Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Which Gulf disaster is worse?

Seven American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan on Monday but hardly anyone noticed. Far more concern is being expressed for the wildlife threatened by the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico than for the G.I.’s being blown up in the wilds of Afghanistan. ~ "The Courage to Leave" by New York Times Op-Ed Columnist, Bob Herbert. Read the full article here.

I notice - I notice every night when the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are NOT mentioned in the evening news. These two Gulf Wars are the longest running wars in American history. They have, and continue to, cost us trillions of dollars; money we are borrowing from foreign governments. The cost in human lives is unacceptable and the cost of caring for our war wounded will haunt us both financially and ethically for generations.

This week Gen. Stanley McChrystal submitted his resignation to the President after making comments in Rolling Stone magazine deriding his Commander in Chief. Yet even this leadership shakeup in command will not likely change the strategy in Afghanistan - a strategy which shows no sign of ending any time during my lifetime.

The military of most nations throughout history has held civilian control over them in contempt. But if history has taught us ANYTHING, it is that civilian oversight and control over the military is essential to a truly free society. Any government failing to exert such control over their military faces a future idealized by the likes of Gen. Jack Ripper who would presume to save us from our folly.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

One of wars you mentioned, in Iraq, is over. US combat troops will be gone this summer, leaving behind the only functioning democracy in the Arab world. Had GWB followed the advice of pundits like the one you quote, rather than authorising the surge, the Iraqi government may have been overthrown by Islamist fanatics who were the ideological soulmates of the perpetrators of 9-11.

The situation in Afghantistan is very similar to Iraq in 2006. I'm glad the President has appointed General Petreus, who was the author of the success in Iraq. I just hope the President has the resolve to see it through.

BTW, statements like "no sign of ending" are pretty meaningless. There was no sign of the Iraq war ending in 2006. The key metric of success in Afghanistan will be the size and capabilities of the Afghan security forces.

The Mother said...

I waver on this one. In one sense, I deplore the idea of leaving the bedraggled Afghani people to the whims of terrorist fundamentalist thugs.

On the other, I wonder why it's our job to protect them. And if it is, why aren't we doing a better job of it across the world?

No answers, just questions.

BTW, did you see that Australia has its first non-theist prime minister (a woman no less!)?

Robert the Skeptic said...

Anonymous Just yesterday 11 more people were killed by suicide bombs in Iraq. Within minutes of our departure there, the country will likely implode. As bad as Saddam was, he didn't allow competition from Islamist Extremists. But with our troops gone, Iraq will completely drop off the news - the renewed terror and carnage there becoming invisible to the American public.

On the radio I heard two competing "experts" discuss the different strategies regarding Afghanistan. Though their views differed, both said we would be there for the next 10 years, minimum.

What does "winning" look like in Afghanistan for you? The center of the Taliban support comes from the tribal regions of Pakistan where we have nothing more than predator drones. The Taliban can wait 10 years for us to leave; they would flow back in a heartbeat leaving Karzai (the corrupt) to either flee or be killed. The Afghan "forces" will buckle under the Taliban and we will be left with trillions spent, precious lives lost, and back where we started.

You said: "The key metric of success in Afghanistan will be the size and capabilities of the Afghan security forces." The Afghans don't like us, they don't trust us... the Taliban may be sons of bitches, but they are "their" sons of bitches. Why would the Afghans put their necks on the line to protect our interests half way around the globe?

So then where do we go to fight the terrorists, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Syria? The Pakistanis are half-heartedly fighting the Taliban and they are in THEIR back yard!

The "pundits" I quoted is an award winning journalist; so I am to assume your definition of a pundit is anyone who doesn't agree with you? The opinion is that of a journalist (check the man's his bio).

The point of my post was that the American public's eyes have glazed over regarding this dilemma. If one doesn't personally have a family member or friend fighting their third or fourth tour over there, the public's attention is fixed on oily pelicans. I reaffirm my original statement, particularly with respect to Afghanistan. I don't see any sign of it ending short of our pulling out and leaving them to fall back into chaos.

Thanks for sharing your views.

Dr. Mom I agree, though many believe (wrongly) that if we don't fight them "over there" we will be fighting them in our neighborhoods.

I don't know what the answer is other than to address what is motivating them and trying to defuse it. All it takes is three disgruntled malcontents to get together and you have a "terrorist group". How do you fight that?

No I didn't hear about the female Australian prime minister. Of course that could never happen here.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Anonymous Turkey currently is, and has been for some time, the only functioning democracy in the Arab world. That is the goal for Iraq, but I guess the question I have for you is: are you a betting man?

Marylinn Kelly said...

The Los Angeles Times recently enumerated the rich mineral resources of Afghanistan, perhaps one reason why we remain. Australia's Prime Minister Rudd was fired for proposing that the mining companies pay a higher tax than is currently being levied, only on their profits, with the intention of closing some of the gap between haves and have-nots. At times I think we've lost our way, then I wonder if we have been blind all along to what really matters to the America of many politicians and those who profit from chaos and misfortune.

Gorilla Bananas said...

Is this a political debate? I support the GIs because they call themselves "grunts", which means they have something in common with us gorillas. I hate to be a bore, Robert, but the Turks aren't Arabs. Maybe you meant to write "the only functioning democracy in the Muslim world".

The Idiot said...

I was on YAHOO! news yesteday and the headline, above everything else going on in the world, was "Jerry Seinfeld slams Lady GaGa".

