This article is © 2009 by Stephen J. Sniegoski.
This page is © 2009 by WTM Enterprises.
All rights reserved.


Afghanistan: Back door to war on Iran


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The Obama administration has made Afghanistan the focus of its foreign policy, significantly escalating the war effort there. That is so even though division exists within the administration regarding the degree of escalation sought. Barack Obama's motive for expanding the war in Afghanistan seems to be a desire to appear strong in foreign policy, combined with the idea that war in Afghanistan is much safer than a war on Iran — the primary target of Israel and its Lobby.

Since campaigning for the presidency, Obama has felt a political need to demonstrate that his professed opposition to the war in Iraq did not mean that he was an "isolationist" or was afraid of using American military power in the world. To illustrate that position he has consistently supported an intensified war in Afghanistan.

Stephen G. Rademaker writes in the Washington Post:

As a candidate for president, Barack Obama correctly sensed that to win the Democratic nomination he needed to portray himself as more opposed to the Iraq war than any of his opponents, but that to win the general election he needed to be able to reassure the American people of his determination to defeat terrorism.

Afghanistan offered a convenient solution: Obama held it up as the "good" war that he was determined to win, unlike the "bad" war in Iraq that he would end. He promised a military surge in Afghanistan, and he dared John McCain and the outgoing administration to get to his right on the issue.

On a political level this strategy worked brilliantly, enabling Obama to deflect any suspicion that he was a McGovernite ready to surrender to Islamic extremism. But now that he is president, events are testing his professed commitment to victory in Afghanistan. ("Barack Obama As Charlie Wilson?," September 5, 2009)

Other factors also shape Obama's Afghanistan policy. The security situation has deteriorated, and the U.S. military does not want to lose a war. General Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, is preparing to tell Obama that thousands of more troops are needed to defeat the insurgents. Oil interests and some American geostrategists have been interested in Afghanistan (see my book, The Transparent Cabal, pp. 130-36, 148-50), but it appears that at the present time the traditional foreign-policy establishment is wary of a major increase in American troops and an escalation of the war.

For example, Zbigniew Brzezinski (author of The Grand Chessboard [1997] which asserts a critical need for American power in Eurasia) has opposed an American escalation of the war in Afghanistan for some time, though he does not support a significant troop withdrawal. (See "Brzezinski: Surge in Afghanistan Risky, Some McCain Backers Want World War IV," no byline, Huffington Post, August 2, 2008; and "Brzezinski: West Must Avoid Russia's Mistakes in Afghanistan," interview, Deutsche Welle, October 16, 2008.)

A similar view is expressed by former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, and former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft.

In short, the general position of the foreign-policy establishment is against a major increase of American troops in Afghanistan but also opposed to a withdrawal. The foreign-policy establishment believes that U.S. imperial interests are involved in Afghanistan but that overall American global interests are not helped by a larger war. It seeks international support to stabilize Afghanistan — including Iranian involvement.

But that establishment balancing act is very difficult, and some diplomatic options — such as allowing for Iranian participation — would be nearly impossible given the current political atmosphere in the United States. Obama thus faces a serious problem, since the military commanders on the scene are saying that if the United States does not escalate the war it will be lost.

The major domestic supporters of an accelerated war in Afghanistan are the neoconservatives. As Ben Smith writes in a recent piece in Politico, "Prominent conservative foreign policy thinkers and activists who backed the Iraq war are circulating a letter to President Obama supporting his engagement in Afghanistan against criticism from left and right, and urging him to stay the course." (September 4, 2009)

Of course, Smith's "conservatives" are actually neoconservatives. Signatories of the pro-war letter include such prominent neocons as:

    Randy Scheunemann, John McCain's major foreign-policy advisor;
    John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary;
    Gary Schmitt, former executive director of the über-interventionist Project for the New American Century (PNAC);
    Fred Kagan, architect of the "surge" in Iraq;
    Robert Kagan, co-founder of PNAC;
    Max Boot, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard;
    Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard;
    Dan Senor, former spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority;
    Eliot A. Cohen, academician who coined the term "World War IV" for the "War on Terror" and served as counselor to the U.S. Department of State under Secretary Condoleezza Rice from 2007 to 2009;
    Eric Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy from 2005 to 2009;
    John Hannah, senior fellow at the Institute for Near East Policy and national-security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney from 2005 to 2009; and
    Joshua Muravchik, former resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

(These men have been intimately involved in the neocon Middle East war agenda and are discussed in The Transparent Cabal.)

