John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Iraq vs. Afghanistan

Posted on August 2, 2008



  Barack Obama thinks we should quit in Iraq and bring all of our troops to Afghanistan.  He thinks he was still right on the surge despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  He thinks the most important theater on the war on terror is in Afghanistan.



  John McCain thinks we should finish the job in Iraq.  He believes that we shouldn’t divert necessary resources from Iraq.  He believes that the surge has worked exactly as he thought it would.



  Most Democrats are following the Obama line.  In their view, Afghanistan is the good war, Iraq is the bad war.  Many of our allies, including the Germans and British, basically agree with that assessment.  Sending troops to Afghanistan is good.  Sending troops to Iraq was bad.



  Here are some reasons why that assessment is wrong.



1)  Iraq is worth it.  Afghanistan is not.  Iraq is an advanced society with a very developed civilization.  They have a burgeoning market economy.  Certain parts of Iraq are already flush with cash, especially in Kurdistan.  Afghanistan is barely past the Bronze Age.  They are a tribal society made up of criminal gangs.  Where the Iraqis have oil and lots of it, the chief export of Afghanistan is heroin.


2)  Iraq is more important in the war on terror.  By creating a strong ally right in the heart of the Middle East, we send a message to both the Iranians and the Syrians that their days of sponsoring terrorism are coming to a close.  Iraq is geographically much more desirable in this fight than Afghanistan.  Creating a strong democracy in this neighborhood that respects the rule of law would be a tremendous victory in the war on terror.


3)  In Iraq, more is more.  In Afghanistan, less is more.  As the surge proved, we needed more troops to bring order to the country.  But as Tom Friedman pointed out in his column on Wednesday, bringing more American troops to Afghanistan may on create more problems.  “The main reason we are losing in Afghanistan is not because there are too few American soldiers, but because there are not enough Afghans ready to fight and die for the kind of government we went…Read the Afghan expert Rory Stewart’s July 17 Time Magazine cover story from Kabul: ‘A troop increase is likely to inflame Afghan nationalism because Afghans are more anti-foreign than we acknowledge and the support for our presence in the insurgency areas is declining…The more responsibility we take in Afghanistan, the more we undermine the credibility and responsibility of the Afghan government, and encourage it to act irresponsibly.’”


4)  Afghanistan is becoming a proxy war between India and Pakistan.  As the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan proved, this really isn’t about us.  The likely support of the terrorist attack in Kabul by the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service, shows what is really happening in Afghanistan.  The Pakistanis hate the Indians and they are very worried about a pro-Indian regime in Kabul.  The ISI uses the Taliban and the more extremist elements in Pakistan to strike blows for it against Indians, not against us.  If we want to deal with Afghanistan, we need to deal with the Pakistanis.  This should be a joint effort with us and the Indians, because they have more at stake than we do.  Nobody has been terrorized more by Islamic terrorism than the Indians have.


5)  Oil:  Hate to point out the obvious, but Iraq has more oil than most other countries in the world.  To simply abandon those oil fields, just as we are starting export some serious oil out of them is completely insane.  Yes, we want to wean ourselves off of foreign oil, but let’s do it slowly.  Turning this stake over to a pro-Iranian Iraq regime is idiotic.