Torture apologist and former Bush speech writer Marc Thiessen takes to his perch at the Washington Post Editorial page to scold all the Republicans in the current goat rodeo that is their nomination process about their lack of hawkishness.
He is unhappy that the candidates from the “Manly men making war” party are not speaking out in support of our action in Libya and worse that they seem to be flirting with the position of the majority of the American people, namely getting the hell out of Dodge in Afghanistan.
It has to be really hard for someone like Thiessen seeing his party wake up from a decade of “No cutting and running” and “you are either with us or against us” sloganeering. After all this is a man that thinks that it is just fine that we take people merely accused of a crime, terrorism, and then torture them to get supposed intelligence. He has made a career defending the “he-men” in the Republican Party and now they are all going soft on him.
You’ll just have to imagine tears running down my face at poor old Marc’s fate, because you sure as hell will never see me crying over him in reality.
He makes all the same points that we’ve heard ad nauseam about Afghanistan. That the Taliban were there and will come back if we leave; that we have to stay win (though, of course, he give not definition of what winning would or could look like) and all the rest.
He takes a good swipe a Rep. Ron Paul for failing to know that Iran sits in between Afghanistan and Iraq, but really that is just a fit of pique not a substantive critic. Thiessen is showing what a lot of Republicans are feeling, a massive dissatisfaction with the 7 dwarves (soon to be 8 when Jon Huntsman announces, call him…. Hopeless, I guess).
Here is a little sample of this trying-to-be-tough-but-coming-off- whinny column:
Not one candidate stepped forward to argue for prosecuting the Afghan war to a successful conclusion. Not Michele Bachmann, who had previously criticized Obama for failing to speak of “victory” when announcing his Afghan surge. Not even Tim Pawlenty, who has previously called for “strategic patience” in Afghanistan and argued, “If we are serious about what this means about terrorism . . . and our national security interests, then we need to be serious about seeing it through . . . .” (To his credit, Pawlenty did defend U.S. missile strikes in Yemen and the liberation of Iraq, which he called “one of the shining examples of success in the Middle East”).
Although he was not at the debate, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman — who is preparing to announce his candidacy next week — argued in a CNN interview Sunday for a faster timetable for pulling U.S. troops from Afghanistan than the one President Obama has in mind: “When you look at Afghanistan, can we hang out until 2014 and beyond? You can, if you’re willing to pay another quarter of a trillion dollars to do so . . . . If it isn’t in our direct national security interest and if there isn’t a logical exit strategy and if we don’t know what the cost is going to be in terms of money and human lives, then I think you have to say it’s probably time we reevaluate this. My hunch is the American people want to be out of there as quickly as we can get it done.”
See, the Republicans running for president get that there is a lot of war fatigue among the American people, and while there is less of it in the Republican base it is growing there as well. They understand that there is just no way to square the circle of the cost of our military adventurism at a time they are calling for massive cuts in entitlements. The old formula is guns and butter; well the American people have had all the guns they can stand for a while and are not taking kindly to the idea that there will be no more butter.
The other problem for Thiessen is that while he can hold six impossible things in his head at once, not everyone can or will. Even for the most die hard war monger, there is no good outcome available in Afghanistan. We’ve seen this movie in the 1970’s in Vietnam and the remake in a new location does not fix the ending.
Right now we have a huge number of troops in the field there. We can clear areas but we are unable to blanket the entire nation and so we can’t consolidate our hold. We have an ostensible ally in President Karzai, but he is corrupt and not loved by his people. Worse he does not control the country either; he is more the President of Kabul than President of Afghanistan in fact.
Our other ally, Pakistan, is, at best, playing a double game in supporting us and the Taliban through its intelligence service the ISI. They have no intention of leaving behind the level of influence they had in a nation on their boarder. They know that sooner or later the US will be leaving and that they will get to be the big boys on the block when we do. I actually understand their need to have their hands in the Afghan government. If they do not then Iran, for all that it is Shi’ite and not Sunni Muslim.
All this combined with our abject failure to focus on the first war we started when we might have been able to do something approaching a success leaves the United State in a no-win situation and any thinking person has got to know that it is time to call a cab and find the exit.
Which is the problem for Marc Thiessen. You see, he is less of thinking person than a random word generator hooked into to a news feed, a policy data base from the Heritage Foundation and Dick Cheney’s hind brain. Something fact comes in and then the gears go around and around and out comes this kind of standard Republican, Conservative, and Teahadist rhetoric. Facts about the cost of the wars or the lack of a viable successful conclusion do not matter to someone who worked in the White House that proudly proclaimed that it was not part of the reality based community.
There has to be an kind of existential loneliness to being Marc Thiessen. He has put a lot of effort and investing his credibility (such as it is) in these memes of war and terror and now as the nation is moving away from those ideas, he is being left behind by his party. The good news is that I kind of doubt that the Republican field will stay this reasonable about such things. They are probably going to come back the “he-man” style of foreign policy; after all they don’t have a lot of original ideas either.
The floor is yours.