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Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby is an anthropologist and psychoanalyst globally recognized as an expert on leadership. He is the author of The Leaders We Need, And What Makes Us Follow.

Hated Invaders

Let us imagine President Obama decides it is not in the national interest to stay in Afghanistan. He will need compelling reasons to back up that decision, but whatever he says, he should be prepared to answer critics who will argue that he is wrong, that his decision will seriously damage national security.

Supporters of our Afghanistan engagement will point out that we have not achieved our original goal of capturing Osama and wiping out al-Qaeda. They will predict that our leaving will increase the recruitment of terrorists, that as our prestige and credibility suffer, our friends will lose confidence in our commitments to them, and that terrorists will become stronger in Pakistan raising the possibility of their gaining control of nuclear weapons.

Obama might answer that al-Qaeda has been damaged by our missiles, not our troops who are fighting a different war with no foreseeable end. Furthermore, there are al-Qaeda cells in many countries; the planning for 9/11 took place in Hamburg, Germany. We will continue to attack the bases in the Afghanistan and Pakistan mountains from our ships and bases, and we will continue to seek and destroy al-Qaeda cells and terrorists who plan to harm us, wherever they are.

As for terrorist recruitment, those with the most experience in Afghanistan believe terrorism will be promoted rather than contained by placing more troops in that country. The claim that we'll lose prestige and credibility is not supported by history. The U.S .did not lose its friends in Asia by leaving Vietnam, where we were supporting, as now in Afghanistan, a corrupt government against an insurgency with deep roots in the country. Many people in Afghanistan fear and hate the Taliban, but many hate us even more as invaders.

There is no way to prove predictions of what will happen if we remove our troops from Afghanistan. The president has to weigh all the views and information available before deciding what is in the national interest. The decision to leave will also require a strategy for leaving. Ideally, the U.S. and our allies would be able to engage the Taliban leadership in negotiations so that in exchange for our leaving, they would agree to a truce. A goal of negotiations should be their agreement to stop supporting al-Qaeda, which has a different purpose from theirs. We could offer to continue economic support which would be much less costly than waging a never-ending war.

Even if Obama persuades the majority of Americans that a change in strategy is based on the best assessment of the national interest, he will be attacked by Republicans who will see a political opportunity to label him as weak and by neo-con idealists who believe we can remake the world in our image. These are some of the same people who predicted we would be hailed in Iraq as liberators. Obama will need to educate the American public that we live in a multi-cultural world, that our ability to influence others is significant but limited, and that we undermine our prestige and our own values by trying to force them on others.

By Michael Maccoby

 |  September 22, 2009; 1:11 PM ET
Category:  Wartime Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: The Right Decision | Next: Facing Up to Facts


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5 more Americans killed in Afghanistan while Obama pushes for government healthcare. Someone needs to tell him that he is the Commander in Chief!! Then tell him that the American people don't want government run healthcare!!

Posted by: CayC | September 25, 2009 1:32 PM
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"The Japanese fighters attacked a military base, as is admissible under international law,"

Really? International law condones surprise military strikes and starting wars? Even if you don't care about the thousands that perished in Pearl Harbor, plenty more died as a result of Japanese agression in WWII. You don't seem to mind they started the war, you only seem to object that others chose to fight back.

" as compared to nuking TWO entire cities in 3 days, and disrupting ALL civilian activity indefinitely,"

Actually those cities are alive and well today. In any case, the alternative was an invasion of Japan which would have cost many more lives. Your whole statement is a bit myopic.

Posted by: RealChoices | September 23, 2009 9:11 PM
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The author wrote: "If Japan had considered surrender a day or two earlier - we never would have dropped an A-bomb on them."

--What a load of crapola! This guy can't be serious! WHAAAAAT?!!! Man, this is total nonsense!

We totally lined up the cards so as to get to drop "Little Boy" and "Fat Man" on the innocent populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It is SOOOOOOO TOTALLY DISINGENEOUS for this guy to claim that we nuked Japan because they were in the wrong!!! OMG!!! The Japanese fighters attacked a military base, as is admissible under international law, as compared to nuking TWO entire cities in 3 days, and disrupting ALL civilian activity indefinitely, in violation of international law and against every moral code of conduct.

