Many may scoff when they see I am writing a pseudo-political piece. Many, too, will likely proclaim that I have no right to take up a pen on a topic as lofty and complex as Afghanistan and Iraq. But I am a proud citizen of the United States and a member of a family that has sent seven of its members into war in just two generations. I am a student in this life, ever learning and interested in the things that happen now and have happened in the past. Here now are a few of my quick conclusions:
Duff McKagan's column runs every Thursday on Reverb. Check back on Monday when he writes about what's playing on his iPod.
When I read that former Marine Captain Matthew Hoh had resigned his post in protest as a U.S. Foreign Service member in Afghanistan, I decided to finally write my direct opinion as to what and why we are over there.Hoh claims that while "there are some (al-Qaeda) dudes that need to be killed over there," the U.S. plans and strategy in Afghanistan are ill-planned. He claims that our troop presence in Afghanistan is actually creating more militants, as we are looked at as an evil occupier as opposed to a righteous aid in nation-building. Hoh claims that the opposition there has gone from Taliban-only to a more widespread group that only sees U.S. soldiers occupying their until-now peaceful villages and valleys. President Obama is mulling sending an additional 40,000 troops to Afghanistan, as Gen. McCrystal has asked. I don't get it.
Has anyone seen Charlie Wilson's War or read the book? The fighters that the U.S. covertly funded and supplied with BILLIONS of dollars of taxpayer money to fend off the Soviets in the '80s are the same fighters we are spending BILLIONS of dollars and U.S. soldiers' lives to fight. In just 30 years, we have gone from one side to the other. By the way, the Soviets got their asses kicked while trying to occupy this region, and so did Genghis Khan. They call Afghanistan "the Empire Killer" simply because it drains previously well-supplied armies of their material and will to fight.
The people there are used to civil war and hard living; strife is a comfort zone that goes back hundreds if not thousands of years in this region. It is a tribal-warfare region, tribes basically fighting over the same water, well, or irrigable piece of sand. What the hell are we doing in a place like this? I've heard the argument that we're in there to ensure that it doesn't become a breeding ground for terrorist groups again. But our going in there creates more fuel against America, as it did for the Soviets. From before we were born until after we are dead, there will be breeding grounds for terrorists.
The Middle East and Afghanistan are none of our business. This war is not winnable, in my opinion. In the past I have touted books like The Forever War, Longitudes and Attitudes, and The Pat Tillman Story in this column. If anyone wants to learn more about this region, please read these books or otherwise educate yourself on the history and conflict that has been in this region well before we were even a country.
The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan has been called their "Vietnam." Haven't we already had our Vietnam? How is it that our government so quickly forgets a war that so split our country and killed so many soldiers and displaced so many innocent villagers? That war was meant to quell Communism, this one is meant to stop terrorism. I must be missing something here. Did the Vietnam War do anything to stop Communism in that region? I would argue that it only strengthened it. And something else about Vietnam sounds familiar when you compare it to Afghanistan: The U.S. propped up Ho Chi Minh's cause in their fight for independence in the 1940's, only to fight and lose against his armies 20 years later.
People like Osama bin Laden need to be stopped for sure, but is a conventional war the answer? I don't see how sending more armed troops to that region will create less hatred. The kids that the Taliban are sending into battle from their religious fundamentalist camps and schools only seek to gain glory as their fathers did against the Soviets. They are trained from an early age to hate Americans. Will sending more soldiers over there do anything to stop this hatred? Peace Corps, anyone?
T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) was a student first, a soldier second. During WWI, he was sent to what is now Saudi Arabia to help protect the English interest in the Suez Canal and try to prop up the different Arab tribes against the German-allied Turks. Major Lawrence, though, knew of tribal warfare and the futility and pain of trying to occupy this region, which was the intent of England after the war. The Arabs were keen to the English tricks of colonialism, and would have fought guerrilla-type warfare if forced to . . . forever. Lawrence instead sought to understand the "Arab mind," a mindset that is to this day much different than our common Western thought process. We can't pretend to understand it.
But what other factors am I missing here? Ah, yes . . . OIL! We must protect our interests and the supply of the stuff we so badly need to fuel our country, our country that is so heavily dependent on oil that we are willing to have our sons and daughters die for it. And what about corporate greed and lobbying as far as the companies that supply our needs in warfare: bullets, bombs, guns, clothes, helmets, medicine . . . and body bags? I don't mean to sound like a bleeding-heart liberal, but it's something to think about. These interests that think nothing of charging us taxpayers $1B for the building of a hospital in Iraq that falls apart two years later (Read The Forever War by Dexter Filkins). These same interests that charge taxpayers $20 per bottle of water that they send to Iraq or Afghanistan. It makes me want to break stuff.