December 4, 2009

Thoughts on Afghanistan in the Season of Peace

afghan.gifI think putting more troops in Afghanistan is a mistake. I understand that President Obama indicated that he would do this during his campaign, and I am not surprised that he sent additional troops shortly after taking office. Nor am I surprised that his generals want still more troops now and that he is inclined to send them. Whether I like it or not, he has now taken full ownership of this war, a war my country has been waging for the past 8 years. It no longer matters why this war started or the many mistakes made by the previous administration. This is now Obama's war.

The first thing that bothers me about the war in Afghanistan is that we cannot afford it. The U.S. economy is not doing well, and expanded domestic programs are desperately needed at home. Health care costs continue to rise, and state after state is crippling higher education because of budget shortfalls. We should have learned something from what happened to the former Soviet Union, but we appear to be making a similar blunder.

Beyond the cost and all which must be sacrificed to meet it, I have a very difficult time believing that the situation in Afghanistan is resolvable without a real U.S. military presence in Pakistan and perhaps even other neighboring countries. Of course, this is not going to happen, making the effort in Afghanistan increasingly futile. I am simply not convinced that the nature of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan allows us to make much progress without forces on both sides.

An additional concern springs from the widespread corruption within the Afghan government. It is not that I am trying to point fingers here, for a freely acknowledge that corruption is a serious problem in the U.S. government as well. Still, I am not sure how U.S. efforts to prop up a corrupt Afghan government are going to be productive.

It is difficult to take stock of the fact that we have been at war, fighting multiple wars even, for the past 8 years without reprieve. As we approach a season in which many claim to celebrate the notion of peace, I feel that it is time to take a hard look at ourselves.

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