Thursday, June 23, 2011

Guns or Butter

So the Prez has offered up his plan for troop drawdown in Afghanistan and, of course, nobody is happy with it. 

D's think it's not enough; R's think it's too much. 

I understand his dilemma, but I find myself wondering how a guy who ran as an anti-war candidat,e and who was going to restore the lost civil liberties grabbed by the Patriot Act can get reëlected.

How do you play politics as usual and make it look like something else? War Powers Act isn't applicable to Libya because there aren't any hostilities there? Really? 

I didn't expect Obama to get the economy fixed in any kind of hurry, that was too big a bear to take down with the peashooter he has; still, the choice of guns or butter is always with us. People are asking the question, and rightly so: How can we afford to build bridges in Afghanistan but not in New Jersey? With our infrastructure falling apart and a hundred and twenty billion dollars a year going into this generation's unwinnable Vietnam, how can we justify that?  

My answer? We can't. Empires have tried over and over to win wars in Afghanistan, and they've all failed. Yet somehow, that horrible disfiguring disease looks better on us.

Has nobody in the government ever read any history? 

I think Edwin Starr's lament about war: Good, God, y'all, what is it good for? is much more appropriate than the Battle Hymn of the Republic. War needs to be the last tool in the box we reach for, reserved for that point when nothing else will do the job. Mostly, it's been among the first. We don't get to claim we are a civilized species until we slow down that fast draw and think about it first. 

Guns or butter. Bush made that choice for us, and Obama got stuck with it, but he knew it was going to be  his problem when he went after the job. Taking down bin Laden isn't enough. I don't envy Obama's tightrope walk, but that was in the job description when he signed on. 


J.D. Ray said...

Wasn't it Rambo 3 where some American colonel was telling some Russian colonel that the Russians should just get out of Afghanistan because it was unwinnable? "We had our Vietnam, and now you've got yours," I think the line went. Something like that, anyway. So now we're there, making the same mistakes.

Some guy said...

What!? You think it's overkill to stage a lingering war to catch 10 or 20 people? And you call yourself an American! ;0)

(On the bright side I could probably get a better price now on a couple Jezails I have lying around.)

Anonymous said...

But then again we have already won the war in Afganistan- the only reason there is an active war is because AQ/Taliban are able to pop across the border into Pakistan and hide and resupply. So this is a pretty different picture then the lingering war of Vietnam or the Soviet invasion of Afganistan.

Dealing with the geo-politics of Pakistan is a tough nut to crack but it's categorically a different problem.

(As an aside, the US was able to better then the soviets not out of any attribute of superior character or determination but rather primarily because of advanced munitions technology which defeated the cave complexes that had resisted Soviet bombardment )

Steve Perry said...

Sorry, but we haven't "won" anything. We are pouring money into a rat hole, spending young lives and getting ten times that many wounded, and in the end, we are going to leave having achieved, well, let me see ...

What, exactly? Will the Taliban be extinct? Will the corrupt government be less so? Will Pakistan suddenly see the light of reason?

You think any of that is going to happen?

Anonymous said...

You're equivocating. Clearly when you and J.D. Both say "we can't win" the discussion is about military success or failure. When you say we "haven't won anything" you are discussing the consequences of the war; whether or not it is a prize worth winning.

Not that that is a bad question, but it's not the one I was responding to.

Steve Perry said...

No equivocation at all. I'm flat out saying it. We haven't "won" anything. Nor can we.

And I say it again. Short of nuking the whole country down to radioactive bed rock we can't win. They won't ever quit. There's no declared war -- has been none in these parts since WWII. Nobody to surrender. So it's like Korea or Vietnam or Iraq or Afghanistan. They ended, but which of them would you consider "won?" Korea, maybe. The rest? We just left.

The reason there is an active "war" is because the other side hasn't stopped shooting. The strategy and tactics of hiding in caves or slipping across the border or whatever are moot. How they do it is not the point, it's that they *do* do it. And will continue sniping and setting off IED's and digging tiger pits until we leave.

Can you really believe otherwise?

Anonymous said...

We'll generally every conflict was won by one side or the other. I suppose if we dig deep enough we can find examples of 'both sides losing' but that's not how history plays out generally.

The tactIcs aren't moot at all when the claim of a war being "unwinnable " is presented. How the enemy fights and where they are located is critical information for that analysis. Fact is there aren't any armies marching into cities or tanks rolling through the streets shelling enemy forces anywhere in Afganistan. That might seem like a 'duh, it's not that kind of war' but that view overlooks the fact that since the Soviet invasion Afghanistan has been riddled with just that sort of war.

If we end up not prevailing against the Taliban/ Al-queda it will be because of an inability to fight in Pakistan, not because a 'war in Afghanistan can't be won'.

Some level of insurgency will always exist of course. We have people in the US waiting for the South to rise again. The Basque region was conquered in, what, the 1500's but only in the last few years did the ETA declare a cease fire. How long after World War II were able to pull US forces out of the occupied Axis countries?

so having said all that, do I think the Taliban/AQ are going to keep fighting until we leave, yes I do. And I think it reflects poorly on our Nation that we aren't going to pursue a more definitive resolution because these people were already attacking and killing Americans (and others) well before the war in Afganistan. Do you think that was going to stop?