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Scale Back Afghanistan

After thinking about Afghanistan some more, I believe it’s time to start leaving, or at least to scale back. My first consideration, as a Vietnam draftee, is what would happen if we started drafting people to fight in Afghanistan. We would have a rebellion just like we had during Vietnam. Very few people would go. Right after 9/11/2001 there was a patriotic impulse, personified by Pat Tillman, to go fight alQaeda there, but that impulse has gone cold. Our main mission there was to find and punish alQaeda, especially Osama bin Laden, and we have so far failed at that for over eight years. Now there’s concern that the Taliban will return to power and give sanctuary to alQaeda again. First, the Taliban is not exactly our enemy, although they are awful people, oppressing women, destroying Buddhas, etc. Al-Qaeda is our enemy, but what do they get from the Taliban? Probably unfettered access to a few square miles of land to use as training bases to plan attacks on the West. Can’t we interdict these bases without bringing Jeffersonian democracy to Afghanistan, reportedly an impossible job? I think we can. We can reach some kind of agreement with the Afghans to shoot missiles at any such bases or send in airborne commandos or some such arrangement. Karzai will be happy to have us our of his day to day affairs and let him get back to the corruption that’s making him rich. The goal of protecting America does not require us to turn Afghanistan into a Western democracy.

There is the matter of Bush/Cheney sacrificing hundreds of lives of American troops for nothing. That’s awful, but there is no sense in sacrificing more lives in a wasted effort. The thing to do is for America to do all it can for the families of the fallen and the wounded.
I am skeptical that America will care for the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. They are too isolated from the rest of American society. They come from a relatively small cohort in terms of income and political views. They are basically mercenaries, although they come from within American society, except for the significant number who are immigrants who are not citizens. If my return from Vietnam is any indication (and I think in some ways the return of these veterans will be worse) they can’t expect much from American society. Few people are going to help them find jobs, for example, except a few who think they can get some good publicity from hiring a few veterans. Vietnam veterans returned to active hatred or at least opposition from those who refused to go; today’s veterans return just to indifference, and many have an even more difficult job adjusting because they have served so many tours in such difficult conditions. With the draft, in general, people just went once. “Lifers” kept going back, but they planned to make the military their career. There are more lifers today, but there are a lot who are disillusioned, but find it very difficult to leave, but they don’t fit into the society they left behind.

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