How did Senators John McCain and and Joe Lieberman spend the sixth anniversary of the Iraq war? Did they apologize for cheerleading the Bush administration's pernicious lies that led our country into and have kept us mired in Iraq? Did they show remorse for a war that took the lives of over 4,000 US soldiers and up to 1 million Iraqi civilians, while costing us $3 trillion when all is said and done? No, instead these Senators brought us the sequel to their twisted buddy comedy, escalating the war in Afghanistan.
In a Washington Post Op-Ed yesterday, McCain and Lieberman urged the Obama administration to go all in after completing its policy review of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The "minimalist" or "reductionist" path would be, in their view, "dangerously and fundamentally wrong, and the president should unambiguously reject it." As with the Iraq war, McCain and Lieberman believe it's in our national interest to win in Afghanistan at all cost, which they even define as establishing "a stable, secure, self-governing Afghanistan that is not a terrorist sanctuary."
How do McCain and his ideological Benedict Arnold of a sidekick propose achieving such a lofty goal? Well, that part they don't get into. No need to be bogged down with the specifics; suffice it to say our country needs a broad counterinsurgency and we need it now! The maximalist approach, which is ironic, considering McCain and Lieberman criticize and fear-monger about those who use "loose rhetoric about a minimal commitment in Afghanistan." The thing is though, and I never ever thought I'd write these words, McCain and Lieberman are absolutely right.
The type of success McCain and Lieberman dream of in Afghanistan would require at least 640,000 US troops, as Derrick Crowe has written, judging by the US military doctrine's rate of 20 counterinsurgents per 1,000 residents. We already know the Pentagon is pushing for at least to 100,000 troops in Afghanistan for a decade or more. So not only do McCain and Lieberman believe the Obama administration should engage in a long-term military commitment where the costs could very well exceed those of the Iraq war (both in terms of lives lost and tax dollars spent), but they want President Obama and the Democratic leadership to invest all their political capital to do so.
There's a good frame here that those of us who oppose the war need to use to our advantage: Let McCain and Lieberman champion an all-out war in Afghanistan. It means that if Obama and centrist Dems are not willing to side with this hawkish agenda and immediately commit over half a million troops long-term, then they have abslutely no business sending 17,000 troops or pursuing a half-hearted military agenda because clearly it will be insufficient and ineffective. It's either a broad-based counterinsurgency, or its regional diplomacy--you can't have it both ways. Now that McCain and Lieberman have set the rules, we can force the hand of the Obama administration: go all in or go home. Hopefully, Obama will opt to stand up from the table and leave.