April 10, 2012
You'd think a 10 1 / 2year war would be a major issue in a presidential campaign - especially a war going as badly as the one in Afghanistan. And especially in the wake of Sen. Jay Rockefeller publicly urging President Obama to speed up the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Maybe if the administration proposed funding a Planned Parenthood clinic in Kandahar, the war might get the place it deserves in the national conversation.
Our political and media establishments seem to regard being in a constant state of war as simply part of the "new normal" (to go along with over 8 percent unemployment). Things continue to go from bad to worse, yet we continue to be wedded to plans for a gradual withdrawal that will leave troops in Afghanistan until some point in 2014.
But even though our leaders don't seem to feel any sense of urgency, plenty of others here at home do - indeed, the vast majority does. According to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, support for the war has hit a historic low, at 23 percent, with 69 percent saying we should no longer be in Afghanistan. What is more, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, 60 percent of Americans believe the war has not even been worth fighting.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's response to this turning of public sentiment against the war? "We cannot fight wars by polls," he said. "If we do that we're in deep trouble." Of course that's true, and nobody's asking him to "fight wars by polls," but what he can do is use the same common sense that underlies those polls. We're over 10 years in - these aren't snap judgments. And the fact that we're in "deep trouble" in Afghanistan has nothing to do with our leaders being overly responsive to the public's wishes.
Of course, the war was back in the news most recently because of the horrific killing of 17 Afghan civilians, allegedly by Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. This senseless and grotesque act of violence was both an aberration and not an aberration. It was an aberration in the sense that it in no way represents the behavior of the more than 2 million men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11. But it was not an aberration in the sense that war is indeed hell and atrocities - even by the best-trained armed forces, and ours is certainly that - are inevitable in prolonged conflict.
I thought people voted for Obama because Afghanistan was the 'Right War'...???
So do you think it was a bad choice to go into Afghanistan? What is the "right" choice?