CAP’s Lawrence Korb: More Fringe than Orly Taitz?

Posted: August 24, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Orly Taitz's doubts on Obama's birth certificate are more mainstream than Lawrence Korb's support for escalation in Afghanistan.

Orly Taitz's doubts on Obama's birth certificate are more mainstream than Lawrence Korb's support for escalation in Afghanistan.

It’s not easy to craft an argument more fringe than those of the Birthers, but Center for American Progress’ Lawrence Korb managed to get the job done in his recent wrong-headed piece on Afghanistan.

A recent ABC/Washington Post poll showed that 59 percent of Democrats want troop levels decreased in Afghanistan, versus 29 percent of Republicans. Roughly twice the percentage of Republicans support a troop increase in Afghanistan compared to Democrats. But here’s the thing: Republicans supporting a troop increase in Afghanistan comprise only 33 percent of their party, meaning that they are an even more fringe group than those who doubt/are not sure that Obama is a citizen–a group that claims an additional 25 percent of Republicans compared to the Surgers (let’s coin a phrase, shall we?). Surgers are the true extremists in American politics today.

That’s why it’s absolutely stunning to find a senior fellow of a supposedly progressive think tank like the Center for American Progress pushing Surger rhetoric.

Korb’s article admonishes the president to stop letting troop deployments in Iraq (and, implicitly, American public opinion) limit his troop deployments in Afghanistan. He calls a 21,000 troop increase earlier this year a “good start.” Korb’s piece includes all the assumptions that got us into the mess in Afghanistan in the first place: that the September 11 attacks were acts of war, not of grand-scale criminality; that Afghanistan was therefore a war of necessity, not of choice; that because it’s a war of necessity, the Afghanistan expedition justifies massive expenditures and commitment of personnel. In other words, Korb validates the basic frame of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy and of Osama bin Laden’s dreams: the War on Terror.

There’s good reason for the fringe Right to be enthused about policies that fall in line with the War on Terror frame. As George Lakoff and Evan Fritsch wrote in 2006,

The war metaphor was chosen for political reasons. First and foremost, it was chosen for the domestic political reasons. The war metaphor defined war as the only way to defend the nation…Once adopted, the war metaphor…gave [the president] extraordinary domestic power to carry the agenda of the radical right: Power to shift money and resources away from social needs and to the military and related industries. Power to override environmental safeguards on the grounds of military need. Power to set up a domestic surveillance system to spy on our citizens and to intimidate political enemies. Power over political discussion, since war trumps all other topics. In short, power to reshape America to the vision of the radical right — with no end date.

Osama bin Laden intentionally encouraged this kind of thinking as part of his anti-American strategy. According to a 2002 piece by Bruce Riedel:

Bin Laden’s goals remain the same, as does his basic strategy. He seeks to, as he puts it, “provoke and bait” the United States into “bleeding wars” throughout the Islamic world; he wants to bankrupt the country much as he helped bankrupt, he claims, the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Now, notice that when Korb writes:

On the other hand, Afghanistan is a war of necessity. Our only choice after the Taliban refused to stop providing a safe haven and support for Al Qaeda was to go after those responsible for the attacks of September 11th.

He conflates “to go after those responsible for the attacks” with “a war of necessity.” There are only two groups of people who should be enthused about such a conflation: the radical Right and terrorists like Osama bin Laden, both of whom find this frame convenient for advancing their agendas.

Korb never says the words “War on Terror,” but his reasoning assumes the frame. Korb’s and others’ inability to shake this frame has me wondering whether some members of the progressive foreign policy community have Stockholm syndrome.  When Korb last trotted out his justifications for escalation in Afghanistan using this frame, I wrote:

The War on Terror is a metaphor designed to bludgeon the progressive movement to death. Write that in stone. Tattoo it somewhere on your body where it will hurt. The phrase “War on Terror” blunts dissent, it undermines progressive values at home, and it plays directly into the hands of al-Qaida’s propaganda. People who perpetuate the War on Terror metaphor are, knowingly or not, undermining progress, justice, and peace.

The War on Terror frame is dangerous, and the policies that emerge from it make us less secure while failing to stop terrorism. Given the effects of the frame on American domestic policy and politics, though, it’s not surprising that Surgers are the only ones left supporting the War on Terror centerpiece in Afghanistan. What’s stunning is that an outfit like the Center for American Progress allows the preferred framing of this fringe group to show up on their letterhead.

One more thing. Korb ends his piece thus:

Peter, Paul and Mary put it well when they warned us some 40 years ago, “when will they ever learn?”

Now, I know Larry just plucked a random song out of the air that contained a line useful for making his point (George Bush did the same thing all the time with Bible verses). The thing is, Korb could not have picked a worse lyric to make his point.  Here’s the full song, minus all the repetitions and the “long time passing” and the “long time ago”:

Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls have picked them everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Gone for husbands everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the husbands gone?
Gone for soldiers everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to flowers, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls have picked them everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?

When will you ever learn, Larry?

(Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. You can learn more about the threat the Afghanistan war poses to our security at Rethink Afghanistan, or by watching the latest segment, “Security,” on YouTube.)

  1. sporkmaster says:

    I do not have time to comment in full right now, but this one bother me on so many levels. Also have you heard of one said Major Stefan Cook?

    • dcrowe says:

      Hi sporkmaster:

      I look forward to hearing your thoughts when you get a few minutes. I have heard of Cook, and I wonder what you think about him. My recollection is that the This Ain’t Hell crowd was pretty grouchy about him. What are your thoughts?

      • sporkmaster says:

        Ok this may be a double post so bear with.

        Ok the first thing is the issue of the ‘birther’s. It would not be such a big deal except for the fact that they convinced a US Officer to cause two other officers unneeded hardship.

        We (This Anit Hell) first got word of him, we where surprised that his orders to deploy where canceled just like that when he refused to go to Afghanistan. Why would the Army go light on a Officer, while throw the book at the enlisted. Well it seems that he volunteered to go rather then coming down on orders. Also he had almost waited to the point where the unit was about to leave before refusing to go. Long story short he seemed to have all of this planned from the very beginning. Because of this the person he would have replaced will have to be extended until a replacement can be found. The replacement will have little to no time between notifications. So we have to people that are suffering because of his actions. Oh and guess who is one of his biggest vocal supporters? Orly Taitz. So no not a fan.

        Next part is about the number of soldiers in Afghanistan. Why is raising the number of troops in Afghanistan extreme? They are the only ones that are consistently going to follow the rules of war. If you want the warlords out of the picture you have to attack the need for them; which is the soldiers that fight under them. Why do you think that complaints about the Afghanistan government teaming up with warlords are falling on deaf ears? To me it is the unspoken understanding that there is the chance that NATO troops could be completely removed. So the Warlords stay and fight against the Taliban unchecked leading to a large increase in bloodshed. But to really pour salt into the wound, the American population will not care because the money that would have been used in Afghanistan is freed up, the focus will be the healthcare issue. Afghanistan will become another Somalia with endless cycles of violence until it is forced to be dealt with in the same way that the Pirates launching from Somalia have become.

        The reason that the troops are needed is that they replace the need for the Warlords. They will also allow the rules of war to be followed so that abuses like the ones that you talk about do not happen. It will prevent the Warlords from having that much influence as they did it the past. It help in Iraq and I believe that it can help here. It is something that I want to be a part in helping.

        Next is about 9/11 and why we went. First thing is that I do not understand where the 9/11 attackers where from plays into things. The reason that Afghanistan was attacked and not Saudi Arabia was:

        1. They where trained, planed and executed the attack from Al Qaeda which was given protection from the Taliban in Afghanistan. Hitler was not Germans and Napoleon was not French, it was what they did where they were not from that should be considered.
        2. Al Qaeda has attacked us before in the 1993 twin tower bombings, the US embassy bombing in Africa and the USS Cole. So it is not like they where going to stop anytime soon.
        3. Nor was the Taliban willing to give them up, they were part of the Taliban government.

