Tawdry Tale of 2 1/2 Wars …

June 28, 2011
By admin

I’ll try to put this as succinctly as I can: we went to war in Afghanistan out of an understandable desire to bring to justice the mastermind of the attacks on 9/11, and we’ve stayed there for another decade – and counting – because of a logically defensible proposition that to abandon that accursed land would potentially sow the seeds of terrorism by turning over the country once again to the Taliban.

I’ve given President Obama a good deal of slack on Afghanistan because of a belief that he inherited that 12th-century cesspool and simply couldn’t find a way out of the mess that didn’t pose huge geopolitical dilemmas for the United States and its nominal NATO allies. The reality is that his predecessor, George W, Bush, put us in the tank in Afghanistan when he bizarrely shifted the focus of our military and its vast resources to the thoroughly indefensible nonsense in Iraq.

Lots of folks insist that President Obama somehow claimed Afghanistan as his own when he upped the ante with a massive troop surge two years ago, but it’s clearly a lot more complicated than that. The handy bromide that so many politicians reach for every time they are put on the hot seat about any military adventure is to obsequiously defer to the supposed will of the commanders on the ground. That’s worked famously for continuing and even expanding our presence in that vast wasteland, but it comes now with the sharp contradiction that we are now national building rather than primarily fighting the lofty-sounding global war on terror.

You remember nation building, don’t you? That’s the practice that George W. Bush quite thoroughly and explicitly denounced in running for president in 2000, then promptly adopted (albeit with a handsome dollop or two of deception) when we infamously launched a pointless war in Iraq in 2003. Now nearly a decade later, we’re crossing our fingers that we can quietly slip out of Iraq without that war-ravaged nation descending into the anarchy we so capriciously allowed them to sample following the “Mission Accomplished” embarrassment eight years ago.

The unspoken reality is that the American public has blithely enabled both the Iraq and Afghanistan horrors to unfold in large part because the “Volunteer Army” allows the actual conduct of war to be shouldered by the tiniest fraction of our fellow citizens and their families, with the rest of us calmly told to go out shopping to contribute our portion of the war effort. Add in the fact that casualty figures are low enough in Afghanistan – and only nominally presented in the mainstream media anyway – and the “wars” that we have engineered sail along as peripheral topics to the important issues of the day like Sarah Palin, Anthony Weiner’s weiner or the Republican presidential pageant.

I’ll be the first to concede that I was absolutely flummoxed by our adventure in Iraq and so completely dismayed that my country would bombard, conquer and then occupy a nation that posed no discernible threat to our national security. That horrid little war knocked me off my pins, prompting me to vow to read the complete casualty listings – every word – for each and every one of the 4,464 American military personnel killed in action. It was an ordeal that put a Charlie Brown-like cloud above my head for five or six years, but seemed like a fairly modest little gesture to be involved in a war effort shouldered by so few. Hell, I couldn’t track the names of the Afghanistan War dead if I wanted to, or at least not by the conventional newspaper accounts that I peruse.

But there’s even more fallout from this cavalier attitude about sending America’s awesome military might willy-nilly around the globe: Libya. Almost any sentient being who assiduously studies modern geopolitical events recognized immediately that our half-assed commitment to spank Muammar Khadafy or Gaddafi or whatever you call him (blissfully, an Arabic name that can’t possibly be misspelled, since we’ve been spelling it any way we wanted for 40 years) knew intuitively that this was a preposterous, ill-considered strategic move.
Nobody ever points out the obvious: we decided to commit military assets against Gaddafi simply because we could, simply because he’s been such a buffoonish knucklehead on the world stage for so long that even his ostensible Arab brethren wouldn’t bother to shake a sheik if we hurled a few missile strikes his way. I’ll admit that I was appalled that President Obama would fall into this ridiculous no-win trap that he has, because I typically give our president the prevailing credit for being the only adult in the room when any number of significant policies get deliberated. This time he whiffed, but the upside – if you want to call it that – is that there are so many more important issues looming that not all that much attention is truly paid to Libya anyway.

It’s chilling to think that even if President Obama gets re-elected, he probably won’t be in the White House when the last American troops leave that awful Central Asian nightmare of Afghanistan. Even more chilling to think that I might not even live to see it myself. (No significant health issues at the moment, but hey, we’re still in Okinawa, South Korea and Germany.)
- T..S. O’Connell

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