Monday, November 30, 2009

Business as Usual - War, Obama, Disappointment

For the second Monday morning in a row,I met a friend at 7 a.m. to go walking. Everything is virgin then, the daylight, the streets, uncluttered by cars and bodies, the air, quiet. I began the day, the week in energetic motion, noticing the wonders of nearby water, a flock of seagulls, trees nearly emptied of leaves, and a balding man jogging in shorts, his dog running leisurely behind him. I brushed my hand over shrubs still green as I passed by, feeling their coarse and smooth textures alive on my skin. I keep a pace but with no pressure of time, and when I return home the day remains new, yet more vital than when I left. This is not business as usual for me, early morning walks, and I am grateful.

In contrast, sadness and disappointment have been creeping up about Obama's decision to send more troops to Afghanistan. This is business as usual. I can't pretend to know all the arguments for his decision, though I did read the compelling resignation letter of a special envoy to the region, giving his reasons for not being able to support the war. I am not a pacifist, having supported some of the liberation movements in Africa. But I am aware of enough history and current signposts that bode poorly on what can and will be accomplished in Afghanistan except for more horrific deaths and maiming of young people, who along with their families have unjustly borne the burden of this and the Iraq war. And yet, because I have a son in his 20's, I would fight a draft with every muscle in my body. Side by side the injustice and my unwillingness to participate in a fairer sacrifice deeply saddens me. I read Michael Moore's letter to President Obama today on Afghanistan, and I share in his disappointment. I am sad for Obama too, that he should find himself authoring such an old script, like scenes from earlier day movies of a guy stepping into quick sand, sinking deeply up to his neck and then gone. In this version, one body is replaced by hordes. Perhaps there will be more finesse to the lines tomorrow night. But what is at issue here goes beyond art or intellect. This is soul territory, and I pray for us all.

Photo courtesy of


  1. While I agree that history does show us the dangers of remaining in Afghanistan and that Obama is following an old script, I cannot say that I am surprised. During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Senator Obama did say that "Afghanistan represented the primary front in the war against terrorism". While I do not believe that there is a military solution to "terrorism", I do find Afghanistan and Pakistan to represent serious national security threats to the United States. Without us there, I believe Afghanistan would remain a Narco-state with no real security presence, which means instability caused by fighting between Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces and a weak elected government. That is probably a fight that the Taliban wins if there is no support from NATO forces. And in Pakistan, you have a nuclear-armed government that will not be able to fight Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces without angering its people and possibly causing an overthrow of their government. That is not something anyone wants to see because it would lessen the fragile security of their nuclear arsenal. In this respect, I believe that Obama is in an extremely precarious situation.

    This all reminds me of how far the eight years of the Bush Administration set us back from a foreign policy perspective. Had the Bush Administration remained committed to the "just" war in Afghanistan and committed our military resources to Afghanistan rather than being fixated on Iraq, this discussion may not be happening because our forces may have been returning from Afghanistan and would never have been in Iraq. Instead they paid Afghani militias to secure the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan to prevent Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda leadership and forces from exiting Afghanistan. The result was Bin Laden paying the Afghani militias off and entering the border area of Pakistan that the Pakistani government cannot even enter.

    I completely agree that Obama is following an old script but that should not be surprising given his campaign statements that I referenced earlier. In addition, while many seem to believe or want to believe that he came into the Presidency due to some type of revolution, I believe that couldn't be farther from the truth. He used rhetoric that might reflect something like that, which resonated due to the economic situation of our country, but if you look at the power structures that helped propel him to the presidency, they represent much of the traditional power structures (Wall Street, Mass/Commercial Media, etc.). So while some on "the left" are disappointed, I am not.

    I really don't believe he can responsibly leave Afghanistan, or Iraq for that matter. We can thank the Bush Administration for that.

  2. Wow! Thank you Mandela for that complex analysis of the situation. You are clearly more informed than I am re what has gone on there. I do wonder about what appears to be a contradiction between your statement that you don't see a military solution to terrorism and your indication that our military presence is needed there. Are you saying that we have to engage in stop gap maneuvers? And I wonder, if that's what we're doing then how likely is it that we can ever withdraw, which is to say, how likely is it that the Afghanis will ever be in a position to take this role?