        Also consider that when anyone from the Al Qaeda talks in does not have anyone’s interests but their own. They do not teach any morals or anything of the like. They teach on terror, pain and death. I have seen what they can do when a Iraqi Officer saying that a small village nearby was Al Qaeda. The road to it was mined with IEDs and no villagers live there. This is the one with the white truck that would regularly take pop shots at dusk.

        What is the winning point? To where Afghanistan is stable and does not have to reply on Warlords for protection in fear of being abandoned from a seemingly increasing lethargic and apathetic world community.

        To close I reply to the song with a quote by Homer and Plato.

        Only the dead have seen the end of war.

        Men grow tired of sleep, love, singing and dancing sooner than war.

  2. Michael Westmoreland-White says:

    I keep saying that Afghanistan will do to Obama what Vietnam did to LBJ. Korb, like several in the Obama admin, represents a return of JFK-LBJ era “Cold War Liberalism” which, while better than Reaganesque militarism and Neoconism, still sows the seeds of its own demise.

    Obama began his D.C. career in ’03 campaigning for Senator and saying that he wasn’t against all war, just dumb wars. He implied then that Iraq was stupid but Afghanistan wasn’t. Now, there aren’t enough pacifists in America to have ever stopped an invasion of Afghanistan, no matter WHO was president, after 9/11. We might have gone in quickly, captured bin Laden, and helped do some nation building and left–by early ’05 at the least. It really WAS stupid to go to Iraq and a power vacuum in Afghanistan IS dangerous. (Nation-building is good–but the military is the wrong tool for it!) But we’ve been there far too long. The dynamics are different, now. But Obama looks to have committed himself to a long haul–although even his Defense Sec., Gates, says that within one year the American people will so turn against the war that no one can stay in Afghanistan. Whatever he’s going to do must be done in one year.

    Is that the reason for the troop build-up? That needs re-thinking. We need an exit strategy–and we don’t even know what an end game or “victory” or “success” in Afghanistan would look like.

    • dcrowe says:

      You are absolutely right about the effect Afghanistan will have on LBJ.

      And, I also agree with your assessment about Iraq being dumb strategically. I would say, though, that had the President and his advisors taken a more responsible tack and adopted a law-enforcement frame, public opinion could have been molded significantly. As it was, we were all kind of abused mentally, and abused ourselves.

      We don’t have a year. The American people are already done.

  3. Ralph Lopez says:

    True on so many levels. Americans are getting smart faster than Obama is, who still doesn’t understand that if we left a $4 billion cash-for-work jobs program for three years, he’d have stability and Afghans would take care of the Taliban themselves. Great post. I’ve taken the liberty of copying below a piece which ran in the Boston Globe. Obama seems beholden to the military-industrial complex, which of course is the real problem. It doesn’t want a peaceful solution. The answer in my view is to re-write campaign finance laws to stop defense (and other corporations) from spreading money around to congressmen outside their home districts. This is why despite big words and Democratic majorities, the wars keep rolling along.

    Ban Money From Outside the District:

    Boston Globe | The truth behind Afghan insurgency

    by Ralph Lopez, August 17, 2009

    ON A RECENT TRIP to Kabul for our nonprofit organization, Jobs for Afghans, Najim Dost and I made a startling discovery: There is no true Taliban insurgency.

    Yes, there is a Taliban leadership, many of whom are “foreigners,’’ meaning, non-Afghans. Yes, there are many fighting-age men who fight because they are paid to do so, by the small cadre of Taliban and Al Qaeda commanders who have plenty of opium money. They fork out the excellent wage in these parts of $8 per day for “insurgent work.’’

    But a die-hard, dedicated army of fighters who pledge allegiance to the Taliban ideology and cause? It’s not there. Even Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged last March, “Roughly 70 percent are involved because of the money.’’ And General Karl Eikenberry, former commander of US forces in Afghanistan, said to Congress in 2007: “Much of the enemy force is drawn from the ranks of unemployed men looking for wages to support their families.’’

