Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Riedel’

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit http://rethinkafghanistan.com/blog.

Bruce Riedel, the chair of one of the many Obama policy reviews on Afghanistan, is ridiculous.

Here he is discussing pre-election optimism in Afghanistan:

However, this is likely the last time we will have the benefits of a fresh start;

Here he is five days after the election:

Here, I agree with what I think both Kim, Mike and Tony said, that this really is the last chance.  We’ve had three chances to get it right in Afghanistan. We’ve blown the previous two in the 1990s and after 2001.  You only get three chances in baseball, and, in Afghanistan, I don’t think you can expect a fourth chance either.

Here he is today:

NATO cannot succeed without an Afghan partner who has Afghan support and can led the majority of Afghans who reject the Taliban. Senator Kerry has given President Obama and NATO a second chance to get this right.

It’s always a new, fresh, second, last chance with this guy.

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Bruce Riedel at Brookings says we have a vested interest in shoring up Karzai’s legitimacy. That’s not surprising, given that Riedel certainly has such a vested interest.  From The New York Times:

“Even if we get a second round of voting, the odds are still high that Karzai will win,” said Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who advised the administration on its Afghan policy. “We have a fundamental interest in building up the legitimacy of the Karzai government.”

“This requires delicacy and a deft hand,” he said. “You don’t want to create a downward spiral in U.S.-Afghan relations.”

The U.S. has a vested interest only insofar as we’re willing to sink our moral standing and our regional credibility into building up a national security apparatus to be left at the disposal of a group of warlords, drug lords and human rights abusers. That’s the ugly fine print hiding in the poor choice by the Obama Administration to continue to view Afghanistan through the poisonous counterinsurgency (COIN) paradigm. See El Salvador during the Carter/Reagan era for an example of what “success” looks like according to the COIN manual.

But Riedel’s vested interest in legitimizing this mockery of an election is far more personal than the fate of a people halfway around the world, sure to suffer under a narco-state armed to the teeth by the U.S.  As I wrote this past weekend:

…[T]he president has surrounded himself with advisers who counsel escalation when they ought to know better. These advisers know full well all of the information described above. They’ve also engaged in severe intellectual dishonesty to avoid reckoning with the failure of strategies they helped construct.

Foremost among these advisers is Bruce Riedel, who chaired the last policy review that resulted in the prior escalation. Riedel co-wrote a recent article in which he claimed that the results of an Afghan public opinion poll conducted July 16-26, 2009, prior to the Afghan elections, indicated “a fresh burst of hopefulness among Afghans.” On that basis, Riedel claimed we had one last “fresh start” in Afghanistan, tied by the pollsters and by Riedel to the success of the vote.

Just a few days before the election, Riedel wrote an articled titled “Obama’s Afghan Test,” in which he said that “Thursday’s election in Afghanistan is a critical early test of America’s new strategy in the war,” and that “[t]he ‘metrics’ to measure Obama’s war—which many are calling for—will be in Thursday’s votes.”

The election was a disaster, marked by pervasive vote fraud, intimidation and violence. Thousands of fraud accusations surfaced, hundreds serious enough to flip the election results. Officials in the Shobarak district assert that some 23,900 votes were stuffed on President Hamid Karzai’s behalf. Up to 70,000 fraudulent votes may have been cast in a cluster of polling stations east of Kabul. Officials responsible for ensuring vote integrity sold voter cards for cash. Political alliances made to swing large voting blocs will likely increase the power of Afghanistan’s narcotics-fueled warlords. According to The Washington Post’s Pamela Constable, the elections left Afghans “confused, jittery and bracing for street violence — or at least a protracted period of political polarization and drift.”

So much for the fresh start.

Despite this failure of the test Riedel set up for the Afghanistan strategy and the obliteration of the hypothetical opening offered by a legitimate election, he continues to assert the existence of a new start. Five days after the election, when reports already indicated massive election fraud, he told a panel audience, “[T]his really is the last chance.”  Riedel now says we need another 12-18 months before we can assess the President’s new strategy. He has not acknowledged the failure of a strategy he helped to craft nor explained how the supposed “fresh start” persists after the collapse of the legitimacy of the election.

