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

September 10, 2012

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.

—————–

CORRECTION:

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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Our leaders fail us in Afghanistan and the public fails to give a clear signal as well…

September 2, 2012

One would have thought or hoped that our fiasco in Vietnam all those years ago would have taught us (the USA) that trying to win the hearts and minds of the people in a foreign country is not the way to success in a war. And it is hard to impossible to win when we kill innoncent people along with bad guys, and generally disrupt the lives of those who live in the country.

But here we remain in Afghanistan more than a decade after the initial invasion with part of the enemy being the indigenous recruits we are trying to train, so much so that we have had to suspend the training.

Barack Obama has got himself into the LBJ tar baby (no racial slur meant here) mode (LBJ once told a colleague that Vietnam was like a tar baby, you know, like the old Brer Rabbit trick, once you touch the tar baby you can‘t unstick yourself). He, Obama, has to know the cause is all but hopeless but he also knows that if he quits he’ll always be known as the president who lost a war, who effectively surrendered.

And you would think that we would know better than to let our adversaries know that at some point we will pull out. An enemy has to know that you will never give up until, well you are defeated, or until you attain total victory.

The problem is that neither the civilian leadership nor even the military leadership seem to have the courage of their convictions. They only half fight wars nowadays. A lot of troops die this way.

But our leaders also do not get any clear signals from the public. The public is indifferent for the most part. The public probably hates to think America is weak but it will also not tolerate high casualties.

Maybe the cause over there — and just what is it again? I forgot — is hopeless and someone has to just say so and we pack up and come home.

Our rationale for going over there in the first place was that Afghanistan was controlled by the forces that attacked us on 9/11 and or by allies of theirs, the Taliban, and that the nation was the staging area for the attack and that it would not turn over Osama Bin Laden and his henchmen.

In some respects it seems strange that we would send an army to essentially go after one man or a few men. But then again, it seemed that we had a whole nation full of forces arrayed against us. So we invaded the country.

Using 20/20 hindsight, I realize, I think we should or could have done the blitzkrieg on them, unapologetically taking over the nation and setting up a provisional government and then let them be, with the warning that if they don’t behave, we’ll be back.

Or, we should have skipped the invasion and just concentrated on going after Bin Laden and captured him, or killed him, as we ultimately did a decade later.

War is often not the answer.

But despite the advance in technology, war is war and generally one side wins and the other loses. You can’t half win. If you simply quit, you lose by default. But better to cut your losses than to pile up more.

There can be stalemates, I suppose.

What did we accomplish in Iraq? The nation today is unstable and leans toward our arch enemy Iran. And we did not get control of the oil (which of course was the only rationale for going over there, whether we choose to admit it or not).

I for one want to hear President Obama and presidential contender Mitt Romney tell us what each one of them plans for Afghanistan now. Hopefully that will be addressed in debate.

Our war or military operations there, whatever you call it, is a continual drain on our economy, costs lives, and has major implications on our place in the world.


Brother of slain soldier is right, we do need to remember we are a nation at war (but we need to question policy too)

April 6, 2012

One can certainly understand the anguish of a man whose brother has just been killed in a war. One such man was quoted in a story over the past day as saying that Americans need to remember that we are a nation at war. I agree, but I also think that as we remember that or take note of it, we also need to decide what we are accomplishing in the decade-long effort in the Middle East, and Afghanistan in particular.

And maybe the reason people don’t act like they realize we are at war is that no outward sacrifice is being called for on the part of the general public. And although one would think our goal would be to have some kind of victory, we have already telegraphed that we eventually plan to quit. If we can quit later with no clear sign of victory, why not quit now? This is not as much a war in the conventional sense as it is a geopolitical police action. With our all-volunteer force when one signs up these days, he or she is essentially signing onto a world police force. Police are on duty forever. The American public is given little choice in the matter. If either Barack Obama wins re-election to the presidency or Mitt Romney is elected (and that seems now to be the choice) there is no clear end in sight to the war. Obama does like to talk about time tables (they are movable), Romney does not like the idea of telegraphing when you plan to quit, and that much I agree with him on. But, Romney also wants to press on, something I am not necessarily in agreement with. Somehow it seems immoral to me to ask people to put their lives on the line for something you go at half-heartedly, always ready to quit. That does not mean I think we should not quit. I think it takes as much guts to fight all-out as to admit the war cannot be won outright or is not worth it. I would not suggest admitting defeat or anything like that, rather, I would think we should re-assess.

