There's no question Andrew Bacevich has been one of the staunchest critics of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In part one of Rethink Afghanistan, from which this clip is excerpted, Bacevich called the 17,000 additional troops President Obama has committed "a drop in the bucket." And in a recent conversation with me, Bacevich said Obama put the cart before the horse by escalating the war before finishing his policy review. So I was surprised when Bacevich, a Boston University International Relations professor and author of The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, told me we wouldn't see congressional oversight hearings anytime soon.
Bacevich's pragmatic assessment stemmed from the fact that Afghanistan is deemed part of the global war on terror that Defense Secretary Gates has called "the Long War." And Bacevich is certainly correct in the sense that we haven't seen much of an institutionalized effort to challenge the policymakers, monitor the military agencies involved, or inform the public. That said, I remain entirely optimistic about bringing about congressional oversight hearings.
Opposition to the war is growing within the halls of Congress and throughout the country. Yesterday, The Hill reported a bipartisan group of 15 members of the House signed a letter urging Obama to reconsider military escalation. Meanwhile, a USA Today/Gallup News Poll reveals that public support for the war is at a new low; 42% of the country thinks this war is a "mistake"--the highest mark since this poll was first taken back in November 2001.
There's never been a better time to demand congressional oversight hearings, considering we seem to be getting mixed signals from the Obama administration. They call for a careful foreign policy review but commit 17,000 more troops before it's complete; they want to engage moderate elements of the Taliban, try regional diplomacy, and send hundreds of US diplomats and civilian officials to Afghanistan, but then they also consider expanding military strikes that would further destabilize Pakistan. It's high time we had some oversight hearings, which you can make a reality by lending your name to the petition that 27,000 people have signed. We need to learn exactly what our military and elected leaders hope to achieve in Afghanistan, especially since they still seem to be figuring it out themselves with thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars at stake.