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Thursday Thoughts

December 18, 2009

Behind the scene, those of us here at Left Face have been discussing what sort of direction we want to take this blog. Originally, it was supposed to be somewhat low key, an alternative to other military spouse blogs out there. But we want to “up” the discussion a little bit, and so from here on out, we are going to start featuring a weekly “question.”  We hope that this will engage our readers a little more, and we would love to hear all of your opinions! So, with that said, don’t be shy!

This week, we would like to know:

What are your thoughts on President Obama’s proposed surge in Afghanistan? Are you for it? Against it? Why?

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. Greg Harting permalink
    December 17, 2009 8:36 pm

    The question should not be whether we support a surge. It should be whether we want to be successful in our mission in Afghanistan. As I understand the mission, it is to make the Afghani’s efficient enough to provide their own security and prevent the country from being a safe haven and training ground for extremists that wish to strike the west. If we want to be successful in that mission, more personnel is a must.
    Afghanistan is probably the most under developed and corrupt country I have experienced (and I have lived in Togo, West Africa). It has a fractured and corrupt government and a tribal society that actually runs day to day life in the villages. It’s most lucrative crop fuels the drug trade and it has extremists that want to take over the government. It is bordered by Pakistan’s volatile tribal region and has resisted being conquered by Alexander the Great, the British and the Soviets.
    Keeping in mind that Afghanistan is NOT Iraq, there are a few principles that we learned in Iraq that apply here.
    First, we need to convince the Afghanistan people, as diverse as they are, that they are better off supporting us than they are supporting the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
    In order to do that we need to provide security in order to gain enough time to not only train up the locals to provide their own security, but also work on our diplomatic, informational and economic goals.
    Second, along with providing that internal security in order to work on all of those lofty goals we have, we need to secure that border to Pakistan so that we can keep the bad guys in AStan and the bad guys in Pakistan separated – divide and conquer is the idea here.
    So, security being the essential first element to progress, we need the 30,000 plus in my opinion. I am of the mind that we can either keep 100,000 troops there for 10 years or we can keep 200,000 there for 5 or less. Either way, we are not leaving until we are confident that AStan will not be used by our enemies to attack us. And if you don’t believe that, consider who just ordered the surge.

    • December 18, 2009 9:32 am

      Hey Greg! Thanks for your comment! All excellent points that you brought up and very rational 🙂

  2. December 18, 2009 4:03 am

    As a military wife, of course I do not want my husband sent overseas again. However, I do believe that Obama made the correct decision in sending more troops to Afghanistan. Whether I agreed with it initially or not, the fact remains that we started something. To walk away now would be a great disservice to the Afghan people, and it would effectively undermine all of the hard work our military has put in. I’m glad there’s a vague timeline for withdrawal, but we have to be able to leave the country in some semblance of order, which it is not prepared for at this time. I think that on the whole, the American people are tired of being at war. But it’s important to separate OIF and OEF in our minds and recognize the purpose and goal of the latter. There’s a reason it’s titled Operation ENDURING Freedom… it’s because we want it to last.

  3. December 18, 2009 9:35 am

    As a military spouse, I think I fall somewhere between Erica and Greg. I don’t want my husband to leave again, and I think eventually down the road this is where he will end up. With that said, I don’t WANT us to be there for 10 years, or 20 years, or 100 years. But I believe in finishing what we started, and if we can do that sooner rather than later? Then that would be fantastic. The support was never really there in Afghanistan. It was sort of the neglected war for 8 years, and I think it’s about time to step it up and get it done. Again, I don’t agree with war in general, but if we’re going to do something, then we should do it right. If that means 30,000 more of OUR troops (plus whatever else the other countries decide to hand over) for a couple of years? Then ok — let’s do it.

  4. LAW permalink
    December 18, 2009 9:46 am

    After 8 years of it being the “forgotten” war, except to those of us who had family or friends there, to bring it back to the forefront was necessary. Knowing that my friends and family may be going there in the future doesn’t exactly fill me with joy either! Being a student of history, especially British history, I’m not terribly hopeful, to be honest with y’all. The tribesmen of that region are ferociously proud and as set in their tribal customs and (to us) backward thinking as cement. The corruption is so pervasive and absolute, I despair of us (and to me that includes NATO, and the rest of the countries involved) being able to change that. I will hope we do. Really really hope we do. Because to put all of this effort, the lives, the families, the time and yes the money into an endeavour, to simply watch it trickle away, would be horrendous.

