Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hell Freezes Over

With no reliable way to check weather in the netherworld, I'll have to assume that Hell has indeed frozen over. Yes, it's true, conservative icon George Will has called for an American withdrawal from Afghanistan. Conventional wisdom has it that Lyndon Johnson knew that he had lost in Vietnam when he lost the support of Walter Cronkite. I've always felt that that was an oversimplification. The World War 2 generation had been saved by big government. Even Ronald Reagan's life was improved by the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt. Too, that generation saw it's destruction of the twin menaces of Nazism and Japanese militarism as the high point of it's many accomplishments. It wasn't the loss of Cronkite, it was the loss of a generation that trusted government to do the right thing and thought of military opposition of tyranny as a moral calling.
So now Barack Obama has lost George Will. The symbol of conservative intellectualism (An oxymoron if I've ever heard one.), no longer believes in the war launched by our George, Dick Cheney and the whole neo-con crowd. Most Americans, I think, view victory in war in terms of World War 2. The Missouri sails into Tokyo harbor, the Emperor in his silly tail coat and top hat, crosses the deck and signs articles of unconditional surrender. Sorry to say, but most wars end in a far more ambiguous way. In a nutshell, both sides decide that it just isn't worth the effort anymore. Will isn't the first to feel that way, and he won't be the last. Iraq has cost us billions, and may end up costing us trillions of dollars as well as thousands of lives lost, and even more destroyed, with no resolution in our clear favor. Afghanistan is beginning to look like it will have the same outcome.
I'm an admirer of Barack Obama, but that doesn't blind me to the fact that I think he's making the same mistakes in Afghanistan that we made during the cold war. For reasons without any basis in reality, we persisted in believing that things happening in the third world were all about us. What bin Laden did to New York was about us. A massive military attack on his headquarters was perfectly justified. We, after all, know far more about bringing death from the skies than bin Laden will ever imagine. But Taliban rule of Afghanistan was another thing. A few well placed missiles directed at Taliban leadership? Hell, why not. It would have been good for the Mullahs to understand that allowing their country to be used as a base for international terrorism was not a wise career choice. But years, maybe decades, fighting nationalists in the mountains of central Asia is pretty much a no win situation. Before we leave, we should make major contributions to Afghan infrastructure. We should leave schools, roads, dam, and hospitals standing as we march off. With any luck, the people of Afghanistan will want the Taliban gone, and in time it will happen. But an endless drain of American treasure and lives isn't worth it.

No comments: