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Afghanistan: “Another Vietnam”

At a foreign policy summit on May 27 at the Brookings Institution, national security experts expressed harsh criticism of the Obama administration’s foreign policy initiatives.

Lawrence Eagleburger, the former Secretary of State under George H.W. Bush, called the Obama administration “antagonistic” and said he was “very worried” about the president authorizing a troop buildup in Afghanistan.

“If you do what [Obama wants] to do in Afghanistan, you could be looking at another Vietnam,” said Eagleburger. “If you’re not prepared to go in to win it, then don’t do it at all.”

Eric Edelman, the former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy under George W. Bush, agreed that there was a “danger here for the administration…in terms of our goals in Afghanistan,” and cautioned that the Obama administration faces an “enormously complex set of challenges.”

Both experts also warned Obama about portraying himself as wavering on foreign policy, with Eagleburger calling this a “fatal flaw among presidents.”

President Obama has ordered an additional 21,000 U.S. troops to bolster American forces in Afghanistan and combat instability and Taliban guerrilla insurgents in the region, according to [1] the Los Angeles Times.

However, the President also wants to “promote a more capable and accountable Afghan government” by sending “agricultural specialists and educators, engineers and lawyers” to Afghanistan-a counter-insurgency approach that some say is not economically or militarily feasible when it coincides with troop buildup, reported [2] Slate magazine.

“Unless [members of the Obama administration] have the theory of the case down, they’ll be driven willy-nilly from one side to the other like the Carter administration,” added Edelman.

Eagleburger also scoffed at the idea that a renewed bond between the U.S. and our European allies would increase our chances of success in Afghanistan. “If we have any confidence in our European allies helping us in Afghanistan with anything more than a Boy Scout platoon, then we are whistling Dixie,” he remarked.

Currently, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries combined have contributed roughly 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, while the U.S. has contributed 38,000. In response to Obama’s pledge of 17,000 additional U.S. troops, the NATO allies have pledged 5,000 and are hesitant about sending more, reported [3] Richard Wolf of USA Today on April 4th. As for the former Secretary of State’s opinion on the new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Eagleburger called her “a very tough cookie” and said that he thought she would have success working with Obama.

Eagleburger and Edelman were at the Brookings Institution to discuss the book Presidential Command: Power, Leadership and the Making of Foreign Policy from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush, written by the late Peter Rodman and released last January.