There may be other more practical ways to keep our enemies at bay or at least off our shores. We are already in the Vietnam syndrome in that we seem to have miscalculated and would like to get out but we can’t because we must save face and not dishonor those who have died. We also have used the discredited strategy of limited war. War continues to be war and the only practical thing is to fight to win or not to fight at all. It could be that an even more drawn out war of attrition could work in our favor (although doubtful), but it does not seem to be the way we should conduct things, lest we put ourselves in a true state of endless armed conflict, a state of being and an image I don’t think is right for the United States of America.

But yes, we should remember we are a nation at war and demand our president and congress do something to resolve the issue.

(The story I referred to is at: http://news.yahoo.com/brother-ohio-soldier-nation-war-104658229.html )

—————-

What follows is my previous post on pretty much the same subject:

I’m not sure what women not shaving under their arm pits, people drawing welfare, Occupy Wall Street, soldiers denied proper medical care once they get home (who’s to blame there?) while welfare recipients are tended to, and making it a point to thank the people in uniform all have in common but that seemed to be the elements of the conversation on my local radio station which was playing the Glenn Beck Show, being hosted by a guest host possibly. I only listened to a few words before I had to turn it off.

The message seemed to be that women who did not shave their arm pits were just part of the crowd who lives off of welfare, protests, and who shows it is against America by objecting to war and failing to thank the troops.

While listening to the ignorance and hate one should realize that those who run the local radio stations simply play the blather because it is cheap fare and it apparently brings in the revenue — never mind being part of a more civil and intelligent public discourse. But people want their own point of view to be validated or they want someone to do their thinking for them, so the talk show trash on radio is just what it is. Critical thinking and discussion does not do well in the marketplace.

And I am not saying they should be playing Amy Goodwin and Democracy Now; I’ve caught a little of that at times and it may be somewhat more civil but it is propaganda too, just from the far left of the political spectrum.

But before I turned my radio off I heard the tired old diatribe about how people don’t support our soldiers and the wars they fight. It is irritating that the idea of supporting troops (and that can mean different things in different contexts; a government –to include Republicans — who fails to treat returning reservists or National Guardsmen is not supporting the troops) has to be forever linked in the minds of those of the far-right, one-track mindset to national policy. As far as I know most people who may object to wars or military adventures/actions are not specifically or not at all criticizing individual soldiers, but the policy that puts them in harm’s way. Now in instances where there is abuse perpetrated by soldiers (such as the murder of innocents) then, yes, there might be indeed criticism. And there was a school of thought during the Vietnam War that since it turned out to be so obviously wrong and immoral, not to mention impractical, that any one who agreed to fight it (even if conscripted) was committing an immoral act (I do not necessarily agree with that). And some might argue that today (again I do not necessarily agree with that, even though it is all volunteer).

But people who dress differently than what has become the norm among what is considered the general public, or women who do not shave their arm pits, which has been the custom in Europe and even here decades and decades ago (into the past century), and people who get government assistance, and people who would dare question public policy (unless it is the far right questioning legitimate policy promoted by the middle and left) are all linked together in the minds of those incapable of critical thinking or those simply stirring up the masses for political and financial gain.

(I hate to bring Tom Sullivan into all of this. But he is a case study of someone who began as a conservative talk show host who was capable of and willing to engage in somewhat critical thinking in that he would give both sides of an issue, even though always coming down on the right. But he apparently found such was not acceptable in the world of right-wing talk, so he cut it out for the most part. I wrote that previously and he actually emailed me about my comments on that and other things to do with him and did not deny it — and he still occasionally lets his guard down, I think. He’s usually clever enough that it goes over the heads of many of his listeners, but sometimes they object. The rule on the right is to never but never present the other side of the case. That may be true on the far left too.)

I have to make sure to remember to switch the radio off or to music or something when the commercially driven-right wing propaganda is on, which is all the time.

And it is troubling that Mitt Romney, a highly intelligent man (hell he speaks fluent French) has felt he needs to pander to the ignorant masses to get his party’s nod to be GOP candidate for president.

