Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Afghanistan policy debate - time to come home

From the shadows of history, the inestimable Bill Moyers brings the ghost of LBJ - and the real lesson of Vietnam - to the forefront of America's debate on Afgahnistan. Moyers - aside from being an excellent journalist - was at LBJ's side for much of this, so he has the moral authority from which to speak on this issue. Sadly, as the equally compelling Glenn Greenwald often points out, the Washington establishment still isn't really learning these lessons.

Read Moyer's closing paragraphs below, and then ask yourselves this question - what do we really gain by staying in Afghanistan?

Now in a different world, at a different time, and with a different president, we face the prospect of enlarging a different war. But once again we're fighting in remote provinces against an enemy who can bleed us slowly and wait us out, because he will still be there when we are gone. Once again, we are caught between warring factions in a country where other foreign powers fail before us.

Once again, every setback brings a call for more troops, although no one can say how long they will be there or what it means to win. Once again, the government we are trying to help is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent. And once again, a President pushing for critical change at home is being pressured to stop dithering, be tough, show he's got the guts, by sending young people seven thousand miles from home to fight and die, while their own country is coming apart.

And once again, the loudest case for enlarging the war is being made by those who will not have to fight it, who will be safely in their beds while the war grinds on. And once again, a small circle of advisers debates the course of action, but one man will make the decision.

We will never know what would have happened if Lyndon Johnson had said no to more war. We know what happened because he said yes.


Elroy said...

As one who supported the initial invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq (the latter of which I regret) I think it is time to get out now too. Seems like we are caught in a hole where neither political party has the will to ramp up or get out and unfortunately our soldiers are paying the price for that.

Philip H. said...

Agreed. I think we needed to go to Afghanistan to actually deal with Al Qaede initially, but to let it languish so that we could settle old scores (with a former ally no less), and then swoop in and expect to build a 21st centruy democracy instantly in a nation that hasn't even had an 18th century democracy . . . . my head spins.

jg said...

I appreciate your wake up call on this (a wake-up for me at least). I didn't oppose the Afghanistan invasion largely because it was a NATO action. So that's where I'm torn. Is the NATO objective still valid and supported by it's member nations?
This morning's paper says Obama will be making his case for continuing our soldiers' involvement. I'm waiting to see if I'll have to oppose this president.

Philip H. said...

After the President's speech, it certainly seems like the NATO mission is still on the table, but i am not at all sure it's valid. I'm taking time today to go through my notes from last night, and plan a longer post this evening.