Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Déjà vu, Afghanistan

During my lifetime I never thought the U.S. would replay the Vietnam War.

It was reported in the last two days that the top military commander in Afghanistan has warned that without more troops our involvement there "will likely result in failure."

With each military escalation and request for more troops to fight in Afghanistan, with each revelation that the regime we are propping up is corrupt, with each ruthless act of terrorism against their own people perpetrated by a seemingly vigilante group of extremists clad in turbans and loose-fitting clothes instead of black pajamas, with each description of a terrain of combat not receptive to the type of war our military can easily fight and win, where our air power is potent yet ultimately impotent and occasionally even heartbreakingly catastrophic to innocent civilians, with each passing day that a Democratic president fears he will be accused of losing a war he didn’t start and so feels compelled to send in more soldiers, I fear, I fear for the soul of our nation and for the lives of our youth.

Though we have no compulsory military draft as we did back during my teenage years of the 1960s, and thus no impetus for massive anti-war demonstrations, we are encumbering another generation in a war we cannot win. We’re supporting Afghani political leaders who don’t deserve our dollars, much less the blood of our soldiers.

Yes, 9/11 should be avenged. The time to do that properly was in 2001-2002-2003. No longer is it possible to secure the vengeance and justice we seek. All we have left is a campaign promise to find Osama Bin Laden.

As difficult as it is to admit, let's confront the fact that our nation has more pressing needs at home. We need to save millions of lives by investing in better medical care. We need to improve millions of lives by investing in better education. We need more and better trained policemen. Firemen. Teachers. Social workers. We need to spend more money on our citizens, not on Afghanis who don't want our way of life.

We can still fight Al Qaeda. With drones and cruise missiles we can surgically strike if Osama shows his face. We can "buy" intelligence to guide our missiles. But let's not get deluded into believing that an escalation of 20,000 or 40,000 more troops into a surge will turn the corner in Afghanistan.

The tunnel of troop buildup is long, winding and dark, all too painfully reminiscent of 45 years ago.