How many more thousand U.S. troops have to be killed and wounded and how many innocent civilians have to be caught in the crossfire — the U.S. general in Afghanistan is on record as saying too many civilians are dying without any evidence they posed any threat — before the futility of it all and the immorality of it all is realized?
It’s been nearly a decade of war now.
And even if Al Qaeda is defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan, what is to prevent it from rearing its head elsewhere (well it already has in Pakistan, but how about Indonesia?) Then what? Where does it all end?
Could the U.S. not settle for defending itself at its own shores?
And how is it that the leader of Afghanistan makes anti-American statements even as the U.S. backs him? Meantime new violence flares up in Iraq where the war and U.S. involvement is supposed to be at an end.
Maybe being a superpower and not wanting nor daring to lose its status as such, the United States is stuck trying to run things across the ocean, but it seems strange that the U.S. has let itself get bogged down in a war where the people of a country (I’m talking Afghanistan, in particular, now) don’t really want us or are perhaps some of them are ambivalent (sorry I use that word a lot) at best and where the government, which is supposed to be on our side, is corrupt (sounds like Vietnam).
But of course there is virtually no institutional memory in Washington and anyone who might remember and object is written off as either old and senile or out of the mainstream.
To rehash history, Afghanistan as a nation did not attack the U.S., although it may have been closer to culpability than, say, Iraq. The Afghan government at the time harbored Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda, who had taken credit for the 9/11 attack.
So, what do you do? Do you complain? Send a note of protest? Send a policeman? Somehow none of those seemed enough. So we sent in the troops. We had some success, but the going was getting tough, and who knows? Had we gone in harder and sustained the attack we might have caught Osama Bin Laden and therefore prematurely ended the War on Terror and then we would not have been able to try to make over Iraq. I’m being a little sarcastic, but some observers actually suggest there is some truth to that.
In my lifetime, post World War II, the U.S. has not been able to get clear cut wins in its wars (that I can recall), and in fact is capable of losing, because when you quit, you lose by default, as was the case in Vietnam — and I hasten to add this is not a swipe at anyone, especially the actual troops, who were involved — their government sent them there and then the government eventually decided to quit (due of course to public pressure and the realization that the effort had become — and maybe always was — pointless and just too costly in blood and treasure).
Repelling the communist advance into South Korea was costly, but arguably successful, even though if McArthur had been allowed to go all the way to China we might not have to have dealt with the troublesome North Korea and its nuclear potential all these decades later, or then again we might have lost thousands of more troops and even triggered a nuclear holocaust in the duel to end all duels between the commies and the U.S.
The saving grace in Korea is that we had a populace in the south that really wanted to live under some semblance of a western democracy and definitely capitalism as opposed to communism. They were on our side.
In Vietnam it seemed no one was on our side, or at least not nearly enough people were. Some were too scared to be on our side. Night time comes at the end of every day and the U.S. they knew or suspected would not stay forever. And should I add that save for a questionable incident (s) involving patrol boats in the South China Sea in the fog, more precisely in the Gulf of Tonkin, the U.S. was not attacked first. There of course was a communist-led insurgency fed by North Vietnam and the Soviets, and China (to some extent). And the U.S. had been predisposed to fight communism as part of its post World War II foreign policy.
But even with all of this, we all grew up watching World War II movies and developing the mindset that the U.S. fights for freedom and fights to win and ends a war with a clear cut defeat of another nation (s), signed surrender document and all.
In fact, discussing our modern wars and the World War II type is like mixing apples and oranges. They are not really the same thing. And of course those who push war would like to use another word or phrase, not for precision in language but to hide the truth that people are killed and terribly injured and the whole thing may or may not be worth it or even moral (to the extent any aggressive military action is moral).
With the luxury of 20/20 hindsight, it seems to me that the U.S. would have done better to not get so intimately involved with the Afghans, trying to remake the nation in its own image. Nation building is a pain and quite costly and it seems not all that practicable (or practical, for that matter). Nation building might not work in a society that is so tribal and so culturally different.
And the original idea of creating the United States of America was not to go forth and rebuild the world but to create a new, unique democracy in the new world. The founding fathers, of course, could not have even guessed that their new nation would one day become a superpower.
The U.S. is faced with a strange dilemma or dichotomy. On the one had, as a superpower, it feels obligated to project its power to both defend itself and to preserve its status. However the cost of being a superpower is taking a heavy toll on the economy. Military adventures are not the only reason the economy is faltering, but they certainly add a heavy burden.
The fact that the U.S. is scaling back its space program is an indication it is faltering in its role as leader of the world.
Meanwhile, China is emerging as a new economic giant and at some 3 million members, it has by far the world’s largest military, and it has nuclear arms capability (exact strength unknown). China is steadily working at getting a lock on resources, such as oil and minerals, around the world. As we all know, the competition for resources is what leads to wars.
But while we waste our resources by committing our military to questionable wars, China skates by and concentrates on building its economy and industrial might and its hold on world resources.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not originally sold to the public as attempts at nation building — remember, George W. originally campaigned against nation building. The wars were sold as self defense, one against a force that had just attacked the U.S. (from Afghanistan) and the other supposedly to find weapons of mass destruction (that were never found).
While the U.S. bogs itself down in nation-building, China bides its time, building itself into the next superpower of the world.
And it’s ironic that the U.S. finds itself physically tearing nations apart to rebuild them. It’s eerily similar to the famous quote from the U.S. officer in Vietnam who said: “We had to destroy the village to save it”. It was absurd then, and still is today.