The tar baby war


We never got around to telling Obama what we thought.

But that’s the way it often goes in our Unitarian church forum.

We’ve got lots of opinions.  But no easy answers.   Indeed, when I asked whether the country had some other option than invading Afghanistan,  Jim, whose son had served two tours in Afghanistan,  said we should start earlier.  He was thinking of how our country had supported repressive regimes in the Mideast.

Well, yes, I allowed as how that history helps explain the hostility some Muslims feel toward our country.   But back to the issue, should we have invaded Afghanistan in the first place.

My thought was to encourage my class to engage in some moral reasoning.  After all, I had bill the series “Living the moral life.”

Once I brought up morality, Steve pounced and declared that morality had nothing to do with President Obama’s decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

Nothing?    Yes, Steve insisted, it’s all politics.

Several others agreed with Steve.   Don, who tries to follow Norse ethics, reminded us that our country had been attacked so we had every right to retaliate.  An eye for an eye.

So for nearly two hours,  my lively little class debated the pros and cons of injecting morality into a discussion on military strategy.

Meantime, I got the distinct impression several folk hadn’t listened to the president’s speech Tuesday.   In fact, one newscast on PBS went from city to city to get reaction and found only one or two people who had heard the speech.

Are we that disconnected from the two wars the country is still waging?

Some critics have complained that President Obama isn’t asking any sacrifices of Americans.   To be sure, he’s proposed no new taxes, while promising that the increase in troops won’t raise the deficit.

Other critics wonder aloud whether we need to reinstate the draft.  The idea is to spread the burden, spread the pain of these wars.    Hmm.  Bring that up in Congress and see how far it gets you.

But if my class at church ducked the immediate question of this troop surge for Afghanistan, I’ve noted that the columnists and editorial writers don’t seem to have much of an answer, either.

In The Washington Post, one noted, correctly, that the Islamic terrorists don’t need Afghanistan or Pakistan as a base.  They can set up shop in Somalia or someplace else.  Even the United States.    But right now, Bin Laden and his followers remain in that mountainous border between those two countries.

Another writer listed half dozen false assumptions in the president’s decision.

I can’t argue with either criticism.   But frankly, I’ve yet to read or hear any plausible alternative to beefing of allied forces and stick it out.

If President Obama announced a withdrawal now rather than a surge, he would be turning Afghanistan back over to the Taliban.   Not only would the Republicans assail such a decision.   It would betray the Afghans who have been our allies.  They didn’t ask us to invade their country.  We could have construed 9/11 as a major crime and not a war.   That’s how the country dealt with the Oklahoma City bombing.

Imagine that U.S. and allied troops had met more resistance than expected on D-Day, retreated to their boats off the Normandy coast and sailed back to England.  We would have left the French to mercies of the Nazis.

So back to my moral question.  And in my mind, it is a moral question.  What’s the right thing to do here?   I don’t think it’s to abandon the Afghan people to the mercies of the Taliban.

Will the surge allow the president to begin withdrawing U.S. troops by July, 2011?

Well, of course, nobody can say.   If you read the accounts in the New York Times and Washington Post of the debates within the administration, you can see that the president and his top civilian and military officials examined every possible option. In the end, it was unanimous.  Give the surge a fighting chance.

We’re there.  And we’re not leaving any time soon.

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