Thursday, August 11, 2011

Obama's Afghanistan

On the 6th of August, 30 Americans fighting in Afghanistan died when their Chinook helicopter was shot down by Taliban insurgents. 17 of them were Navy SEALs. 5 were Navy specialists attached to the SEALs. 3 were Air Force forward air controllers. 5 were the Army crew that flew the helicopter. 8 Afghans (7 soldiers and 1 civilian interpreter) were also killed.

Why? For what purpose? These men trained for years to be the best at what they do. Why were their talents being utilized in eastern Afghanistan? All their hard work, all the expertise of the helicopter crew and the Air Force controllers, all the dedication of the SEALs. It was all blown apart by a rocket propelled grenade. And for what?

These men had meaning, they had purpose. But their lives were lost in an endeavor that no longer has meaning, that has an impossible purpose, and which will soon be abandoned in a gradual withdrawal process. It's been 10 years of toil and death in Afghanistan. We destroyed the Taliban, tried propping up a corrupt government in its place, and allowed the Taliban to be born again.

Who's winning this war? We're certainly not winning. It's hard to say if the Taliban is or isn't. Frankly, it's turned into an Afghan civil war, and it needs to be fought and won/lost by Afghans.

Who's losing? The people doing the dying. The SEALs, the Marines, the Soldiers, the Airmen, they are the ones losing. Obama said that the Chinook crash is a reminder of the "extraordinary sacrifices" of our servicemen. Sacrifices to what end?

It's time to leave Afghanistan. Right fucking now. No gradual withdrawing one unit at a time. Everyone out.

It's hard to blame Obama for a 10 year war, especially since he's only been President for a little over 2 of those years. I can't blame him for strategic failures by Generals, for subpar equipment from the Pentagon's "procurement" people. I can't blame him for some insurgent's lucky shot with an RPG. But I can blame him for our continued presence in this war. I can blame him for being too politically savvy. I can blame him for trying to please and appease everyone at all times.

Obama's policies and philosophy in Afghanistan is a perfect example as to how he's conducted himself as President. He's been bending over backwards to compromise with the very vocal Conservatives, who have in turn been bending him over the barrel. He wants to be everyone's President, not just the Left's. That's commendable, in theory. It's disastrous in practice. And this desire to be loved by all, hated by none, has led to even his base to start criticizing him.

Last summer, Obama announced a surge of troops in Afghanistan. But he also effectively declared an unofficial deadline for operations there to be successful. If not, US troops would be pulled out. It apparently appeased everyone. The Cable News Generals on the Right, and the neo-hippie Lennonite pacifists on the Left. We'd have war for a year, then peace. Even I applauded Obama's shrewdness for putting himself in a seemingly no-lose situation.

But that's been the theme of his Presidency. Compromise, and trying to avoid losing. And it hasn't worked. It hasn't worked in Afghanistan, where Americans are dying because their timetables for withdrawal haven't been finalized on Microsoft Excel. It hasn't worked with the Stimulus Plan, which was compromised down in size thus preventing it from being effective (I don't think it would have been that effective anyway, but it never had a chance once it was reduced). It hasn't worked on taxing the rich and easing taxes on the middle-class. It hasn't worked to create jobs, or reform healthcare, or save the environment, et cetera.

Say what you will about George W. Bush, but when he believed in something, he tried to get it done until he was physically stopped. He stuck to his principles. He bullied Congress to get what he wanted. And now, the Right is bullying Obama for what they want. Even with control of the Senate, Obama is too unwilling to make enemies. A Democratic President, a Democratic Senate, and the Republicans are dictating terms. You can't make compromises with uncompromising people. See: Munich, 1938.

I don't know what Obama's core principles were or are concerning Afghanistan. I know he's compromised his own principles so many times in so many political dogfights that it's hard to call them principles anymore. Principles are strong, and only abandoned as an extreme measure. Obama has platforms and beliefs, not principles.

He's very skilled at not revealing how he truly feels about certain issues. I still have no idea if he smokes cigarettes or not. He's very smooth, very political, and that might be simultaneously his greatest strength and most unfortunate weakness.

Whatever Obama's principles are in Afghanistan, it's time to leave. The argument that a speedy exit would leave that country in chaos suggests that it isn't already a tattered mess over there. The argument that it wouldn't be a dignified exit for our troops makes the absurd suggestion that politicians can do anything to take away dignity from the men and women of our military. Politicians can't steal a Soldier's dignity, only their life.

It is time for that theft of life to stop.

Photo: Reuters