P.s.

This endless war thing: Both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are equally guilty and spend more time blaming each other for it than trying to figure out how to reform our policies so we are not constantly mired in conflicts that are so costly in human lives and to our economy.

A third party is needed and we need to indeed vote all the current slate on both sides out. Extreme yes. But we are facing extreme circumstances. But beyond that people have to pay more attention to public affairs and critical thinking is in order here.

P.s. P.s.

And part of the story or back story in all of this is that those with nothing else to do often get involved in protest movements and supposedly the poor, but working people just do what they are told and don’t question. And those who stand to gain from various policies, such as defense contractors, oil interests, and so on, would like to keep it that way.  Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party are at opposite ends of the spectrum and yet in many respects have the same interests, but the Tea Partiers may consider themselves more legitimate in that they consider themselves to be part of the mainstream of working people (whether they are or not and notwithstanding that there is evidence that the original concept of the Tea Party may have been the brain child of monied and vested interests). And the Tea Party no doubt thinks the Occupy movement is nothing but anarchists and maybe socialists/communists. It’s too bad there cannot be an effective movement from the middle, or maybe that is what general elections are all about.


Gulf Oil disaster a bigger threat than Afghanistan

May 22, 2010

A month after the disaster of the exploding of the BP Deep Horizon platform and subsequent uncontrolled underwater oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico I have now seen (on TV) the gooey think oil washing up on the Louisiana mainland and the oil-covered birds and turtles and realize there has to be one heck a of a lot of fish threatened and already killed as well as other sea life, not to mention the direct threat to human life. It’s shaping up to be an ecological disaster of gargantuan proportions — maybe the worst man-caused disaster of all times.

I can’t believe BP is now saying it could be August before it gets the underwater gusher, spewing out thousands to millions of barrels of oil, plugged. This disaster has thought to already have surpassed the Exxon Valdez spill (and that was a finite amount since it came out of a tanker — the current one is virtually unlimited).

Exact numbers or estimates of oil escaped (and to escape) into the ecosystem are hard to come by and estimates are all over the board, but millions of barrels by the time its all over (if it is to end) will suffice for now.

And I am incredulous that from what I am hearing and reading the Obama administration, although trying to be in charge, I guess, is at the mercy of BP. For nearly a month now we find BP has been withholding info — to include live video feeds, from which independent scientists can calculate the actual volume of the leak. We find that BP apparently skimped on and short circuited or ignored various safety requirements.

This is somewhat different from Katrina in that something could have clearly been done and done a lot sooner there. I mean when the news media could get in, why couldn’t the rescuers? And why were some brave people able to walk or swim out while thousands were left stranded, waving in desperation to TV cameras mounted on overhead helicopters? A group of old people in a rest home was left to drown — and all President Bush could do is fly over at high altitude — his wife to explain years later that he didn’t want to cause a fuss and distract from the emergency effort, such as it was in the first few days.

In the current disaster no one really knows for certain what to do to stop that oil — of course, as one scientist testified (on TV), it would help if BP had been more forthcoming with the necessary info.

But clearly this has to be top priority for the Obama administration — we’re actually talking a disaster that could poison the entire Gulf and work its way around Florida and up the East Coast and elsewhere in the oceans all over the globe.

Even if the leak were to be plugged shortly and the visible oil cleaned up, no doubt severe damage has already been done that will gradually become even more apparent and will continue for a generation. Even before this there were dead zones (no sea life) in the Gulf — now there are likely to be many more (who knows? The whole Gulf?).  And to add insult to injury BP is dumping thousands of gallons of toxic chemical into the Gulf to break up the oil.

But after a month and for the foreseeable future this massive oil leak appears likely to continue.

President Obama needs to really take charge on this and not let up.

This thing is a bigger threat than Afghanistan has ever been.

P.s.

While I realize the mood among many is government is the enemy and big government is particularly bad, I have to ask if people would be happier to simply leave humongous private corporations, such as BP, in charge. And does not the world’s only superpower require a rather large government?

