After Vietnam, I measure a war's nobility of purpose by asking two simple questions: Would I give my life for it, or ask my daughter or son to give theirs? The answer concerning the war in Afghanistan on both counts is "no." I don't understand the logic of committing 30,000 more troops to a guerrilla war that can't be fought with a standing army. The British have already tried that, not only in Afghanistan, but in another tussle known as the American Revolution, with similar results. I don't believe that the President, as a student of history, will repeat the mistakes of Vietnam, yet here we are again, facing an enemy that could be a merchant by day and an insurgent by night, defending a corrupt government that lacks popular support, and an enthusiastic general requesting more troops to "complete the job," only his name is McChrystal instead of Westmoreland.
While the real enemy, Al Qaeda, has an estimated presence in Afghanistan small enough to be defeated by the Tennessee National Guard, their legions have purportedly crossed into Pakistan, as Sec. Clinton so bluntly pointed out to their prime minister. So, it's hard to know who the enemy is in Afghanistan. The Taliban are a nasty bunch, as attested by the news footage of them whipping women in the streets, or blowing up ancient Buddhist statues, long before we invaded. But the purpose for their removal was for harboring bin Laden and friends, not for being religious extremists. I realize that the U.S. must present force in the region to prevent the murderous conspirators who attacked us from regaining a foothold to plot new atrocities. But history and the Mossad have proven that terrorists are better fought with special forces trained for that purpose. If U.S. personnel cross borders to pursue the assassins, I don't necessarily want to know how the sausage is made.
It's not that I don't trust the president's judgement by listening to the military's eternal call of "more troops," or General McChrystal's veracity, although he was involved in the cover-up regarding the death of Pat Tillman; It's Sec. of Defense Robert Gates that I believe. This is a man deserving of one of those Medals of Freedom that Bush used to hand out like prizes from a box of Cracker Jacks. Gates is serving his third president during wartime, having been retrieved from academia to rectify the worldwide chaos wrought by Donald Rumsfeld. Having previously served as head of the CIA, he could have comfortably remained president of Texas A&M, but chose to serve the country again by re-directing the strategy in Iraq, and staying on as secretary under Obama to focus on the indecipherable dilemma that is Afghanistan. Through it all, Gates' primary concern has been for the troops, both in the field and after returning home. If this genuine patriot and public servant believes that more troops now will bring this war to a faster conclusion, then I'm prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Several major differences exist between today's wars and Vietnam. For starters, today's soldiers are volunteers, while the Vietnam War was fed with draftees who were forced to go fight in an alien land or face jail. The war in Indochina was expanded by LBJ primarily over the issue of the size of his balls. He famously said, "I'm not gonna' be the first American president to lose a war." Nixon and Kissinger had the same missile-headed reflexes and cost millions of more lives. Afghanistan, however, was the staging ground for the attacks against us and deserving of retaliation. Now, Obama has the delicate task of extracting us from this morass. No one can accuse him of bait-and-switch on this issue. He campaigned on the promise to bring the focus of our national security back to the region that still endangers us. If the Gates-McCrystal strategy succeeds, I suggest we never again commit troops to any country with a "stan" in its name.
It's too bad the Obama haters won't be listening to his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in Oslo out of general, misguided principle. But they would only still despise him anyway. Had they listened, they would have heard a Chief of State describe the use of arms against an unprincipled enemy as "just," in defense of the citizens he is sworn to protect. He also reminded the "effete" Europeans that the conservatives are so eager to loathe, that their freedoms over the last century have been purchased with large doses of American blood. Obama stated something even Dubya could love; "There is evil in the world that must be confronted." This sober, thoughtful, and historic speech should forever put to rest the wing-nuts' insistence that Obama is somehow un-American, or acting on behalf of dubious forces beyond our borders; but it won't. They have become so engulfed by hatred and misguided outrage, orchestrated by right-wing, self-serving, on-air, borderline seditionists, that they can't see the man standing before them has become the legitimate Commander in Chief of the United States. And no one is blinder than he who won't see.