Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tribune on the Afghan War

I had hoped I wouldn’t have to do this, but I just can’t help it. I read the following editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune this morning, November 19, 2009. It could be a parody, a joke of some kind, but I don’t think so.

Afghan war

U. S. should not commit more troops

The cost in blood and treasure is too great. The chance of success, however defined, is too remote. For these reasons, President Obama must not commit more U. S. soldiers to an open-ended war in Afghanistan. Rather, he should begin the diplomatic and military preparations to bring U. S. forces home.

Everyone understands the stakes. Everyone regrets that Osama bin Laden and the other leaders of al-Qaida have eluded capture or death at U.S hands. Everyone understands that as the Americans and their allies leave Afghanistan, civil war will certainly ensue and the Taliban could once again emerge victorious, creating in their wake a new safe haven for al-Qaida and other terrorists.

It is obvious, as well, that Islamist radical pose an existential threat not only to Afghanistan but to neighboring Pakistan, a nuclear-armed state.

But the fundamental; question is whether the American army in Afghanistan helps or hurts U. S. security. It has become increasingly apparent that the ongoing eight-year war there cements hatred of the United States among the Afghans because the Americans are viewed as infidel invaders and occupiers who support a corrupt and illegitimate government. The fraudulent election that returned Hamid Karzai to power has revealed it to be so.

Nor does there appear to be much chance that the war lords the United States put in power during the fighting to topple the Taliban can be dislodged and replaced by a democratically elected government based on some western model or even an Afghan one. Without a legitimate government as a partner, the U.S. effort to pacify the country and somehow protect the civilian population from the predation of the Taliban and tribal warlords is, if not hopeless, a very long shot.

Without a claim on the loyalty of the people, Karzai’s government cannot reasonably be expected to field a notional army and police force capable of protecting them.

Gen. Stanly McChrystal’s request for up to 40,000 more U.S. troops, in addition to the 68,00 already committed, is an honest plan to turn back the Taliban tide and shore up Karzai’s government, but given the political facts of Afghanistan, it is hard to see how it can work.

In addition to the human cost, the price of that effort would be an additional $40 billion to $54 billion a year. Given the weak U.S. economy and trillion-dollar federal deficits, that is more than the American people can afford.

It’s time to plan to get out.

Now with my commentary:

Afghan war

U. S. should not commit more troops

The cost in blood and treasure is too great. The chance of success, however defined, is too remote. For these reasons, President Obama must not commit more U. S. soldiers to an open-ended war in Afghanistan. Rather, he should begin the diplomatic and military preparations to bring U. S. forces home.

Everyone understands the stakes. Everyone regrets that Osama bin Laden and the other leaders of al-Qaida have eluded capture or death at U.S hands. Everyone understands that as the Americans and their allies leave Afghanistan, civil war will certainly ensue and the Taliban could once again emerge victorious, creating in their wake a new safe haven for al-Qaida and other terrorists.

*So let’s just let these things happen? Let’s remember what the Taliban did to the people of Afghanistan: women buried alive for not wearing the right clothing, girls killed for studying, widowed women murdered for trying to get jobs to feed themselves and their children, ancient statues of the Buddha blown up, people beaten to death for listening to music, people executed for teaching or converting to Christianity etc. etc. etc. And don’t we remember what they did to America the last time they had a base in Afghanistan? 9/11 – how can that be better than war?

It is obvious, as well, that Islamist radical pose an existential threat not only to Afghanistan but to neighboring Pakistan, a nuclear-armed state.

*We won’t need to worry about Iran giving the terrorists nukes – they will have their own. Do we really have any doubt where Allah will tell them were to set them off?

But the fundamental; question is whether the American army in Afghanistan helps or hurts U. S. security. It has become increasingly apparent that the ongoing eight-year war there cements hatred of the United States among the Afghans because the Americans are viewed as infidel invaders and occupiers who support a corrupt and illegitimate government.

*As if they didn’t hate us before? Wasn’t 9/11 before we liberated Afghanistan? How much can people hate anyway? The fanatics imagine that God has told them to hate and kill us – is there anything we can do that would make them hate us more. Also the people of Afghanistan, who are not terrorists, want US support and help. It is reasonable to assume that anyone would prefer US liberation to Taliban domination. What Afghans fear most is that we will leave them.

The fraudulent election that returned Hamid Karzai to power has revealed it to be so.

Nor does there appear to be much chance that the war lords the United States put in power during the fighting to topple the Taliban can be dislodged and replaced by a democratically elected government based on some western model or even an Afghan one.

*Karzai’s government isn’t legitimate? What? Was ACORN over there registering dead people? Karzai was constitutionally inaugurated today – note that the people did get to vote for him - something that Mullah Omar never offered them.

