Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ideals Versus Interests

This week the Obama administration will engage in a review of its Afghanistan strategy which will include an update of the war effort and initiatives going forward. This review has been shaped by agreements made last month with NATO military ministers which would have the United States engaged in Afghanistan through 2014. Afghanistan is already America’s longest war and 2014 marks the date when “conditions based” withdrawals can begin. We should expect some definition of what a “win” in Afghanistan is. We should also expect clear, unambiguous, quantifiable, statements of the “conditions” that will allow withdrawal. Neither is likely to result from the strategy review. Nor will we be told what vital American interests are being protected or preserved in this corrupt, failed nation state. The American people will accept this bureaucratic babble because they are not engaged.

America is not engaged first of all because the war is being fought by less than one percent of the American people at tragic cost to our service members and their families; multiple deployments, high divorce rates, PTSD, prescription and illegal drug abuse, alcoholism, spousal abuse, or suicide crisis, and more than 1,300 deaths. This one percent is made up overwhelmingly of poor kids and patriots from the third and fourth row economic quintiles of our population. And the first quintiles, the well off and well connected are AWOL. A military draft would engage the American people in the longest of their wars.

Secondly, the American people are not engaged because someone else’s money is paying for the war (largely China) at the rate of more than six billion dollars per month. All of it to be repaid in the future with interest. One hundred million American taxpayers would become engaged if each month they received a “war tax” notice from the IRS demanding the immediate payment of their share, sixty dollars.

After nine years this war goes on with no first order questions being asked, no challenges being raised and no outrage being expressed. When the blood and treasure of others is being spent it is easy to have ideals triumph over interests.