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Question: How would you advise Obama on Afghanistan?

Ed Koch: Well, I believe Mr. President, that if you don't exercise your authority to get out of Afghanistan, you will: a) suffer an enormous defeat in the Congressional election next year, and may very well go down as a one-term President. I think you made a terrible mistake and I've always believed that when you conclude you’ve made a mistake, correct it if you possibly can, and in this case you can.

Our allies are deserting us. You tout the fact that something like 40 or more countries are allied with us, we have currently 68,000 troops there that are American. I think that the total number of NATO troops from a lot of European countries don't total anything like 68,000 and also, the papers are replete with comments that Canada and the Dutch intend to bring their forces home and that will be the case with a whole host of other countries and even countries that are there don't want to be engaged in combat. They want American troops to do the combat. They would prefer less dangerous work. That's the German troops that are there would prefer less dangerous work. And the French aren't there at all, I don't think, and said they are not coming.

So, we can't depend on the allies of NATO that swore a blood oath and it's one for all and all for one, like the Three Musketeers. And so, they want us to pull the chestnuts of the world out of the fire and we don't have the young men and women to sacrifice for that and we don't have the treasure to spend on that.

Question: Is the war in Afghanistan winnable?

Ed Koch: Well, most people say Alexander the Great couldn't win in Afghanistan and left it. And we know the British certainly left it. And the Russians who were willing to use any kind of mechanism, torture at the very beginning and work your way up ultimately with over 100,000 troops ultimately had to concede defeat and walked out of Afghanistan. There's nothing there worth having.

Question: Are there any circumstances where we should be at war with Afghanistan?

Ed Koch:I believe the current war in Afghanistan and in Iraq – in Afghanistan it’s a war in support of a corrupt leader of his people who has his own family problems. His brother is allegedly very much involved in the drug trade, why should we spending the blood of young American men and women to keep this government that is corrupt in power?

Of course, if they become a threat to us should we leave? And I hope we leave, and do it as quickly as possible; I would be for starting it tomorrow. And we bomb them, and we send in Special Forces. But I don't believe that we should be involved in a land war. And when the President had his speech at West Point, he didn't convince me, and I don't think he convinced a lot of people, some of course he did, that this was a war of necessity. I'm not saying that we shouldn't be involved and protect ourselves, but I don't think it has to be via a land war. And more important than Afghanistan, everybody says, and I agree, is Pakistan. And we don't have troops in Pakistan. We bomb them. And maybe we should bomb them more in the areas where the Taliban and Al Qaeda are situated.

More from the Big Idea for Monday, July 26 2010

 

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