    The dirty little secret is that the renewed insurgency could have been avoided. The vast majority of Afghans still hate the Taliban. They remember the days of heads and hands getting lopped off in the National Stadium, and men flogged because their beards were not long enough. No one is eager to see them return. But in a nation with 40 percent unemployment, working for the Taliban is the only job in town. As the saying goes, you might not like the work, but that’s who’s hiring.

    How did we get to this pass? Fighting a renewed insurgency eight years after the Taliban government was soundly trounced, to the cheers of 90 percent of the population? The first thing that happened was that, out of the relatively small amount of nonmilitary assistance that was sent to rebuild this bombed-out place, almost half wound up as profits for big contractors like Dyncorp, Louis Berger Group, and KBR. They were building substandard schools, roads, and clinics (with no doctors) when what the country needed was jobs, jobs, jobs. Not fancy jobs. Jobs paid in cash by the day or by the week, at less than $10 a day, clearing canals still clogged with debris, digging drainage ditches with shovels along miles of roads, and the countless ways men can be employed to keep their families from semi-starvation.

    The UN says 35 percent of Afghans are malnourished. You can’t have business development if you don’t have stability. And you can’t have stability when you have nearly half the work force unemployed. Add to this the Taliban’s willingness to pay $8 a day to those who will pick up a gun, and the renewed insurgency becomes less of a mystery.

    There are countless instances of Taliban fighters saying they will trade their guns for a job. What makes this war even more senseless is how little it would cost to provide such jobs, say, for a year, to stabilize the country and allow the free market to flourish. It would cost less than one-tenth of what we are spending now on military operations each year, which is running close to $50 billion. Why is this approach not being talked about in Congress? Call me cynical, but war is profitable. The beauty of cost-plus, no-bid contracting is hard to find in the normal business world.

    A widespread, stability-enhancing cash-for-work jobs program, which would save the American taxpayer the hideous cost of war, both human and financial, can work in Afghanistan. We saw such projects on a small scale. Perhaps most telling are stories like Mahmud’s, who told a reporter in Helmand that joining the Taliban gave him a chance to save up enough money to start his own small business, buying goods in Lashkar Gah and selling them in the district “mila’’ or markets. Mahmud said, “Now that I have work, I am not with the Taliban anymore.’’

    This situation is the true definition of insanity. Top commander General Stanley McChrystal just said jobs could induce many Taliban to drop their weapons. How many more of our soldiers must die before sense takes hold in the Obama administration?

    Ralph Lopez is co-founder of Jobs for Afghans.

  4. dcrowe says:


    Re: Orly Taitz–Oh I know, I know. Someone in a comment on that video linked in the first sentence put it best–It’s like trying to interview a mad Fraggle.

    As far as it being an extreme, it’s hard to argue against the public opinion spread linked above. Less than a quarter of Americans agree with the idea of sending more troops. More conservatives want troops withdrawn than added; more independents want troops withdrawn than added; waaaaaay more liberals want troops withdrawn than added. Roughly the same total number of people in the U.S. doubt/are not sure that Obama is a citizen as want troops increased. It’s not mainstream at all.

    I don’t think I said anything about where al-Qaida was from. A lot of people make that argument, but I don’t.

    Here’s the thing: if we wanted a government of anything other than warlords, we shouldn’t have validated the results of the 2002 loya jirga. See here:

  5. sporkmaster says:

    This is also why I cannot stand Iraq Veterans Against the War because of the actions similar to this along with other things.

    I know it is unpopular, but I like to think that there is more thought put into this then the concept that the President is not a US citizen.

    I think I got your posts crossed with Smile’s so that’s why I put that there.

    I will be the first to say that there where a lot of things that should have been done better. But I guess we where worried about another BlackHawk down situation, so that lead to the use of Warlord troops then NATO’s. But to do now is the problem and it is not waiting for us.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s