ADELPHI, MARYLAND — The Obama administration has
made Afghanistan the focus of its foreign policy, significantly escalating
the war effort. Obama’s motive
for expanding the war in Afghanistan seems to be a desire to project
a strong image as a leader willing to use military force. He combines
this desire with the belief that war in Afghanistan is much safer than
a war with Iran, which is the primary target of Israel and its lobby.
Other factors also shape Obama’s Afghanistan policy. The security
situation has deteriorated, and the U. S. military leaders on the scene
do not want to lose a war. General Stanley McChrystal, Commander of
U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, has indicated that thousands more troops
are needed to defeat the insurgents. On the other hand, many members
of the American traditional foreign policy establishment, such as Zbignew
Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, are wary of the destabilizing consequences
of an escalating war in Afghanistan.
The neoconservatives are the major domestic supporters of an accelerated
war in Afghanistan. The neoconservatives, who are characterized by
a pro-Israel proclivity, played the major role in influencing President
George W. Bush to attack Iraq in 2003, which I discuss in my recent
book, The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative
Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel. They recently circulated
a letter to President Obama in support of his Afghanistan policy. Signatories
include such neoconservative stalwarts as the following:
• Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s major foreign policy advisor
• John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary
• Gary Schmitt, former executive director of the über-interventionist
Project for the New American Century (PNAC)
• Fred Kagan, architect of the surge in Iraq
• Robert Kagan, cofounder of PNAC
• Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard
• Max Boot, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations
and a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard
• Dan Senor, former Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq
• Eliot A. Cohen, the Johns Hopkins University professor who
coined the term “World War IV” for the “War on Terror” and
served as counselor to the United States Department of State under
Secretary Condoleezza Rice from 2007 to 2009
• Eric Edelman, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy from 2005
• John Hannah, senior fellow at the Institute for Near East
Policy and former national security adviser to Vice President Dick
Cheney from 2005 to 2009
• Joshua Muravchik, former resident scholar at the American
Enterprise Institute (AEI).
One may wonder why the neoconservatives are so enthusiastic about
Obama’s focus on Afghanistan since that country has not been
one of their primary concerns. After the terror attacks of September
11, 2001, they pushed for an immediate attack on Iraq instead. They
lost this fight temporarily, but they were soon able to divert the
U.S. war from Afghanistan to Iraq.
Since the occupation of Iraq, the neoconservatives have targeted Iran.
Iran is seen as Israel’s major enemy — even, allegedly, a threat
to Israel’s very existence. So might not Obama’s revitalized
war policy in Afghanistan divert attention from the issue of Iran?
There seem to be two fundamental reasons — one defensive and the other
offensive — that explain the neoconservatives support for an expanded
war in Afghanistan, which they believe will facilitate their broader
Middle East war agenda.
If the U.S. were to abandon a military solution in Afghanistan, it
probably would, as an alternative, seek to bring about stability in
that beleaguered country through diplomacy. To be effective, that approach
would involve broadening Iran’s role in Afghanistan. If Iran
were working to bring about stability in Afghanistan, it would be virtually
impossible for the U.S. to treat it as an enemy. Moreover, abandonment
of the war in Afghanistan could likely begin a chain reaction that
would end American involvement in the entire Middle East/Central Asian
region. Thus, the neoconservatives’ entire effort to reconfigure
the region would be undermined.
In an offensive manner, an accelerated war in Afghanistan could provide
a back door to initiating war with Iran. As the American military became
bogged down in a no-win war in Afghanistan, Iran could provide a convenient
scapegoat. One can envision the neoconservatives trumpeting allegations
that American problems in Afghanistan are caused by covert Iranian
support for the Taliban insurgents — and that the only way to an American
victory in Afghanistan would be by eliminating the Taliban’s
Iranian sponsors. Various intelligence reports citing evidence of Iranian
weapons and advisors in Afghanistan would be highlighted in the media.
As it became more apparent that the American military was unable to
pacify Afghanistan, U.S. military commanders would have a vested interest
in blaming their failure on the alleged involvement of the Iranians.
Moreover, a stepped-up war in Afghanistan can provide the physical
opportunity to start a war on Iran. In pursuit of insurgents, American
troops could enter Iranian border regions, leading to incidents that
would usher in all-out war. In short, the U.S. could be involved in
a war with Iran without Obama actually intending to bring about such
a conflagration. It would simply be the inexorable result of the expanded
war in Afghanistan.
on the Empire archives
This column is copyright © 2009
by Stephan J. Sniegoski.
All rights reserved. Editors may post or print this column if
attribution is given to the author.
Stephen Sniegoski is the author of The
Transparent Cabal: The N
eoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle
East, and the National Interest of Israel (2008).
See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.
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