In fact, neocons have been supporting Obama on Afghanistan for some time. On March 27, Boot wrote in a Commentary blog: "The new Afghanistan policy that President Obama unveiled at the White House today was pretty much all that supporters of the war effort could have asked for, and probably pretty similar to what President McCain would have decided on."

Moreover, at the beginning of April, Barron YoungSmith observed in a New Republic blog: "Kristol and Robert Kagan — the same duo who founded the Iraq War-boosting Project For the New American Century — decided to create FPI [Foreign Policy Initiative] in order to beat back what they perceive to be creeping isolationism and domestic fecklessness (defined by them as military budget cuts and troop drawdowns) in the face of existential threats. Ordinarily, one would expect a group like this to oppose President Obama, but since he unveiled his strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan last week, they have become some of his biggest cheerleaders."

Commentary on the subject by Jacob Heilbrunn at the Huffington Post bears the provocative title, "The New Neocon Alliance with Obama" (May 1, 2009).

One may wonder why neocons have been so enthusiastic about Obama's focus on Afghanistan, since Afghanistan has not been one of their primary concerns. After the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the neocons pushed for an immediate attack on Iraq rather than Afghanistan. They lost that early round, but soon they were able to divert the principal U.S. war effort from Afghanistan to Iraq. (The Transparent Cabal, pp. 141-150)

Since the occupation of Iraq, the neocons have targeted Iran for attack. They see Iran as Israel's major enemy; they even claim Iran is a threat to Israel's very existence. So why do the neocons identify so strongly with Obama's Afghanistan policy? Won't that divert attention from the issue of Iran? I think there are fundamentally two factors — one defensive and the other offensive — that explain the neocons' support for an expanded war in Afghanistan, which they believe will facilitate their broader Middle East war agenda.

If the United States were to abandon a military solution in Afghanistan, it would probably turn to diplomacy as an alternative means of seeking stability in that beleaguered country. To be effective, that strategy would involve broadening Iran's role in Afghanistan. If Iran were working to bring about stability in Afghanistan, it would be virtually impossible for Washington to treat Iran as an enemy. American policy toward Iran would thus be decoupled from that of Israel. Moreover, abandonment of the war in Afghanistan could well begin a chain reaction that would end American involvement in the entire Middle East/Central Asian region. That would mean that the United States would abandon any effort to destroy Israel's enemies. The neocons' entire Middle East war agenda would be completely undermined.

Escalation of the war in Afghanistan could provide a back door to initiating war with Iran. As the American military became bogged down in a no-win war in Afghanistan, Iran could provide a convenient scapegoat. One can envision the neocons' trumpeting allegations that American problems in Afghanistan were caused by covert Iranian support for the Taliban insurgents, and that the only way to an American victory in the country was to eliminate the Taliban's Iranian sponsors. Various intelligence reports citing evidence of Iranian weapons and advisors in Afghanistan would be highlighted in the media.

In fact, the U.S. Government has already made such claims. For example, General David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, has publicly claimed that Iran is supporting the Taliban. As it becomes more apparent that the American military is unable to pacify Afghanistan, U.S. military commanders will have a vested interest in blaming their failure on the alleged involvement of the Iranians.

More than just providing a rationale for an attack on Iran, Afghanistan could also provide the physical opportunity to start a war. American troops could enter Iranian border regions in pursuit of insurgents, leading to incidents that could ignite all-out war. In short, the United States could become involved in a war with Iran without Obama's actually intending to bring about such a conflagration. It would ineluctably develop as a result of the expanded war in Afghanistan. Most significant, war with Iran would break out without a thorough debate in the United States and before an anti-war resistance could effectively mobilize and exert its influence. The expanded war in Afghanistan thus would be a back door to a new war, avoiding any real consideration of the dire ramifications of such a conflict.

September 15, 2009

© 2009 by Stephen J. Sniegoski.
This page © 2009 by WTM Enterprises. All rights reserved.

Bill Kristol's attack on George Will's recommendation concerning the Afghanistan War: No Will, No Way, Washington Post, September 1, 2009

The Website for Dr. Sniegoski's book, The Transparent Cabal: home.comcast.net/~transparentcabal/

Amazon.com page for Back Door to War: The Roosevelt Foreign Policy, 1933-1941, by Charles C. Tansill (1952)

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