What happens in Afghanistan stays in Afghanistan?
posted at 2:15 pm on October 5, 2009 by Laura Curtis
President Obama has spent a lot of his career skating past actual decisions and voting Present. All throughout the campaign he was hawkish on Afghanistan, and now that he is in a position to enact what he promised, he waffles. Waiting, perhaps, for the media to turn public opinion around so he can (politically) safely surrender? Waiting for the Taliban’s Tet moment? He’s clearly not too interested in the input of the people most able to help him make an informed decision – his military commanders. While he’s fretting over the PR hit he took for McChrystal’s straight talk and sending his Defense Secretary and National Security Advisor out to insist that “military advice must remain private” Obama is spending his time, energy and political capital fighting to make us report our private health care information to the IRS.
On the most important national security question since the Cold War, I am the only candidate who opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. This judgment was not about speeches, it was about whether or not the United States of America would go to war in Iraq. Because we did, we took our eye off al Qaeda. We have lost thousands of lives, we have spent hundreds of millions of dollars, our military is overstretched and our security and standing has been set back. So don’t tell me that the decision to go to war was just a speech because it was far more than that for the men and women who have served and continue to serve heroically in Iraq.
Judgment to lead, indeed.
Picture Afghanistan back under the control of the Taliban, supporting al Qaeda. Sure, they’re a threat to Pakistan (nukes!) and to us. Sure, terror recruitment would soar like Obama’s vacuous rhetoric. In the event of a major terror attack traced back to Afghanistan after we retreat, his political career would be destroyed. But how likely is it they could pull off a major terror attack before the 2012 elections? And after that, our Blameshifter in Chief may reason that it’s someone else’s problem. Mollifying the left (which is starting to admit they never cared about Afghanistan – it was “political strategy, not foreign policy“) with a retreat is a political crapshoot but I think it’s one he may decide he can safely take, especially since Democrats paid no real political price for Vietnam and the Cambodian killing fields. I don’t think His Narcissism is fretting about his legacy, though he should. The Times, they are a-changin. What happens in Afghanistan will not stay in Afghanistan. Thanks to the alternative media, especially independent reporters like Michael Yon, the press will not get away with another Cronkite – Tet deception.
It’s also not too late to lose in Iraq. Remember, Obama set a deadline of August, 2010 to remove all combat troops from Iraq. This is moving along at a good clip – for political reasons, or because General Odierno feels it is safe to do so, or because resources are more urgently needed in Afghanistan?
“I work very carefully … to identify any capabilities that we have and that we no longer need that can be used in Afghanistan,” Odierno told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee.
And they are desperately needed, if Obama will send them. “Present” isn’t going to cut it this time and as the song goes, if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. While the decision to fight a war is ultimately political and entirely within President Obama’s purview as Commander in Chief, he’s actually going to have to make a decision and take the accompanying political hit from either the right or the left. It’s of particular interest to my family, because my son-in-law begins his Iraq deployment in January.
In the meantime while Obama dithers, real people die and morale takes a beating and soldiers are expected to, well, soldier on, with no relief in sight.
Do the majority of Americans have this patience? How will more troop losses stir public opinion? For more troops, or for a different strategy? How will public opinion affect the President as he decides what resources to allocate to Afghanistan?
Even as politicians and generals grapple with such wider considerations, on the ground there are other priorities.
… While administrative actions provide some mental and psychological diversion for those in mourning, the memorial ceremony several days later inevitably brings with it the harsh realization that the unit will not be returning home with everyone. At these memorials, every soldier arrives with a somber stoicism, many with a promise to themselves that they will not let themselves cry. Some soldiers even avoid these memorials altogether because of the emotional pain.
The military precision, drill and ceremony of the memorials stand in stark contrast to the raw emotions within the hearts and minds of each and every soldier. When the First Sergeant conducts a roll call and the deceased soldiers’ names are mentioned without a reply, only then do inner feelings often begin to manifest themselves in soldiers’ outward expressions. A wave of emptiness engulfs the room as they realize that when they stand in formation again, no longer will their team leader, best friend, drinking buddy, or mentor be there with them.
At first one hears the faint sounds of sniffling and crying. But these emotions spread like a wildfire, and soon even the most battle-hardened soldiers find themselves tearing up. At this point, no man is an island.
The memorial is not a Greek tragedy where the stage actors and audience reach catharsis. The mourning of a fellow soldier does not bring resolution. Moreover, once one leaves the memorial, there is still work to be done, whether it be patrolling, intelligence gathering, maintenance of equipment, or resupplying front line soldiers.
To co-opt a favorite word of left, this is unsustainable.