Of course we could (well not really) go back to the days before 1787 and live under a much smaller government and abolish the Constitution that enabled a strong central government and live with a loose confederation of states connected by the Articles of Confederation. When that was the case our economy was hampered because pirates and despots in Northern Africa robbed our ships and demanded and received millions of dollars in tribute. We were impotent and could not fight back because the states could not agree to supply the money for an adequate navy.


Health care reform could be more simple; Afghanistan tar baby…

December 25, 2009

I was off the internet for a long time due to my old computer crashing and the fact that I have been out on the  road driving a big truck and have felt out of touch with the news. I buy a newspaper from time to time, but there is little to read or at least little I want to read in them these days. But I did catch some radio and TV news and I did glean some things out of the papers.

From what I gather I am disappointed in health care reform. It sounds as if it is too little too late or too much too late or too complicated. I had previously blogged that I thought they (pushers of reform) were perhaps making things too complicated (and probably too expensive in the process).

It seems to me that the primary focus should be to offer coverage to those who do not now have it for whatever reason. It seems to me that this could have been done, and still could be done, by simply expanding Medicare, and in fact there was some talk of doing just that.

Even the most reactionary conservatives, people who may not know what those terms mean (reactionary, conservative), support Medicare, almost as a God-given right. These are folks who swear that they do not believe in any kind of socialism (read “communism”), but stand by their right to receive Medicare and Social Security (“I paid into it”, they proclaim).

This nation, the USA, has a built-in resistance to government-sponsored, single payer health care for all, but over the years it has seen the development of a defacto version of a health care system — basically insurance through your job, Medicare or some form of it (Medicaid and so on) for the elderly and disabled, or just plain private insurance.

But in this process millions of people get left out for a variety of reasons, but mainly cost and unemployment.

So why could we have not simply expanded Medicare to pick up those who could not get health insurance any other way?

In our system, such as it is, those who can afford to pay for their insurance should, even those who might be offered the expanded Medicare.

There would have to be some system or rules to figure out eligibility and a sliding scale to determine who would have to pay and how much. In the process, there would be some inequity. There always is. No system is perfect.

But with tight restrictions, we could have, and still could, offer some type of coverage to all at a much lower cost, saving the massive indebtedness we are headed for.

And while I am on the subject, I want to comment that I had always wondered why there was resistance to allowing insurance companies from operating across state lines, as the Republicans call for. Now I find out from reading the news that one problem is that if allowed to do so, companies would choose to operate out of states that do not have a lot of consumer protection rules. In other words consumer protection rules, such as in California, where I live, could be bypassed. Seems to me that could be fixed. Competition is needed.

WAR, WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING — as the old song says.

It seems as if President Obama has got himself stuck in a similar way as the late president Lyndon Johnson did to the Vietnam tar baby. Call it the Afghanistan tar baby. At least Obama did not claim in his campaign for office that he would do otherwise.

But I think we as a nation are either indifferent to that war or have lost sight of what we are trying to accomplish.

I for one have no interest in nation building. True nations are built as an almost natural process by those who live in them.

We originally went into Afghanistan under Bush man junior to go after Osama Bin Laden and Co. and those who aided and abetted him, the Taliban and Al Qaeda or whomever. But Bush lost interest and went to nation building in Iraq. Perhaps Bush or Shrub, as the late Molly Ivans called him, is smarter than I give him credit for. Maybe he realized that Afghanistan was hopeless and thought he could grab som glory in Iraq.

Maybe sometimes the best defense is a good offense. But it seems to me that we should limit our offense to going after those who did or would attack us and not try to re-build the world in our image — we can leave the latter to God.


It’s a great life if you don’t weaken, and is democracy workable?

September 7, 2009

Once when I worked as a newspaper reporter/photographer I was doing a photo-story about an old rancher who still drove his cattle through the mountains between winter and summer ranges decades after nearly everyone else had turned to using trucks.

As the bawling herd of cattle broke out of a stand of trees into a clearing and the dust flew, he came riding right past me, turned his horse toward me and grinned, and said: “it’s a great life if you don’t weaken.”

That was more than 30 years ago, but I finally think I can appreciate what he was saying.

After being laid low by cancer and losing my ability to make a living and now, at least for the time being, being able to go back to work at my occupation of the past decade and more, truck driving, I can say with understanding that it is indeed a great life if you don’t weaken, and it’s a great life if you do weaken but get back your strength.