What a load of crapola!

Who are these writers? Where do they come from? Do they REALLY believe that we are as stupid as they're advertising? What the...?!!!

Incredible! DUDE: We nuked the people to express our willingness to destroy entire nations in retaliation for an internationally recognized, lawful attack on a military installation.

We behaved like cowards. The world may NEVER forgive us for this reckless act.

Maybe we should consider making amends, instead of pretending that we NEVER DID ANYTHING WRONG.

OMG!, this is bllshyte!

Posted by: jewishmother | September 23, 2009 4:07 AM
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The reason that I would urge Pres Obama to give as to why to wind down the war in Afghanistan is simply that, the reason that we invaded was because Bin Laden and his group were there as guests of the Taliban who refused to turn them over.
Soon after we invaded, Bin Laden and his posse high tailed it for Pakistan to hide. In a classic case of mission creep, are mission in Afghanistan morphed from #1 getting Bin Laden, to #2, wiping out the Taliban, and to #3, turning Afghanistan into a western style democracy. Mind you, #2 and #3 are certainly good ideas, but, lets keep our eye on the target. Bin Laden, the guy responsible for 9/11, you remember him right?

Posted by: rkerg | September 23, 2009 1:33 AM
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Obama doesn't have to explain zip. There are always dozens of rationalizations to remain in an unwinnable war or any war for that matter.

If Japan had considered surrender a day or two earlier - we never would have dropped an A-bomb on them. There are always stupid rationalizations: honor, duty, national pride, die for the emperor, etc.

Remaining too long in Afghanistan is pointless and futile. Every loss of life is tragic if they die for nothing.

Posted by: alance | September 23, 2009 1:06 AM
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Good morning Afghanistan.

Posted by: smorrow | September 22, 2009 11:05 PM
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Who was alive during Vietnam, and who wasn't? If you are to young to know about Vietnam, it may be time do to some research. Centuries of conflict in this region, and no changes in their behavior. Why are we so easily cowed, that a single day of terrorism against us would lead to 10 years of war, with no end in sight? Where is our courage? Yes, 9/11 was a horrible affront to a superpower, but less powerful nations have suffered much worse, and shrugged it off. We will be at war in 2020 if we don't learn how to say 'enough.'

Posted by: PostBad887 | September 22, 2009 10:21 PM
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Per Conservatives we CAN NOT affort to ensure that every American has health insurance.

But, We CAN afford to spend billions on endless foreign wars with no formal plan to bring them to a close.

I am not saying we should just pack up and leave tomorrow but it is certainly stunning how "conservatives" will give full indefinite support, no matter the cost to anything involving a gun, but not to basic medical care.

Posted by: case3 | September 22, 2009 10:15 PM
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The knee jerk reaction from the left is as predictable as it is dangerous. News flash: Japan attacked us. After we bombed us they surrendered and haven't attacked us since.

9/11 happened because al-qaeda had a safe haven in Afghanistan in which to launch attacks. Obama says his goal is to prevent the Taliban from having a safe haven in Afghanistan and yet he halts the bombing of Taliban sanctuaries because he doesn't want to harm "civilians". Dropping a bomb on Hitler in 1939 would have saved the lives of approximately 50 million people but following the logic of the Obama left we should not have done it if we would have killed some Hitler supporters in the process.

Obama is not a wartime president.

Posted by: alstl | September 22, 2009 8:44 PM
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When Obama pulls us out of Afghanistan and the Taliban and AlQueda take control, I would like to nominate the following santuary cities to get obliterated by a nuclear weapon: Portland, OR; Boulder, CO; San Francisco, CA; Minneapolis, MN; Seattle, WA.

Posted by: Dodgers1 | September 22, 2009 8:37 PM
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We have chosen the wrong side to start with. We should have gone with India and beaten up Pakistan. Pakistan is Taliban and Pakistan is AlQaeda. ISI is the eye and ear of AlQaeda and Taliban. To dupe the world Pakistan, from time to time, keeps publishing a news article or two telling the world how much the Pakistan army hates Taliban - yeah right! If you ever wonder where the Taliban get funds from - its right from us via Pakistan.

