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Jul. 26 2010 - 1:12 am | 304 views | 1 recommendation | 7 comments

Reaching the limits of our endurance in Afghanistan

We have it all wrong. We did not learn from our mistakes. There were countless signs of a complete unraveling, and now it has been undone. First there was the Rolling Stone article that broke the story about the division in the chain of command. Our military did not have confidence in our political leaders, and they were publicly voicing their concern. McChrystral was swiftly fired in one of Obama’s most decisive actions at the White House.

Tonight, it just got a whole lot worse. In just a few hours, Americans will wake up to news that exposes the most damaging evidence about our entire military operation. On Sunday, formerly classified military documents became public, and as the scope of our failures become evident to the world, they will hopefully force Obama to make swift decisions about how we end the war. The report, in exhaustive first hand accounts, details Pakistan’s involvement with the Taliban, the use of heat seeking  missiles by the Taliban against Allied Forces, Afghan police raping and killing civilians, and many more gruesome, and incredibly embarrassing details. In addition, there are damaging examples of American troops being completely unprepared for enemy fire, without the proper resources to fight back. The New York Times takes the liberty to conclude, and it does not take an advanced analysis to decipher, that after $300 billion dollars spent on the war, the Taliban has never been stronger.

How bad does it need to get before change happens? Imagine if there was a draft or everyone above a certain age had to join the military. Would this war still exist? Would young American soldiers be tossed into the front-lines of the battlefield without the proper equipment or necessary intelligence to defend themselves? It is clear now, more than ever, that we are not safer. To think of  all the lives that were lost in the name of protecting our country. Imagine waking up tomorrow, a parent of a soldier who was lost while participating in Operation Enduring Freedom, and seeing this report. How would you feel? Your son died, and you were told it was to help protect our country, but after almost a decade of fighting, we  are actually in a worst position.

Almost forty years ago, another damaging report was released by the New York Times. In the Pentagon Papers, the report makes clear that several U.S administrations had deliberately deceived the American people,  escalated the war, and lied about bombings, amongst many other damaging details. Our president and many others, who Americans trusted to have their best interest, was lying. In a reflection piece from twenty five years after the Pentagon papers were released, Time Magazine discussed what Americans should take away from these reports:

If the Government and the public come to understand the atmosphere, the pressures, the false and strained hopes, and the futile decisions that pervade the whole secret history of Vietnam, the wrong decisions may not be made again — or at least not so easily.”

How did the wrong decisions get made so easily once again? In an article by Neal Gabler in the Boston Globe on Sunday, he outlines a theory for these poor decisions: a case of the Best and the Brightest part 2.0. The term, which stems from David Halberstam’s award winning book, which describes how government officials who came from the wealthiest backgrounds and attended the most prestigious schools,  led us into the war in Vietnam, and gave us all the wrong advice, should be part of the conversation again. As Gabler writes,

Like The Best and the Brightest 1.0, these folks — guys like Larry Summers, outgoing budget director Peter Orszag, and Tim Geithner, on the economic side; and William J. Lynn 3d, deputy secretary of defense, and James Steinberg, deputy secretary of state, on the foreign side — are Ivy-educated, confident, and implacable realists and rationalists. Like their forebears, they have all the answers, which is why they have been so unaccommodating of other suggestions on the economy, where economists have been pressing them for more stimulus, or on Afghanistan, where the president keeps doubling down his bets.

We all understand that change is difficult, but there are no excuses anymore. What we are doing in Afghanistan is not working, and now more than ever, our president needs to learn from the history books, and dramatically change the course of action.


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  1. collapse expand

    We lost the war in Afghanistan when it was decided that the United States would invade Iraq. Game over, then and there. (It could be argued that we lost the war in Iraq when L. Paul Bremer, on whose authority we don’t yet know, ordered the disbanding of the Iraqi Army and Civil Service.) But then, I’m not a politican, and I’m not going to have to sell that thesis to the American people.

    I think I understand what the Obama Administration is trying to do, and why. They’re trying to put as much toothpaste back into the tube as they possibly can. I don’t think that anything else is politically possible for them.

    Blame for our losses can be pretty clearly and truthfully placed on the strategic ineptitude of the Bush administration. However, our inability to extricate ourselves from the messes that they left us is the fault of all of us as Americans; our unwillingness to shed our delusions of “victory”, our unwillingness to make hard choices about our aims and goals, our unwillingness to force our leaders to make hard choices about our aims and goals.

    How can we expect Barack Obama to get us out of Afghanistan as quickly and cleanly as possible, when he knows perfectly well what the electorate will do to him if he does? How can we expect any politican to do an ugly but needful thing, if he knows we’ll punish him for it?

  2. collapse expand

    Obama is Hamlet. As the Moor Prince, he dithers about doing the right or wrong thing. Always allowing his procrastination to allow crimes to persist, wrongs to go un-righted, corrective actions not to be taken. The results will destroy him. Shakespeare, you are not only a genius, you are a prophet.

  3. collapse expand

    Who cares about OUR endurance? The war was based on lies, just like Iraq.

    Apparently, Afghan freedom fighters and patriots don’t like being occupied by the mercenary thugs* of a distant land supported by “heroes” toggling drone attacks on wedding receptions. Who’da thunk?

    *Mercenary thug, n. One stupid, vicious, ignorant, or poor enough to volunteer to kill people in wars based on lies.

    “We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the world-a nation of bullies and bastards who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are not just Whores for power and oil, but killer Whores with hate and fear in our hearts. We are human scum and that is how history will remember us.” (Hunter S. Thompson)

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