Bing West: The 22nd Big Time Republican Against Afghanistan War

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Former Reagan Administration Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs and frequent Fox News military affairs commentator Bing West is now, by my count, the 22nd big time Republican opposed to the course of US policy in Afghanistan.
Huffington Post‘s Nick Wing and Ben Craw compiled a list of the first 20 Republicans to tilt against the war.
Although Grover Norquist says he is calling for “a conversation on the right” about the costs and consequences of the Afghanistan War rather than directly opposing the war and calling for a withdrawal of US troops, his stance works for me to give him the #21 spot.
But after his appearance on the Colbert Report and publication of The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy and the Way Out of Afghanistan, I hereby grant Bing West the #22 slot.
– Steve Clemons

Comments

29 comments on “Bing West: The 22nd Big Time Republican Against Afghanistan War

  1. WigWag says:

    “Harold Oshry was also friendly with Dr Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish who was on the faculty of Ben Gurion University’s Medical School (the Goldman School of Medicine). As you may remember, Dr. Abu al-Aish tragically lost three daughters, when an Israeli bomb hit his home in Gaza during the 2008 War with Hamas. Abu al-Aish literally had (and still has) scores of friends at Ben Gurion who grieved mightily at his loss.” (WigWag)
    In an interesting twist, Dr. Abu al-Aish made some moving remarks during the opening of the J Street Conference. Dr. Abu al-Aish is a fine man and over the years he has been a regular on the American speakers circuit advocating for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.
    Here’s a link to his talk (it’s the fifth video down,)
    http://conference.jstreet.org/Opening_Plenary_Session
    He has traveled throughout the United States in in the past and many Jewish communal leaders have met him. I have met and chatted with him myself. After he leaves the J Street conference he will be visiting other American cities including Pittsburgh where he will make an appearance at the Jewish Community Center.
    I could be mistaken about this (my memory is far from perfect), but I have the distinct recollection that about a decade ago Dr. Abu al-Aish made a guest appearance and gave a talk at the South Florida home of Harold and Claire Oshry.
    Why is this worth noting? Because Harold and Claire were the one time in-laws of none other than Pamela Geller.
    Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.

    Reply

  2. Paul Norheim says:

    Well WigWag, I can think of a handful of politicians and pundits
    and airports and suburban areas and shopping malls and yes,
    plenty of books and films as well; but the origin of that idiom
    was unknown to me until I googled it now:
    “The quote “There is no there there” appears in Gertrude Stein’s
    book “Everybody’s Autobiography”. When Stein returned to
    California on her lecture tour to the United States in the 1930s,
    she wanted to visit her childhood home in Oakland, CA. She
    records that she could not find the house. Hence, “there is no
    there there.”

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  3. questions says:

    Paul, I’m not exactly sure which lines would come from which places.
    To the extent that there are economic complaints in any of the uprisings, it might seem that re-doing kitchens and getting dust-collecting small appliances would fit in.
    The plumbing stuff I could see in a post-union Wisconsin as a central and on-going complaint. Nothing will get fixed properly if we don’t spend money fixing it.
    Gov’t officials’ asking about you — that seems to be pretty universal too…. I think I was probably musing in the background about whether or not things are really different anywhere sometimes…. Our domestic space is occasionally invaded by uprisings of one sort or another. It’s a curious time to observe.
    ***
    And as for fiction of the current kind, I want to blame MFA programs, but I’m not sure that’s really the target. Video games?! Rock music?! The predominance of SUVs on our nation’s highways?!
    I think there’s a rote quality to the use of symbolism and not as much a sense of natural story that then is crafted around some interesting, but seemingly natural, symbols. It seems that the symbolic connections come first and then a tale is spun to get something across. It’s less pleasing, less fictional in a way. And it seems that there’s some intolerance for really interesting ambiguity or unresolved tension.
    But I’ve been so locked up in the non-fiction world for the past couple of years that I’ve pretty much stopped even buying novels as they sit unread while I pore through econ and blogs. I’m probably part of a demographic of shame!
    (By the way, I read the back cover of the Soccer explains the universe book — and that was enough for me!)

