USA Today reports that Gen. McKiernan - top U.S. commander in Afghanistan - “has asked the Pentagon for more than 20,000 soldiers, Marines and airmen” to augment U.S. forces. McKiernan says U.S. troop levels of 55,000 to 60,000 in Afghanistan will be needed for “at least three or four more years.” He added: “If we put these additional forces in here, it’s going to be for the next few years. It’s not a temporary increase of combat strength.”
We should have a vigorous national debate before embarking on this course. Contrary to what one might think from a quick scan of the newspapers, there are knowledgeable voices questioning whether increasing the deployment of U.S. troops to Afghanistan is in our interest, or is in the interest of the Afghan people.
Bestselling author and former longtime New York Times foreign correspondent Stephen Kinzer argues the opposite in this five minute video:
Kinzer argues that sending more U.S. troops is likely to be counterproductive. It’s likely to produce more anger in Afghanistan, and more anger is likely to produce more recruits for the Taliban. A better alternative would surge diplomacy instead, reaching out to people who are now supporting the Taliban.
Al Qaeda and the Taliban are very different forces, argues Kinzer. The Taliban has deep roots in Afghan society. Many of the warlords allied with the Taliban are not fanatic ideologues.
Senator McCain, President Bush, and some of their oil industry friends are urging Americans to support overturning a 26-year ban on offshore drilling as a way to bring down gas prices. Of course, it’s snake oil designed for what the Joe Lieberman campaign affectionately called “low information voters.”
As Dean Baker and Nichole Szembrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research noted in a June 2008 paper,
the Energy Information Agency (EIA) projects that Senator McCain’s proposal would have no impact in the near-term since it will be close to a decade before the first oil can be extracted from the currently protected offshore areas. The EIA projects that production will reach 200,000 barrels a day (0.2 percent of projected world production) at peak production in close to twenty years. It describes this amount as too small to have any significant effect on oil prices.
In contrast, if the United States had continued raising auto fuel efficiency standards annually between 1985-2005 by a quarter of the amount it raised them annually from 1980-1985 — instead of leaving them virtually unchanged — the result would have roughly been the equivalent of 3.3 million barrels of oil per day in new production in 2008 — 16 times the impact of McCain’s Offshore Drilling [MOD], CEPR reports.
What about the impact of lifting sanctions on Iran?
In recent weeks we've again seen an escalation of US/Israeli threats to attack Iran. Among many other examples, the House of Representatives is currently considering a resolution promoted by AIPAC that would effectively demand a blockade against Iran. This resolution has over 200 co-sponsors, although a surge of opposition has prevented it from being passed so far. (The resolution is H. Con. Res. 362; you can ask your Representatives to oppose it here.)
Here's what those promoting military attacks and blockades on Iran don't want Americans to know: there's an offer on the table that could resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program and allow both sides to claim victory.
In this short interview, former US Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas Pickering makes the case for talks with Iran without pre-conditions on multilateral uranium enrichment in Iran.
In March, Ambassador Pickering co-authored "A Solution for the US-Iran Nuclear Standoff" in the New York Review of Books. Pickering and his co-authors wrote: