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Keith Olbermann’s Afghanistan Special Comment Missing Something

On last night’s Countdown, Keith Olbermann laid out a pretty stark prescription for President Obama on the war in Afghanistan: Get out now. He makes a lot of excellent points, and some less so, but Olbermann glosses over an 800 lb fact. Both he and the moderate left spent the bulk of the Bush administration using Afghanistan to play “good war, bad war” with Iraq, and elected President Obama on a promise to do exactly what he is about to do: send more troops to Afghanistan.

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Whether you agree with the idea that we should leave Afghanistan now is somewhat beside the point. For years, Democrats pointed to Afghanistan as the “right fight,” in contrast to the ill-advised-and-executed Iraq war. In doing so, they ceded the issue of whether invading Afghanistan was the best way to respond to the Taliban, and built the argument that the Iraq War was depriving the US of troops that should have been in Afghanistan. It is that dissonance that Olbermann fails to address. During the campaign, Olbermann made the case for Obama by saying that he was more ready to commit additional troops than McCain was.


Now, Olbermann says Afghanistan is a quagmire that we can’t afford. True or not, what has changed in the interval? The geographical and military challenges posed by Afghanistan have been well known for a very long time.Are the stakes in Afghanistan suddenly lower? As the President reminded us during the campaign, Afghanistan (not Iraq) is “the central front in the war on terrorism,” so how can its conduct be measured in dollars and cents?

In the aftermath of 9/11, it was damn near impossible to question, let alone oppose, the invasion of Afghanistan. It’s disingenuous now, though, to send all of that support for escalation in Afghanistan down the memory hole.

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