Related to all of this and the blog I am doing right now, my sister called last night and said she had not been able to get a hold of me (she did not have my cell number, but she did manage to find my wife’s finally) and noted since I no longer was doing my blog she did not know what I was up to.

I reluctantly had to drop my blog postings for the most part for the past several weeks because I have returned to work and have not had the time nor the energy nor the capability to blog each day as I had been doing. As I have noted previously I am trying to get my blogging system mobile so I might be able to resume more regular blogging.

Because the truck I am currently driving does not have an operable radio (the head mechanic tells me he is ordering one) and because newspapers do not seem to be a readily available or even affordable and because of time constraints I have been in a near news blackout for the past few weeks but have caught up a little since returning home for a day or two.

The last time I blogged I addressed the continuing health care debate. I don’t want to say much more about that other than I now think President Obama would do well to just push through a package that would ensure that no one is not covered, and some might argue that such is already the case. I would not argue that, but the issue is so divisive, that I think he would do better to move on and work harder on the economy and resolving just what our strategy should be in Afghanistan.

And I now read that so-called conservative columnist and TV pundit George Will has come out against our continued involvement in Afghanistan (I read his column). Could this be the equivalent of the Walter Cronkite moment in Vietnam? When Uncle Walter went there and suggested it was hopeless that seemed to doom the whole project.

Will uses big and often obscure words and phrases and analogies and seems a little more intellectual than your down-home ordinary reactionary type conservative and not quite as devious as your ordinary neocon who uses his or her education to excite and stir up the more ignorant or not so informed masses, but he is conservative and his position could give the right the tools or ammunition to back out of what might be a losing proposition. And wouldn’t it be weird if the right turned out to be anti-war and the left pro?

Actually, I think that in mainstream or at least Main Street America, except for those who have family members directly involved, the attitude is more one of indifference to the war, except that it is assumed that you either support Team America or you don’t.

And personally, even though I think our wars since WW II, the big one, wrapped up a few years before I was born, have been folly, I do think that if the nation decides to go to war (and we have) then the only object can be to win, and winning means complete defeat of the enemy and unfortunately at least temporary occupation of the conquered lands. If we cannot or do not want to do that, then we should not be engaging in war.

And then the issue of the Obama back-to-school speech where many parents reportedly want to forbid their children from listening and many schools are going along. So we are teaching our children to only listen to things you or your parents agree with. So much for democracy, critical thinking and open debate. And besides, it is my understanding that the president was only going to urge children to study hard and get good grades. And I guess originally he was going to ask the children what they could do to help him. And that seemed political. We need to protect our children from politics.

Sometimes I wonder how practical democracy for the masses is. Maybe that phrase I heard attributed to some college professor years ago was accurate: “the masses of asses”.


If we suffered Vietnam-style casualty rates the war would be over, won or not, and war and oil usually do mix…

June 2, 2009

War has become so blase that the fact that four more U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan did not make any headlines.

ADD 1: If you really wanted to gauge public opinion of the war on terror, just imagine what it might be if we had casualties on the scale of the Vietnam War. During a two-week period in April  in Vietnam in 1968 the U.S. suffered 752 combat deaths. In Iraq in 2007 the U.S. had 334 deaths over a four-month period, and that was considered alarming. In Vietnam that high of a casualty rate with no end in sight turned public opinion steadfastly against the war. I hate to be cynical, but the public seems to be able to put up with lower casualty numbers, regardless of the justification or practicability of a war. I realized that the Democratic party victories in the congressional elections of 2006 and the presidential election of 2008 were seen as a kind of referendum that was negative on our war policy, but I notice that the war on terror continues, seemingly much as it would have under Bush/Cheney if they could have continued or even John McCain (of course the referendum was more related to the economy during the presidential election and Obama did admit in his campaign that he would push harder in Afghanistan). If the public mood was as anti-war as it became in the early 70s, we would be done with the whole thing, right or wrong.