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  4. WigWag says:

    “And there was Jonathan Safran Foer as well. A whole generation of dude-lit…I read all of them. But the details fade…” (Questions)
    Oy vey!
    I know we’re supposed to be nice in our comments at the Washington Note now or Steve gets annoyed, but I just can’t stand Jonathan Safran Foer.
    I think the man has no talent. In my opinion, the fact that he is well regarded tells you everything you need to know about the current state of American literature. I probably should just stop there because Steve has probably run into Safran Foer somewhere on the Washington cocktail circuit; perhaps at a party at Maureen Dowd

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  5. Paul Norheim says:

    Ha ha! Thanks, Questions, especially for the overflowing toilet
    and the plugged sink; I’m sure they’ll come in handy one day in a
    cheap hotel in London or LA.
    Now let me guess: From the overflowing toilet to cleaning up the
    mess was pure Franzen.
    “..shot up the windows” and “air raid siren” were from Libya?
    And the last two were from Wisconsin?
    Not sure about “Head for the hills!” though… Could of course be
    Libya, but it sounds more like a faction of right wing pundits and
    former devotees defecting from Glenn Beck’s fever swamp crowd.

    Reply

  6. questions says:

    Hey, Paul, here’s a vocab list for you! All totally domestic:
    The toilet is overflowing.
    The sink is plugged.
    Can opener. Microwave directions.
    Pasta maker. Yogurt maker. Bread machine. Dust collector. Food processor. Counterspace. Must-have. Dust collector. Coffee pot. Microwave.
    Redo the kitchen.
    Honey, I hate the way you painted.
    You’re WHAT????
    Could you clean up your mess?
    They just shot up the windows.
    Is that an air raid siren?
    Head for the hills!
    There was someone from the government asking about you.
    Should we go to the demonstration?
    *****
    So how many of these are from Wisconsin, how many from Libya, and how many from Franzen?!
    The Corrections was relatively enjoyable, but in retrospect my sense was that he had kind of contrived the novel and the imagery in an unnatural way. I love structure in fiction. I love the way the Republic repeats themes over and over. Up and down, the stories within stories, the father/son relations, the way everything builds on everything–it all works in the Republic. For all of its having been utterly crafted, it reads naturally. Franzen doesn’t read naturally.
    Around the same time, Shteyngart was writing. And there was Jonathan Safran Foer as well. A whole generation of dude-lit….. I read all of them. But the details fade……

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  7. Paul Norheim says:

    Thanks for the warning, WigWag, and for the link.
    Chick Lit vs Dude Lit vs Prick Lit? I hope Franzen’s book as a whole doesn’t confine itself to
    the domestic middle class world. As a matter of fact, I usually avoid novels that A) are very
    long; B) don’t go beyond domestic issues, family conflicts and love affairs.
    This means that it’s not likely that I’ll ever finish his book. On the other hand, if I don’t get
    too bored, his vocabulary is useful for me. Living in Norway, it’s not that hard for me to
    discuss more or less abstract issues and concepts like democracy, foreign policy etc in
    English. But I rarely stumble upon English words from the domestic world, these basic words
    for ordinary, daily life stuff that every child in America or the UK is familiar with. So if I don’t
    get too impatient, I may treat Franzen’s book as a part of my self imposed English course.
    We’ll see.
    Here’s a link in exchange – a review of the recently published letters between Hannah Arendt
    and Gershem Scholem – the letters are unfortunately only in German (I’m sure they’ll be
    translated pretty soon), but the review is in English. You may or may not be interested in it…
    http://www.jewishreviewofbooks.com/publications/detail/between-new-york-and-jerusalem
    I found it quite interesting. What struck me most, was the fact that these two friends 50-60
    years ago – even before Israel was established as a state – discussed many of the same issues
    that we discuss today – and with the same passion.
    As for ad hominem, they may not have been as blunt in their letters as some commenters
    here at TWN are, but their malice is evident – like in this quote, where Arendt characterizes
    Scholem:

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  8. WigWag says:

    “I am currently reading Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. I immediately enjoyed the prose of the opening pages (a touch of irony that reminds me of Thomas Mann), but it’s a long novel, so we’ll see how it develops, and if I have the patience to finish reading.” (Paul Norheim)
    Paul, I am sorry to say it, but I absolutely hated Frazen’s new book. To be honest, I thought it was claptrap and I found it excruciating to plow through. The only reason I finished it in spite of its length was that I kept thinking that by turning the next page I would finally find out why the book was so universally praised by critics; I never did.
    I am not sure whether you’ve followed the controversy about “Freedom” but a number of women novelists harshly criticized the New York Times for giving it such a glowing review. Their claim was that Frazen gets tremendous attention while the Times typically ignores novels by young female writers; especially novels about domestic life that when they are written by women are frequently dismissed as “chick-lit.”
    Frazen, by the way, is an arrogant asshole who first became famous when Oprah Winfrey picked his first major novel for her book club and he lamented her selection fearing that it would brand him as a “non-serious” writer. Critics compare him to Tolstoy but in my opinion he was right to worry; he’s not a serious writer.
    In case you’re unfamiliar with the controversy here is an article about it that you might find entertaining,
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-09-01/franzen-book-controversy-chick-lit-v-dude-lit/
    Good luck with the book. I think it killed off a good number of my brain cells which isn

    Reply

  9. Paul Norheim says:

    “What I meant, Paul, is that like the Israelis, the
    Scandinavians can be a little bit on the sanctimonious
    side. Don’t you agree?”
    I can’t disagree on that, WigWag. Perhaps it’s a syndrome
    of small countries?
    BTW, the former leader of the committee, Horace Engdahl,
    is a very intelligent and interesting literary critic – an
    arrogant francophile and germanophile snob, perhaps, but
    certainly not sanctimonious. (A couple of years ago, he
    stated that American contemporary novelists were not
    good enough to be considered for the prize… On the other
    hand, he publicly hailed the Norwegian literary magazine
    “Vagant”, while I was a co-editor, almost 20 years ago;
    and I can’t deny that his flattering words at that time made
    me and my colleagues proud…)
    The current leader, Peter Englund, writes brilliant books
    about historical subjects, among them WW1. In my view,
    politics have sometimes played a too large role in their
    choices, to the detriment of literary quality.
    I currently read Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom”. I
    immediately enjoyed the prose of the opening pages (a
    touch of irony that reminds me of Thomas Mann), but it’s
    a long novel, so we’ll see how it develops, and if I have the
    patience to finish reading.

    Reply

  10. kotzabasis says:

    brian
    Just imagine, Obama having Muslims in his administration while U.S. military forces fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and al Qaeda and its multiple affiliates on a global scale. It would be like having a sisterhood of feminists fighting another sisterhood of feminists. And what is laughable in his proposition is that he lets his guard down even to HIS OWN ADVISE, when he says that he

    Reply

  11. WigWag says:

    “The only reason Oz hasn’t yet won the Nobel Prize for literature is that the judges are Scandinavian and we all know what they can be like.” (Paul Norheim quoting WigWag)
    What I meant, Paul, is that like the Israelis, the Scandinavians can be a little bit on the sanctimonious side. Don’t you agree?

    Reply

  12. Paul Norheim says:

    Interesting anecdote, WigWag.
    “The only reason Oz hasn’t yet won the Nobel Prize for
    literature is that the judges are Scandinavian and we all
    know what they can be like.”
    Ah, I’m glad you mentioned us pesky Scandinavians. Yes,
    WigWag, we know that every Jew is a literary genius, and
    that every Scandinavian is an anti-Semite. This inevitably
    leads to some ugly compromises. The outrageous fact is
    that only 12 of those literary geniuses have been offered
    the Nobel among the many million authors in your tribe.
    Among the happy few are: Henry Bergson, Boris Pasternak,
    Nelly Sachs, Saul Bellow, Isaac Singer, Elias Canetti, Joseph
    Brodsky, Nadine Gordimer, Imre Kertesz, and Harold
    Pinter.
    Among them, I have (despite being a Scandinavian)
    especially enjoyed reading works of Bergson (philosophy,
    but expressed in a beautiful prose), Sachs (poetry), Bellow,
    Singer, Canetti (wonderful memories from Vienna between
    the wars), and Brodsky (his essays; not so much his
    poems).
    You can find the list here.
    http://www.science.co.il/Nobel-Literature.asp
    I’m sure there are several worthy candidates in
    contemporary Israeli literature. Kafka deserved it. But so
    did Joyce, Proust, and Musil (a Jew) and Broch (also a Jew)
    and Celan (yet another Jew) as well. Ah, those
    Scandinavians…

    Reply

  13. drew says:

    This is Bing West on Nationbuilding, in the context of Iraq;
    interview dated 2008. I would say that Iraq is centuries more
    advanced than Afghanistan. I should say that he has, and has
    had, a highly developed view of this subject and that his critique
    of the exercise in Afghanistan is longstanding.
    “Nation-building should not be a primary military mission. It is
    too overwhelming. We don

    Reply

  14. drew says:

    @ aaron,
    Bing West, with degrees from Georgetown and Princeton, and thirty
    years of writing on and informing close action combat and
    counterinsurgency, is nothing that you describe. He is the
    antithesis of the over-the-hill “crusty” Reagan bureaucrat. He is
    perhaps the most scholarly, acclaimed, and experienced of the
    counterinsurgency intellectuals, and he has been since he spent two
    tours in Vietnam, much of it spent in a remote village with 14
    marines, protecting the people.

    Reply

  15. WigWag says:

    “WigWag — You sound a bit more like Pamela Geller today than you normally do.” (Steve Clemons)
    As long as you mentioned Pamela Geller, Steve, let me relay a short anecdote about her that you might find mildly amusing.
    I never looked at Geller’s blog (Atlas Shrugs) until this morning after you put me in mind of it. I was surprised to learn how wildly popular it is. I never met Ms Geller but I did know her one time father-in-law and mother-in-law (Harold and Claire Oshry) quite well.
    For many years, Geller was married to Michael Oshry; after they divorced, Michael remarried but died shortly thereafter which was very sad because he was only in his early 50s.
    Michael’s father Harold was an important leader in the South Florida Jewish community. Harold chaired the Jewish Federation in Broward County for a time, he was active on his synagogue Board and he hosted many Israeli government officials in his home over the years.
    Harold’s wealth came primarily from a string of Ford dealerships that he owned in Queens and Long Island, New York. His great innovation was that he practically invented the concept of automobile leasing. Long before other auto dealers were willing to lease as opposed to sell their cars, Harold was leasing autos with abandon; he became quite wealthy in the process. When he retired and moved to Florida, he gave the business to his son Michael who was still married to Pamela Geller at the time. Harold died of melanoma in 2002 and his wife Claire passed away shortly thereafter.
    The great love of Harold Oshry’s philanthropic life was Ben Gurion University located in the biblical town of Ber Sheva in Israel’s Negev desert. In fact, Harold chaired the Board of Trustees of Ben Gurion University for several years.
    Ben Gurion University is far and away the most leftist University in Israel. Its faculty includes the great Israeli novelist and peace activist, Amos Oz. The only reason Oz hasn’t yet won the Nobel Prize for literature is that the judges are Scandinavian and we all know what they can be like.
    Also on the faculty of Ben Gurion University is Neve Gordon who called Israel “an apartheid state” and supports an international boycott of all Israeli products. When the current President of Ben Gurion University, Rifka Carmi criticized Gordon

    Reply

  16. aaron says:

    Wanting our military out of Afghanistan is now mainstream. Repubs
    and Dems are just now admitting that our strategy has moved from
    Taliban replacement to Taliban containment.
    Mr. Bing West? What a crusty old Reagan cold warrior. We’ve heard
    all this before, that we just need simplify our mission to focus more
    on killing the bad guys. His big idea is a return to the good old days
    of the Afghan-Soviet war, before we got into all this this public
    safety and infrastructure nonsense. He wants a shady team of
    American advisors likely acting outside of congressional oversight
    creeping around the Af-Pak region arming our “allies” and
    assassinating our enemies with drones. Look for this back to basics
    approach to be espoused in the 2012 campaigns.

    Reply

  17. drew says:

    Given that the country is in a global war with militant islam,
    expressing sentiments that mimic the pronouncements of
    militant islamists who are killing American GI’s seems to be an
    unusual qualification for USG service.
    This wouldn’t have happened in WWII. FDR wouldn’t even let
    Lindberg serve, so concerned was he with Lindberg’s
    ambivalence about US engagement in the European theater.
    Lindberg flew P-38 missions in the Pacific, and was responsible
    for an important fuel management technique that made the long
    overwater missions more feasible — but it was done without the
    approval or knowledge of MacArthur and FDR. FDR loathed
    Lindberg for his isolationism and feared his popularity (he was
    more popular than FDR, probably the most popular and
    recognized man in the world, in the 30′s). Lindberg could not
    get in uniform.
    Meanwhile this guy Khan is saying things that the Islamists put
    on videos when they promise the destruction of the west.

    Reply

  18. drew says:

    What I don’t understand about West’s recommendations (and I
    haven’t read the book, so it’s no surprise) is how a government
    so riddled with corruption can be effectively deployed with it’s
    own army. I get the part about making Afghanistan the world’s
    largest hunting preserve for special ops. I don’t believe that
    there’s much evidence that the ANA will stand, fight, pursue.
    Also, I do not understand the relationship, if any, between West’s
    call for a more violent engagement with the Taliban, and the
    reassignment of Petraeus this year. Is Petraeus advocating more
    violent ROE? Is Petraeus just exhausted? Is Petraeus failing in
    his relationship with the White House?
    I would hope that in the future the State Dept. has full
    responsibility for any “nation-building” ambition, and that if the
    State Dept. can’t or won’t muster the people to attempt the
    nation-building, we not corrupt or dilute the guys in combat
    arms with that task.
    It’s pretty clear that if a war is sputtering along after 10 years it’s
    a mess, and doubly so given the disparity in size and resources
    between the USA and these medieval guerillas.

