Eight is Enough: There is no Winning in Afghanistan

This past Sunday morning, I woke up
and immediately started reading the news. It's been a habit for years. It’s a
habit I’ve had since I was in my teens. In the old days, I would wake up and
immediately head to the front door to get the paper. Now, I just reach over and
grab the laptop from the nightstand and start perusing many different papers.
Of course, the first story that smacked me in the face was one that eight US
soldiers were killed in southern Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border.


Immediately, tears welled in my eyes,
and feelings of dread came over me, as I haven't heard from my son, who is
stationed not far from there, for almost a week. As the parent of a soldier,
you try to hope for the best, but you can't help but dread the worst.  I've talked to many other parents of soldiers
deployed in various places, and I've learned that you simply can't train
yourself to look away, no matter how hard you try. He's been deployed for 2
months so far; I have no idea how I’ll make it through 13 more.


I've never understood why we sent
babies over there. I know; he's 19, not technically a baby. But if you have
ever been a parent, then you know, no matter how old they get, you just keep
flashing back to those trips to Chuck E. Cheese and Discovery Zone, the first
time he rode a roller coaster, and the first time he dressed up to go to a
dance. Besides, I just sent him a care package replete with sour gummy worms,
Skittles, and downloaded copies of his favorite anime (screw you, RIAA!) videos.
I've pre-ordered a couple of new video games, one of which features Mickey
Mouse and Goofy (don’t worry; the other one features plenty of gore; he’s
normal).  We're talking about someone who
hasn't really started his life at all.


I love my country; I really do. Mostly,
I think it's because the ideals that form the underpinnings of this society
give us the potential to be a model for every other nation. I mean, this
country's survived almost 30 years of neocon politics, including eight years of
George W. Bush and six years of total political domination by a Republican
Party that seems to have been taken over by aliens.  (Of course I mean right wingers; I apologize
to any aliens who might read this and feel disparaged.) And surviving neocons
is no mean feat. In fact, while the neocons have managed to screw us
economically, we've actually moved forward socially, in many ways, to the point
that we have been able to elect a black man president.


That doesn't mean we're perfect, but
it does mean the potential is there for great social progress, once we get rid
of some bad habits and some dangerous preconceptions. And one of the most
perilous preconceptions that we face as a nation and a society is our attitude
toward war.


I am a pacifist by nature.  To right wingers, that means I'm a pussy, but
I don't really care what they think and, as usual, they're wrong, anyway. It is
absolutely rational to work to find a peaceful solution to any problem, and
that includes terrorism. On the other hand, it's absolutely irrational to think it's possible to
solve any problem with violence. There are many reasons to think this, not the
least of which is that violence always escalates a situation.  For example, if your first impression of
someone is that he’s a jerk, which is more likely to change your mind; a smile and
a wink, or a slap on the back of your head, and an insistence that he’s not a


Most neocons think Teddy Roosevelt's
admonition to "Speak softly and carry a big stick" was all about threatening
others, but that's just silly. The admonition, which actually came from an
African proverb, and reads in full, "Speak softly and carry a big stick,
and you'll go far," has to do with treating everyone with dignity and
respect, but keeping a stick around just in case the person you're talking to
is a bit less rational. Once upon a time, our notion of national defense had to
do with protecting ourselves from those who would do harm to our country. Now,
it seems to have morphed into something resembling a "pre-crime" unit
(Minority Report), designed to bully anyone who looks at us the wrong way, and
might want to do us harm in the future. 
And as part of that mentality, our attitude toward war seems to be that
it is the ultimate problem solver, and that is an insane way to think.


It would have been easy for Martin
Luther King to preach "Kill Whitey!" during the Civil Rights
movement, and frankly, using right wing logic, who could blame blacks for being
angry after 350 years of being doormats in American society, and starting all-out
war with white people? Personally, I think that's the main reason wingnuts are
so racist; they simply cannot imagine being in the same position as blacks and not wanting to kill someone.  But war and violence simply breed resentment.
War doesn't solve problems; it just creates other problems that sometimes mask
the underlying problem. If blacks had become violent against whites in the
1950s and 1960s, it would have created more resentment, which would have
stalled the movement in its tracks.


This is not to say violence is never
justified.  I'm a pacifist, but I'm also
a realist. There are truly evil people in the world, and they must be stopped.
And sometimes, you have to take some lives to save others. But the violence
itself still doesn't solve the problem. We defeated the Nazis on the
battlefield, but that wasn't the end of the war. The war ended when the
Marshall Plan was put in place and was successful. To see what I mean, all you
have to do is to compare the difference between the end of World War I and the
end of World War II. After the First World War, we punished the Germans, and
planted the seeds for the second war. If winning the war solved the actual
problems that led to the war in the first place, there is no way a second war
would have been necessary.


