November 21, 2009

Desperate Times, Foolish Measures

Senator Carl Levin has injected a potentially explosive idea into the debate over Afghanistan. The chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee proposed in a Bloomberg interview, "an additional income tax to the upper brackets, folks earning more than $200,000 or $250,000.”

“They have done incredibly well," Levin said of wealthier Americans, "and I think that it’s important that we pay for it [the war] if we possibly can."

But his strategy doesn’t appear to have any upside and comes off as desperation, not innovation. Levin staunchly opposes a troop build-up, preaching the Afghan National Army as a viable alternate. The plan itself was a no-go from the beginning - the ANA is years away from assuming control of Afghanistan.

Just to be sure, Defense Secretary Robert Gates squashed any chance of the ANA substituting for additional US troops.

Realizing his primary option has failed, Levin fell back to an even more precarious scheme - taxing the rich to pay for a war. His actions telegraph an unwillingness to fight in Afghanistan, or rather, a willingness to cheat it. Having denounced inflating the federal deficit with war, what good is draining 40$ billion private capital from the US economy?

"White House Budget Director Peter Orszag has estimated that each additional soldier in Afghanistan could cost $1 million, for a total that could reach $40 billion if 40,000 more troops are added," Bloomberg reported.

Add untold billions for ANA training, reconstruction projects, and civilian support, multiply by 5-10 years, and we're looking at serious coin for COIN. Possibly over a trillion dollars, putting Afghanistan on par with health care.

Wealthy conservatives will oppose this plan under the belief that Republicans are paying for the Democrats' weakness. Being tax averse in general, wealthy and poor conservatives alike will find fault with taxation as the solution to Afghanistan. Wealthy liberals won'’t be any more thrilled paying for neocon warmongering. Poor liberals want America to focus on rebuilding infrastructure and social programs.

Who exactly will support Levin? Asking a small part of the country to fund Afghanistan is a quick way to create more schisms in America.

In another desperate move, Levin, in an crusade to pass the war off to everyone else, said NATO should be responsible for half the troop requirements, an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 troops. Considering that Afghanistan is widely perceived as "America's War" and support is down in Europe, America looks more like a beggar than the general.

Levin issued his standard line to anyone who would listen: “There’s a lot of other things involved in showing resolve beside just a troop level."

Lest he forget, Afghanistan is a counterinsurgency and the perception of America's resolve is judged, at home and abroad, by troop levels. Levin, by trying to dodge them, is showing none.

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