Afghanistan Plus More Troops = Catastrophe

This is such an explosive headline, I couldn't resist using it, even though this post is about much more than military escalation. This is the title of part one of Brave New Foundation's new full-length documentary (think Uncovered: The War on Iraq and Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers), which they began releasing online for free today. Their documentary campaign, Rethink Afghanistan, tackles issues like the costs of war and troop buildup--the subject of part one--featuring experts like Andrew Bacevich, Stephen Kinzer, Anand Gopal, and Dr. Ramaza Bashardost, Afghanistan's Independent candidate in their upcoming presidential election. It's worth checking out to hear what those experts have to say alone, and the fact that it's free is always an incentive!

But what I want to talk about is the ultimate goal of the Rethink Afghanistan campaign, which is to push for congressional oversight hearings. As I wrote last week, oversight has been a cornerstone of government accountability throughout our country's history, particularly in wartime. And some of the best oversight has not only been bipartisan, but it's come when the president's own party is debating his policies. Take the joint committee investigations during the Civil War, Senator Truman's Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program during WWII, and the Fulbright hearings during Vietnam. The same oversight needs to be applied today, especially after we saw this system of checks and balances shattered during the Bush administration and Iraq war.

I realize this war is an incredibly hairy issue. It has folks on the left divided, particularly in the progressive blogosphere, and it's important to be able to debate the issues surrounding this war. After all, that's the kind of plurality of opinion Obama has called for and respects and is willing to listen to--how refreshing! What is not debatable, at least in my mind, is the need for congressional oversight.

Whether you're for this war or against it, whether you think military escalation will cost too much and accomplish too little or you see it as part of our moral obligation to the region, it's hard for anyone to argue against the fact that oversight would benefit everyone. It would ensure the executive branch isn't overstepping its bounds; it would help curb wasteful military spending; and it would make sure military agencies are running efficiently. Above all, as Andrew Bacevich told me last week, it would educate the public about the Obama administration's policies so we can continue to have this debate.