listening to media commentators and politicians talk this week about afghanistan, with nary a voice boldly speaking the truth, the historical parallel that comes to mind is england in decline: bogged down in endless useless wars but still talking as if it had some, any authority.
for years on end we can expect to have these tin pot 'experts' analysing troop movements in helmand province; discussing hearts and minds initiatives; name-dropping ethnic groupings and their alleged proclivities; and reading the tea leaves of pentagon or state department leaked memos. and guess what? none of it matters in the least. whether we 'win' in afghanistan or 'lose' matters not one cent to our national interest, at least not directly. whether we win or lose, hundreds of billions of dollars will be added to the deficit without any concrete benefit in return. if we lose, of course, obama will be ruined, and there will be no health care reform or any other kind of reform. as it is, of course, i am not sure that the 'reform' on offer really does much but create a new market for our decrepit, greedy insurance industry. if we lose, we can expect generations of people on the right to moan about how we 'woulda won' if it hadn't been for treacherous democrats. very possibly a failure by obama would mean a hard-nationalist government. although i like to think most americans would be chastened by defeat into not supporting endless war.
obama had a chance to turn down this war. he has the smarts to know this war is meaningless. and i think he does know. but his conservative instincts, his conventional behavior, prohibit him from doing anything that striking, anything that would deny him a second term. and that is too bad. how his name would resound in history if he had joined the handful of leaders who decided to sacrifice their careers for the good of the country!
afghanistan offers as much danger to us as vietnam's bamboo ICBMs threatened this country decades ago. the taliban is an anti-imperial force. and even if their fringe is mixed up with al-qaeda, so what? so are dozens of organizations around the world, and remote-controlled war (drone strikes) and costly invasions are not what keeps us safe: it is good smart policing and spying.
what is most dismaying about obama's choice, going against his own good judgment as it does, beyond the people who will die as a result, is how the military establishment shines through its camouflage as co-ruler with the executive branch. they railroaded this thing, with leaks and hints. and obama flinched. god forbid a president tell the military what to do. in our 'democracy,' it is the military's way or the highway. but i say to obama: you should have taken the bullet for us and let the war-mongers ruin your re-election. history would have vindicated you. as it is now, by collaborating with them, you are consigning your potentially shining legacy to the dumpster out back of wendy's!
endless wars, with no need to pay for them. and endless excuses for not funding our real priorities: education and health care. the military, as in pakistan, is running the show, and our poor obama has to pretend he is in charge.