May we ask who Obama's experts on Afghanistan are?

Whether it is the media that influences the thinking and sentiments of the population, or it is the other way around, concern about America’s military engagements seem to have quieted down to a whisper in the United States. Iraq and Afghanistan are no longer trillion-dollar issues to worry about, not when 200 million dollars in bonuses to AIG executives are at stake, or the morality of our venerable form of capitalism.

Recession or, better still, fear of depression, has really taken a toll not just on our sacrosanct Wall Street but on Main Street as well. We’ve been told of the winding down in our involvement in Iraq, yet have no clue as to details that might require our presence there for decades. We have been misled by government and media to think that the apparent calmness in Iraq, certainly in Baghdad, is the result of the “successful surge” when reality tells us that only fear by Sunnis is keeping the violence down in that city where half of the Sunni population has fled, now Shiites outnumbering them 5 to 1.

It seems as if those holding the reins of power in the US feel that it is not the public’s concern to be involved with such onerous details; those are Pentagon’s and State Department’s affairs, for the business of the empire must continue on regardless who occupies the White House. As for Afghanistan, all we are being told, from Obama on down, is that things are not going well and that the long term outlook could get nastier. So President Obama, following in the steps of his predecessor, will continue looking for Bin Laden in that Lord of the Rings’ terrain half a world away.

According to my friend Mingo, who I consider to be an in-situ expert on Afghanistan, both as a journalist – third tour there in the last 7 years – and as an enamored student of Afghan history and culture dating back to ancient Bactria, America’s interest in that region has little to do with democratization, the Taliban or al-Qaida. Invasion of that country was afforded a green light, he claims, because of the 9/11 attack, with little or no condemnation from world opinion during the very early days; however, since 2002, occupation must be judged as imperialistic, with US’ principal aim being at maintaining a foothold in that region to counter any possible warming of relations between Russia, China and India; and the fear of any major economic and/or military alignment among them. An alignment that could dramatically shift power in the world, my friend contends.

But subjectivity from a member of the press aside, isn’t obvious what our foreign policy might be as we look at the sizeable military expenditures America makes in establishing military “forts” all around the world? How can we dismiss the billions spent in military bases for the post-war era in Iraq? And that applies to Afghanistan as well, where untold billions of dollars are being spent, over 4 billion in the Bagram and Kandahar complexes alone, in creating a military infrastructure of permanent nature.

We feel safe when assuming that President Obama never sought advice on Afghanistan from Dick Cheney or, for that matter, any of the other desk-warriors that during the past few years got this nation involved in de facto military dead ends. So, we can’t help but wonder… is the expertise that Obama is tapping on that war coming from the Pentagon, the State Department or some field military brass – General Kiernan comes to mind – that he could have met during those brief political must-visits to the war zone he made last year prior to the November election? Or is the advice coming to him as consensus from all above sources?

Those troops that Obama is adding to the Afghan front during 2009 will bring the NATO contingent to over 87,000, about 63 percent of them from the United States. By whatever name, this multi-nation force is for all intents and purposes an expeditionary force which quickly became an army of occupation under the tutelage and direction of the Pentagon. European nations, most grudgingly, have a token presence there (except for the UK with 12 percent of the total force – 10 percent after the 2009 US deployment) consistent with that never ending gratitude and friendship they appear forced to show towards the US… a gratitude that is wearing thinner and thinner.

By now we know that Obama is counting on his Bernanke-Geithner Team to advice him on the economic front. Can he just tell us the composition of the team that is advising him on Afghanistan? As we head into depression we’ll know how to spread the blame; but if things turn ugly in Afghanistan, as they did 34 years ago in Vietnam, shouldn’t there be some underlings to soften the blame-blow for Obama?