Posted by: dillu | September 22, 2009 7:57 PM
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We have chosen the wrong side to start with. We should have gone with India and beaten up Pakistan. Pakistan is Taliban and Pakistan is AlQaeda. ISI is the eye and ear of AlQaeda and Taliban. To dupe the world Pakistan, from time to time, keep publishing a news article or two telling the world how much the Pakistan army hates Taliban - yeah right! If you ever wonder where the Taliban get funds from - its right from us via Pakistan.

Posted by: dillu | September 22, 2009 7:56 PM
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The mujahadeen could not have forced the Russian army out of Afghanistan without the US supplying them. Likewise, the Taliban and al Qaeda cannot defeat or trap the US in Afghanistan without someone supplying them. The administration needs to have a concerted effort at disrupting the flow of arms, ammunition and explosives to the Taliban and al Qaeda. What countries and organizations are sending them supplies? What is the role of Pakistan's intelligence service, ISI?

Posted by: dwerder1 | September 22, 2009 7:20 PM
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The three primary adversarial groups that General McCrystal identified in his "confidential" paper have sanctuary in Pakistan, with a wink and nod from the Pakistani ISI. The opportunity for acquiring a dirty nuclear device for a terrorist attack resides in Pakistan. The Taliban could not have existed in the first place except for the support of Pakistan.

All the while, we have extended billions of dollars of aid to Pakistan for the purpose of influencing and directing that country to "fight terrorism". Pakistan is America's version of a two headed mythical monster.

When former President Bush made his address to the American people in 2001 advocating the invasion of Afghanistan in order to capture or kill Bin Laden, his descriptions of the public executions and punishments meted out by the Taliban could easily applied to Saudi Arabia.

We can pump all the resources McCrystal wants in Afghanistan and accomplish nothing. The problem is in Pakistan, and militarily and diplomatically, that country is essentially untouchable.

Posted by: MillPond2 | September 22, 2009 6:30 PM
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The editorial suggests that President Obama has to state a reason why US armed forces should withdraw from Afghanistan. Well the same toddler that could have told President Truman the disservice he will do to the world and USA by continuing pounding on Japan in the summer of 1945 could probably enlighten both President Obama and the Pentagon hawks the futility of continuing bombing and killing Afghan farmers

Posted by: clark010 | September 22, 2009 6:00 PM
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I disagree with the premise, which is: the current solution will lead to resolution.

It reminds me of something a True Believer once said about Lenin (I'll have to paraphrase)

Lenin was a forward looking genius. We know this because some of the things he predicted have not even happened yet!

Last night I had meat loaf for dinner, tonight pork chops. This is not to be construed as a reversal of policy.

Posted by: gannon_dick | September 22, 2009 5:33 PM
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What we do know Barry Obama, Soroeto, Dunham, as an NPD sociopathic dual profile will do, is seek to be in the limelight and spotlight.

The recent volley of face time right down to looking at photo's of himself on Letterman, is now going to have a several episode binge on a sitcom.

This of course will happen sometime in between placing marines in villages as POTUS, then attacking those villages as the UN Security Counsil chairman using Nato.

Of course that come in between all the Ramadan Celebrations from the Sept. 1, 2009 dinner at the Whitehouse to the prayers 5 times a day over taking the DC Government buildings.

He only has to save the planet from all the earthlings, and their bad influence here, and choose all the new leadership and ballot candidates on every level in each State.


If Congress will not place him on medical stand down for the NPD sociopathic dual profiles, the people will have to Redress the Fed. seated 2009.

Then if Hollywood needs him, or the UN still wants the JOKER, he can do that on an out patient basis.

Posted by: dottydo | September 22, 2009 5:01 PM
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Look, if the US is fighting their war
for them: the Afghanis are certainly
going to let us continue doing it
until the cows come home--

This is NOT like the Germans running
over Poland--this is fighting one bunch
of Afghanis on behalf on the other bunch
of Afghanis. This is not a war with an end
to it whichever side we pick to "defend"
is going to halt all its efforts and go about
its daily living until they actually HAVE to
fight (meaning: after we leave). And,
frankly, can one really blame them?!?

S D Rodrian


Posted by: sdr1 | September 22, 2009 4:53 PM
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Here it is, plain and simple:

1. These people have no idea what democracy means, nor do they care to know.

2. We can kill them one by one from now until eternity, but there will be more where they came from.

3. The crux of the problem is our mere presence in the region.

4. As long as we unequivocally support Israel, we are doomed to be targets of the terrorists.

5. Terrorism is not a nation whose army can be engaged in battle. It is a concept. You cannot kill it.

Here's what we have to do:

1. Pull all troops home from everywhere.

2. Declare that nations are responsible for their own defense, and drop the idea of humanitarian aid. Let the war, pestilence, disease, and what not take its toll on the mongrel races.

3. Tell the would-be power centers such as Iran, that they can do whatever they want without our interference.

4. Let Iran and the others destroy one another, because they are genetically programmed to blindly hate and blame others for their own stupid actions.

5. After it's all over, the US and it's key allies, including the likes of Russia and China vaporizes the remnants, seizes all the natural resources for the mutual benefit of the survivors, and we live happily ever after.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | September 22, 2009 4:30 PM
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When did a mighty nation become easily frightened by uncertainty and incredulous of fact the Afghan war offers no security?

I well remember the Domino theory; 58,000 young American men died because the lie was accepted as fact. The Vietnam war reached point, if only one more sacrifice was needed to win, it was not worth the young man's life. When that point was reached is matter of personal opinion; nevertheless America faces same question of worth in continuing the Afghan war. Young men will continue to die is the only certainty of war; without hint of certainty life cost ensures American security.

Posted by: JohnDebba | September 22, 2009 4:23 PM
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Obama believes the best way to make America peaceful is to squander all our wealth on cap and trade, swine flu vaccine, health care reform and the war in Afghanistan.

Electing Obama president is the equivalent of giving David Hasselhoff the nation's largest chain of liquor stores.

Posted by: alance | September 22, 2009 4:13 PM
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You wanna know why the strategy in Afghanistan is not working?
Ask the Texas Moron, Dumbsfeld, and Dick-Head Cheney. These three stooges, for years, were fighting the wrong war, at the wrong place for the wrong reasons.
Only NOW you ask why is not working. Where the F have you been the last eight years?

Posted by: analyst72 | September 22, 2009 4:12 PM
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This notion that the presence of foreign troops in a Muslim country promotes the recruiting of terrorists puzzles me. More troops, more recruiting we are told.

So if we withdraw every single troop, every cook and bottle washer from every Western nation from every country where Muslims live, then terrorism goes poof! and disappears?

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | September 22, 2009 4:06 PM
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Surely there are enough Muslims serving in the American and NATO forces that fellow Muslims could be assigned to the most sensitive areas as the visible face of the occupation. If they're privates, promote them to sergeants and place them in a special position where they have the appearance of authority, for Pete's sake. Then, we need more specially trained personnel- preferably special ops, but something less than that if not enough special ops personnel are available- to work in the countryside. These personnel should also be encouraged to convert to Islam, or at least to learn enough so that they could pass for Muslim if asked. They should also be trained in one or more of the local languages. These are not impossible tasks for the US military to accomplish.
That's the way this war could be won, not by sending about more "infidel" troops rolling around in heavy vehicles and bombing villages.

Posted by: ripvanwinkleincollege | September 22, 2009 3:52 PM
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Invaders are always hated. Do you think the people of the Philippine Islands loved us when we attacked them in 1898? Does anyone think the Korean People loved us in 1950? Or the Vietnamese Welcomed us in 1965?
No one wants soldiers of a foreign nation on their soil. You can bet the average person scratching for a living in Afghanistan wants us out of their country too.

Posted by: jrnberrycharternet | September 22, 2009 3:24 PM
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The Afghan war may've been the right one in 2001. We won, by the way, in December of that year.
Getting Bin Laden was right in the Spring of 2002 - we lost that one.
But now, going on its 9th year, this "right war" has morphed and mission-crept into an occupation.
That's what's wrong.

