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December 11, 2009

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In response to Paul 75 and Lisa in St L: I believe you are correct politicians will take the politically expedient position to get elected most of the time. However, once elected they tend to try to gain a foothold for their positions unless they are leveraged to "move with the herd" like the Democrats are now on healthcare. Liberals have to take less, moderates give more because Obama wants something passed. If he didn't want it so badly then he would have Lieberman stripped of his party chair by now. Don't believe for a minute that Harry Reid in ineffective. He is a shrewd, smart, politically savy guy who is used to playing in Obama's political climate of shadowy figures. He was Nevada's gaming commissioner and dealt with the likes of Joe Agosto (Mafia) and Howard Hughes. He is antiabortion, very religious and progun so you are correct he is better for us moderates than Shumer.

On the Afghan issue I agree that we need to make our commitment clear. I simply believe that unless we commit long term to a significant nation building project we must focus on a shorter term objective of securing Pakistan and creating a government that can defend itself by preventing Taliban domination with the air support of drones and an occassional special forces operation.

I so enjoyed thisi particular blog. Concisely put things in order...just hope Obama reads it.

I also keep seeing signs that say "Kick Harry Reid Out of Office" Do people realize that if Harry leaves, we get Schumer from New York? Now that would be a disaster. i say keep Harry in...he's not very effective which is good for the country. Schumer is very smart and very cunning. If you are not a liberal, you really do not want him heading the Senate

Very insightful article, Bill. Bravo! And equally insightful comments by Bill McCormick, above. These are great, intellectual discussions debating the pros and cons of the GWOT. I have some thoughts on, both, your and Bill McCormick's comments.

I agree that we must be realistic with our expectations for the Afghan government. Further, we must not be hypocritical about Afghan corruption. Until we clean up our own act here at home, we must be careful about throwing stones over there. Having said that, I agree with Bill McCormick that it is essential we leave in place a "stable" government. Otherwise Afghanistan will, again, become a breeding ground for terrorism that will be exported around the world. So, we must have "reasonable" goals and expectations when we define our objectives.

Regarding your thoughts on politics, I have some different ideas. I believe it is dangerous to announce an intention to withdraw our troops. It tells our enemies we are not committed to winning. When they hear our elected officials and the American people debate whether the war is worth the "sacrifice" or worth the expenditure of our "treasure", it intensifies their resolve. “Surely, the American people do not have the stomach for the war. American politicians are weak and corrupt. They will bring the troops home in order to be reelected in the next election. If they (our enemies) continue the fight and raise the stakes, the Americans WILL leave. You don't win a war unless you demoralize your enemy.” And our public discourse does just the opposite. It motivates them to fight on. We need to state, unequivocally, we are willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to win, even if we do plan to withdraw with some sort of time schedule. Our enemies are very patient and willing to wait us out.

Again, a very invigorating and intellectual discussion! Thanks for providing the forum.

I like to think that I can actually be fair when it comes to political leaders. I know that many of them start out as well meaning people fighting for what they believe in. I know some of them well and I don't agree with them on a lot of issues. But I trust them and respect them because I learned long before I reached 65 that there are a lot of ways to get to the same end. America's freedom tends to allow for that to happen but it is expensive. In business we pretty much know that good leaders make decisions almost fearlessly. They know that decisiveness is key to leadership and getting things done effectively. They also know that they can change course the instant they know they went the wrong way. They call that confidence. Poor leaders freeze and analyze and think too much. Some poor leaders are just inexperienced, learn quickly and rise to become great. Some are too stubborn or prideful in the wrong way. Pride in decision making and being willing to change course is an attribute for leadership. Pride in always being right the first time is arrogance which promotes stubborness.

Great American leaders make their own choices after consideration of others' ideas and then listen to the opposition as the results play out. They are quick to change course if the results merit it. The two party system promotes arrogance and stubborness. It is a system of opposing platforms designed to promote general and specific policies. Very few of us believe in all that either party stands for. Therefore, the rise of the independents is the direct result of the arrogance of the bases of both parties. At first glance a guy like Glenn Beck looks to be a Conservative Republican promoter. But carefully studied he is a middle of the road American who has great distrust and disdain for the games played by the base of both parties. So he speaks up in the defense of the Freedoms he feels are being challenged. Bipartisanship, which the independents and moderates of both parties long for, is rare. Especially on major issues like war, welfare and economics.

So, why do I make this case? For one purpose: Obama is not my favorite President. In fact,like Beck, I have serious doubts about his agenda. His associations and administrations actions concern me. But, on Afghanistan I believe he has the right focus. He is cautiously trying to build a stable government that can defend itself against Al Queda which necessarily requires keeping the Taliban at bay as well. It can only be accomplished with either a significant occupying army like we have in Europe or a secure Afghan government with effective defense forces. So he has chosen to TRY and make the second option happen and happen rather fast. (3-5 years perhaps) In receiving the Nobel Peace prize he gave a better speech than he did at West Point, the enemy camp of his party's base. He actually defended war-- something usually reserved for the other 75% of Americans. I don't expect Obama to be Ronald Reagan but he did at least make me proud for once. And, I believe he is right to make sure everyone understands his objective in Afghanistan. And, to his credit he did not pretend to deserve the Prize he was given for speech making.

For us the problem in Afghanistan is safe haven for Al Queda and it's proximity to Pakistan. A worrisome situation. For the Taliban and Al Queda the problem is likely money and homeland. The Taliban are a religious group who's homeland is Afghanistan. For centuries they have practice their extreme form of religion there. They are now displaced like the Palestinians. They will not go away. So winning is not a sure thing anymore than it was in the Middle East. For Al Queda the problem is money. Money that comes from a country that grows drugs which Al Queda uses to fund their cause. If it were not for the drugs and the Taliban who are willing to die for their homeland and crops Al Queda would have likely left for Yemen or Somolia and joined their associates there to pirate ships for their money. Pakistan's safe haven is probably getting a little more vulnerable as the drones continue to pick off the leaders but the lure of easy drug money and willing fighters is tough to give up. All this makes Obama's problem much more difficult to solve. But at least for me Obama is going to give it a shot and that is important if he is to grow to become a leader for all of us and not just his base. I am encouraged by that.

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