Lest anyone think I’m over-hyping the degree to which the Afghan elections were in fact a failure, here’s counterinsurgency blogger Andrew Exum, himself a supporter of continued military action in Afghanistan, on the situation [h/t Eric Martin]:

Before the Afghan elections, every assessment you could read and every opinion you could solicit from policy-makers was the same: the worst outcome of the Afghan elections would be one that, in either the first or second round of voting, delivered the election to Hamid Karzai with a narrow margin of victory amidst wide-spread allegations of corruption and ballot box-stuffing. The overwhelming fear was of “another Iran” — only with our fingerprints all over it.

The worst-case scenario now appears to have been realized.

But remember: If we don’t legitimize these elections, Riedel might have to face the music for the failure of all his clever theorizing. Hate to see that happen.

(Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. You can learn more about the dangers posed to U.S. national security by the war in Afghanistan by watching Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six): Security, or by visiting http://rethinkafghanistan.com/blog.)

When the people of an occupied country want foreign troops out while the people of the occupying country want their troops to come home, and the troops remain, something is wrong. Both the American people and the Afghan people want a troop decrease in Afghanistan. Yet this weekend, the President is reviewing a strategic assessment prepared by General Stanley McChrystal widely portrayed as a prelude to a request for an escalation. Should the president approve such a request, he’d be saying, in effect, that to protect democracy in America and to build it in Afghanistan, we must trample it.

Source: Afghan public opinion poll, ABC News/BBC/ARD 1/09; U.S. public opinion poll, CBS News, 8/09

Source: Afghan public opinion poll, ABC News/BBC/ARD 1/09; U.S. public opinion poll, CBS News, 8/09

On September 4,  I went on al-Jazeera English to debate the future of U.S. foreign policy versus Abe Greenwald. When I insisted that we don’t have indications that the Pashtuns are flipping their support to the Afghan national government, Abe asserted that polling shows that American forces and the Afghan national government get higher marks than the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Based on the most recent polling I can find on Afghanistan public opinion, he is roughly correct. His assertion is also irrelevant.

I am assuming that Greenwald refers to a 1/12/09 ABC News/BBC/ARD poll, versus the more-recent IRI polling (If he wasn’t, then he should have, as it asks more relevant questions about Afghan desires on U.S. troop levels.). According to that poll, the Taliban presence is supported by only 8 percent of those surveyed. The Afghan government gets 49 percent job approval. The United States gets a 47 percent favorable rating. So yes, according to this poll, attitudes among all Afghans toward the United States compare favorably with the Afghan government and the Taliban. Again, this warm feeling is irrelevant.

The problem for Abe’s argument is that the 47 percent approval rating for the U.S. is accompanied by a 52 percent disapproval rating among Afghans, That unfavorable rating has spiked 20 points since the end of 2007. The pace with which the unfavorable rating grows is accelerating. The number of Afghans who say attacks on the U.S. and allies can be justified doubled since 2006. Only 32 percent say the U.S. has performed well in Afghanistan. Only 37 percent say that the local population supports Western forces. And–here’s the most important question regarding the decision before President Obama–when asked about coalition troop levels, only 18 percent of Afghans wanted troop levels increased. Twenty-nine percent wanted the same number of troops, and 44 percent wanted troops decreased.

This situation is even more dire when you consider Anthony Cordesman’s (an escalation supporter, mind you) statement that “all insurgency is local.” In the Kandahar region, 84 percent of Afghans surveyed held an unfavorable opinion of the U.S. and 55 percent of those surveyed said attacks against U.S./NATO forces were justified. In Nangarhar, 90 percent held an unfavorable view, and 63 percent justified attacks against U.S./NATO troops. This is the Pashtun “sea” for the Taliban-led insurgency; the dismal 5-10 percent turnout for the August election in the Pashtun areas and the numbers above show that U.S. counterinsurgency strategy has totally failed.

Keep in mind, this poll was taken in January 2009. The intervening eight months have been a public-relations disaster for the United States. A May 4, 2009 airstrike killed as many as 86 civilians, an outrage compounded by NATO’s inability to admit the error for more than a month. This past week, on September 4, at least 40 civilians died when a U.S. pilot dropped ordinance on two fuel tankers surrounded by non-combatants. In the first six months of this year, coalition forces caused more civilian deaths than the same period last year (310 vs 276, respectively), and they did so during an escalation initiated over the objections of Afghan public opinion. That last point is worth emphasizing, especially considering that the presence of foreign forces fighting a war in Afghanistan is the prime driver of the resurgence of the Taliban. Needless to say, these factors likely did not arrest the precipitous loss of support for our policies in Afghanistan.

U.S. public opinion very closely mirrors that of the Afghan people. A CBS News poll taken 8/27-31/09 found that 25 percent of Americans favor a troop increase; 23 want to maintain troop levels; and 41 percent want to reduce troop levels. Opposition to troop increases and support for troop withdrawals are especially intense among the President’s base, as shown in this graphic from The Washington Post:

Source: ABC News/WAPO

Source: ABC News/WAPO

These results also come before the latest catastrophe for U.S. counterinsurgency policy: the catastrophically corrupted August elections.Again, we find ourselves looking at polling data taken before events that are likely to drive down support for an already-unpopular policy of ever-deepening military involvement.

How is it possible that when the populations of both countries and the Commander-in-Chief’s political base agree on a policy direction we find ourselves moving in the opposite direction?

A partial answer might be that the president has surrounded himself with advisers who counsel escalation when they ought to know better. These advisers know full well all of the information described above. They’ve also engaged in severe intellectual dishonesty to avoid reckoning with the failure of strategies they helped construct.

Foremost among these advisers is Bruce Riedel, who chaired the last policy review that resulted in the prior escalation. Riedel co-wrote a recent article in which he claimed that the results of an Afghan public opinion poll conducted July 16-26, 2009, prior to the Afghan elections, indicated “a fresh burst of hopefulness among Afghans.” On that basis, Riedel claimed we had one last “fresh start” in Afghanistan, tied by the pollsters and by Riedel to the success of the vote.

Just a few days before the election, Riedel wrote an articled titled “Obama’s Afghan Test,” in which he said that “Thursday’s election in Afghanistan is a critical early test of America’s new strategy in the war,” and that “[t]he ‘metrics’ to measure Obama’s war—which many are calling for—will be in Thursday’s votes.”

The election was a disaster, marked by pervasive vote fraud, intimidation and violence. Thousands of fraud accusations surfaced, hundreds serious enough to flip the election results. Officials in the Shobarak district assert that some 23,900 votes were stuffed on President Hamid Karzai’s behalf. Up to 70,000 fraudulent votes may have been cast in a cluster of polling stations east of Kabul. Officials responsible for ensuring vote integrity sold voter cards for cash. Political alliances made to swing large voting blocs will likely increase the power of Afghanistan’s narcotics-fueled warlords. According to The Washington Post’s Pamela Constable, the elections left Afghans “confused, jittery and bracing for street violence — or at least a protracted period of political polarization and drift.”

So much for the fresh start.

Despite this failure of the test Riedel set up for the Afghanistan strategy and the obliteration of the hypothetical opening offered by a legitimate election, he continues to assert the existence of a new start. Five days after the election, when reports already indicated massive election fraud, he told a panel audience, “[T]his really is the last chance.”  Riedel now says we need another 12-18 months before we can assess the President’s new strategy. He has not acknowledged the failure of a strategy he helped to craft nor explained how the supposed “fresh start” persists after the collapse of the legitimacy of the election.

Sitting next to Riedel on that Brookings panel was Anthony Cordesman, who in April of this year gave a dire presentation in which he noted all of the above warning signs in Afghan public opinion. Yet Cordesman is among the most fire-breathing supporters for another escalation. In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Cordesman very helpfully hinted at the need for anywhere between 6,900 and 40,000 additional troops to bring the U.S. “victory” in Afghanistan, ignoring the massive Afghan public opposition on which he reported just a few month earlier and the potential for a further inflamed Pashtun population.

