CAP, Iraq, and Afghanistan

I don’t want to put words into any of my colleagues’ mouths or presume to speak for CAP/AF as an institution, but this John Nichols item bothered me:

In a no-holds-barred critique of groups that earned their reputations as critics of the rush to invade and occupy Iraq, Stauber argues that the Obama administration has effectively co-opted some of the nation’s most high-profile anti-war groups.

And here’s Stauber:

John Podesta’s liberal think tank the Center for American Progress strongly supports Barack Obama’s escalation of the US wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is best evidenced by Sustainable Security in Afghanistan, a CAP report by Lawrence J. Korb. Podesta served as the head of Obama’s transition team, and CAP’s support for Obama’s wars is the latest step in a successful co-option of the US peace movement by Obama’s political aids and the Democratic Party.

CAP and the five million member liberal lobby group MoveOn were behind Americans Against Escalation in Iraq (AAEI), a coalition that spent tens of millions of dollars using Iraq as a political bludgeon against Republican politicians, while refusing to pressure the Democratic Congress to actually cut off funding for the war. AAEI was operated by two of Barack Obama’s top political aids, Steve Hildebrand and Paul Tewes, and by Brad Woodhouse of Americans United for Change and USAction.

I don’t think Obama’s agenda in Afghanistan, or the report on Afghan policy that Larry Korb wrote with Caroline Wadhams, Colin Cookman, and Sean Duggan should be above criticism. Indeed, the report differs from Obama in several respects — it calls for more troops than Obama — and neither it nor the administration’s policy perfectly mirrors my thinking. I know various people in the building have various different views on this.


But the implication from Nichols and Stauber that this is part of some insidious Obama-led plot to “co-opt” people is pretty unreasonable. Quite a bit before Barack Obama ever proposed withdrawal from Iraq, Korb and Brian Katulis and others at CAP were calling for withdrawal from Iraq and more troops for Afghanistan. Eventually, Obama came to adopt a similar position. And all through the campaign Obama consistently called for an influx of additional troops to Afghanistan. And Korb’s papers for CAP have, consistently, been calling for the same. From 2005’s “Strategic Redeployment” to 2006’s “Strategic Redeployment 2.0” to 2007’s “Strategic Reset” and “The Forgotten Front”. That’s his position. You can assess the arguments on the merits, and take issue with it if you want, but “withdraw from Iraq and send more troops to Afghanistan” is a policy he was supporting long before it became conventional wisdom in the Democratic Party, it’s not something CAP cooked up to help Obama “co-opt” anyone.