Nov 29, 2009

365 Days, Mr. President

     One year from today, the United States will match the Soviet Union in the number of days it sacrificed its young in Afghanistan. The Soviets pulled out after a long and bloody nine years, one month and 23 days.
   The next day, November 30, 2010 (presuming we are still there!), we'll hold the modern record.
     Yay team.
     The anniversary date comes as President Obama is set to disclose his plan to succeed in, and then depart from, Afghanistan.
     Mr. Obama is a thoughful man, not given to impulse "gut" decisions, so unlike his predecessor. The slowness of his decision about Afghanistan has been fodder (like everything else) for GOP critique, but I would rather he truly give this, especially this, as much consideration as he feels necessary.
     The President will address the country from West Point Tuesday night.
     I'm not sure, and really nobody can be, whether success is possible. Do we define victory as helping to create a country where human rights are respected, a place where the people have the power to define their futures? Or will it be enough for them to just stop providing shelter for anti-American terrorists? And if the fighting in Afghanistan is really just a proxy war between India and Pakistan, can we convince them to send their own young people there to die?
     The Soviet goal was to defeat the Islamist Mujahedeen Resistance and maintain a Marxist (i.e., friendly to them) state. That's why our CIA was helping the "rebels".
     Now it seems The President just wants us to "finish" and go home, hopefully leaving one less threat against our own security. We want the Talliban gone, and we want a government that is friendly to us in power. We've seen what Sharia law can inspire, and would just as soon keep the government in friendlier hands.
     The Russians certainly poured blood and money into their effort, but in the end, left in defeat.     
     Now one man who should know is advising President Obama to avoid a similer fate by starting to withdraw troops, instead of adding tens of thousands more. Mikhail Gorbachev tells Bloomburg News there is no chance for an American military victory. And he had 3, 342 days, 15,000 deaths and 35,000 wounds from which to learn his lesson.
     America's military has been there 2,976 days already. 928 military men and women have died, 4,434 have been wounded.
     Other than increasing those sobering numbers, what difference will another year make?

[PLUS: Editorial against sending more troops.]


Bill said...

Tim, remember the poem "The East is East and the West is West and never the twain shall meet" written by Rudyard Kipling about one hundred years ago. That says it all.

Kevin L. said...

Gorby's Afghan invasion and Bush's blunder are two entirely different issues.

It's merely coincidental that they're situated in a similar locale.

Afghanistan then was Communism's last stand, with Gorbachev's support.

Afghanistan now is Bush's blunder - his Iraq invasion, allegedly seeking 9/11's terrorist network - made right.

Iraq was NEVER about 9/11, it was about payback.

Al Qaeda's leader Osama bin Laden and the Taliban are now, and have been holed up in Afghanistan. They were never in Iraq.

America's screw up was under Reagan, when Reagan REFUSED to provide money for civil rebuilding of Afghanistan after we had materially assisted the Afghans in turning back the invading Communist Russians, whom were indiscriminately killing innocents.

America had established significant good will among the Afghan people. Reagan squandered it.

That's when the madrassas (schools of radical Islam, and training ground for the Taliban and al Quaeda) moved in and took over. Nature, after all, abhors a vacuum.

The relatively recent (2007) motion picture "Charlie Wilson's War" starring Tom Hanks in the central role, is a reasonably accurate depiction of what happened.

The motion picture is based upon the book "Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History," by George Crile, a CBS news correspondent whom spent many years in the region.

To quote Wilson - a non-descript, hard-drinking, womanizing Democratic Representative from an obscure Texas district - "We fucked up the end game."