Cordesman also neglected to define “victory,” and that’s not surprising, given that the administration can’t get it’s story straight on what victory would look like. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry says we’re nation-building [h/t Steve Hynd], Secretary Gates says we’re not, and Ambassador Holbrooke just gives up and says he’ll know victory when he sees it. Lacking any clear endpoint, a possible range of recommended troop increases 33,100-wide, and thus lacking any solid measures against which to measure the costs and benefits, Cordesman’s “advice” recedes into chest-thumping nonsense, completely useless other than as an exhortation to President Obama to not be a wuss. And don’t forget–he’s only able to offer this drivel because he’s ignored the will/rage of the Afghan people on which he reported a few months earlier.

After more than 800 U.S. military casualties, tens of thousands of Afghan civilian deaths and $228 billion allocated so far, we have zero indications that Pashtuns in Afghanistan are any closer to giving their support to the Kabul government, the essential criteria for “victory” according to U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine. If that’s not enough to convince the president to abandon this bloody adventure, then let’s hope that, as the chief instrument of the people’s control over the executive branch, President Obama can be swayed by a basic respect for the strong desires of his people and the people whose land we’re occupying. The American and Afghan peoples want fewer, not more U.S. troops in Afghanistan. If, in the face of this pairing, the president decides to escalate again, he will confirm what many of us already fear: that this awful war has taken on a terrible independence from the will of the people.

(Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. You can learn more about the awful human costs of the war in Afghanistan by watching Rethink Afghanistan (Part Four): Civilian Casualties, or by visiting http://rethinkafghanistan.com/blog.)

I’ve been mulling over the dodgy answers (if you can even call them answers) given by Ambassador Holbrooke and Defense Secretary Gates when they were recently asked to define success in Afghanistan or to speculate about how long Americans should expect to be fighting a war there. In case you missed these, take a look.

Here’s my problem: this is a very basic question, and the answer is very simple. We’ve chosen counterinsurgency as our strategy in Afghanistan. Here’s the definition of victory according to The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, page six:

“Victory is achieved when the populace consents to the government’s legitimacy and stops actively and passively supporting the insurgency.”

Also, not unrelated is this passage on page xxv:

“…civilians must be separated from insurgents to insulate them from insurgent pressure and to deny the insurgent “fish” the cover of the civilian ‘sea.’ By doing so, counterinsurgents can militarily isolate, weaken and defeat the insurgents.”

Defining success in Afghanistan is thus a very simple matter: Because the insurgents are the Taliban (whom we seek to defeat because their victory in the Afghan civil conflict would supposedly create an al-Qaeda safe haven), and because the Taliban is a movement inside the Pashtun ethnicity, we can precisely define the target population as the Pashtuns, who form the “civilian sea” referenced above that actively and passively supports the insurgency. So, they are the population which we must separate from the Taliban. We can thus restate the manual’s definition of victory by making it specific to the current conflict. According to counterinsurgency doctrine:

Victory in Afghanistan will be achieved when the Pashtuns consent to the government’s legitimacy and stop actively and passively supporting the Taliban insurgency.

That took all of five minutes, and I don’t have a government bureaucracy at my disposal to aid in my research, nor did my department publish the book. With that in mind, there are really only two possibilities:

  1. The ambassador and defense secretary actually do not know how to define victory within the U.S.’s chosen strategic paradigm of counterinsurgency (in which case they are incompetent and should be dismissed immediately); or
  2. They do in fact know the answer to this very basic question, and they don’t want to give it.

I don’t believe that #1 is true (although other criteria may prove them incompetent), and that leaves us with #2. That, in turn, leaves us with a question: why would these men not want to publicize the simple answer to the question of “success”? The answer, I believe, is that stating the definition for success out loud would allow for public discussion and evaluation of our strategy. U.S. policymakers want to avoid such an evaluation of where we are in relation to COIN doctrine’s definition of success for a very simple reason: our attempt at counterinsurgency has already failed.

For those that are new to this discussion, here’s a map showing the geographic distribution of Afghanistan’s main ethnic groups.

