Obama’s get-out-of-jail-free card
I am a strong believer in what I choose to call the collective wisdom of the American people. Others might call this America’s undoubted talent for “muddling through” tough times. Whatever it’s called, America’s collective wisdom or talent for muddling through is telling us that it is way past time to end our 10-year war in Afghanistan, fold our tents, and bring our 90,000 troops home. Poll after poll confirms this.
Our government seems to have learned nothing from the Soviet Union’s failed venture in Afghanistan, a venture we played a major role in bringing to grief, a venture that contributed mightily to the decline and fall of the Soviet Union itself. That was a good thing, right? What possible good can come from our more high-minded, though equally nonsensical, continuing presence in Afghanistan?
Should we have gone in and dismantled the al-Qaida training camps and ousted the Taliban government that harbored those who planned and conducted the 9/11 attacks on our country? Of course! Should we again destroy such camps if they are re-established there or anywhere else in the world? Yes!
Should we then engage in a prolonged and futile attempt to create in these places governments and societies friendly to us and supportive of our interests? No!
A study of history supports the thesis that political freedom, economic progress, and societal evolution are seldom, if ever, successfully imposed from without. These things must come from within. That at least has been America’s experience in places as diverse and geographically separated as Haiti (which we occupied for 20 years) and Vietnam (where 58,000 young Americans lost their lives).
President Obama has been given a huge gift by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Outraged by the murder of 16 civilians by a deranged U.S. soldier, Karzai has demanded the removal of NATO troops from Afghan villages, where arguably they should never have been posted in the first place. He wants these troops confined in fixed bases. “Afghanistan is right now ready to completely take all security, so we demand a speedy transition and the hand-over of responsibility to the Afghans,” he said.
He also wants essential command of American troops in his country, what type of operations they may engage in, where and when they may seek out the enemy, and what weapons they may use. Perhaps this last he is borrowing from neighboring Pakistan, which demands that U.S. drone attacks be ended or curtailed in that country, a haven for al-Qaida and the Taliban.
A wise American president should take Karzai up on his offer to assume responsibility for security now, not two or more years down the pike. Our continued presence in Afghanistan is not worth one more U.S. flag-draped coffin, one more mutilated soldier, one more dollar spent propping up a corrupt and ungrateful government that very publicly hates our guts. President Obama is said to be politically astute. Let him prove it. Let him get our troops out now.
Iraq, from which he removed our last combat troops last December, is astonishingly and ignorantly sometimes cited as an American success story. It is hardly that, hardly an example of what Americans should like to see repeated elsewhere. Iraq is a country coming apart at the seams and slipping into uncivil war.
Bombs are again tearing apart
neighborhoods in its capital, Baghdad. Iraqis still lack essential infrastructure, reliable electric power, safe water.
There is no certainty that the government and society that eventually emerges there will be at all aligned with America. Nor is it even certain that a majority of Iraqis consider themselves better off now than they were before the U.S. intervention.
Eventually, reality in America will triumph over illusion. The “success” of our counter-insurgency effort in Iraq was bought by putting bad guys on our payroll, and the “nation” we built there rests on a foundation of shifting sand.
Collective wisdom. We have it. Muddling through, we’re good at it. To be sure, from time to time we go to sleep and allow ourselves to be misled by soothsayers, charlatans and other political miscreants who peddle bad goods. But inevitably they are found out and our nation restored to its former greatness. As Abe Lincoln said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”
Thanks to the collective wisdom of a few men, our Founding Fathers, we have a constitution that provides us with a way short of bloody revolution to rid ourselves of inept and unworthy leadership. It’s called the ballot box. Don’t forget to use it.
R.L. Schreadley is a former Post and Courier executive editor.