U.S. Recession Could Lead to Riots
Rachel Maddow Show / MSNBC 19feb2009
MADDOW: What‘s going on here is the American president is simultaneously adding troops, but shrinking U.S. objectives in Afghanistan. Does that mean he is moving the starting line and the finishing line closer together so we‘re trying to do something less impossible?
Is he sketching out a more realistic task for us in Afghanistan? And what do the American people think we ought to be doing in Afghanistan anyway and how we ought to be doing it?
A new Washington Post-ABC poll says the proportion of Americans who want our troop numbers in Afghanistan to go up is just 34 percent; 29 percent want a reduction in forces; 32 percent would have no change at all.
What that means is that U.S. public opinion on troop levels in Afghanistan is totally mixed. Afghan public opinion on troop levels there is rather more decisive. They want us out. Only 18 percent of Afghans want us and NATO to increase troop levels. More than twice that number, 44 percent, want fewer foreign troops there.
Our military has been in that country for more than seven years. If the people of Afghanistan thought the NATO and U.S. troop presence was good for them, wouldn‘t more than 18 percent of them favor a greater presence?
Joining us now, the former national security adviser to President Carter. Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Carter. Dr. Brzezinski, thank you so much for coming back on the show.
DR. ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER TO PRESIDENT CARTER: Good to be you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Do you agree with President Obama‘s decision to send 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan even before this big strategic review he‘s doing is completed?
BRZEZINSKI: I am willing to believe that some additional troops may be necessary here or there. And the figure of 17,000 isn‘t enormous, all things considered. But I think that it‘s quite clear by now that adding more troops and then more troops and then more troops is not going to be the solution.
This 17,000 that we put in will bring the American forces up to roughly 60,000. Then, there are an additional 20,000 NATO troops. That‘s, together, 80,000. You cited general Gromov, the Russian commander. At its high point, the Soviet army presence in Afghanistan was about 160,000. And they didn‘t win. I don‘t think increasing the troops by itself will be the solution.
MADDOW: When the president looks at options for what goals to set in Afghanistan, what policy decisions to make, are those options labeled with troop numbers, with size of the military footprint? Or is he considering, do you think, big non-military missions? Say a big development effort? Are those some of the decisions that he needs to make, some of the options he‘s choosing between?
BRZEZINSKI: I think he realizes that our policy has to be a mixture of several undertakings. A limited military undertaking, a reasonable amount of help to stabilize the country, to offer it something constructive so that they see in our presence, some tangible benefits for the society.
The Soviets, mind you, were present for 10 years and almost entirely destructive. We have to show something quite different. And last but not least, we have to be willing to explore the possibility of some limited accommodations with some of the Talibans, not the entire Taliban movement, but some of the Talibans depending on circumstances and specifically on one circumstance above all else.
Are they willing, explicitly, completely, unambiguously, to detach themselves from any relationship with al-Qaeda? Because one of the things we have to think about is this. Al-Qaeda is a threat to us. Taliban is a medieval movement, very negative in its social values from our standpoint, but it is an Afghan movement.
If we‘re going to fight the Taliban to its end, we may have to be in Afghanistan for a very long time.
MADDOW: Well, thinking about the Taliban and relationship of our government and other governments with the Taliban, what do you make of the decision to allow Islamic law, to allow Sharia law in the Swat Valley across the border in Pakistan in exchange for what is hopefully going to be some sort of peace deal with the Pakistani Taliban?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, that illustrates another complexity of the problem. We are now in a situation in which we cannot make decisions regarding Afghanistan entirely on our own. We have to deal, first of all, with our European allies. We‘re asking them to put in troops.
They‘re going to respond and they are responding by saying to us, “What is your goal? What is your strategy? How do you feel about this or that issue? And here‘s our input.” We have to be responsive to that.
And secondly, the issue that you have just raised. If we are to prevail in Afghanistan in a total sort of a sense, that is to say, we wipe out the Taliban, we have to have massive Pakistani assistance. And the Pakistanis increasingly feel that they have to make some limited accommodations themselves within Pakistan.
We‘re beginning to strike at the Taliban in Pakistan. So we are beginning to be part of the conflict within Pakistan. That is a rather dangerous and risky road for us to be pursuing. We have to talk to the Pakistanis about shared objectives for Afghanistan, and that‘s not going to be easy.
MADDOW: It seems like the emerging, I guess, the emerging debate about what to do in the whole Afghanistan-Pakistan region comes down to this idea that whether or not the problem can be out-governed instead of outgunned, whether this is something the U.S. can be part of a constructive political solution, whether it really is a military issue.
When I look at the evidently corrupt government and government of a limited reach and Hamid Karzai and I look at the government of Pakistan which is only one year old and is bankrupt, it‘s hard for me to believe that we‘ve got enough - there‘s enough governance there to really solve this big problem.
BRZEZINSKI: You know, I can‘t help smiling because you used two words, which we like to use when we become uncomfortable with those who are dependent on us or who are, to some extent, our allies. If we‘re uncomfortable with them, we begin to say they‘re corrupt or now we‘re saying the Pakistanis are bankrupt.
What about us? We‘re close to being bankrupt. And you know Washington and I know Washington.
BRZEZINSKI: What we have in this city is well organized, legalized corruption. But I don‘t think we ought to be going around labeling others. We have to be serious about it.
If we don‘t like the Afghan government, probably we can overthrow it. We better make sure that if we do that, it is a government that‘s better than the present one. We have done this before with some other countries in which we engaged.
We overthrew those with whom we were in solidarity. But then they begun to feel they are corrupt, inefficient, so we overthrew them and in the end, we lost the engagement. I‘m thinking particularly Vietnam.
So we ought to go easy on these classifications. Karzai may be not the ideal president for Afghanistan, but I‘m not sure we know that there is a much better substitute.
And above all else, we cannot treat these people in a patronizing way if we want them to work with us. You know, when we went into Afghanistan to throw out the Taliban and to try to catch Osama Bin Laden, we went in with 300 troops - 300 troops.
The Soviets didn‘t win with 160,000. We won quickly with 300 troops because most Afghans were on our side. We have wasted seven years pursuing policies which are ill-defined, not seeking any realistic objective.
And now, we have to rethink this whole engagement very seriously and take into account both Pakistani and European views.
MADDOW: Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Carter, it‘s a real honor to have you on the show. Thank you, Sir.
BRZEZINSKI: And don‘t forget how you introduced me before.
MADDOW: Thank you.
BRZEZINSKI: You introduced me as Mika‘s father.
MADDOW: I introduced you as Mika‘s father.
BRZEZINSKI: That‘s right.
MADDOW: If there‘s any way I can make it up to the family let me know and I‘ll write a note. Thank you, Sir.
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