    I agree, we need to give the Afghanis security, enough to allow them to establish whatever type of government will be strong enough to stand up to the militants, whatever we call them. BUT, again, the corruption in the government may stand in the way of that. We cannot hope to overturn centuries of custom in a couple of years, and the way we conducted this effort in the past hasn’t, I surmise, made the Afghani on the ground – the man in the street (because after all, women are beneath notice in that society) feel any joy in our presence or any confidence in how we operated.

    LAW

  5. December 18, 2009 10:00 am

    As others have mentioned, we are past the point where we can argue whether we should be there or not. We ARE there and we need to finish what we started. I have three boys who plan on following their daddy’s footsteps into the service and the bottom line is I’d rather send my husband to finish what we started and not send my boys to finish something that should have been completed during their dad’s time. We have a responsibility to help stabilize a country once we make the decision to go in and try to save it.

  6. December 18, 2009 10:29 am

    I bounce back and forth between two spectrums:
    On the one hand, I firmly believe that if a country has internal conflicts with one another, and want to kill each other, we should just let them have at it. Since when did we become the World Police? Why should we attempt to “correct” a people who are so enmeshed in their own sense of “rightness”? Which then begs the question, who is right anyways? I have a real problem with wars brought about by religion and differing opinions on “what God wants.” However, I’ve come to think that this is more selfish thought than anything else.
    On the other hand, I do understand the importance of defeating Al-Queda in their own stronghold, because if we don’t, there will be other attacks and civilian casualties in the US. I do believe the surge is a good idea in that respect. But can it or will it succeed? I don’t know. This is so different from the Iraqi surge to which people are comparing it. The terrain is different, and the politics are different. More soldiers unfamiliar with mountains, caves and hidey-holes does not mean victory.
    I don’t want my boyfriend to go off to war. But I do want this to be over. Not just for myself, but for other army spouses, and for the people who are living in fear in Afghanistan every day.
    As for Obama, I fully support the time and effort he put into making the decision. Sure, he now wants the impossible task of putting troops on the ground in a matter of weeks (good luck with that, not gonna happen), but I respect that he exhausted every possible option before sending more men off to war. That is the kind of leadership our country has been waiting for: thought-out, careful, and premeditated. I also agree wholeheartedly with what Obama said about our role in the global political stage: We cannot be hated and mocked by numerous countries embroiled in dispute right up until they need us. Then they run to us with open hands and say “Please sir, may I have some more?” No. That era is coming to an end, and I hope that this surge is the turning point.

  7. LopsidedMom permalink
    December 18, 2009 12:40 pm

    So, I’m typing this with a 3 week-old infant in his sling, contemplating my husband’s now probable deployment to Afghanistan in 2012 (This surge will be done by 2011? No. It won’t.) Reminds me of the last time I had a 3 week-old infant and was terrified of my husband’s then probable deployment to Iraq. The difference this time? I’m a hell of a lot more comfortable with his Commander-in-Chief. I do think Obama came to this decision after much deliberation and after 8 years of a complete yahoo running the show, that IS a comfort, however small.

    Which isn’t to say I agree with his decision to send more troops into Afghanistan. I’m not surprised at all – Obama pretty much said he would do this on the campaign trail and any progressive liberal who is surprised by this wasn’t listening last year. Still, after the West Point speech, I turned to my husband and said “So, basically, he wants a do over? He wants us to go back to 2001 and do it differently? Do it right?” My problem with that is that the world is a different place than it was in those days after 9/11…it’s time to move on. I don’t want to carry that day as a psychic national wound anymore. I don’t want to police the rest of the world anymore, to cherry pick our preemption based on availability of resources rather actual need.

    Personally, I think Greg Mortenson has done more good in Afghanistan over the past 8 years than the presence of the US military has. How about dropping in 30K NGOs? But who am I kidding, this is happening. So let’s spread the wealth. Institute a draft and a hefty war tax. Actually make civilians live with this decision the way military families have for 8 years. If we are a nation at war, let’s live like one.

