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Obama adopts Bush's losing strategy in Afghanistan
Raymond Richman, 4/7/2010

[co-authored with Howard Richman]

Do we want to win the war against Al Qaida, which is winnable, or fight a war on drugs that cannot be won? We won the war in a blitzkrieg in Afghanistan in 2002 with the help of a people that welcomed us as liberators. We drove the little that remained of the Taliban army out of Afghanistan. The Taliban had ceased to be an organized force.

Why were we welcomed in the Afghan countryside as liberators? The Taliban were hated in the countryside because their religious leaders banned the cultivation of the opium poppy in 2000, a disaster for the Afghan farmers whose chief crop was the poppy.

But after the victory, President Bush made a huge mistake. In order to keep our troops occupied, he began a moral crusade against opium, urging the farmers to grow other products. What nonsense as it turned out! We destroyed their crops of poppy where we could. The resurging Taliban offered them protection to continue growing poppies, the chief cash crop of Afghanistan, and, as a result, regained power over the Afghanistan countryside.

On October 26, 2009, while President Obama was determining his Afghanistan policy, we wrote a commentary, published by Enter Stage Right, which urged him not to repeat Bush's mistakes. We wrote:

Have we lost the war? Probably. Can we win it? Perhaps. We would have to declare that we shall no longer interfere with the cultivation of poppy in Afghanistan. To show we are serious, we should encourage the Afghan government to legalize the cultivation of poppy. It should tax poppies and opium as the Taliban have been doing. And to do it right, we ought to legalize drugs in the U.S. as well.

Let us recognize the fact that prohibition did not work with alcohol and has not worked with cocaine, marijuana, or heroin. Instead of wasting money as we have been doing for decades, we shall gain revenues instead. We shall gain friends instead of making enemies abroad as we have been doing.

We believe the war against the Taliban and al-Qaida is unwinnable as long as the drug war continues in Afghanistan.

But President Obama decided to continue President Bush's losing crusade against opium. He attacked Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, with whom we were allied, for not joining the U.S. war against the Afghanistan farmer. Here's a selection from an April 7 commentary by Tony Blankley detailing Obama's attacks against Karzai:

(A)bout five months ago, the New York Times also reported that Mr. Obama "admonished President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan that he must take on what American officials have said he avoided during his first term: the rampant corruption and drug trade that have fueled the resurgence of the Taliban."...

(B)y first hesitating to support Mr. Karzai, then saying we will support him — but only for 18 months, then publicly admonishing him to end the endemic corruption, then leaking the fact that his own brother is a major drug smuggler, we have undermined and infuriated him, without whom we cannot succeed in Afghanistan....

Blankley doesn't agree with our conclusion that President Bush and President Obama's crusades against opium in Afghanistan have been a mistake. Instead, he urges Obama to depose Karzai in order to secure a compliant puppet government in Kabul. In other words, he wants to repeat President Kennedy's mistake when he deposed Ngo Dinh Diem, the President of South Vietnam, destroying the credibility of the South Vietnamese government with whom we were allied.

George Santayana once said, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." That pretty much sums up Obama's Afghanistan policy.

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