Posted by: Davidd1 | September 22, 2009 3:03 PM
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After 9/11, America with it's allies could have went to Afghanistan and took it apart looking for Bin Ladin. 8 years later, it's a different story. The people in this region must first take up their own arms, and want change. This last election should alert us that it is a long uphill battle. It is not our place to police the world. Greater regulation at home is necessary. The boarders and entry points is where our security starts. Europe, and Asia have a greater interest in the out in these countries. Bringing Bin Ladin to trial is one thing, rebuilding another in a long list of country's is quite something else.

Posted by: dbwsr | September 22, 2009 3:02 PM
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Such a genius.

So I get the latest super computer and I type in 2 plus 2 equals..and get 22.

Time to unplug this "expert."

Posted by: GaryEMasters | September 22, 2009 2:43 PM
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The short version: You think campaigning is tough? Try having to lead.

Peter is spot-on: Obama campaigned himself right into this mess. What's especially funny is he needn't have done so. For whom else was the far left going to vote, McCain? Not a chance. Obama could have easily demurred as to what is the 'most important' of the two theaters of war, and still captured every far left vote. After election he could have then easily walked away from one or both wars, but he was so intent on tapping into the intense hatred of Bush that he (or more likely, Axelrod) obviously didn't think his strategy through to the end. Now it's come back to bite him and his naivete is obvious.

Posted by: flintston | September 22, 2009 2:33 PM
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Bush did what he thought was best, for whatever reasons that were presented to him by his advisors...Obama will do the same no doubt, but this constant back biting has to stop! Don't go waiting for another 9/11 style strike to work together as Americans, stop the partisan name calling and work together NOW!!!

Posted by: MichaelB3 | September 22, 2009 2:33 PM
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Two things about leaving Afghanistan without defeating the Taliban bother me. First, not to resurrect the Domino theory, but the nukes in Pakistan falling into Taliban hands is a chilling thought. Secondly, it's chilling because I believe that the Taliban are religious Nazis. Try to remember what the Afghans suffered under Taliban rule including stoning as a method of executing for certain crimes. Try to remember that their allegiance to Islam precluded any international responsibilities.

Finally, you view is apparently the Liberal view and not nonpartisan. I don't think I was avail myself of your services.

We need a plan for defeating the Taliban and it of necessity must include nation building.

Posted by: Auburninbp | September 22, 2009 2:25 PM
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Oh come on. He wasn't hawkish enough and now he's too hawkish. Getting elected is one thing. Running the show quite another. Imagine after the Iranians are through dissing us for leaving, the Republicans shouting the sky is falling, the Taliban and al Qaeda falling all over themselves to mock and bomb us we find that we are better off. Or did no one see the Vietnam movie. Yeah, the classic war of attrition. US loses 50,000 troops, real people to Agent Orange. Millions are murdered in the Killing Fields. And China reduces population explosion by gladly sending troops to war. In a war of attrition you have to have something to lose. They have suicide bombers. We have nukes. Sorry the answer is not here, but it's better than Obama and Bush.

Posted by: KraftPaper | September 22, 2009 2:09 PM
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Um ... nah. Obama's biggest problem is not having to "answer critics who will argue that ..... his decision will seriously damage national security." Rather, his problem is that is that he himself has been one of leading and most vocal proponents of the position that "winning" in Afghanistan -- which he has routinely defined as establishing a stable, democratic, economically viable nation state in Afghanistan whose government is not under the sway of the Taliban -- is absolutely essential to the security of the United States.

His dilemma lies in the fact that, deliberately taking his cue from the Bush-hatred blinded character of the Democrat party, he unwisely made selling Afghanistan as the "right" and "necessary" war -- explicitly contrasting it to the leftist-spittle inducing war in Iraq -- a cornerstone of his presidential campaign. In short, he campaigned himself deep into a nasty policy corner.

Obama has to find a way to admit that he either (a) was dead wrong about a very, very important policy issue, or (b) used that policy position merely as a way to secure the votes of leftist, Bush-hating liberal democrats, without believing it himself. Either way, we should look forward to sitting back and enjoying what will be quite a combined tightrope and sleight of hand act by the President and his spokespeople. Lot's of wriggling to come!

Peter Yellman

Posted by: pyellman | September 22, 2009 1:54 PM
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