    • Greg permalink
      December 18, 2009 5:33 pm

      All,

      I would like to address a couple of comments from LopsidedMom’s post. With regards to policing the rest of the world I would like to comment that in my opinion we are in that position for two reasons. Reason 1 – We became “Big Brother Democracy” during the Cold War and worked really hard at not only spreading Democracy, but also trying to gain the moral high ground. Sometimes, that moral high ground dictates that we get involved in certain situations if reason 2 is also met. Reason 2 – We are a global society and a global economy. We take action and “police” areas that further our national interest. The general public may not always understand why certain things are in our national interest, but very rarely will our government act unless it is justified by supporting our national interests; sometimes diplomatic and sometimes economic. A good example is the Gulf War. Was it about oil? Sure it was. Our economy is very dependent on oil. It is in our national interest to ensure that governments that our willing to work with us also control the oil. People need to think about their own lifestyle and how we live in this country and realize that it is only possible because we are involved on the world stage, we are a leader on that stage, and “policing” the rest of the world is one of the responsibilities that comes along with that position.

      With regards to sending 30,000 NGO’s rather than military members, I have to say that it wouldn’t work at this juncture. First, NGO’s bring improvements in infrastructure and education. It is debatable whether the average Afghani is ready for that yet. Second, they would be continually attacked by the Taliban and Al Qaeda because “they” are certainly not a fan of westernization or those kinds of improvements. Without security, nothing moves forward. And without those troops, there is no security.

      Just a few more friendly thoughts.

      • December 19, 2009 8:21 am

        Thanks, Greg. Appreciate your input. I agree, security for the NGOs is crucial, and I’d rather trust it to the military, than to a bunch of mercenaries who put on such a disgraceful display at the Embassy in Kabul!

        World Police. I’ve been hearing that for years, and I’ve tried to figure out why and how. Obligation? yes, we have one. but I do worry sometimes that we take our obligation and turn it into bullying, that we say “it’s our way or the highway”, “you’re for us or agin us” and that is so offensive to the rest of the world, is so dangerous for us. We aren’t always right, we have a habit of saying, if WE think it’s one way, well… of course we are right! This comes from a State Dept brat, who lived overseas for her entire life until she was 19. I have the habit of seeing from the other side – and it can be uncomfortable, sometimes, to hear the American view put forward as the ONLY way, the RIGHT way. It may be that for US, but it’s not going to be for everyone. To try to shove American Democracy/the Republic down the throat of the Afghans – would be as foreign as us being forced to go back into the clans and tribes of our ancestors.

        Thanks for the great discussion! for our first, I for one am thrilled that we are able to talk/discuss/disagree with good manners, and respect for each other.

        LAW

  8. Greg permalink
    December 19, 2009 10:39 am

    LAW,
    Regarding World Police, I agree with you to a certain point. I too have spent time overseas at an embassy and cringe every time the ugly American comes out or I see something happen or said that may be offensive to the local nationals. I for one am not a fan of offending people. However, I realize that much of that is the nature of the beast. Much like in our capitalistic and competitive society, in promoting what is in my best interest, I am usually promoting was is NOT in my competitions best interest. The National Stage is the same. In promoting our national interest we are by design promoting something that is not in the best interest of Country A or B. And conflict is sometimes the cost of doing business in that manner. Iran is a great example. It’s in our best interest that they don’t have Nuclear Weapons. Which is at odds with what they think is in their best interest? Are we bullying them? Maybe. But we certainly don’t want their government to have Nukes. Also, the World Police thing is a double edged sword sometimes. Good example is Somalia vs. Rwanda. We went in to Somalia in order to perform a humanitarian mission and were applauded until it went bad. Consequently, when Rwanda had their genocide shortly thereafter we as a government did nothing because it was determined not to be in our best interest. Lastly, I don’t think we are trying to bring democracy to Afghanistan and we certainly are not trying to force it on them. I think everyone involved knows that isn’t possible. What we are trying to do is enable them to provide enough security that the country won’t be used by people that are working against our security and national interest.
    Regards,
    Greg

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