For the US Government …
|May 31, 2011||Posted by Jeffery J. Smith under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
For the US Government …
Time to get out of Afghanistan
In time for Memorial Day, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says we should set an end date for the US deployment in Afghanistan. This 2011 op-ed is from the Los Angeles Times, May 27.
by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)
Nearly 10 years after 9/11, Bin Laden is dead. According to CIA Director Leon Panetta, there may be as few as 50 members of Al Qaeda residing in Afghanistan.
Although we must remain vigilant in our efforts to defeat Al Qaeda and must continue our support for the Afghan people, there is simply no justification for the continued deployment of 100,000 American troops in Afghanistan. This July, the president should expedite his promised withdrawal of our combat forces. Moreover, we should now set an end date for the US deployment there.
As quickly as can be safely accomplished, American forces should be drawn down to a point where they are sufficient only to conduct targeted counter-terrorism operations, train Afghan security forces and protect American and coalition personnel. Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, has suggested that 10,000 to 25,000 troops would be adequate to fulfill this mission and that this level could be safely reached within 12 to 18 months.
We have to be realistic about what we can achieve in Afghanistan. The notion that the United States can build a Western-style democracy there is a myth. Instead, we should focus on preventing Al Qaeda from threatening the United States and supporting Afghans as they determine the way forward.
Recently, I heard an expert on Afghanistan state that withdrawing US troops would be risky because it “reaffirms the regional perception that the United States is not a reliable ally.”
I was startled by this statement. We did not go into Afghanistan with the intention of rebuilding the country or maintaining a large, permanent presence. Furthermore, the United States has sacrificed tremendously in Afghanistan. We are spending an estimated $10 billion a month there, and our total so far is almost half a trillion dollars. We have trained 125,000 members of the Afghan police and 159,000 members of the Afghan army, and spent an estimated $26 billion equipping them.
Tragically, we have also lost 1,576 American service members, and another 11,541 have been wounded, many so seriously that their lives will never be the same. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times detailed the extraordinary increase in the number of American military personnel suffering the loss of multiple limbs or devastating groin injuries.
We must not allow our goal to be distorted or expanded. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle share similar views. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) has called our expenditures in Afghanistan “fundamentally unsustainable,” and the committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), said Afghanistan “does not carry a strategic value that justifies 100,000 American troops and a $100 billion per year cost, especially given current fiscal restraints.”
Furthermore, Americans are ready for our troops to come home. According to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll, nearly 60% of Americans feel the US has fulfilled its mission in Afghanistan and should bring the troops home.
That is why I have introduced a bill in the Senate that would require the administration to give Congress a plan for redeploying our troops that includes an end date.
The United States has spent more years fighting in Afghanistan than it has in any other war in the nation’s history. We have made progress on our core objective: crippling Al Qaeda. Now is the time for us to focus on that goal and finish the job. We can do this while dramatically reducing the number of our troops serving in harm’s way and reducing the burden on our taxpayers. We owe that much to our troops, and to the American people.
To see the whole article, click here .
JJS: Is it harder to stop a war than to start a war? Many people prefer to wage war rather than risk being called a coward. And rarely do people question authority — even in matters of life and death.
Eventho only a tiny percentage of human beings have ever killed another human being, still the wish to be in a military is very widespread. Be a hero — kill enemies. All the males in my family were in the military. When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I also wanted to kill a commie for Christ. That ambition embarrasses me now.
That strategy of killing The Other runs into problems. Who is the enemy? Rarely is it an invader; often it’s fellow citizens, as now happening in the Arab world. Such has happened everywhere at one time or another. The US military killed students in the 1960s and entire families of workers in the latter 1800s. Soldiers tend to obey, not follow their conscience — nor risk punishment by the state.
Since many people believe in war, that makes war very profitable. When someone like Boxer says war is expensive, they could just as easily have said war is a huge money-maker. Those trillions that the government spends end up in the pockets of a few weaponeers and other contractors.
An old Nixon speechwriter, Kevin Phillips, calculated that war is one of the four ways that old families maintain their fortunes. (The other three are: techno-progress and patent protection, and rent-taking from land and resources like oil, plus inflation.) If wars had to be waged at the same cost as peace — meaning nobody could get rich off them — how many would governments wage?
Granted that along with profitable wars there are also perhaps emotional wars — kicking out one regime with an offensive value system to install another with an agreeable value system. But those wars still have to be fought by soldiers, and how many youthful males could the true-believers recruit in a society of economic justice? If young men had opportunities to become a man in less macho ways — as by learning, taking care of others, creating something new — how eager would they be to kill and risk being killed?
We could find out by creating economic justice. And we could create economic justice by implementing geonomics. Doing that would also really be something to remember come Memorial Day.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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