Monday, November 30, 2009

Sometimes Doing Nothing Is the Easiest Thing You Can Do…

…but it’s hell on the country, the people and the world. Half-assing your way into the history books has been tried before by many Presidents. It’s been done in the name of political expediency, prudence and compromise. It always turns out the same way; it always postpones, sometimes by mere months, obvious disasters looming around the corner.

Pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan, which are now less wars than violently contested occupations at best, is as difficult a decision as can be made. Inherited decisions are always fraught with multilateral second-guessing and rancor when lives are at stake.
The consequences of being on the wrong side of history are two fold:
There are the lives already lost by the United States and her allies in the attempt to secure two nation-states, which will have appeared to have been sacrificed to a failed foreign policy by future generations.
Secondly, there is also the very real possibility that the region now has two anarchic pseudo-states where everything from the terrorism that the Bush administration claimed to be containing, to a resurgent heroin trade trickles across a now borderless membrane out to the world.
I feel it’s my responsibility to point out that we’ve been on the wrong side of history ever since we stopped holding the Bush administration and its shadow players accountable for what they proposed and wrought in our name. These “wars” were an inevitable consequence of our collective guile after the September 11th attacks.

President Obama’s latest announced move, to increase troops by 30,000 does nothing substantive in regard to the operations in Afghanistan, in my opinion.

It’s a cynical number.

Politically, it’s not a big enough number to make Democrats take to the streets in mutiny, and it’s not enough to make the Republicans support or criticize him on this issue. It neither shuts up General McChrystal, nor placates his immediate concerns.
But the number 30,000 is significant in undeniable, mathematical aspects.
It’s 30,000 more human beings away from the United States leaving Afghanistan.
It is 30,000 lives further away from President Obama’s campaign promises.
It’s 30,000 reasons why, in retrospect, I now believe this man doesn’t deserve a Nobel Peace prize.

Pulling out of the regions is not a simple task. Just because it’s not simple doesn’t mean it cannot be done, or that it shouldn’t be done.

Much more thought will have to go into exiting these now dysfunctional kleptocracies than went into bombing and invading them. Much thought must be given to the central truth of the matter: the United States Armed Forces cannot continue to operate as police in regions they have attacked with bombs. Ever present in all of our minds, at least those of us willing to tell ourselves the truth, should remain the names of the architects of these disasters: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle and many others too influential and powerful to be known to an average American citizen such as myself. We must be honest with ourselves and concede that these policy makers were never interested in bringing Osama Bin Laden to justice. Their “bait and switch” has cost countless Afghani and Iraqi lives in a tragically pointless dismantling of two countries in supposed recompense for the actions of cowardly murderers who can call no nation home, and despite Al Qaeda’s own best efforts can ultimately claim no religion or culture either. History will show that these fundamentalists took their own myopic worldview for law and attempted to make religion a reason for murder. Bin Laden is not the first and he will be far from the last to massacre in the name of his own presumptions about God and morality. I don’t have to wait around for History to catch up to what I already know.

I want Osama Bin Laden’s severed head on a pike, -AFTER his billions in wealth are seized and his followers are tried under what Al Qaeda themselves ignorantly call “Western law.” Al Qaeda’s and Bin Laden’s humiliation will be complete when they desperately exercise the inalienable rights and due process they insist must be denied the rest of the world under their bizarre interpretation of what is just and holy. The bombings, invasions and now all-but-in-name occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq do not bring us any closer to the day when we speak about Osama Bin Laden in the past tense. I do want that day to come. That day will be a triumph over fighting fire with fire, over taking an eye for an eye. It will be a return to sanity. It’s not as viscerally gratifying as the first sentence of this paragraph, but it will have to do.

We must always remember these differences in ethics, in perspectives, when rage, however justified, threatens to do away with our principles and the only weapon that can ever be used to build the future: reason.

Remaining in Afghanistan and Iraq, is not avoiding a decision, -it’s prolonging a wrong one.

