Updated: ‘Does It Really, Really Take 100,000 U.S. Troops To Find Osama bin Laden?’

Constitution,Democrats,Federalism,Foreign Policy,Race,Republicans,Terrorism


Democratic Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), “a stern constitutional scholar who has always stood up for the legislative branch in its role in checking the power of the White House,” has warned consistently about Obama’s executive-branch power grab. And he did the same during the Bush era.

The frail senator took to the floor of the United States Senate on October the 14th, “to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and voice his concerns over the possibility of a major increase in U.S. forces into Afghanistan”:

“General McChrystal, our current military commander in Afghanistan, has requested 30,000-40,000 additional American troops to bolster the more than 65,000 American troops already there. I am not clear as to his reasons and I have many, many questions. What does General McChrystal actually aim to achieve?”

“So I am compelled to ask: does it really, really take 100,000 U.S. troops to find Osama bin Laden? If al Qaeda has moved to Pakistan what will these troops in Afghanistan add to the effort to “defeat” al Qaeda? What is really meant by the term “defeat” in the parlance of conventional military aims when facing a shadowy global terrorist network? And, what of this number 100,000? Does the number of 100,000 troops include support personnel? Does it include government civilians? Does it include defense and security contractors? How many contractors are already there in Afghanistan? How much more will all this cost? How much in dollars; how much in terms of American blood? Will the international community step up to the plate and bear a greater share of the burden?”

“Some in Congress talk about limiting the number of additional troops until we “surge to train” more Afghan defense forces. That sounds a lot like fence straddling to me. I suggest that we might better refocus our efforts on al Qaeda and reduce U.S. participation in nation building in Afghanistan. Given the lack of popularity and integrity of the current Afghan government, what guarantee is there that additional Afghan troops and equipment will not produce an even larger and better-armed hostile force? There ain’t no guarantee. The lengthy presence of foreign troops in a sovereign country almost always creates resentment and resistance among the native population.”

“I am relieved to hear President Obama acknowledge “mission creep” and I am pleased to hear the President express skepticism about sending more troops into Afghanistan unless needed to achieve our primary goal of disrupting al Qaeda. I remain concerned that Congress may yet succumb to military and international agendas. General Petraeus and General McChrystal both seem to have bought into the nation-building mission. By supporting a nationwide counterinsurgency and nation-building strategy, I believe they have certainly lost sight of America’s primary strategic objective – – namely to disrupt and de-fang al Qaeda and protect the American people from future attack.”

“President Obama and the Congress must reassess and refocus on our original and most important objective — namely emasculating a terrorist network that has proved its ability to inflict harm on the United States. If more troops are required to support an international mission in Afghanistan, then the international community should step up and provide the additional forces and funding. The United States is already supplying a disproportionate number of combat assets for that purpose.”


Republicans are forever maligning this old Southern gentleman for his past peccadilloes (although when Senator Trent Lott was lanced for so-called racial indiscretions, Republicans, “principled” folks that they are, defended him).

Perhaps if Republicans adopted Byrd’s skepticism of war for the sake of war, and rediscovered authentic Taft Republicanism—they might even deserve to win the next election.

Update (Oct. 19): I notice that a reader, hereunder, insists, that attacking Byrd’s present policy positions for distant past indiscretions (in the 40s or 50s?) is intellectually honest. Moreover, conveniently—but predictably—left unaddressed is the Lott episode and other violations by Republicans against the racial police.

11 thoughts on “Updated: ‘Does It Really, Really Take 100,000 U.S. Troops To Find Osama bin Laden?’

  1. M. B. Moon

    “Perhaps if Republicans adopted Byrd’s skepticism of war for the sake of war, and rediscovered authentic Taft Republicanism—they might even deserve to win the next election.” Ilana

    How would we ever know? Republicans merely want power so Democrats won’t have it. They will lie to get power.

    I have more hope that a Democrat will see the light than a Republican.

    It seems to me that Republicans are deluded since they must justify Lincoln which requires extreme mental gymnastics.

    That party should just dissolve in shame, destroyed by a good ole Southern boy (Bush).

  2. james huggins

    It seems to me that we have mucked about
    long enough in the muslim mess of the mideast,South asia etc. If we feel the need to go there with troops then let’s go there, get done what needs to get done and get out. Nation building in a place where people don’t think like we do is a lost cause. If we came away from the latest “stan” of our involvement and left a thriving western styled democracy it would soon melt away. A western democracy in a country without running water or electric lights is a pipe dream.

