Air Strikes

It’s Monday morning, so John McCain has a new negative ad out, this one about Obama’s comments on Aghan airstrikes:

Now, I don’t want to talk about the ad, mostly because it’s already been largely discredited. Instead, I’d rather focus on the fact that Obama is, fundamentally, right in his outlook on policy. For starters, the McCain campaign might want to have a word with Robert Gates, who actually apologized for one bombing run that, inadvertantly of course, killed 90 Afghan civilians. And, to be sure, that’s an important caveat. No one is suggesting that the US is intentionally bombing civilians in Afghanistan, only that our reliance on air strikes is incurring a lot of collateral damage. And when you’re on the business end of those bombs, and your family members are among the dead, that’s a distinction that becomes rather hard to make on an emotional level.

The problem, of course, is that you need the populace to like you when you’re waging a counterinsurgency. Otherwise, you quickly find yourself fighting a war to “protect” a country that is largely sympathizing with “the enemy” ala Vietnam. So things like Abu Graib, far from being “frat boy antics,” become major issues to the local populace. When you’re insisting that the government give you the authority to maintain a military presence outside the realm of their legal jurisdiction, your motives become distrusted. And political activity becomes impossible as long as you remain. This is why a timetable is so important in Iraq, to signal that we reallydo intend to leave at  feasible point, to alleviate the deadlock caused by chronic mistrust of the American occupiers. And it’s why a more targeted, strategic ground force is necessary in Afghanistan. To reduce our reliance on collaterl damage inflicting air strikes.

Of course, the far right doesn’t see things this way, but then it’s about time someone pointed out that they don’t understand, nor care to understand, counterinsurgencies. Instead, they prefer to fancy this as some form of great conflict in the mode of a 20th century conventional war that will further the glory of America. And John McCain very much finds himself in that mold.