President Truman was doing more than stating the obvious when he said “The Buck Stops Here.” Harry S. Truman was telling his country that he knew he was held ultimately responsible for its progress and its woe, and that he would not pretend otherwise.

It’s time to stop pretending and instead do some really unpopular things Mr. President.


Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

I fear that we're turning into the French Foreign Legion over there. And like you said, SJ, it's also a compromise/political choice that 1) pleases nobody and 2) accomplishes nothing.

Oso said...

"the United States Armed Forces cannot continue to operate as police in regions they have attacked with bombs."

Perfectly written,and perfectly accurate.

I agree with both you and will,a compromise which only pisses off both ends of the spectrum.

Meanwhile more Afghanis will die for no reason.

SJ said...

@Will, it's a pretty calculated move on our President's part. I don't like it one bit.
At best he's buying time... but for what?
He's Commander in Chief. He should ask for a prognosis, and a plan for the goals he sets. If he can't get all that straightened out, he should fire McChrystal and demand an exit strategy immediately.

SJ said...

yourself and the other guys and gals at team MMA have written about this extensively.
This isn't a matter of having patience with a process like Health Care Reform which requires many complex trade-offs because of the moneyed interests and perennial opposition.
This conflict and the conflicts in Iraq have been going wrong for some time now. There is more destruction than there is building.

No President wants to go down in history as relenting or quitting, but for once (I can't believe I'm saying this) I think we need to look to Nixon for an example.
Nixon decisively ended Vietnam, -after doing some more terrible things in that region at Kissinger's prompting-, but he did end the war unequivocably and that's what President Obama needs to do in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Jack Jodell said...

Our prolonged presence in Iraq and Afghanistan is NOT making our country safer; is NOT permanently stabilizing the region; is NOT capturing Bin Laden or destroying al Qaeda, and is NOT helping us cultivate moderate Arab friendship. It IS bleeding our finances dry; providing the military/industrial complex with immoral funding and profits; and it is making China very wealthy at our eventual expense.

It is time for us to come home. Not to be isolationist or to keep our eyes open, but to come home. What good does it do to build a stable Afghanistan if the price we pay for it is measured in crumbled roads and industries here, or outright insolvency?

Jack Jodell said...

I meant "not to keep our eyes from being open."

SJ said...

Understood Jack.
I agree: there are an infinitude of postures between being "isolationist" and ending a military/police presence in a region. Thes are not mutually inclusive concepts.
How was your birthday Jack?

SJ said...


Vigilante said...

SJ, you are golden when you say,

...we’ve been on the wrong side of history ever since we stopped holding the Bush administration and its shadow players accountable for what they proposed and wrought in our name. These “wars” were an inevitable consequence of our collective guile after the September 11th attacks.

Those words deserve engraving in granite.

Jack Jodell said...

I had a great birthday. Thank you for your kind wishes. And I second Vigilante's emotions before me. You nailed it, guys.

SJ said...

@Vig, Thanks brother.
I can't imagine the nonsense I'm gonna hear tonight from our President.

@Jack, I'm glad you had a good one, may you have many, many more.

Mycue23 said...

Great post, as always. At the start of the administration, I asked for a clear strategy from the President. I have yet to hear one that makes sense. We do not have the ability, money or time to build a "democracy" in Afghanistan. Yet for some reason, we seem to be hell bent on it. It's time to bring our troops home (including two of my best friends) and admit that the times no longer allow for "Britsh style imperialism". There's nothing wrong with being the last remaining super power on the face of the earth. Our leaders just have to come to terms with the fact that it doesn't mean that we can impose our will on nations that did not ask for and do not want our intervention in their lives. Might does not make right. We seem to have lost our way. The Bush administration was wrong and the Obama adminstration seems to be willing to live by those decisions which were based on greed and the never ending pursuit of power.

SJ said...

I remember it well: