Question of the Day: The Neverending War

President Barack Obama meets with Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, aboard Air Force One in Copenhagen, Denmark on Oct. 2, 2009. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)It’s been eight years since we invaded Afghanistan under the belief that we would rouse the Taliban from power, then kill or capture members of al-Qaeda, who were responsible for the Sept. 11th attacks. It’s mind-boggling that we’re still there, but when you consider that Afghanistan was all but discarded for a boondoggle in Iraq, it’s easy to see how Afghanistan became the Forgotten War.

Afghanistan has been a long, slow bleed-and-burn that fewer and fewer Americans have the stomach for as more and more people have forgotten why we invaded in the first place. In a recent Gallup poll, 50 percent of Americans said they were against President Obama sending more troops to Afghanistan. And let’s not even get into the many people who voted for Obama under the belief that he would find a resolution to the problem that is Afghanistan. At the same time we have generals discussing the war in the press, expressing their opinions on what the president should or shouldn’t be doing, as the decision whether or not to send more troops is gauged.

More after the jump.

From Gallup:

Gen. McChrystal — whom Obama’s administration appointed to Afghanistan earlier this year — has already indicated that he is likely to request more troops for that country. Should Obama turn down such a request, he risks the ire of Republicans and others who will most likely argue that he is ignoring the wishes of his commanders on the ground, and making a mistake that could result in an increased risk of terrorism, among other things. Should he agree to order more troops, he will go against the wishes of the broad U.S. population — and, in particular, the rank-and-file of his own party, which at the moment is more opposed to than in favor of such an action.

We’ve been in Afghanistan about seven years too long. I feel it should have always been about getting al-Qaeda and when Osama bin Laden proved elusive in Tora Bora we should have stayed focused on that and not gotten into the tired business of nation building. Not only is history stacked against us (Afghanistan is comically notorious for its inability to be conquered.) very few Americans personally care what happens to the country.

Before the war, our closest relationship to the place was using it as a proxy to bog down the former U.S.S.R, which also made the mistake of trying to conquer Afghanistan during their long, bloody incursion. Afghanistan has few resources (hence why poppies for heroin are their number one export), is almost strategically worthless. If we did win the war, I’d be among the many wondering what in the hell did we just win. I’m not even sure what winning would look like, considering the level of corruption that presently exists and that its leader is primarily the ruler of the nation’s largest city and little else.

Still, there is a good chance that the president will send more troops to Afghanistan as during his election he said this was the more pressing battle that had to be fought. He was for a troop surge in Afghanistan and we all know how no president wants to “lose” a war. LBJ didn’t, which is why he ended up kicking the Vietnam can down to Richard Nixon. Afghanistan is not as bloody as Vietnam, but is almost as mentally numbing in its near pointlessness.

From Politico’s The Huddle:

The one commitment Obama made, according to the New York Times, was there would be no hasty exit from the battlefield, even after an eight-year slog that is lasting longer than the far more bloody conflict in Vietnam: 

“Mr. Obama seemed to be searching for some sort of middle ground, saying he wanted to “dispense with the straw man argument that this is about either doubling down or leaving Afghanistan,” as White House officials later described his remarks.”

I don’t know how you find middle ground on Afghanistan. I think it is as simple as either doubling down or leaving. There are no other real options. You could send some troops, but not the total 40,000 requested, but that’s still sending more troops. That’s still further investing, or half-assed investing, in this untenable situation.

What’s your view on Afghanistan? With the president weighing his options, what do you think he should do? Right now everyone is giving their opinions (most Republicans are for more troops; Democrats are all over the map as always), but what’s yours? I think the war has become another pointless exercise in ego, re: our pride, being smooshed by outside forces and us clinging to it despite the fact that it may be time to just pack up our toys and go home. I see no point in sending more troops if we’re not getting an explanation on what success in Afghanistan and the end of the war looks like. There needs to be some finality better than the lame, “We still have troops in Europe and we still have troops in South Korea,” explanation that Secy. of State Hillary Clinton gave to Katie Couric Tuesday on the evening news. No one has died from aggression in Korea or Europe in decades. When people say “what’s the endgame?” they want to know when does the bleeding stop. How can you have finality when people are still blowing up everything, including themselves, to keep this war of attrition going?

To what end do we keep going?

6 thoughts on “Question of the Day: The Neverending War

  1. this is one we need to win, but one we can’t. i was never for iraq, i understood why we went into iraq, but i didn’t agree with the lies that were told, or even going into it in the first place. but yes, afghanistan, IMO, was justified. but if you look at what happened to the russians, the same thing is happening to us.

  2. We did topple the Taliban and did kill\capture some al-Qaeda. The problem is is that we lost focus with our adventure into Iraq when we could have used the last seven years to install a stable gov’t in Afghanistan. If we leave without a stable gov’t in place, the Taliban will come back into power and they will hide al-Qaeda again and we will be right back to where we were before 9/11.

  3. I’m disappointed that there aren’t more comments on this. I always enjoy the high level exchanges on important matters. Perhaps it’s ominously emblematic of the subject matter. God, I hope not. Snob I agree that it is hard to find middle ground. But I disagree with the premise that compromise is what the President should seek with his strategy. I think the big sin of OIF wasn’t that we went there in the first place but the god awful half cocked plan we kicked it all off with. But I can forgive that, what I wrestle with is that we waited 4 years to come up with a winning plan. Which may never had come had it not been for a newly minted Congressional Democratic majority I can’t reconcile that. But what would have been worse would have been Vietnam style withdrawal. Sadly, I think we are at a similar point today. I think during the debate for the surge the slogan was "go big or go home". The George Will designed plan for a total pull out followed by a drone war sounds good but it doesn’t really have an exit strategy either. I’m not sure if American crediblity is on the line anymore. I don’t think we have enough global politica capital left. So with that being said, If I were the average snob reader I would do two things1. Maintain a questioning attitude when the Vice President holds court on this matter.2. Read Samuel Huntington. Multi-polar world, here we come.

  4. I want it to end. In addition to all the civilian & military deaths, as well as it being a pointless war, my brother is out there right now and it’s not his first time out there either. We need to bring them home pronto.

  5. Okay, those that have seen me post know that I’m a heart bleeder in the extreme, but I am part of a family that has served this country’s military since it’s founding (DAR and all that). I am also a vet.So what do I think should be done:1) find the 40k troops and send them in. if you can find more, do it.2) fire McChrystal for pushing what should be an apolitical discussion to the pundits. it is about the war, not seeing your name is print3) figure out what it is that you want to do. right now it seems like they are in a holding pattern waiting for the next attack. get it together and execute.4) sack the puppet government. if you are really trying to prove that democracy is a good thing, pointing a gun and stuffing ballots boxes is not the way to do it imho.5) focus. with the economy, healthcare, and the zillions of balls that Obama has to juggle daily, the real problem is that this war does not get enough attention. Succinctly, get a plan, get a leader, get the boots on the ground, and get it done.Peace.Rick Beagle

  6. As Memorial Day quickly approaches, we pause to reflect on the state of our union, especially with President Obama at the helm. This week on Basic Black, we will be examining the presidency of our current commander-in-chief, especially his role in shaping the outcome of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and his role with the recent oil spill. Our panelists will explore the issues faced by men and women of color in the military. For this episode, our panel will include: Callie Crossley, host of The Callie Crossley Show on WGBH Radio, Philip Martin, Senior Investigative Reporter, 89.7,Latoyia Edwards, anchor for New England Cable News, and Lionel McPherson, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. You can watch this Thursday, May 27, at 7:30 on WGBH (Channel 2) or online at (where you can also tell us your thoughts on our live chat).

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