It is the concept of war as solution
that made George W. Bush's presidency such a monumental screw up, and what
makes the right wing seem so insane most of the time. Right wingers actually
think war itself is sufficient to solve whichever problem it addresses.  Apparently, the bad guys are supposed to see
our bombs killing hundreds of thousands of people and they'll have no other
choice but to put down their weapons, cry uncle and build democracies.  This is why Bush spent most of his eight
years in office with his proverbial thumb jammed up his ass. He truly imagined
going into Iraq with "shock and awe," and forcing every gun-toting
Iraqi to lay down arms and surrendering on the spot. That would be followed by
great cheering from the masses, who would welcome democracy with open arms, and
elect a government just like ours, because, gosh, who wouldn’t want to be just
like the United States? According to right wing “logic,” when you bomb the shit
out of people, they’re supposed to just bend to your will, right? RIGHT??


Once again, this is the cognitive
dissonance inherent in right wing "thinking." These same people are
buying record numbers of guns and ammunition because they're afraid President
Obama is going to come after them, take away their trailers, charge more for
their beer, and put them in jail for not turning over their entire paycheck to
the IRS. These are people with fantasies in which "federal agents"
come onto their property and are shot on sight, because they don’t belong there.  They have so much resentment of
"foreigners" being on American soil that they fantasize rounding up
every one of the 10 million or so they claim are here illegally, and somehow
throwing them back over the border.  Yet,
at the same time they imagine Americans going into another country, showing
those people how incredibly "powerful" we are, and expecting the
people in that country to simply cower in fear and promise to be good.


I understood why we went into
Afghanistan eight years ago, when my son was starting middle school, although I
was against many aspects of it. Some radical assholes, citing their god as the
instigator, attacked us in one of the least sophisticated ways imaginable.  We knew where they were, they expressed their
intent to attack us and others again and again, and a true pacifist has to look
at the best way to achieve peace.  In this
case, it meant taking them out. And frankly, when we took out the Taliban along
the way, I can't honestly say I objected that much. But then we pulled out, we
didn't finish that part of the job, and we have yet to initiate the other
necessary part of any war, which involves diplomacy and overall positive PR. There
has never been an end game for Afghanistan.


So, I was sitting there (ironically?)
watching football Sunday, and thinking about the son I've raised by myself
since he was an infant, and to be quite blunt, I resent the fact that he's in
Afghanistan in the first place.  We
should have taken out al Qaeda in a matter of months, if that was our goal, and
pulled our troops out completely years ago. If we wanted a stable Afghanistan
that was aligned with us, and we wanted to turn an enemy into an ally, which
should be the end game of any war, then we should have pulled out our forces,
and put together a "Marshall Plan" of sorts to help the country
out.  The money we're currently spending
on keeping soldiers in their country would go a long way toward helping the
Afghan people build a life for themselves. 
By our standards, it wouldn't take much to help Afghans. The Taliban is
recruiting fighters for itself by paying them money; we could easily give the
current Afghan government the money to out-bid them, and the equipment to
maintain their own security. Instead, we have chosen to fight a "war"
against — who, exactly?


Why is my son over there? Al Qaeda is currently
in the mountains of Pakistan. We're supposedly running drones over there to
take out their camps. What are the troops for? Given the number of civilian
deaths over there, it sure as hell can't be for the security of the Afghan
people.  And can we stop using the word "winning"
when it comes to these situations? At this point, we've already
"lost." We took out the Taliban once, but then we created conditions
that encouraged them to reconstitute and take over the country once again.  What can we do at this point, except get out
of there, and let the Afghan people determine their own fate?


If anything happens to my son in the
next 13 months, I will be left asking, "What did my son fight for?"
The easy answer is, "He's fighting for his country." And I do not
fault my son, or any other soldier, for fighting for his country, and doing
what their commanders tell them to do. In fact, the last advice I gave my son
before he shipped out was to do everything his commanding officers told him to
do, because he was more likely to come home doing so.  I have no doubt that every commanding officer
in our military puts the safety of every soldier at the head of his list. But
the people at the very top of the food chain have a responsibility to know the
point of what they're engaged in. What's the point of this "war" at
this point?


I'm happy that President Obama isn't
simply following the lead of Gen. McChrystal, who thinks we need more troops in
order to "win." More troops isn't going to help in any way. We
already have more troops than the Taliban, and the Taliban isn't very popular
in Afghanistan, in any case. There is no "end game" here that can be
fixed by our soldiers. It's the Karzai government's baby now. If he wants an
international security force to help with the transition, surely we can help him
find nations to pitch in and help bring security and train Afghan forces.


Bush broke two countries when he was
in office, and that’s on him. But if President Obama thinks he's going to fix
Afghanistan with a hammer, he'd better think again. He'll need lots of super
glue and duct tape to fix this one. As long as our troops are there, resentment
will continue to build, the Taliban will continue to strengthen.  It's time to bring our "babies"
home, so that we can listen to them whine about how "bored" they are
in the comfort of an American base, as they train to protect our country.


Eight years is enough. It’s MORE than

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