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No love for Obama troop plan in Bay Area

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Tuesday, December 1st, 2009 at 6:53 pm in Afghanistan.

The Democratic congressional delegation loves President Barack Obama but they don’t love his proposal to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

Congress controls the purse strings and Obama he needed to win votes, not friends, with his speech tonight.

None of the Bay Area Democrats in Congress I have heard from since the speech support a troop surge.  (Only Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, had no opinion; said he was still studying it.)

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein favors it, however.

“I support the President’s plan,” she said in a press release. “It has been carefully deliberated and debated by the senior officials in the Administration [and] recommended by one of America’s finest generals. I believe that both Republicans and Democrats should support this decision, which will allow us to reverse the Taliban’s gains and deny terrorists a safe haven while limiting the duration of our commitment.”

Here’s what some of the Bay Area members of Congress had to say:

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove: “I thank President Obama for his careful and thoughtful deliberation on this matter. He faces a difficult decision on a war he inherited, and I know his heart is in the right place. However, I remain convinced that increased diplomatic, economic, social, and educational assistance in the region will result in a lasting solution in Afghanistan. American national security, our dedicated soldiers already serving, and the people of Afghanistan will be better served if we focus our efforts on improving the socioeconomic conditions of the region instead of sending more of our brave soldiers to fight in this war.”

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez: “I have traveled to this region of the world three times this year and based on what I have learned, I am not sure that the ingredients necessary for success in Afghanistan are present.”

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton: “Since September 11, 2001, America has faced the serious threat of terrorism at home and abroad.  It is clear that the stability of countries around the world, including Afghanistan, affects our safety and security and it is imperative that we effectively protect and defend our nation.  As we decide on our involvement in Afghanistan, first and foremost I will consider the safety of our brave men and women in uniform who are risking their lives.  In order to ensure the safety of our troops and all Americans, we need to establish clear and realistic goals for our involvement in Afghanistan.  This should include addressing Afghanistan’s political and military stability, dealing with corruption, and planning for the safe return of our troops.  In the coming days, I’ll be reviewing the president’s strategy and look forward to hearing more specifics about the proposal.”

Rep. Mike Honda, D-Campbell: “What is needed now is not about ‘more troops’ but ‘better strategies’ to build the country’s capacity. All three frontiers – military, economic and political – must be Afghan-focused. It is time for their surge, not ours.”

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont:  “Tonight’s announcement is a great disappointment. Civilian and military casualties are at an all-time high. We should not be increasing our military presence. Lasting peace can only come through a diplomatic solution. I oppose any funding for military escalation in Afghanistan.”

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  • Tom Benigno

    Concerned:
    Surely we care about those 3,000 people who were killed on 911 at the Twin Towers, but why are we allowing those same enemies to know our strategy in the coming months. President Obama’s schedule for additional troops should have been a secret.
    Plus the time table will allow the enemy, to plan for a major attack. Homeland security hell,the President was at risk the other night. What are we doing?

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    Seldom, if ever, has so much drivel come so fast from the mouths of these lawmakers. Stark, as usual, is the most strident in demonstrating his lack of judgment. Miller said nothing. Honda must have read a summary of the speech prepared by a junior staffer. McNerney, at least, has an open mind. Garamendi’s statement seems to have been written before the President gave his address.

  • Elwood

    Boy, those dimmiecrats do love their KoolAid, don’t they?

  • Ralph Hoffmann, Guest Columnist

    Congressman Ron Paul(R-TX) voted against authorizing US Forces to invade Iraq in a late night, close vote in 2002. Now, I’m urging him to vote to cut funding of our war efforts in Afghanistan & Iraq, based on deaths of our brave Armed Forces (nearing 6000) compared to 3000 killed on 9/11/01. It’s sensible policy based on economics and the lives of our Armed Forces. Homeland Security begins at home. Diplomacy, not War is a better route. If Obama doesn’t agree, he should be impeached.

  • Tom Benigno

    Concerned:
    Good job Ralph keep up the good work.

  • Forrest West

    Democrats like Garamendi and the liberal media continue to describe all issues that Obama as President has to address as “inherited” when in fact Obama is escalating most of them such as the war in Afghanistan to such a great extent that the term inherited is a political decoy. Afghanistan is undeniably the Obama War which leads to the terms of inherited and escalation unjustifiablel in the same sentence or context . The Media needs to stop giving Obama a free ride and call things as they are–the Obama Failed Economy, the Obama Unemployment rate, etc.

  • John W

    Since my congressman, McNerney, is in the undecided column on this, he’ll be hearing from me in reluctant support of Obama’s decision. My fellow Democrats seem to have forgotten that, throughout the presidential campaign, Obama repeatedly said that we needed to beef up our troop strength to deal with AfPak. I think Obama is realistic about the odds of success and the very limited definition of success (hence the timetable that Republicans don’t like). That’s why he took time to redefine our objectives before committing to the additional troops. But the stakes in Afghanistan, Pakistan and even India are too high not to try. As an Army draftee during Vietnam, I find the comparisons to Vietnam very superficial, which Obama addressed in his speech. I find the comparisons to the Soviet invasion of and attempted takeover of Afghanistan to be equally superficial. In hindsight, if not for “Charlie Wilson’s War,” the Soviets might have succeeded. To be honest, that might have been a better outcome than what we face there now. Does having a timetable (albeit a soft one) signal to the Taliban that they can just wait us out? Like they haven’t thought of that already? The “timetable” is a signal to the Afghan government to get it’s act together. Hey, I’m a 1969 Army draftee. I hate wars without clearcut goals and definitions of “victory.” But we live in a messy world, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Vietnam never posed an existential threat to the United States. What’s going on today does.

  • Elwood

    Let’s look at the record of Jimmy Obama after less than a year in office:

    It’s Obama’s war.

    It’s Obama’s depression.

    It’s Obama’s failed health plan.

    All this after only ten months!

    Can you imagine what the next three years and two months hold?

  • J

    John, it’s nice to see at least one response worth reading.

    I think you’re on the right path with regards to the timetable. It is a signal to Karzai, though I doubt he’ll give much meaning to it until we draw down in Iraq. When it comes to the Taliban, unless they delusionally believed we were annexing Afghanistan and turning it into the 51st state, they must have always known we would not make a home in land half way across the world occupied by people who speak a ‘foreign language’.

    As to your ‘wars with no victory’, I think the real problem is our policy makers are going to have to re-evaluate what 18-23 yr old soldiers with no language/history training can do in a place like Afghanistan, what 30-50 yr old seasoned diplomats can do, how the two might compliment each other (heres a hint: determine which are law enforcement and which are commerce/nation builders. We don’t task our domestic Police with providing us water, electricity, housing, agriculture, etc, etc like we’ve come to expect the Military/Private Security firms to take care of abroad). Basically it comes down to what is the proper balance of responsibility/funding between Dept Defense to Dept State. I think it’s pretty clear that what we currently have — $600+ billion and 2million military at Defense versus $35 billion and just 12,000 Foreign Service officers — suggests at minimum that the State Dept is dangerously underfunded.

    I hope this plan of 30k more troops succeeds, but at a cost of another $25-35billion per year I can’t help but wonder if we wouldn’t be better off by putting even just 50% that money behind expanding the Foreign Service and, at whatever cost, training officers in Arabic, Pashto, Urdu, Farsi/Dari to the point that we have 2,000 speakers in each language (I think we have just 400 arabic speakers right now and the others combined is probably smaller than the amount of Arabic speakers). I just have difficulty seeing how we win over the support and the trust of the ordinary people so that they identity with us, want to emulate ‘American idealism’/etc when our deployed personal abroad can’t relate to them linguistically or culturally (do we know enough of their history, the folklore and ‘figures of speech’, etc? probably not).

  • John W

    Elwood’s “It’s Obama’s (fill in the blank)–

    It’s Obama’s war. Which one? Iraq, the one we are withdrawing from? Or Afghanistan, the one we abandoned so Jr. could show up his old man in Iraq? If a kid pukes on the floor at school, do we attribute the mess to the custodian who has to clean it up?

    It’s Obama’s depression. You mean the one that started at the end of 2007, kicked into total meltdown in Sept. 08 and was bleeding 600 thousand jobs a month with 6.5% negative GDP growth when Obama took office? When the current technical recovery (GDP growth) turns into human recovery (job growth), will it be Obama’s recovery? Or will we find a way to credit it to Ronald Reagan? Just what is it that Obama did to cause the depression? Hate the bailouts and the stimulus, if you will. But most economists, including some conservative ones, say that, without them, the world would have fallen into the abyss, economically speaking.

    It’s Obama’s failed health care plan. Because the current health care system is in such great shape. With as much as we spend on health care in this country, we should be able to give everyone Cadillac health care plus a free MRI and facelift every year just for the fun of it.

    I look forward to the rest of Obama’s turn. If the voters want to turn things over to Sarah in 2013, so be it. For now, Obama should just concentrate on doing the right thing, even though there will never be consensus on what that is.

  • Elwood

    When Jimmy Obama made the decision to send 30k more troops to Afghanistan it became his war, regardless of what may have gone before.

    The only observable effect of the “stimulus” so far is to completely debase our currency. ($1200 gold, 80$ oil, $l.50 euro.) And yet, Jimmy Obama continues to spend money like a drunken sailor.

    Perhaps Jimmy Obama can be consoled by Secretary Hillary whose health plan was also flushed down the crapper of history.

  • John W

    You’re right. Afghanistan is, indeed, Obama’s war now. Speaking for myself, I say it’s “our war.” Because, unlike many of my fellow Democrats, I support him on the troop buildup. It may not work, but just leaving and giving the Taliban and alQaeda free run of the place is not a very appealing prospect. There are no good options. It’s not just a military troop buildup, by the way. It’s also a civilian USAID surge under the State Department. I watched Hillary Clinton testify in the Senate yesterday, along with Secretary of Defense Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman, Adm. Mullen. She got rave reviews from both Dems and Repubs for what we are trying to do on the civilian side.

    I’m slow on the “Jimmy Obama” thing. I assume that’s a reference to Carter and the economic troubles attributed to his administration — especially inflation and interest rates. The latter was a function of the former. The inflation didn’t start in his administration. It was the cumulative affect of LBJ’s “Guns and Butter” policies, OPEC and oil price shocks dating to the Nixon administration; and Nixon’s price controls and the subsequent lifting of same (letting inflationary steam build in the pot and then lifting the lid). Remember WIN (Whip Inflation Now) buttons in Ford’s administration? It was Carter who hired Paul Volker, the guy who broke the inflationary cycle, beginning late in Carter’s one term and continuing under Reagan. But Carter got the blame for everything. Goes with the territory. If we had listened to Carter on energy conservation, we would not be hostage to Middle East oil, at least not to the extent we are today.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    The US and allies can’t destroy the Taleban but it can strengthen the Afghans’ capacity for self-defense and help it achieve a measure of stability greater than now obtains. These objectives, when they are met, will not transform Afghanistan into Shangri-La but someplace more peaceful, and less threatening to our interests, than Somalia.