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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Weekly Debate Should the U.S Leave Afghanistan?

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The wealth and blood of our fellow Americans has been spent, but for what?

Jon MAel If you approached a stranger on the streets of Boston on the morning of Sep- tember 12, 2001 and told them that Amer- ica would be occupying Afghanistan for the next nine years without bringing the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, would they have believed you? On top of this, there is no end in sight in America’s in- volvement and continued investment in a corrupt and failing government in Kabul. This is the reality of 2010. No progress has been made towards cap- turing Osama Bin Laden in the last eight years, and America has been occupying Afghanistan at not only great financial cost but at a great cost to the families of America and its wealth to the effort. Lewis Black put it best when he said, “If you can think back to the beginning of this war, it may take a couple days, you might have to nap!” Black said that a full three years ago and the effort originally title “Operation Enduring Freedom” is still going strong in Washington and the policy circles in that town. The objective appears to have been met a long time ago. After all, American free- dom has endured since the attacks and the country is showing no signs of being occupied, enslaved, indentured, or any other circumstance that would suggest we are no longer free. We have not been suc- cessfully attacked by any of our “enemies” from the Middle East. The first actions that America took, in response to the 9/11 attacks, actually occurred that very same night, when operatives already stationed in the area set off explosions in Kabul. America has not left the country since. One could have made a sound argument we had been in the region long enough and it was about time to get out tails out of there…eight years ago! It has been way too long since Bin Laden escaped in the mountains and it has been time for America to get out of the country, and with the billions of dollars having al- ready been spent by America on the two wars in the Middle East, the slumping economy cannot afford this lavish and un- necessary spending. Let’s sum up the costs of fighting in Afghanistan and providing for security against future attacks. Based on the Con- gressional Research Service, the US has spent $336 billion in Afghanistan and $29 billion for “enhanced security.” Congress has also passed a new budget for OEF for the “supplementary” amount of $1.121 trillion to continue military and civilian operations and expenses for Obama’s War and maintaining US power in the world. The White House has requested another $119.4 billion for FY 2011. This bill is in- deed a tall one. Can America afford to continue this en- terprise? Those who argue for remaining will likely say that national security requires that we stay and continue to march “for- ward.” While this argument may have some merit, it’s not justified and realistic. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda can win simply by outlasting the US and its NATO friends who are in Afghanistan to build a bulwark against Islamists hostile to Western securi- ty. Look at what happened in Vietnam and you’ll see just how futile our fight is. There is no reason to remain in Afghanistan. The original reasons America had for going into the country were sound; to take out the terrorists responsible for the Septem- ber 11 attacks and the government who had been harboring them. After America managed to take out the oppressive Tal- iban regime, they failed to find the leaders of the Al-Qaeda terrorist group, and with a new war breaking out in Iraq, OEF fell out of the public spotlight and remained so until 2009. When this issue was raised again in the headlines, there was a considerable out- cry for the US to begin implementing an exit strategy. With the economy in a full on downturn and a new administration taking control cries grew louder to get out of the Middle East, and, while America is leaving Iraq, OEF seems like it will last forever with no end in sight. News just surfaced this week that Osama Bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders are not “on the run”, like we keep hearing from mili- tary sources, but living comfortably in Pakistani villages, where they are treated as folk heroes. Is there really a reason to sustain so many casualties for something that is so unattainable? Whatever progress that the US could have been forge has been made in Afghan- istan, and even though it’s understandable why America would want to stay and as- sist the fledgling democracy, and prevent the oppressive government from taking the country back, but in the end its a harsh world and America has to look out for itself. With the public opinion of the government dropping by the day, this ad- ministration needs to do something to put them back in public favor, and getting out of Afghanistan would definitely do it. The billions of dollars being spent on this endeavor could be used to fund public education, create jobs, cut taxes, and help build the struggling infrastructure. Don’t all those ideas sound better than toiling in the desert with a clear-cut goal working on a mission that has already half failed? This is not in any way bashing the military. They have done an amazing job executing their orders and working with a nation trying to get back on its feet. The truth is; Afghanistan would be much worse off if it had not been for America toppling the Taliban regime. If OEF was fought just for Afghanistan’s interests, then the war would be a major success. But America had interests as well – to kill the men re- sponsible for the 9/11 attacks – and so far that has been unsuccessful. There are no signs of progress with that matter. The bot- tom line, America needs to get out now. Damien Voros For some in America the 9/11 attacks have begun to fade in intensity as the years drag on and the chasm between the pres- ent generations of Americans and that horrific day grow even wider. That’s the principle reason behind the general op- position to the US military presence in Afghanistan in today’s America. Why do Americans feel this way? Aside