And back to where I began with this blog:

I first read the fact that there had been four more combat deaths in Afghanistan while reading my morning newspaper on Tuesday in the ninth paragraph (on the jump page) down in a somewhat oblique reference in a story. Admittedly, the paper long ago gave up trying to be the latest in news on the national and world front. But you would think the death of four U.S. service personnel would rate a little higher priority. But maybe that was kind of the point of the story. It was something about the military using the latest communication tool for those with short attention spans, Twitter.

News that U.S. and Afghan forces had killed four “militants”  (I guess that’s what we call the enemy) was put out via Twitter by the military, according to the story, as a way to reach an audience that gets its news outside the traditional sources.

Let’s cut through the bull here – the military is using news selectively for propaganda to reach young people to ra ra ra the war (and I realize morale is important, but so is honest and complete info). Conveniently, as the story indicates, the fact the four service people were killed was not tweeted. Supposedly, according to the story, that was because, well, I did not get this part, something about that all has to go through NATO command.

But using that story and then searching the internet, I finally gathered that there had been four more U.S. combat deaths.

Now in traditional wars, four deaths in one day is not really big news unless you might turn it around and say that ONLY four were killed. Back in the old-time wars thousands were killed in a day or even less than a day. Then we went to hundreds, and today in our wars we go to things like one, none, seven, four, that kind of thing. But it all adds up and it seems to go on forever.

(The latest figures I got off of Wikipedia show there have been at least 4,296 U.S. combat deaths in the Iraq war since 2003, and 677 in Afghanistan since 2001 (I don’t think this includes the latest deaths, and of course there are deaths from other nations’ forces and the of Iraqis themselves and thousands wounded.)

And maybe too close attention to the negative gets in the way of the mission. Maybe that is why we lost the Vietnam War. We concentrated on our losses and not our wins – that often seems to be the new history (revisionist?) of the whole thing I see these days. I just watched an Vietnam War documentary and that’s partly why I’m blogging this today. But I am not a convert yet. I still think Vietnam was a deadly mistake for us and also a shame because we sacrificed so many without having a clear cut purpose or resolve. I hope we are not replaying history in another part of the world now.

No we probably should not have screaming headlines that say FOUR KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN. But at the same time we should not get so numb or jaded about the war effort that we just put it all out of our mind.

The fact that the Military would see fit to brag that we killed four enemy, but leave out that we lost four of our own reminds me why we need independent reporting so we can get the full picture.

And I go back and forth here because I realize that just as the government and military can be biased and misleading in its reporting, so can so-called independent sources.

I have to admit that the tone of the reporting on television and the newspapers and news magazines for the most part during most of the Vietnam War seemed negative against the war. We were told that we seemed to be meddling in the affairs of a nation that had a corrupt government and had a civil war going on (what would have we thought if England, who leaned toward the confederacy in its feelings, had interfered in our own Civil War?). But the civil war in Vietnam was being aided and abetted by the Soviet Union and to a lesser extent communist China. But the idea of North and South Vietnam was basically an artificial one – after all they were all Vietnamese and it was a Cold War construct that created a North and South, just like the two Koreas. We were told that there were no front lines and that despite our overwhelming fire power (most of the time), the enemy seemed to be inexhaustible, anywhere and everwhere, and could take heavy losses and come back forever. We were also told our own government would not let our forces go all the way (and I guess that was because the public had been convinced that wars could be controlled, as if run by a rheostat device or a light dimmer – escalate, de-escalate, which begs the question, why not just turn them off then?).

Probably our biggest mistake in Vietnam was not to do everything we could to disrupt the supply lines and go to the source of supply in North Vietnam. We finally did do some of that late in the war, but by that time support at home for the war was depleted. I actually have to credit Richard Nixon for some of his actions – but it was too late and not carried far enough, because as I mentioned, public support was gone. I think he must have thought that somehow we could stave off the enemy a little longer and that South Vietnamese forces would fight on their own and in the meantime we could get out and haver “peace with honor” (Nixon’s own words)). But without our continued involvement and with the fact that their government was corrupt, there was no hope.

Okay, so much history. Maybe only useful to history buffs. But could we apply this to today? Do we really know what we are trying to do in Iraq and Afghanistan? Personally, as much as I follow current events, I keep asking that question.

(In the beginning – the first Gulf War, it was all about oil, and if we are honest, even though we have 9/11 to consider, doesn’t oil still become the bottom line here? And if does, does that make it wrong? Why do we not want to admit it?  And see Add 2 at the end of this blog.)

