Clinton Off The Mark
To be fair to him, Bill Clinton has a point. Almost.
This would not be when he told Senator John McCain (R-AZ) during an event for the McCain Institute for International Leadership (hat tip to outsidethebeltway.com) "'Okay, see what a big mess it is? Stay out!' I think that's a big mistake. I agree with you about this. Sometimes it's just best to get caught trying, as long as you don't overcommitt- like, as long as you don't make an improvident commitment." Informants have assured us that the former President was not referring to avoiding over-commitment and detection when befriending female interns..
According to Politico's Maggie Haberman, Clinton maintained that as President, if "there was a poll in the morning paper that said 80 percent of you were against it … you’d look like a total wuss." He contended additionally
Nobody is asking for American soldiers in Syria. The only question is now that the Russians, the Iranians and the Hezbollah are in there head over heels, 90 miles to nothing, should we try to do something to try to slow their gains and rebalance the power so that these rebel groups have a decent chance, if they’re supported by a majority of the people, to prevail?...
My view is that we shouldn’t over-learn the lessons of the past,” Clinton said. “I don’t think Syria is necessarily Iraq or Afghanistan — no one has asked us to send any soldiers in there. I think it’s more like Afghanistan was in the ’80s when they were fighting the Soviet Union … when President Reagan was in office [and] got an enormous amount of influence and gratitude by helping to topple the Soviet-backed regime and then made the error of not hanging around in Afghanistan” to try to cash in on the gains.
President Obama has been unnecessarily passive, as Tom Rogan argues here. But to suggest his approach has been motivated largely by public sentiment is sheer speculation on the part of the husband of Senator Obama's primary (pun intended) Democratic rival of 2008.
You might have noticed that the Big Dog avoided advocating a particular course of action, which would have been helpful, though exposing him (and perhaps his wife) to some hard questions if the recommendations were adopted and failed. You might also have recognized a former President knocking a current President for allegedly subjecting his policy to popular sentiment while arguing that "rebel groups" must be given "a decent chance, if they're supported by a majority of the people, to prevail."
Dismayed by a Democratic President who considers the will of the people, Clinton commends a (former) Republican president who chose a politically popular position (alliteration intentional) by opposing those nasty Russian commies or, as Clinton put it, aiding "rebel groups" in Afghanistan "in the '80s when they were fighting the Soviet Union... when President Reagan was in office (and) got an enormous amount of influence and gratitude by helping to topple the Soviet-backed regime and then made the error of not hanging around in Afghanistan."
It is common wisdom, as Clinton clearly displayed, that the biggest mistake the U.S.A. made in that era in Afghanistan was not "hanging around," taking some of the credit for defeat of the Soviets and helping effect a pro-American, democratic regime in Kabul. In this case, common wisdom is wrong.
As the former President should have learned by now, victory by the most powerful military in world history is the relatively easy part. Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, and Muammar Khadafi can be removed from power, but the aftermath is exceedingly treacherous.
Clinton demonstrates the common perception that aiding the rebels in Afghanistan was a slam-dunk. (And at the time it seemed so.) Maybe so, but hardly in the way he believes. Casey Gane-McCalla of NewsOne gives us a history lesson, the broad outline of which seems to be generally lost to history. He explains
During in the 1970s, when the Russia was the biggest threat to America and radical Islam was not as a concern of the USA’s, the USA began funding and training Islamic militants to fight our Russian enemies in Afghanistan.
These militants, known as the mujahideen would rebel the Russians out of Afghanistan and later become the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood.
One of the most prominent members of he mujahideen was a wealthy son of a Saudi Arabian businessman named Osama Bin Laden.
National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski visited Afganistan in 1979 and met with Bin Laden and even took a picture with him. Brzezinski would tell the mujahideen
We know of their deep belief in God, and we are confident their struggle will succeed. That land over there is yours, you’ll go back to it one day because your fight will prevail, and you’ll have your homes and your mosques back again. Because your cause is right and God is on your side.
The BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Russian journal Demokratizatsiya have all written that the CIA and U.S.A. funded and supported Bin Laden during the Afghan war.
Former British Foreign secretary, Robin Cook said:
Bin Laden was, though, a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies. Throughout the 80s he was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.
Several other authors, journalists and statesmen have all made the claim that Bin Laden was funded, armed and trained by the CIA to fight off the Russians.
After Ronald Reagan was elected in 1981, U.S. funding of the mujahideen increased significantly and CIA Paramilitary Officers played a big role in training, arming and sometimes even leading mujahideen forces.
The CIA trained the mujahideen in many of the tactics Al Qaeda is known for today, such as car bombs, assassinations and other acts that would be considered terrorism today.
The U.S.A. would fund Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a mujahideen leader and alleged heroin dealer who worked closely with Bin Laden. Hekmaytyar and his political party/paramilitary group would receive more than $600 million from the USA. Author, Alfred McCoy, would claim that the CIA supported Hekmatyar in his illicit heroin trade to allow him to fund the mujahideen.Like Bin Laden, Hekmatyar has also become an enemy of the U.S., waging a war against coalition forces in Afghanistan after 2001.
The mujahideen was a forerunner of Al Qaeda and morphed into the deadly terrorist group. But, as Brzezinski's remark reflected, the USA in Afghanistan opposed an overrated enemy and ignored the threat posed by an up-and-coming one because the officially atheist Soviet Unionwas a godless nation fought b people convinced God was on their side. There is a moral to that story (perhaps more than one) which Bill Clinton, with his famously superior intellect, ought to understand.