ADD 1: According to an article in USA Today the U.S. is now spending 6.7 billion dollars per month in the war in Afghanistan. And according to an article in the Huffington Post prisoners suspected of being part of the enemy forces are being summarily executed either by our forces or after they are turned over to Afghanistan forces if it cannot be proved they are actually part of the enemy. While the latter may be questioned as being true or not, the former is most likely accurate.
It was the “red menace” and the “domino theory” that pushed the U.S. into an arms race and into armed conflict in the 1950s and 1960s.
Today, now into the 21st Century (2010) it’s the War on Terror (the Bush administration’s term) or whatever President Obama now calls it.
Thousands of American soldiers have and continue to be killed or maimed in our war(s) in the Middle East.
Every once in a while, it seems we ought to ask why we are there or what we are trying to accomplish and if it is all worth it.
I support the troops. I’m for providing them with everything they need to get the job done. However, I do not necessarily support the policy that has put them where they are.
I fear there is futility in trying to remake the world in our own image. While I believe strongly in national defense, I think a constant offense against all perceived evils in the world is too daunting of a task.
We would do better to show the world the way by our own example.
It was not the arms race, directly anyway, or the hot proxy wars (most notably Korea and Vietnam) with the Soviet Union and Red China that won the Cold War.
It was more a case of modern communication seeping through the Iron Curtain. Communism was not delivering on its promise to create a workers’ paradise or a utopian society as promised. People held captive within the borders of the communist nations saw television images, among other things, of how the other half lived.
With a minimum of violence, the Soviet Union dissolved. Red China remained communist in its government, but turned to capitalism for its economy.
We suffered thousands of casualties, to include nearly 60,000 dead, in the Vietnam War to prevent the communists from taking over what was South Vietnam, only to give up and see the whole nation go communist, suffer for it, and then do the same thing as Red China — retain its communist government but turn to capitalism in its economy.
The big difference in all of this may be that during the Cold War the United States was never directly attacked.
The U.S. of course was directly attacked on 9/11, but attacked by who or what?
We were not attacked by another nation. We were attacked by persons who were apparently connected with a group of Islamic extremists calling itself Al Qaeda. In turn, Al Qaeda was supported by Islamic extremists in Afghanistan, referred to as the Taliban. At the time, the Taliban had control over the Afghanistan government.
With this in mind it seemed to make sense that the U.S. had to go after Al Qaeda by invading Afghanistan where it was being given a safe haven. As I recall, the U.S. had asked and or/demanded that the government there turn over Osama Bin Laden, the master mind of the 9/11 attacks. But Afghanistan refused and the U.S. invaded.
But the forces of Islamic extremism that threatened the U.S. were not just in Afghanistan, so the George W. Bush administration declared a “War on Terror”.
To my knowledge this was a novel idea. Instead of declaring war on another nation or identifiable force we went to war with a concept. We went to war with evil.
In the process Bush diverted this war on evil to an invasion of Iraq, where evidence shows there was at the most some tangential connection with 9/11.
But under President Obama, the effort has switched back to Afghanistan.
But there has been a mission creep there over this almost decade of war. We are no longer just going after Al Qaeda or the sympathetic-to-Al Qaeda Taliban, but instead we are trying to rebuild that nation in our own image. It is thought by some that if people there live and act like us they will support us instead of attack us or support our attackers.
In order to accomplish this nation building (or rebuilding) we have installed or helped install a government there we think or hope is friendly to us.
Well we tried that in Vietnam. We ended up with several governments that may or may not have been friendly to us, but were decidedly unfriendly to their own people. The same seems to have happened in Afghanistan. Actually there is a question as to whether the leader there, Hamid Karzai, is even friendly to us. He’s in the U.S. now trying to convince us that he is. He had threatened to join the Taliban himself, but some reports indicate that may have been a bit of hyperbole uttered in private as an expression of frustration with Washington.
A major problem in all of this is that in the process of trying to rebuild that nation we are accidentally killing off a lot of civilians who are caught in the crossfire or who are mistakenly thought to be the enemy. That’s what happens when you insert yourself into what should be someone else’s fight.
The more innocents we kill over there, the stronger the enemy becomes, because it tends to turn the populace against us.
It seems to me that the only practical thing is to fight off forces that might attack us and to do what we can to thwart attacks, short of taking over the world.
In our nation’s beginnings we realized we depended upon world trade and because of that we were forced to fight off the Barbary Coast pirates of North Africa. We did (although I’ve been reading a book on that and it was not a short process and we did it only after suffering for years by having our ships captured and crews and passengers enslaved and having to pay tribute to the pirates and North African despots over there who supported them).
But we did not take over North Africa. That would not have been practical and it was not necessary.
Different time, slightly different place, but a lot of similarities.
We are the world’s super power but we are threatened by an economic collapse that could do us in. The Soviet Union fell largely as the result of economic collapse. We could too.
So since we still are the world’s superpower, and I am sure we want to remain so, for our own protection if for no other reason, we can hardly be isolationist. But we could do more to mind our own business and rebuild our own nation, while maintaining a strong defense.
In a related argument, I question the constitutionality or at least the morality of requiring American soldiers to fight in wars of choice, as opposed to defensive actions. We get away with it now primarily because we do not currently have a conscript force (the draft).
And I have blogged this many times before. But I am relatively sure that if the military draft were in effect we would not have these long, drawn out wars.
As silly or even mean as it might sound, we could follow the advice of some who said during the Vietnam War that we should declare victory and come home (and we did have victory of sorts in Iraq and did change the government in Afghanistan, so that could be our victory).
And using the rationale that we used to go into Afghanistan, do we invade our nominal ally Pakistan because the recent thwared Times Square car bombing was (or may have been) hatched and supported there? (We of course are using unmanned drones there to attack the enemy, much to the chagrin of many in Pakistan.)