I have minimal high regard for the members of Congress’s Appropriations Committees. They tend to be mortal porkers, whose first priority is stuffing their home districts with federal projects. Any attempts by Appropriators to go high-minded about matters of policy should be taken lightly–especially when it concerns the military: these are the clowns who’ll try to continue spending money on the unnecessary weapons systems that Secretary of Defense Gates wants to kill. And so David Obey’s concerns about the absolutely crucial appropriation for the war in Afghanistan strike me as ill-informed grandstanding. After all, the Obama plan for the region hasn’t even been implemented yet–most of the troops will arrive this summer, the diplomatic and civilian components are just staffing up–and Obey is proposing to strangle the effort before it begins.
Once again, some basic facts: This is the war against those who perpetrated 9/11–and which was criminally neglected by the Bush Administration. The situation in neighboring Pakistan is deteriorating rapidly. Any sign that the US is abandoning the field could encourage elements of the Pakistani military that have extremist sympathies to become more forthright in their support for the Taliban–and it could hinder our efforts to cut a deal with the more reconcilable Pashtuns. This is not the moment to convey weakness or division.
Obey is right that this an extremely difficult situation, but the President’s plan needs to be given a chance to succeed. And the question should be asked of anyone who would vote against funding this war: What’s your alternative? What’s your plan to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for Osama Bin Laden? What’s your plan to prevent the extremists from taking over Pakistan’s estimated 100 nuclear bombs?
Update: Various commenters are wondering whether I oppose Congressional oversight. Absolutely not, obviously. But the appropriate committees to question Obama’s Af/Pak policies are Foreign Relations and Armed Services, not Appropriations. In fact, I’d like to see both Appropriations Committees–pork sinkholes that they are–abolished. The money for Af/Pak should be approved by members of Congress who actually know something about foreign and military policy.