The presidential candidates need to address Afghanistan and in some detail…

I hope that in the upcoming presidential election debates that President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney will address the continuing war in Afghanistan and state clearly what our purpose is or should be and what each one of them plans to do about it in some detail, rather than vague language or platitudes (I don‘t mean give away military secrets, or course).

I was dismayed (although not surprised) when the president in his nomination acceptance speech seemed to curtly dismiss the war with the announcement that we will be out of there by 2014. And when Romney failed to mention it at all.

I am not being flip or sarcastic when I ask: if we know now that we will simply quit by then, why not quit now and save lives and money? There is no human way we can know that we will have prevailed by then, and actually I suppose the truth is that we can never prevail or at least not by way of the fashion we have handled things so far. Things are a bit confusing because in our modern approach to war we do not seem to strive for old-fashioned victories with a vanquished enemy and surrender ceremonies and such. We are not fighting those type of territorial wars against established forces who actually wear identifiable uniforms.

The problem may be that Obama bought into George W. Bush’s or Karl Rove’s or Dick Cheney’s and all the rest of the neocons’ version of perpetual war against not just one entity or group but terrorists in general or maybe not even against people at all but a concept: “terrorism”. Thus we forever pour our blood and treasure into a war against evil.

While we always have to guard against evil, funding ongoing military actions in far-flung places will eventually bankrupt us — or maybe it already has.

We as a nation need to rethink Afghanistan and such actions and reassess what our goals should be and if it is a worthwhile cause.

What prompted this post was Obama’s simple assertion that we would essentially quit Afghanistan by 2014 and a story I read a few days ago that said the American public is numb to war and pays little attention, except for the minority who are in it or who have loved ones in it.

The story said that so far this year we have averaged one dead soldier a day. Not a big count by world war standards when the losses could be in the thousands in one day or by Vietnam (and don’t forget Korea and other places) where we had nightly news reports of hundreds of combat deaths (and grave injuries as well), but a tragedy nonetheless, especially since I doubt most of us could articulate what it is we are trying to accomplish there, beyond platitudes, such as freedom is never free. That may be true, but nation building in far-off Afghanistan poses no promise to preserve our own freedom, and may be impossible anyway.

I mean it is true if we could build a world where everyone wanted to live in peace and freedom that would be wonderful. But it hardly seems that the ongoing fight against the insurgency (aided by outside forces as it may be) in Afghanistan gets us there.

Eventually, by 2014, I guess, we will pack up and come home.

I think maybe when Obama proclaimed we would be out of there by 2014 he was at once trying to please those weary of war and to remind the corrupt government there, that is supposed to be on our side, that it may be on its own soon, as well as somehow imply we have or will shortly attain good old-fashioned victory. Too bad we have to telegraph to the enemy the date we plan to give up.

If there really was something worthwhile to do or left to do there we would all be involved somehow, with oue children in the war, with higher taxes to pay for the war (I mean is not that “supporting the troops”), and other sacrifices here at home in order to optimize the availability of the supplies for war.

But in a form of political chicanery to avoid the delicate subject of taxes and hard debates on policy and to please opposing factions at the same time and to preserve the defense contracts for private industry the congress does not budget war. It is fought off the books, with the congress voting every so often to appropriate more money. Because the actual cost is not considered, the federal government finds itself short of money and has to borrow more, thus the staggering $16 trillion national debt. You see, if we admitted the cost we would have to tax ourselves enough to pay up front, but we just charge it and pay the interest forever, and the interest mounts (we pay interest on interest) — just like a consumer credit card. It would have been more cost effective to budget the money and tax accordingly and would have forced us all to make better decisions (and that kind of also answers what happned in 2008 to consumers, doesn’t it?). 

I feel badly for those who have been killed and for those who have been injured and for their family members. If we can still make this into some kind of worthwhile endeavor that would be good, but we would have to have the proper leadership. I have not seen that either from the White House nor from the military leaders. Maybe I have watched too many movies (yes I have), but it seems to me most of the brass today are in it to get their ticket punched, get the promotion, and then retire, and they try to lead from the rear (not that I would actually expect them to be out on patrol dodging enemy bullets).

I have in the past written my congress person and U.S. senator on this subject. That is all I can do besides write these blogs (I am 63 and did my time in the Army, safe from harm’s way in Germany. Hey that’s where they sent me.)

But I wish other concerned citizens would at least do that, write their congress people and senators (and the president), that is.

Even those who claim to be gung-ho on this war or war in general have to be dismayed at the half-hearted, way too cautious approach our leaders take.

I say always avoid the use of force or war, but when it is unavoidable don’t hold back. To let a soldier die in an effort where you make the military fight with one hand tied behind its back — remember Vietnam?  — is immoral.



Did it again with numbers: this time in my original post on this I used billion instead of the correct trillion, as in $16 trillion (plus) national debt.


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