Without a legitimate government as a partner, the U.S. effort to pacify the country and somehow protect the civilian population from the predation of the Taliban and tribal warlords is, if not hopeless, a very long shot.

*Was Stalin’s monster dictatorship in the USSR a disqualifier for our support of that nation against the Nazis? According to the Tribune’s logic, we should have left Russia to the Germans, France too for that matter – at least the Vichy variety. We have no memory of history. It’s very hard to find perfect governments to ally with in this world. Just how legitimate is the government of Red China? I must now expect the Tribune to lecture Obama about meeting with Wu.

Without a claim on the loyalty of the people, Karzai’s government cannot reasonably be expected to field a notional army and police force capable of protecting them.

*It seems that China is able to field an army without any legitimacy of government – same with North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela; do I really need to go back to the etc.’s? Seems most of these police states in the world have pretty effective police departments as well.

Gen. Stanly McChrystal’s request for up to 40,000 more U.S. troops, in addition to the 68,00 already committed, is an honest plan to turn back the Taliban tide and shore up Karzai’s government, but given the political facts of Afghanistan, it is hard to see how it can work.

*Should we give up because it’s hard? I wonder what George Washington and the boys at Valley Forge would think of that advice? It seems that the Normandy landing was a little difficult, not to mention the “surge” in Iraq. War is difficult by definition. Easy is writing editorials for a third rate city rag! What kind of county is the Tribune advocating? Is their advice to all people in all circumstances – if the going gets tough give it up?

In addition to the human cost, the price of that effort would be an additional $40 billion to $54 billion a year. Given the weak U.S. economy and trillion-dollar federal deficits, that is more than the American people can afford.

*And how much will the next terror attack cost, what will it cost to rebuild an American city nuked by a Pakistani engineered device? Can anyone remember what 9/11 did to our economy? How much blood and treasure will it cost to go back to Afghanistan to get the terrorist – which the Tribune admits will develop – after their next mass slaughter of Americans, or other western and free people? We are asked to spend trillions for health care for people who won’t buy their own but we are told it is too much to make an investment in world peace, freedom, and the defense of our very way of life. I was brought up believing that Americans would pay millions (billions) for defense and not a cent for tribute. Who is the Tribune working for? What country are they talking about?

I can’ t wait till the Tribune go out of business. I’d cancel my subscription if I had one. I got the paper I read this morning for free – it wasn’t worth the price.

It’s time to plan get out.

*That’s cut and run. Let millions die, let fanaticism and fear grow, let’s be stupid.

13 comments:

Twon said...

This is one thing lysis. News reporters tend to forget what what we fight for. This is a thing i would like to call ignorance. But, the thing is the want reaction out of us. They keep trying to get reactions out of us. This has been happening e3ver since news medias began. What Americans can do though is ignore them. We have to remember what we are fighting for and that is freedom

Alison Conner said...

I have to say that this political post did not make me angry. (Although I still prefer the other type.) I think you are right. I think war is hard and we shouldn’t give up or abandon the people of Afghanistan, or Iraq for that matter. The United States is in the middle of a mess that they are responsible for. (Wither this was good, bad, necessary or not is not the question or the issue anymore. We can not change the cause only deal with the consequences.) I think the United States needs to work with the people and governments of both these countries to help them become free and independent countries. We should be helping them stand strong. I hope this is what we are doing. I hope that their and our security will not become completely dependent on out military presence and financial support. I hope that we can continue to build schools and infrastructure and provide civilian services that will aid the people. I hope that we can get to a point where this is possible. I hope that the United States can do what is best for those we are trying to help, that we can continue to take responsibility for those that are dependent on us and hopeful get to where they can take care of themselves. I don’t know what is best. I don’t know if you do either. I can only hope that those with the knowledge will make the best decision.

Side note: It has been reported by many different news sources and from Afghanistan that the most recent election was probably far from legitimate. There was corruption and fraud, but they have a new president. We need to work with him until the next election. This will hopefully go better. (With the above mentioned aid, schools, roads, etc. I think they will have a better chance.) However, perhaps at this time it is enough that ballots were cast throughout the country. Perhaps it is a good start. It should not be expected that everything will go perfectly just because we want it to. Things take time. (There is still so much growing to do in this country before we are truly free.) Citizens take educating and democracy takes practice.

I love you daddy. Maybe you could but up some more flowers and humming birds for your next post.

Dan said...

I think history is one of the best, and most important teachers in situations like this.

Look to our own country. How corrupt and illegitimate would many of our elections in the past be considered by pundits today. Tammany Hall and Boss Tweed. The political machines of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

There were, I do not doubt, corruptions and illegalities with the recent elections in Afghanistan. Freedom breeds corruption, but unlike any other system, it also provides safeguards to rid ones society of that same corruption.

There may well be mistakes made in Iraq and Afghanistan. We may stumble and have to correct course along the way. But think of the alternative. Remember the shame that should drape this country from Rwanda, the black stain on our history from recalling our troops from Somalia, the deaths that have occurred in the Sudan while we sit and do nothing.

“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; Who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
-Teddy Roosevelt

I would rather try, then sit back and watch.

Lysis said...

Twon,

We agree on the media. The media seek to exploit ignorance. They want to drive the mob, to treat us like unreasoning animals, herded about for other’s purposes.

Alison,

It nice to hear from you. I would never want to make you angry. I also agree with you on the need to find a place for freedom to grow. All the freedoms we have are bought at such a great cost and sacrifice. As I read the Tribune piece I see something so common in our culture today; an attitude of, “let the future pay”. Even as I write I am anticipating the arrival of my grandsons. How many problems are going to be pushed onto them by a generation who is not willing to do anything difficult or dangerous?

My next post will be all pictures – not as nice as flowers or hummingbirds – but perhaps they will be interesting.

Dan,

Thanks for your comments. The lessons of history you present are compelling. I am encouraged by the millions saved, but the freedoms shared by in the former Soviet Block by the courage of Ronald Reagan, and the lives save by G. W. Bush’s initiative in Africa. There are examples to give us hope. History is full of lessons, good and bad. Let us have the wisdom to act buy the light of truth.

Dave said...

Dan,

You are right lets learn from history...PULL OUT NOW OBAMA...no one since Alexander has won a war in Afghanistan.

Alison Conner said...

Alexander never really won in Afghanistan either. If we do this right we don't have to "win" in the way of the conquerors of the past. The Afghan people might get something that they have never had before. A safe secure country that is not run by sectarian war lords but legitimately elected representatives. If we really learn form the past we will not fight a war a of Alexander but build a strong independent nation that can thrive in the world of the future.

Lysis said...

Hi Dave,

Alison is right on this one. The world, led by the U. S. has a chance to let Afghanistan win this one. Let’s see the Afghan people have the freedom Americans take for granite. Alexander brought the one thing to Afghanistan that can defeat irrational religious fanaticism, reason. Given their freedom and the chance to act reasonably the people of Afghanistan will choose the right.

Lysis said...

I have been thinking about Dave and Alison’s “debate” on Alexander. Alexander did conquer Afghanistan. This is the case despite the revisionist history so popular in some Universities these days. Alexander pacified the tribes, and founded Hellenic cities all across Afghanistan. Alexander married an Afghan princes, Roxana, and the heir to his empire, the heir to the world or reason and unity, which Alexander built, was and Afghani. Unfortunately, Alexander died too soon. His son was murdered by the lesser men who grabbed and gutted his empire, and the dream of world unity, reason, and peace died. The weakness and indecision of the successors to Alexander cost that unhappy land the freedom the great man had brought it; the promise he had made possible.

It is ironic that the heirs of Alexander, Americans, have returned the Afghan’s their birth right. It will be tragic indeed if, now that lesser men have seized power in America, the West proves too week to fulfill the promise to the people of Afghanistan.

Dan said...

Dave, I find it interesting that your position is, because no one has done it right, we should not attempt it.

We see things differently apparently. I would rather try, then fiddle while the world burns.

Dave said...

I ask the question..."If the ideals of Hellenism were so powerful, so TRUE, so successful, so life changing in ancient Afghanistan, why did they disappear upon the death of Alexander?" It seems to me that the people would have embraced the changes and ideals that obviously changed their life for the better. This would have been a much more natural and enlightened solution than murdering the heir of the hand the feeds them.

Why do they (ideals of Hellenism) not stand alone, stand upon their own merits? When we look at the entire world, even today, those places that hold those Hellenistic beliefs spread by Alexander and the ancient Greeks are not widely accepted or practiced.

Is it possible that Hellenism was a form of power justified by the ancients to further their ends? It's not like Alexander was conquering the world to be a nice guy. He was spreading Hellenism for the purpose of increasing the power of Greek culture and hegemony worldwide. Someone that was sincerely searching for the truth in the American application today has to take this into consideration. Beyond our goal of keeping the American border safe from terrorists that would be able to train on Afghan soil, what is in this for America? Are we really spending billions and billions of dollars a year and sacrificing the lives of our men and women of the armed services for as Allison says "A safe secure country that is not run by sectarian war lords but legitimately elected representatives." If this is why we are in Afghanistan then Americans should be pissed!

I know how you feel about the current White House administration and their policies, but I applaud them for their willingness to ask these the tough questions, even in the face of much adversity and malign by their opposition. After eight years of warfare (much longer than it took Alexander by the way)do we have the political, economic, and military resolve to do the right thing?Are the ends going to justify the means?

