GOP Chair Michael Steele on Afghanistan: Right or wrong?

Question of the week:

This month Republican Party National Committee Chair Michael Steele made headlines over his comments on the Afghanistan War calling it “a war of Obama’s choosing “and later, “This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.” Steele further commented, “If he’s such a student of history, has he not understood that, you know, that’s the one thing you don’t do is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? All right? Because everyone who’s tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed,” Steele said. “And there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan.” Steele added to his remarks this week saying, “I am 1,000 percent for victory for our men and women in the service, We cannot leave them on the battlefield. This party stands with them. I stand with them. Period. No excuses. No exceptions.”

Steele soon came under fire from fellow Republicans Sen. John McCain, Sen. Lindsey Graham and conservative columnist Bill Kristol who said it was error worthy of his removal. So it begs the question, is Michael Steele’s comments a venting and bold talk on the Afghan war or did Michael Steele put his foot into his mouth.

Please comment.

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Posted by at 07:28 | Posted in Measure 37 | 13 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Steve Plunk

    Steele has done a poor job as head of the RNC. When the headlines are about him rather than the issues it does a disservice to the party. I don’t support firing but I do support the idea of Steele making fewer headlines and putting together a winning team for November.

  • Coyote

    I have become quite a critic of Steele over the past 9 months. However in this instance he is more right than wrong.

    Time to declare victory “Taliban and Al Qaida dismantled” and get out.

  • Reper

    What exactly did Obama choose in this war of choosing? It does not make sense.

  • valley p

    Steele has no policy chops on this or any other topic. He is a showman and not even very good at that. He isn’t qualified to give advice on Afghanistan or anything else.

    For better or worse, probably worse, we are stuck with Afghanistan for a while yet. A plan has been set, the military and civilians are executing it, there is a major review set for december, and we will all see what happens next. Trying to shift a major policy based on daily events is ridiculous.

  • Mark Sanjean

    Obama is in it to win, except for the rules of engagement part.
    He is strong and brave.
    We must support him at this time.
    He is our best chance at victory.

    • Anonymous

      Jerry, go away. You have not been missed.

      • Mark Sanjean

        Nicely put.
        Just like O.
        You should be proud.

    • Anonymous

      p.s. You’re welcome.

    • Anonymous

      Not “you’re welcome” as in “come on in”, “you’re welcome” as in the common response to “thank you for acknowledging my presence”.

  • Anonymous

    History certainly is importance and can be indicative of future events. But it is ignorant to blindly appeal to it and say “land wars in location x have not worked for the last y number of years, therefore they will not work now.” History does not work that way. Mr. Steele seems to have some sort of pagan Greek view of the circularity of history. Again and again nations attempt to take Afghanistan. Again and again the fail.


    America has taken Afghanistan, and we are maintaining a relative peace there. The question is not whether it can be taken. The question is if we have the political stamina to finish the job by rebuilding the country and giving autonomy to local officials. And if you’re any sort of student of history you know that at this point this is perhaps the most critical decision. America has made the sacrifice, let it not be for not.

    • valley p

      I don’t think we have “taken” Afghanistan. We helped some Afganis (the Northern Alliance) depose other Afghanis (the Taliban), and we have soldiers in the country helping the former continue to fight against the latter. The real question is whether the former have the support internally to maintain what little control they have when we leave. The likelihood is no, they don’t and won’t. They are too corrupt, fragmented, and are essentially a motley crew of warlords.

      The people of Afghanistan are 80% scattered in thousands of villages who have never known a central government outside Kabul. They are mostly illiterate and few have traveled outside the valley they live in. The Pashtuns (Taliban) won’t likely stay “defeated.” Which leaves us with a problem. I personally have no idea what the best or least bad thing to do is, and I’m not sure Obama does either. But…Michael Steele is the last person I would consult on the matter.

      By the way, we have now spent over 1 trillion $$ on the Iraq and Afghan wars combined. 100% on the giant credit card.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    Steele is right in that a war of territory (a land war) is doomed to fail in Afghanistan.

    This is due to two reasons – one the terrain and two the fact that it a very de-centralized country. Essentially it is an amalgam of tribes and cultures and thus installing a president wins you the tax paying populace, but the other 99% remain unaffected. Most are aware of this.

    The original mission was to go in a depose the Taliban government which, like Saddam, was actively engaged in promoting terrorism.

    Thats a good well defined mission. What was not thought out was once a friendly government was put in place, how do you keep it from being overthrown by that segment of the populace who is both unreachable and resentful. Thats a problem with no obvious solution, and that part was not well thought out by the Bush administration.

    Obama and the rest of the Monday morning quarterbacks pointed out that Afghanistan was the war we had to win (as opposed to Iraq. It was idiotic logic to be sure, as failure in Iraq would clearly have massive consequences with Iranian ascendancy in the aftermath.

    To Obama, Afghanistan was the “just” war and there is some truth to that – The Taliban government was run as an open terrorist haven. It also was the less complicated geo politically – destabilizing Afghanistan hardly poses the same risk as destabilizing Iraq as noted previously

    Obama thus did chose this war, but only insofar as he preferred it to our other engagement, Iraq. In that regard Steele is right.

    What about Steeles other comment? Did the United States not want to actively prosecute or engage in this war?

    Sure – But only insofar as the United States doesn’t want to get involved in a war in general. That’s something of a truism and to take Mr. Steeles comments as anything but idiotic, one has to reduce them to the level of a truism thus bringing into question Mr. Steeles rational for stating the obvious. In short Mr. Steeles comments only become non idiotic if one reads them into him stating the banal.

    Were these stupid comments by Mr. Steele?

    Absolutely, and one has to wonder what in the hell was going through his head.

    Does that negate the all too obvious fact that Obama has put far more emphasis into pronouncing “Afghanistan” in a haute couture manner than he into actually winning the war? Absolutely.

    Obama frequently castigated the Bush administration for taking their eyes off the “war we must win” in regards to overemphasis on Iraq vis a vie Afghanistan. Few would say Mr. Obama has done any better in this regard and in that sense Mr. Steele is right about this administrations attitude.

    If it is the war we must win, as Obama claimed, then Mr. Steeles comments, idiotic or not, do not change the central fact that Obama has hardly devoted that amount of attention to the matter for which he claimed the previous administration was remiss.

    • valley p

      “Obama frequently castigated the Bush administration for taking their eyes off the “war we must win” in regards to overemphasis on Iraq vis a vie Afghanistan. Few would say Mr. Obama has done any better in this regard and in that sense Mr. Steele is right about this administrations attitude.”

      So increasing the number of boots on the ground from 25,000 to 100,000, and assigning the best general in the US to the task is not enough for you? What would be then. Back to the Bush strategy of just enough boots to fail?

      The war is not “winnable.” It may be salvageable. And yes, its another mess left by Bush for Obama to try and clean up.

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