CIA Map of Afghanistan Ethnic Groups, 1997

CIA Map of Afghanistan Ethnic Groups, 1997

That light green crescent in the south denotes the Pashtun homelands, which extend across the border into Pakistan.

Now take a look at this map from the BBC denoting the level of violence in each district in Afghanistan:

BBC Map Showing Violence Levels in Afghanistan

BBC Map Showing Violence Levels in Afghanistan

BBC explains:

The “areas of militant control” indicate Taliban strongholds; “high risk areas” where there has been major clashes with insurgents; and “medium” or “low risk” are where there has been some or little violence.

Reuters further explains that this map

was produced in April 2009, before a dramatic escalation of violence ahead of the August 20 ballot.

Note that the April 2009 date of the latter map means that it was produced before the launch of the major operation in Helmand earlier this year. The Afghan NGO Safety Office noted that the increase in troops in the first half of 2009 failed to disrupt insurgents abilities to plan and execute attacks against the U.S. and allies:

“attacks in Kandahar have grown >50% over the year and in Helmand they have stayed consistent with 2008 rates.”

Not only do the insurgents continue to mount attacks from within the Pashtun “sea,” but the Pashtuns have, by and large, rejected participation in the processes of the Afghan national government. In overwhelming numbers, they stayed home during last week’s election.

Meanwhile, turnout was paltry in southern districts where British forces and U.S. Marines all but held the door for Afghan voters. Obama dispatched 17,000 additional combat forces to Afghanistan ahead of the election, but the threat of Taliban violence and reprisal apparently kept voters at home.

The Times of London reported Thursday that only 150 of the several thousand Afghans eligible to vote in the Babaji area of Helmand province cast ballots. Four British soldiers were killed there this summer, a toll the newspaper recalled with the blunt headline: “Four British soldiers die for the sake of 150 votes.”

This is a disaster for a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. The Obama Administration and the COIN afficionados within it were banking heavily on the election to flip the Pashtuns, who, according to Bruce Riedel (one of Obama’s trusted advisors on Afghanistan), had never bought into the central government’s legitimacy in the first place:

The Pashtun belt in the south has been disaffected from the beginning.  I think when we look back at this, the Pashtun majority in the southern provinces, to a lesser extent than the eastern provinces but certainly in the southern provinces, have never bought into the legitimacy of what happened at the end of 2001.  They may not all support the Taliban, but they have never bought into the legitimacy of erasing the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan.

The administration was counting on the election to draw the Pashtuns into the political process. The widespread fraud and the refusal of huge numbers of Pashtuns to head to the polls, however, shows that the strategy failed.

A report from AFP puts a fine point on it, emphasis mine:

In some Taliban strongholds, such as Logar province south of Kabul, residents said turnout was negligible.

“In my village there are more than 6,000 people. Only seven voted,” mechanic Mansour Stanikzai told AFP in the provincial capital Pul-i-Alam.

The reason we had the election was to give legitimacy to the government, and we have failed in that goal,” said analyst Haroun Mir.

Taken together, the ongoing use of the Pashtun homelands as the base for the insurgency and the Pashtuns’ rejection of the processes of the central government show that after eight years, 807 U.S. military casualties, $228 billion dollars (so far; the full cost will exceed half-a-trillion dollars) and more than 20,000 Afghan civilian deaths, we have utterly failed to convince the Pashtuns in Afghanistan to “consent to the government’s legitimacy and stop actively and passively supporting the insurgency.”

In fact, as Dexter Filkins’ article in The New York Times shows, the massive election fraud will make it impossible for even the United States to endorse the legitimacy of the Afghan national government until questions of election fraud are adequately addressed, putting the political element of counterinsurgency (referred to by the COIN field manual as the prime element of COIN) into indefinite limbo while more and more U.S. troops spill into the country.

In other words, the U.S. counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan has been a total failure.

Reports indicate General McChrystal will soon ask for 20,000 more troops for this debacle. The President and Congress should say no and end our military involvement in Afghanistan as quickly as possible. Americans know failure when they see it.

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.)