Maybe we should pull out and leave the Afghan people to practice their true "birthright" (which by the way Alexander and the Greeks practiced)...life based on the autocratic rule of the family or clan!

Lysis said...

Dan,

Whether writing an essay for a sophomore history class, or leading the free world; doing what is right, in spite of the difficulty is the only right thing to do.

Dave,

Your “I’m a liberal relativist” affectation is getting pretty good. Be careful.

I have already explained why the light of reason went out in Afghanistan: the weakness and the selfish intentions of those who followed Alexander. The seedling a might oak can be pulled out by the hand of an ignorant child, a redwood crushed by the foot of an errant youth. That we practice reason in the mountains of Utah is proof of Hellenic and Hellenistic wisdom’s endurance.

In the face of you snide condensation, I maintain that Alexander was conquering the world as “a nice guy”. His motivation was to stop the pernicious and predatory actions of the Persian Empire. The reaction of the peoples eventually liberated form Persian control were breath taking; they foreshadowed the fall of communism. Study the blessings Alexander’s actions brought to the world he freed: the rise of the Gupta dynasty in India which enabled Greek influence on and the spread of the teaching of Buddha across Asia, the Hyalinization of Judaism resulting in the development of Christianity in the Middle East, and the Ptolemy dynasty and the Library of Alexandria in Egypt. These physical examples of his lasting and positive influence pale in the face of the intellectual effect and import of Alexander’s greatness.

As to the value of fighting for reason, the peoples that followed Alexander into battle realized a truth you would know if you would think. It is the same with other Americans. The only way to keep ones borders safe is to go to the source of the senseless attacks against them and remove the mindless aggression of ones enemies.

I have already addressed the economy of paying the cost of freedom. Freedom is beyond price – its defense is worth any sacrifice. More telling, however, is the fact that any niggardly response now will only entail greater costs in blood and treasure in the future and would risk the unlimited cost: the death of our country and the loss of every life determined to live free. This call to be penny wise and pound foolish is beneath you. Americans have been fighting for their freedom for 233 years, too long for you; I must surmise. I am dismayed that you would join those who put a cash value on our freedom.

As to any comparison between the success of American involvement in Afghanistan and Alexander’s accomplishments there, we should review the facts. The U.S. military liberated (conquered) Afghanistan in four months; far less time that it took Alexander to do the same. We have maintained its freedom against all enemies, foreign and domestic, for eight years. This is far longer than it was held by the selfish poltroons who followed Alexander.

America has the strength to maintain our freedom and facilitate and insure it by maintaining the seedling of reason and democracy in Afghanistan. The “resolve” you question is in Obama’s hands. Will he prove a hero or a craven? Will he defend the future or allow hope to be pulled up by the roots for his own ambitions sake?

As to you last contrived and condescending crack about the birthright of Afghans, no child is rightly born to be a slave. Shame on you.

Alison Conner said...

"…we shouldn’t give up or abandon the people of Afghanistan, or Iraq for that matter. The United States is in the middle of a mess that they are responsible for."

We are responsible for the mess in Afghanistan and we have to clean it up. That is why we are still there. The only way to make it better is to "build a strong independent nation that can thrive in the world of the future."

I am, as you put it, "pissed." I am mad about a lot of things that the government has done in the name of America ideals. But I would be more pissed if we withdrew all troops and aid from Afghanistan and left the country in ruin on all levels. We have a responsibility to that country and her people. We can't leave as is.

I think we can do better then Hellenistic ideals. I think we can live up to American ideals. I think we should stop limiting ourselves to the past (ancient or more recent). We can and should be better then any figure of the past. We can no longer claim victory when we have toppled the walls of the capital (done in ancient times and in resent history). There can only be true victory when Afghanistan is able to survive without us.

Lysis said...

Alison,

Amen and well said. I agree with you in the most part, and can only reiterate your points. That is a pretty good admission for me, don’t you think?

We, Americans, are partly responsible for the “mess” in Afghanistan, although we are not alone in that responsibility. Consider also: British, French, and Russian Imperialism, the medaling of Pakistan and China, Soviet expansionism, and most of all – Islamic religious fanaticism. America is less culpable than any or these. What is more important about America is that, of all those who have messed up Afghanistan, Americans are the only ones willing to shoulder the responsibility and try to fix the “mess”.

American will succeed because it is different from the conquerors of the past. Just ask the Germans, or the Japanese; or consider the free and vibrant peoples of South Korea; those who live in freedom in the Philippines; and the millions freed from the chains forged behind the Iron Curtain. Look at the gifts of American sacrifice to the people of Granada, and Kuwait. Americans live up to and live beyond the vision of the ancients. The ideas that all men are created equal and equally endowed are more than just words to this people; they are our American dream, and the hope of all the world.