from the time separation from the panic and awareness caused by the 9/11 attacks, there is also the downturn in the economy and the uncertainty of America’s future under the stewardship of our current lead- ers in the Republican and Democratic parties. In sum, the domestic front is where the American people are focused upon this election year. This is understandable be- cause of the way most people approach life: “look at my immediate personal needs and everything else can be addressed af- terwards.” That’s why many Americans find the Afghanistan operation to be anathema to their interests. Moral values also add to this mix of factors to explain why Ameri- cans feel this way. The sentiment on the streets is that there is little moral cause to be in Afghanistan. The problem with this line thinking is that it ignores America’s security interests from a long-term perspective. Many detractors of the military opera- tions in the mountains of Afghanistan say that we could extricated ourselves from that region and have our security, which will be in the form of increased counter- terrorism operations and improved home- land security at our airports and similar vulnerable areas in the US. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work this way. Though liberal objectors would argue that the international system insures security, there’s scant evidence that show that the intergovernmental organizations have the capacity to prevent terrorist at- tacks. The world is essentially a self-help sys- tem that occasionally allows for coopera- tion among states on mutual security in- terests like terrorism. Ultimately, the US must provide its own security and forge it by its own power, including military and civil means on the international and do- mestic levels. A safe haven in Afghanistan and Paki- stan’s tribal areas is just what terrorist or- ganizations like Al-Qaeda needs to plan another attack on the US. The only things preventing this from becoming a reality are the US and NATO forces present in that area. It’s at this point where the detractors will point out the civilian casualties of the war, which manifest themselves in bodily harm and disruption of the daily life of Afghans and Pakistanis. They bemoan the fact that the doors of these folks are knocked down by US ground forces and that their wed- dings and funerals are bombed by drones and airstrikes. My answer is this: there is no such thing as an absolutely just war where civilian life is not disturbed and destroyed. Though we can implore our troops to use more care, there will be unintended harm done to civilians on all battlefields during military operations. The US warning to the Afghan city of Marja is a good example of how the mili- tary has worked to minimize disruption to civilians in the Afpak theater. Drones, on the other hand, have hurt the Ameri- can cause and image but have also killed important leaders in the Taliban network and Al-Qaeda. It’s a mixed bag. Security cannot be created without force to back it up. E. H. Carr, the author of the famous “The Twenty Years Crisis,” argued that moral- ity comes out of power and not the other way around. In the end, what needs to be answered is this: can the US win in Afghanistan? I say “Yes”! We cannot simply hope that withdraw- ing from that area will simply defuse the insidious work of Al-Qaeda and other an- ti-US terrorist organizations in that area. Mahmood Mamdani, the author of “Good Muslim, Bad Muslim,” gives us a good idea of why. He tells us that organizations like Al-Qaeda are a different breed within the political Islam movement, which arose as a response to modernity and the West’s challenge to the Muslim World, because they are bent on creating a Islamic World Order and the destruction of the West. It’s that simple. Building a durable Afghan government that can hold its own against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda is the best we can expect for a long-term solution. If their troops and police can act as a counter to the enemies of America, they can prevent an attack on the US by maintaining the balance of power in the Afpack theater. The US can continue its relations with the Afghan government by providing aid and advice on improving governance in that country to incrementally create a le- gitimate democratic government which will mature eventually. While the Afghan government is meta- phorically baking the democratic cake in the oven, the US will act to damage the supply lines of these loose networks of terrorists and militants to reduce their potential. Unlike the Vietnam War, the in- surgency in Afghanistan is not supported by any capable state. The US has experience in executing a COIN strategy from Iraq, and continues to learn more under General David Pe- traeus and the troops in the field. There was also a New York Time article that stat- ed that the training of Afghan forces has increased the competency of its members. Hence, there’s reason to hope that the alli- ance in Afghanistan can prevail. Before concluding, it should be noted that the Taliban is a very diverse and not a monolithic force. The US and Afghan governments have agreed on a campaign to target elements within the ranks and leadership of the groups under the Taliban moniker to wean them from their war against the Afghan government, US task force, and NATO forces. Recently, there have been some good news as a leader from the Quetta shura and Haqqani Fami- ly has agreed to entire high level talks with the Afghan government to make an effort at serious reconciliation. What we need to keep in mind is that Pakistan’s ISI may not like the fact that there are members of the Taliban who are willing to make peace. In the end, the campaign’s effort will have some uneven execution that suggests that the US is not having success; but that’s not a reason for sacrificing the security and liberty of the ordinary people of the US, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Most of us believe that there can be a peaceful resolu- tion that will arise by making compromis- es with the splinters of the Taliban – the eclectic enemy of the aspirations of peace in the Afpak theater. A bulwark against terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda is what we want, not to fight all under the banner of political Islam.