I know polls are done all the time and I know that one reason, besides the financial crisis, that is given for Barack Obama winning the election is that the public is displeased with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in my own highly unscientific view of things (support the troops bumper stickers notwithstanding) I sense great public indifference to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen was quoted within the last 48 hours as saying it might take the U.S. as much as two more years just to turn the tide in Afghanistan (and I think most of us see just an indefinite or open-ended commitment). And Mullen also said we have a difficult time avoiding civilian casualties and that those casualties play into the hands of our enemies, the Taliban, or is it Al Qaeda ? (whatever we’re calling them today)
Yes, in going after the enemy if civilians are in the way they are no doubt going to suffer. I really don’t know how our forces are expected to do their job trying to figure out who is friendly, who is indifferent, and who is the enemy, and who may be all three, keeping in mind the fact that none of these people are wearing uniforms.
And what with civilian casualties, yes it does seem a strange way to win the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan people, something that we are being told we must do to win the war.
Maybe, just maybe, if the people of Afghanistan realized that we are committed to going after the enemy and that to be near the enemy is dangerous that might have some effect on how they deal with this enemy. Or we could send tons of aid to try to win those hearts and minds. And meanwhile, what about the hearts and minds of so many of our own people? Pardon me if I sound sarcastic or frustrated or both.
Didn’t we face this same problem in Vietnam? Didn’t we fail there too? And didn’t I blog this previously? Yes to all.
I actually thought at one time we were in Afghanistan to go after the forces that hit us on 9/11. Now was that Al Qaeda or the Taliban? Originally we were told that it was Al Qaeda, which was given aid and comfort by the Taliban who at the time of the invasion were officially in charge of the country. Nowadays they still seem to be in charge of most of that country.
Somehow Al Qaeda and the Taliban have become one.
And for some comparison/contrast: at the height of Vietnam the U.S. had a half million troops committed. I think the U.S. invaded Iraq with some 300,000 troops and today we only have about 140,000 in Iraq, and we are trying to ease our way out. In Afghanistan the U.S. has committed nearly 60,000 troops, which include 17,000 ordered to Afghanistan by President Obama. An additional 30,000 have been committed by other NATO members.
We are nowhere near the casualty numbers in the current wars as we suffered in Vietnam and that may be a key reason we have been there so long and remain. That and the fact we have no military draft. If the draft had been imposed I doubt we would still be in Iraq or Afghanistan (win or lose).
In Vietnam, after more than a decade of war, the U.S. casualty total was nearly 60,000 military personnel dead with hundreds of thousands wounded. More than 4,000 have been killed and some 50,000 wounded in the current wars (primarily in Iraq, with the Afghanistan casualties rising). We’ve been in Afghanistan since 2001 and in Iraq since 2003.
So, anyway, Admiral Mullen sees a tough road of as much as two years ahead. We were told for more than a decade in Vietnam that there was light at the end of the tunnel and that we were winning. In Afghanistan we are told it is indeed hard to see that light and, as a matter of fact, right now we are not winning. We’ve been there for going on nine years now with no measurable progress. Iraq is not won yet, but we may be smart enough to declare victory and get out — or not.
Supposedly we now have a counter insurgency, black ops expert of a general by the name of Stanley A. McChrystal who has been selected to take over in Afghanistan. Maybe he can figure it out.
But it seems like we need to be reminded of what our exact reason for being there is and if the American people are really as indifferent as I sense, I have to question why we are there at all.
The idea that we can conduct business as usual at home and successful wars abroad seems questionable at best. Maybe some of us can block the human tragedy out of our minds because we are not directly involved. But the financial cost of it all has already come home to roost. If you haven’t noticed the U.S. either is or is going bankrupt. How long will China, a political and ideological adversary, bankroll our wars?