Glenn Greenwald, in his usual trenchant fashion, offers some observations on Obama’s actions in regard to Gaza and Afghanistan. One of the objects of his ire is Claire McCaskill, whom he describes as “absurdly evasive” on the Afghanistan issue in an interview (video below, about 2 minutes in) with Rachael Maddow, whom he praises for asking what he considers to be the right questions:
Based on this video, I have to say that I don’t find McCaskill especially evasive, nor do I think Maddow’s questions especially probing. One could, of course, make the case that McCaskill’s answers are superficial, or that she does not give the “right” answer, but they do seem to me to be reasonable responses to the questions Maddow asks. Am I getting soft-headed in my old age? I will grant that McCaskill has impressed me in the past as being very skilled at deflecting questions, so perhaps it is true that I am missing something that ought to be obvious.
Maddow first asks McCaskill how we can be successful in Afghanistan if we do what the Russians did, i.e., use their supply routes. Admittedly I am not an authority on the Russian/Afghan war, but I do believe that the Russian failure in Afghanistan was the result of many complex factors and not necessarily attributable to their supply routes–or at least not just to their supply routes.
It is true that McCaskill’s response did not address the premises of the question, which I consider highly speculative as well as a back-door way to bring up the propriety of our presence in Afghanistan. I don’t blame McCaskill for not biting. Her response addressed the issue of what we need to do if we are going to continue our presence in Afghanistan, no more, no less; she stated that our forces need to be supplied and that the Khyber pass is no longer reliable for this purpose while the Russian routes now seem viable. All well and good, given the question.
Maddow then brought up the need to define goals versus tactics in Afghanistan, and the related question of counter-insurgency versus counter-terrorism. McCaskill responded to both issues pretty unequivocally, expressing her belief that the U.S. needs to limit itself to counter-terrorism efforts and not undertake the nation-building that counter-insurgency requires. She also emphasized the Obama administration’s intention to internationalize this effort. One may agree with this course of action or not, but expressing it seems far from evasive to me.
I do think that there are questions that have to be asked about our involvement in Afghanistan–many of which Greenwald touches upon in his post–but I am not sure that Maddow asked those questions of McCaskill in this interview–at least not directly. Consequently, I am not inclined to skewer McCaskill over her answers. I should also add that I only dwell on McCaskill’s performance here because I am still trying to make up my mind about her before 2010–so your insights would be more than welcome.