  3. Myron Pauli

    Terrorists can hide in shacks in Montana, Motel 6’s, and apartments in Hamburg. There are supposedly 100 AlQuedians in Afghanistan and it is absurd to think that 100,000 or 500,000 troops can root out every thug from every cave.

    Hooray for Byrd – it is CONGRESS which under Article 1 Section 8 has the power to declare war. Unfortunately, the bulk of the Congress is a corrupt doormat willing to give a blank check to whatever Kommandant-in-Chief rules as long as they can earmark for their funding bundlers.

    We could send 500,000 Americans over there and kill at a ratio of 50:1 and when we leave, Afghanistan will still be a dysfunctional collection of corrupt, Medieval, sexist, Islamic-fanatic, drug-dealing warlords. We’re watching a pathetic remake of the Vietnam movie starring the dithering Nobleman Obama lacking the guts to advocate withdrawing from one of the least significant countries on this planet. Reagan might have been a doofus for going into Lebanon but when he figured out that no one had a damn clue how to “win” (whatever the hell “win” means???), he invaded Grenada in a diversionary move and GOT OUT!

    We need a better principled foreign policy.

  4. David Smith

    Subscribing to the “originalist” view of the Constitution – as I’m sure most here do – I am skeptical about Sen. Byrd’s being a “stern constitutional scholar”, or at least the kind of scholar I could agree with. However, I must admit that I totally concur with his thinking expressed here. I must also admit (confess?) that for the last couple of years or so, I have become increasingly disturbed with the true direction we’ve taken with our two-front “war”. I say I’m an “originalist”; yet how does nation-building fit any original understanding of the government’s constitutional mandate to “provide for the common defense”? I and many Americans who think of ourselves as conservative believed and supported our war efforts, believing they were ultimately about defending our country, defending our kith and kin. I fear I/we have been and are inconsistent in that thinking. We need to wake up, reevaluate, and listen to any source, be it Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or Independent, so long as it is consistent with our true constitutional values.

    And, yes, I know, Mrs. Mercer, I believe you have made a convincing case elsewhere that the Articles of Confederation were far better than the Constitution – and I think I agree – but as much as it has been flouted and ignored (steamrolled?) for longer than most will acknowledge or admit, it is the semblance of the Constitution’s framework and structure that still exists, and to which many of us have given our oaths at one time or another to “. . . protect and defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

  5. Gringo Malo

    Does the government really want to find Osama Bin Laden? After all, he plays The Boogeyman better than Bela Lugosi played Count Dracula. His visage is more menacing than Christopher Lee’s. He’s already frightened the American sheeple into accepting the TSA’s outrageous searches of airline passengers, the FBI’s eavesdropping on personal communications, and the odious Know Your Customer regulations that require our banks to spy on us. The guy is a government press agent’s dream.

    Suppose that Bin Laden were captured and confined in an American prison (a fate worse than death). Then the government would need to create a whole new publicity campaign for the new boogeyman. With Osama already doing such a bang-up job, it seems a great deal of unnecessary trouble and expense. Besides, Osama’s successor might not have the same star power. He might be some pudgy old duffer who looks like the geenie in an animated verson of Arabian Nights. Who the hell needs that?

  6. Hugo Schmidt

    Republicans are forever maligning this old Southern gentleman for his past peccadilloes

    That would be being an “Exalted Cyclops” in the KKK, yes?

  7. Bob Harrison

    Bob Byrd might have every slab of concrete in West Virginia named after him, but he seems like one of the only politicians left who cares about the Constitution and the separation of powers. While most of the democrats who protested Bush’s excesses fell silent with the arrival of Obama, Byrd continues to speak out against the wars and the “czars.” I fear his was the last generation that thought the constitution was more than an 18th century relic.

  8. CM Collins

    The debate between counter-insurgency (lotsa troops) and counter-terrorism (not so much) (as exemplified currently by, e.g. Ralph Peters vs. Nagl), strikes me as BS. It’s a trap. Agree to 30,000 troops and three months later they’ll be a car-bomb emergency in whoknowswhereistan province requiring another, temporary, emergency, just-for-now-but-really-forever-brigade. Why do we care? Leave. We’ve still got what, a dozen carrier groups. We hear or see some crap going on down the road we can always go back. Same goes for Iraq. BTW, this costs a lot of money and we’re going broke.

  9. CM Collins

    PS: Pardon me, but I flip-flopped the parallelism. Nagl is US Major John Nagl, Ret. = counter-insurgency = lotsa troops; Peters = counter-terrorism = not so much.

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