The tragedy in Afghanistan of a US soldier murdering 16 civilians has given President Obama a greater urgency in getting American troops out of that country. Yet, he finds himself in a similar situation as President Nixon during the latter days of the Vietnam War...Securing Peace (leaving) with honour.
With America's "puppet" Afghan ruler Hamid Karzai now asking NATO troops to stay in their camps, abandoning one of their main goals of winning the hearts and minds of the people...one question resonates: Why are we sill there?
Leaving Afghanistan was a main topic Obama discussed with British Prime Minister David Cameron this past week. And it's a cinch one of the talking points was that question: Why are we still there? What are our goals?
Now that Osama Bin Laden is dead and Al Qaida is opening up chapters all over the Islamic world, the only concrete answer to that question is the protection of women.
The feminist victory may be complete in America, but on the international stage it's not doing so well with three quarters of the world's women still under often-severe male domination. Afghanistan is an extreme case in point in what might be termed the first feminist war...a war that now may not be won even if Hillary Clinton dons a flack jacket and shoulders an M16 on the front lines. Still,since the Bush Administration to the present America's top foreign policy office has been held by women...women who have promised not to desert their Afghan sisters.
I say that since there has yet to be a credible explanation as to why we, and other NATO nations, are sill there, except to keep the extreme male chauvinist and misogynist Muslim Taliban from power. Our main goal of defeating Osama bin Laden's Al Qaida group and international terrorism is over...at least there.
Remember, America originally helped arm the Taliban in its fight against the Soviets. As far as anyone can tell the reason for our conflict with them, as with Iraq, is regime change. We have also accomplished that. How long Karzai remains in power after NATO leaves is questionable.
Yet, unlike Iraq, which had a strong central autocratic government, the Taliban is a theocracy made up of hill tribesmen who simply abandoned Kabul when we arrived and took the mountains and friendly villages for a protracted war against NATO.
Of course it doesn't have to be that way. If we had the money and popular support we could stay there as long as we wanted. We have maintained forces in South Korea since the end of WW2, most of that time under a cease-fire agreement with North Korea.
But, this is the main weakness with progressive democracies when pitted against stagnant theocracies. Like sharks, we have to keep moving or we eventually will perish. Many Islamic states simply exist as shellfish, going where the tide takes them, in a non-evolutionary permanent state shielded by their faith.
But, for us, as usual there's more at stake in Afghanistan than our war on terror, women being forced to wear burkas and our international reputation. There are big, big bucks in the form of natural gas and minerals. And there's one more thing...narcotics. The country's biggest cash crop is opium poppies, another battle that hasn't been going well. Because as with our similar efforts to eradicate South American cocaine, we're fighting an indigenous people's traditional work.
President Obama's original contention during the GW Bush years that we should be concentrating on Afghanistan rather than invading Iraq was good politics in the aftermath of 9/11. Our invasion of Iraq wasn't based so much on Saddam Hussein's brutality as it was on reports of his so-called weapons of mass destruction aimed at the West...a claim that has since been proven false.
So, it was left to the media to ramp the US population up for our Afghan adventure. Photos and videos of women being tortured and executed for trying to have jobs or enjoy some western music, inflamed many of us against the brutal Taliban religious fanaticism. As it should have. Develop a war on terrorism and couple this with the Taliban and nine years later we are still there with more NATO troops dying every week.
But wait! There's one more weakness progressive democracies have: We won't do what some of our enemies would do to win. We are limited by our civility, rules of warfare, the Geneva Convention, etc. That's partly why those 16 senseless civilian deaths is so difficult to stomach.
During the Korean War General Douglas MacArthur, one of the most brilliant military tacticians we have ever had was fired by President Truman because he wanted to bomb the railroads in Manchuria. That was from where China's Red Army supplies were being funneled into Korea. He felt if we broke the supply line, the Chinese offensive would collapse. Truman, however, felt such as action might bring Russia into the conflict and trigger WW3. We didn't win in Korea...but eventually bargained for a truce.
In Vietnam we tried everything except invading North Vietnam and nuclear weapons. But, those options were nixed for fear of bringing the Chinese into the war.
We are not about to nuke Afghanistan, killing everyone that isn't waiving Old Glory or even try to fight a war of attrition, which we would lose. That's possibly because we are still too nice to win. We will eventually just leave...but probably without that infamous Mission Accomplished banner.
And, hopefully we may at long last learn that our nation is best defended by guarding our own borders and fighting a never-ending battle at home for truth, justice and the American way, if anyone can recall what that way is.