    Reply

  19. brian says:

    I’d like to know how having people in government who have a Muslim perspective represents a loss of “all sense of strategic thinking.” It’s good strategy to have some idea of what others have in mind. Besides, having a third fatalistic, monotheistic religion represented in government isn’t significantly more frightening than having the first two.

    Reply

  20. kotzabasis says:

    It is obvious that for Clemons it is not enough to have Muslims as fifth columnists in the great American society, he wants them also to be in government. Clemons has irretrievably lost all sense of strategic thinking.

    Reply

  21. Don Bacon says:

    Martyrdom in Judaism is one of the main examples of Kiddush Hashem, meaning “sanctification of God’s name” through public dedication to Jewish practice. Religious martyrdom is considered one of the more significant contributions of Hellenistic Judaism to western civilization. It is believed that the concept of voluntary death for God developed out of the conflict between King Antiochus Epiphanes IV and the Jewish people. 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees recount numerous martyrdoms suffered by Jews resisting Hellenizing (adoption of Greek ideas or customs of a Hellenistic civilization) by their Seleucid overlords, being executed for such crimes as observing the Sabbath, circumcising their children or refusing to eat pork or meat sacrificed to foreign gods. With few exceptions, this assumption has lasted from the early Christian period to this day, accepted both by Jews and Christians. For example, W. H. C. Frend asserted that from early times

    Reply

  22. WigWag says:

    I don’t read Pamela Geller so I couldn’t say what she sounds like. But I do know what Frank Gaffney had to say about Norquist and Khan.
    I understand that you might not find Khan’s statement disturbing; that’s fine. My guess is that the vast majority of Americans would be outraged at his comment and find it very disconcerting.

    Reply

  23. Steve Clemons says:

    WigWag — You sound a bit more like Pamela Geller today than you normally do. I know and very much respect Suhail Khan. I hope you take time to read many other things he has written and spoken about and try to keep an open mind to people’s full records. I absolutely support Muslims serving in government and while I myself prefer those who are secularly devoted, we have plenty of Christians who in their own way are far more serious (and disconcerting) in their avowed testaments of faith than what you just posted on Khan.
    So, I strongly reject your depiction of him — and yes, I respect Grover Norquist for challenging the bigotry in his own party when it comes to Muslims. I believe that Obama was right that we need to support and embrace in positions of responsibility in our society many more Muslim Americans.
    I don’t have time to go back and forth with you on this — but I decided to post your criticisms and wanted to share my counter point.
    All best, Steve Clemons

    Reply

  24. WigWag says:

    “Although Grover Norquist says he is calling for “a conversation on the right” about the costs and consequences of the Afghanistan War rather than directly opposing the war and calling for a withdrawal of US troops, his stance works for me to give him the #21 spot.” (Steve Clemons)
    What I would love to know from Grover Norquist is how he feels about the prospect of getting thrown off the Board of Directors of CPAC along with his pal and prot

    Reply

  25. Don Bacon says:

    One good thing: Bing West in “The Wrong War” builds the case that nation building in that country is a fruitless enterprise, which is correct. This is in contrast to “The New Way Forward” approach which includes “efforts at reconciliation should be coupled with a broad internationally-led effort to promote economic development.” Hopeless.
    You want to promote economic development, do it in the USA.

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  26. Don Bacon says:

    Bing West, like some others, isn’t really against the Afghanistan War, he just wants to run it differently. Where have we heard that before? “The only way to deal with the Taliban is to put them down, in the earth,” West says, because, you know, the Taliban are high on Islam and they need to be dead.
    In his book The Wrong War, Bing West proposes that the U.S. immediately “transition to an adviser corps” whose primary task would be to continue training Afghan forces to defeat the Taliban — get the Afghans to “win their own war.”
    Some points to consider:
    * The departing UN special representative in Afghanistan recently said that Afghanistan’s security is “at its lowest point since the departure of the Taliban” after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.”
    * Therefore any withdrawal of NATO forces would require replacement by the indigenous Afghan Army.
    * There is not one Afghan army unit able to operate independent of U.S.-led coalition troops according to assessments by NATO

    Reply

  27. JohnH says:

    Peter Beinhart has a major piece, saying what I’ve been saying here and been ignored for years–neo-conmen’s infatuation with freedom and democracy is nothing more than rhetoric. Afghanistan is just another right wing con job. Why has the rest of the blogocracy been so slow to label a con job for what it is?
    “The whole conservatives-as-democratizers trope, in retrospect, has been a case of the media falling in love with a story of man bites dog. Yes, there were conservative intellectuals who came to believe after 9/11 that American power could usher in an Islamic 1989. And yes, George W. Bush himself seems to have cottoned to the idea. But this democratic idealism didn

    Reply

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