effort against the Russians has hurt us almost as much as it did the Soviets, maybe more in some aspects.

At the time, the Soviet system was befouled, corrupt, and bankrupt. The fall had already begun (things move slowly in Russia) and it would have taken maybe a year or two (without our intervention) longer for the same result. The Soviets couldn't afford their Afghanistan expedition, just as we can't afford ours in Iraq, and would have had to leave regardless. All we did was train and arm the people who would eventually use their U.S.-acquired skills to kill 3000 of us.

There is, however, something to be learned from the machinations of the time and Lance Mannion highlights it very well. We can learn what a good Democratic leadership can do if they put their minds to it. Our two leaders look like amateurs compared to Tip O'Neill:


Tip O'Neill cut a deal with Charlie Wilson, "an implicit quid pro quo arrangement," Crile writes,"in which he'd agreed, in effect, to sell out the Contras in exchange for leading in the House when it came to funding the Afghan war."

Wilson felt bad about this. His conscience bothered him. But he knew, because O'Neill made it clear, it was either the mujahideen or the Contras, and if Charlie had chosen the Contras that would have pretty much ended any influence he had in Congress over anything. He'd stop being an effective representative of his district. His constituents, a conservative and religious bunch, would very likely stop forgiving him for the sins and indiscretions in his personal life if in his public life he wasn't bringing home the bacon.

All politics is local.

Coelho again:

Nicaragua was a bitter, bitter, vicious fight with State, CIA, the military, and the White House against us. If Charlie had gotten caught up in any of those battles he wouldn't have gotten anywhere.

Reading this stuff has made me nostalgic about Tip O'Neill. More nostalgic. It's often pointed out that Reagan didn't govern like the Right Wing idealogog he ran as and talked like. George W. Bush has out-Reaganed Reagan on most issues. Partly that was because Reagan had a pragmatic streak. He liked to get things done more than he liked to get his way. Mostly though it was because Tip O'Neill stood in his way.

Makes me wish O'Neill had left a manual on how to run a successful opposition for Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid


Our current congressional leadship are simpering cowards. Digby highlights that quite clearly this morning:


With republicans setting the world record for filibusters in one year (with absolutely no pushback) and the asinine "we need 60 votes for anything" suddenly becoming the new rule, who does Reid stick it to on a filibuster? His own damn party – brave folks and true leaders like Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold. When republican Senators put holds on bill after bill, Reid respects the hold. But when one of his own party does the same, he overrides it.

Sad, but true. The Democrats have adopted the "don't make trouble" strategy and this is the result. They got punk'd again today: [my ems]


I could just imagine what dire straits this nation would be in had Pelosi and Reid been the counterforce to Reagan.

Home sick today (I think I caught something from the little tramp Sam yesterday at work).


Speaking of our Afghan expedition, Meatball notes (link might not be safe for work) it's not going well either.


Afghans are disillusioned by the failure of real progress in securing and rebuilding their country, again a narco-state as half of the country's GDP is drug-related. The Bush administration promised a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan it never delivered. Compared to other recent post-conflict countries, Afghanistan receives minimal assistance. This despite the fact that Afghanistan remains the home to much of al Qaeda and has served as the largest terrorist haven in the world.

Like McDonald's dropped Kobe and Pepsi a Madonna, Jackson, and Ludacriss, some are now suggesting it's time to deconflict the GWOT matrix and save what can be saved of an Afghanistan critically foundering in the shadow of an embarrassing and debilitating controversy called Iraq.


If we don't get out of Iraq, we'll be leaving Afghanistan with our tail between our legs, just like the Russians ... just like the British ...

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