January 24, 2008

Mark Udall Flip-Flops On War In Afghanistan

"To put troops in there seems like folly"--Mark Udall on Afghanistan, Sept. 2001

"The real central front in the war on terror . . . This is the right fight . . . It's a war of necessity as opposed to the war of choice"--Mark Udall on Afghanistan, Jan. 2007, after his recent 36 hour trip

He was against it before he was for it--Mark Udall's opinions on the war in Afghanistan have changed just a bit

After what was likely a staggeringly comprehensive 36 hour stop in Afghanistan, Democrat and Senate candidate Mark Udall was prepared to repudiate his earlier feelings on taking the war to the terrorists in Afghanistan which he originally believed to an erroneous, if not outright dangerous move:
"I returned believing more than ever that we have to finish the job in Afghanistan...that we have to return our focus — which I think has been fuzzy — to the importance of the effort underway there," Udall told reporters in a conference call Wednesday.

Udall, a longtime opponent of the Iraq war, calls Afghanistan "the real central front in the war on terror."
. . .
Udall said he agreed with the Pentagon's recent decision to add 3,200 U.S. Marines to the battlefield, bringing the U.S. commitment to more than 30,000 troops. But he said more forces would be available if the military began a phased redeployment of troops currently stationed in Iraq.

"This is the right fight," Udall said of Afghanistan. "It's a war of necessity as opposed to the war of choice."
. . .
"At this point, because of the instability in Afghanistan, and frankly the increase over the last year of violence and the (rebuilding) of the Taliban presence in the south, I think we have no choice but to continue our presence there and even build on it," he said.
Udall even endorses a "surge" in Afghanistan by redeploying troops currently in Iraq, and advocates the type of "nation building" that he vehemently opposes in Iraq (from his press release):
“I came back from Afghanistan in awe of our troops and the work they are doing with the Afghan people to make their country a stable and secure place to live.

“If there is a message I want to convey to my fellow Coloradans, it is that we cannot allow the Taliban or Al Qaeda to defeat us in this part of the world.

“The American people understand who attacked us on 9-11. They also understand that after nearly 7 years we still haven’t fully defeated the Taliban, or Al Qaeda and we haven’t eliminated Osama bin Laden. Finishing those jobs are critical, and we have to get them done.

“Afghanistan and Pakistan are the true central front of the fight against Islamic terrorism and I believe the U.S. needs to do more to counter growing instability in those countries. However, I am deeply concerned that the Bush Administration’s focus on nation-building in Iraq has led us to neglect nation-building in Afghanistan.

“I opposed the war in Iraq in part, because I was worried that this would happen – and my fears have borne out. We are not losing in Afghanistan, but unless we can secure more resources – including additional NATO forces – we could lose ground in this critical part of the world, and the consequences would be disastrous.

“The Administration is belatedly coming around to the view that we need more forces in Afghanistan. A ‘surge’ in Afghanistan makes sense, but it should be linked to a redeployment strategy I’ve called for in Iraq.
A true change of heart or political expediency?

Let's take a look at those earlier feelings on Afghanistan.

Blame America first, of course, and questioning any action in Afghanistan just one week after 9/11 (9/19/2001):
Udall said the global barrage of American culture is seen as the U.S. flaunting its opportunities to lands that have very little. "They see these images and think it's not possible for them."

Of the 1.2 billion Muslims in the world, few "really have functioning democracies" where they live, with "safety-valves" for social resentment, such as protest or elections. Anti-Americanism is the only real outlet for anger, he said.

But pressing a ground war into Afghanistan could be counterproductive, he said. The Soviet Union sowed the rugged land with bombs during a 10-year occupation and still pulled out in defeat. Dragging Pakistan into the conflict could bring nuclear rival India, and possibly China, to the battlefield, Udall said.
From the same meet-and-greet with CU-Boulder students that day, Udall questioned the need for military action and actually suggested that President Bush push democracy in the region:
"Military effort may only have short-term benefits," Udall said.

He said he is supporting an initiative that is gaining consensus on Capitol Hill to place more spies and special forces on the ground in Islamic fundamentalist countries like Afghanistan.
. . .
"To put troops in there seems like folly," Udall said of Afghanistan.
. . .
The Bush administration, he said, should encourage and promote democracy abroad.
Later that day at Boulder High School, Udall riffed on students' "Blame America" meme:
Many students questioned the United States' past military policies, noting the government trained and financed Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan during the Cold War.

"U.S. foreign policy is not guiltless," said junior Keely Rew. "Saying it's 'good vs. evil' is just propaganda."

For the most part, Udall seemed to share students' concerns.

"We should acknowledge that we've helped to fuel rage and despair in other parts of the world," the Boulder Democrat said. And "our war is not with the Afghan people," he said. "I'm not convinced that sending ground troops to Afghanistan makes sense."
Well, well, well.

Amazing what political expediency in a state-wide run for Senate will do to one's feelings on the war against terrorists in Afghanistan.

This can't possibly please the anti-America, anti-war, "progressive", impeachment wing of Udall's Democrat party. The Representative from Boulder realizes that Boulder viewpoints don't play that well in the rest of the state, and has backed away from them in an attempt to push his "moderate" credentials in a clear toss-up of a race for Senate that was once touted by Democrats as an "easy" pickup.

Exit question: how will Udall explain this shift in policy support to his constituency in the People's Republic of Boulder?

Cross-posted from Schaffer v Udall

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