Hey, That Anti-American Troop-Hater Has a Point!


It wasn't a huge story outside of the conservative blogs and Sean Hannity's brain, but this week Barack Obama said this:

Now you have narco drug lords who are helping to finance the Taliban, so we've got to get the job done there, and that requires us to have enough troops that we are not just air raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems there

The first sign that this was getting twisted and Dowdified was that bloggers and Fox cut out the first clause. Example:

The second sign was that Obama critics insisted that this was a comment not about policy, but about murderous troops—shades of John F. Kerry and "Jenjis Khan!" Gateway Pundit was a good example. But that was a strange attack, because the Kerry/Murtha/Durbin "slanders" were about one-on-one brutality between the troops and civilians or prisoners. Obama wasn't accusing any soldiers of malice—at worst they were continuing a bad policy. As to that policy, Joshua Foust of the great Registan blog had some perceptive comments.

In a macro sense, the idea that air strikes are too big and too inaccurate is not in the least bit outrageous—the Winograd Commission, which was convened in Israel to analyze why their war with Hezbollah last year didn't go well, came to three main conclusions about the failure of Israeli strategy. Most pertinent here is lesson one: Western militaries are in active denial concerning the limitations of precision weapons. This is a lesson NATO is figuring out, as evidenced by their decision to use smaller bombs to reduce the number of civilian casualties.

But Obama and the Israelis aren't alone in realizing an over-reliance on air power is counterproductive: just last week the British commander in Helmand province not-so-politely asked the U.S. Special Forces to leave the area, as their reckless house raids and constant air strikes were turning the population against them. This shouldn't be new news to anyone, as I said above, who follows Afghanistan with an ounce of seriousness.

I'd also point out that some (or many) proponents of the Iraq War had opinions very much like Obama's in the buildup to the Iraq War. This was actually one reason I supported the war initially—our policy of no-fly zones, embargoes and occasional raids was killing Iraqis without doing anything to dislodge Saddam Hussein or win support in the broader Middle East.

So what's it say about war hawks—the increasingly shrill-sounding Mitt Romney, for example—when direct criticisms of U.S. strategy in our war zones are deflected as "smears of the troops?"