George W’s (and dark Dick Cheney’s) concept seemed to be of an all-encompassing never-ending war against not a particular force or group or nation, but a concept (U.S. vs. Concept) called “terror,” or as W pronounced in “Terrr”.

President Obama seems to be trying to extricate us from Iraq (ever so carefully), but has vowed to fight on in Afghanistan. He would have never have got the support of the electorate if he had simply just run as an updated version of George McGovern and Vietnam. Americans were nearly always divided on Vietnam and seem to be on this one, but all out surrender is not to our liking (even if we did essentially quit Vietnam).

But even if we were able to subdue those who seem to support terror against us in Afghanistan, who is to say the forces of terror will not pop up somewhere else?

Bottom line here:

The reason we fought in Vietnam was that we had a well entrenched Cold War policy of containment of communism and along with that we followed the “domino theory” that said if one country falls, they all will. China fell, South Korea would have if not for our defense of it, and no one wanted to be blamed for losing South Vietnam (even though in the end we did lose it).

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight we find all these years later that communism, although a terrible form of government as practiced, with its totalitarianism and its police state mentality, crumbled seemingly by itself from its inefficiencies and failure to catch the imagination of the people it subdued. Seems given a chance most of them want capitalism and the goodies and freedom that come with it – although there is some indication that some former communist citizens miss the social safety net – in Russia, the former East Germany, as examples. But the last major power to still have communism, China, seems to be evolving into a capitalist society, with only the old-line government officials holding out.

Had we known all this (and we couldn’t have), we could have avoided conflict and just waited it out, perhaps. Of course the fact that the Soviet Union decided to spend so much of its resources fighting us in places such as Vietnam, which was really a proxy war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, helped lead it to its demise. It essentially went bankrupt (oops, I shouldn’t mention that, a country going bankrupt).

And isn’t it ironic that after another proxy war where we fueled the insurgents in Afghanistan against their Soviet neighbors who also expressed concerns about disruptive forces there, we find ourselves fighting many of those same insurgents we once aided, to include Osama bin Laden, if he is still alive.

A lot of disjointed thoughts here maybe. But I got this idea originally because I was reading a book about Pearl Harbor and the fact that we conducted a policy that led to it (not that we were in the wrong – that can be debated). And I thought about how in World War II we fought a costly war with Japan only to become good buddies later and then for a time we were even threatened by their own prosperity that we helped create (that role has now gone to China, whom we saved from Japan).

It’s all about making sure we really know what we are trying to do and what the consequences might be and deciding whether we should continually try to fight the whole world or whether we should try to live in peace, but keep our defenses strong. The general public can remain in ignorant bliss in all of this and leave it to the politicians, but there are risks.

Add 2:

I made a reference to fighting for oil earlier in this blog. Related to that I recall I blogged some months ago, possibly in August, that here we have been fighting in Iraq and we know it has something (a lot) to do with the fact that most of the world’s oil is in that region and meanwhile China has signed a deal for oil with the government we helped install there after executing Saddam Hussein. I just ran across an article on the web (dated April Fools Day, but it’s apparently too true) that says our main rival for world oil, China, has indeed finalized an agreement to develop an oil field in Iraq that is expected to produce 25,000 barrels per day for the first three years and 115,000 barrels per day for the following six years . China had initiated the deal in the 1990s when Hussein was in power.

So, yes, it is about oil, but whose oil? Seems like if we fight for oil, we should get it all. (I don’t recall China helping us out in Iraq).

But kind of related to the idea of fighting for oil, I ran across this in a history of the Vietnam War on Wikipedia: “Because of the vast Dutch oil discoveries in nearby Indonesia, first the French, then the Americans, wanted to explore the broad Vietnamese contenental shelf.” Today Vietnam is not listed as a top oil exporter, but it is an exporter. It installed its first oil refinery in February.

P.s. It occurs to me in all of this that the thinking of policy makers seems to have been that the U.S. can fight wars if casualty numbers can be kept down low enough that there will be no significant public backlash. We all would like to minimize casualties, but in so doing we run the risk of both prolonging wars (thus raising casualty rates) and being unsuccessful in the long run.