Welcome to our world.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Marylinn Shortly after the Bush Administration attacked Afghanistan the target of opportunity changed to Iraq. Many believe it was no coincidence that the architects of that conflict were deeply rooted in the petroleum industry. Other terrorists states don't seem to have enough natural resources of interest to us to attract our desire to spread democracy.

Bananas You are correct, I reflected the term "Arab" used by Anonymous when I should have correctly denoted "Muslim" world. That was sloppiness on my part.

This conflict, and it's solution (be there any) is tremendously complex and clearly far beyond my abilities and expertise for my meager "arm chair" opinion to bear any serious consideration. My underlying concern, rather, is more the lack of serious attention by the media, and therefore, the public regarding the real long-term costs and consequences of this disaster. Americans took to the streets in huge numbers to end the Vietnam war. Instead our media feeds us warm fuzzy human interest stories about what a wonderful job our fighting men and woman are doing. It's cruel propaganda.

Idiot Your observations underscore precisely what keeps me awake at night. I differ from most Americans in that I don't know who the hell Lady Gaga is but I CAN locate Iraq and Afghanistan on a map.

alwaysinthebackrow said...

We have not owned these two wars. We are using "volunteers"-the full extent of the war does not hit as forcefully as it would if there were a draft and anyone could be looking at having to fight there. By ignoring it, it isn't happening, right? It is just a video game, with do-overs, and extra lives. Drone bombers and surgical precision make the suffering and horrors of the war even less real to those here in the US. We don't hear about the war on the news because it is boring to watch the same video games over and over again, with no end in sight, and no way to claim a victory.
I am kept up at night as well.

Thank you for a very thoughtful and well-written piece.

Robert the Skeptic said...

BackRow I have seen those military recruitment ads on TV specifically targeting the video game generation. One in particular shows the predator drone "game"; the ugliness of actually killing someone is omitted.

My nephew was told by a recruiter that if he signed now he would not be sent overseas. I asked him if he thought they would send someone else over for a fifth deployment so he could stay in the states... and what he would do when he found out the recruiter lied to him. Blank stare.

The sad thing is that with unemployment hovering around 10%, the military is the only viable option for many young people. I wonder if unemployment was low if we would need to reinstate the draft? It's a question.

KleinsteMotte said...

I wonder why we still allow massive deception.
Seems economies need the concept of war. While you worry about the cost I worry about the profit. Worse I worry about the online war games that are changing the way boys see the need to aspire to a college education. The drop out rate for males is huge!! That will weaken the nation even more!! Is there a cause behind the addiction to gaming?What is really embedded in them? Minds are being messed with and we are the losers because we aren't paying attention to this danger.Prove me wrong because I really worry.

Robert the Skeptic said...

KleinsteMotte I have similar concern. There is a remarkable video of a lecture by Philip Zimbardo which I will post soon. He talks about the drop-out rate and how the old methods of static learning do not resonate with a large segment of young students.

I get caught up in it as well; airport delays bug me when really, a generation ago, traveling cross-country required a three day train trip. But there I am gnashing my teeth as I wait for my computer to boot or download some "instant" information.

Regarding war economy, it is my understanding that ramping up war production for WWII is what pulled the US out of the Great Depression.

I don't know what the answer is but most seem to find coping in distracting themselves on the lives of celebrities.

KleinsteMotte said...

The comment about the celebs has got me going in the direction the media is playing a huge game with us all and we are taking it all in. Newspapers, cable networks, radio stations are all in control of what we see and hear. Capitalism has changed the meaning of democracy because profits rule.The BP mess shows how powerless we really have become.Do believe that?

Orhan Kahn said...

Six Australian soliders have died in the past few weeks in Afghanistan. It is a national tradgey when this sort of thing happens. That are properly honoured. I'm just glad we face our losses they was we should and not try to sweep it under the rug.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Orhan Remarkably the sad news of your six countrymen did indeed appear in our media coverage.

I'm curious how the war, and war casualties are received there in Australia?

Penny said...

Robert, the war, or wars ARE in the news, but as in your case we're hearing the warm fuzzie stuff accompanied by photo ops of cute kids whose lives have been "improved" in some way. Our government currently supports the USA position absolutely and Australian war casualties are regarded as heroes.
I suspect that this won't change with the new PM as she's never criticised government policy as regards involvement in any war, although I think she'd do so in a heartbeat if there was enough popular opposition.
And opposition here is rather muted, and gets very little coverage by the media. So I suspect the media are complicit in the government's position. The most negative coverage I've seen was a story the Melbourne Age ran about severely injured servicemen not being given adequate compensation.

GutsyWriter said...

Yes, as I mentioned in one of my posts: "Media Manipulation," the public is "told" what to think and when. I'm so tired of having to do my own research if I want to read what's going on in other countries. I really wish we had one commercial free channel with news broadcast from each country and sub-titles in English. We could hear perspectives from around the world on the same problems, and make our own decisions.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Penny The lessons the military learned from the Vietnam war is that, if you control the press you control the message. Only recently has the ban been lifted on photographing the caskets when they return from the battlefield.

Our psychologically wounded vets have had to fight being denied their disability benefits; the military claiming that many of these soldiers had mental issues BEFORE they entered the military. Shameless.

Gutsy We are fortunate in Oregon to have a robust Public Television station. In addition to commercial free news, we also get broadcasts from BBC and in English other European countries.

Interestingly the Conservatives have pressed to reduce or eliminate funding for public TV, feeling that "impartial" equates to "liberal". As opposed to Fox News which is "fair and balanced" because they SAY it is! [it makes me gag]

Entre Nous said...

Bravo.