Monday, March 30, 2009

Change That Isn't

Barack Obama promised, as he campaigned for the office he now holds, to change the nature of the war on terror, or terrorism, or Islam, or whatever it is that we have soldiers overseas fighting against and being killed by. So far that change has been very difficult to see.

Fewer soldiers have come home from Iraq than have been sent to Afghanistan so the total number in harm’s way is, at the moment, increased. We have promises of drawdown in Iraq. Promises. Even the promises are vague, at best, and look suspiciously like a long term military occupation of that misbegotten land.

The misadventure in Afghanistan, announced on a Friday afternoon in the hopes that no one would notice it as they started their weekends, is still short on specific objectives and exit strategy. President Obama speaks of an exit strategy that sounds suspiciously like “We’ll stand down as they stand up” and his objective seems to be denying them a location in which to plan their dastardly deeds.

Dude. You don’t need the wilds of the Hindu Kush to do any planning. I am here at my computer in downtown San Diego, planning feverishly. Okay, I’m not planning on bombing any cities, more like what to have for dinner tonight, but still.

The whole thing makes no sense to me. “Driving them out and assuring that they never return.” That’s just Bushian in its grandiosity and nonsensical nature. How is he going to “assure they never return” anyway? Sprinkle some sort of magic anti-Al Qaeda pixie dust?

Building up armies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and national police forces so that they can “stand up” and we can (supposedly) “stand down.” Aerial bombardment of both of those nations and Pakistan in addition, something that is supposedly not part of counterinsurgency operation. What does any of that accomplish? Planning occurs in someone’s brain, and if you run them out of Afghanistan they will take their brain with them to some other location and keep right on planning.

“Maintaining order” in those nations is of dubious value to us at best, and think about what maintains order here at home. We don’t maintain order with the United States Army, or with some massive national police force patrolling the streets armed to the teeth, kicking down doors and searching homes. We don’t maintain order with tanks and helicopters and airplanes dropping bombs. We do it with the San Diego Police, police officers addressing citizens as “sir” and “ma’am” and getting search warrants as needed. We do it with detectives culling evidence and solving crimes and arresting criminals.

But we deem that in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan order must be maintained by building up their armies and national police forces and airplanes dropping bombs. Have we lost our minds?

Plus, it should be noted that our tanks and soldiers and bomb-dropping airplanes are not doing a very good job of maintaining order.

Post 9/11 the next three major attacks were not planned in the wilds of Afghanistan or Pakistan, they were planned in suburbia of major European cities. The apprehensions that have occurred have not occurred as a result of military intervention, but due to police action and criminal investigation. The only thing that all of this military action and bomb dropping has done is make the rest of the world less inclined to be on our side, and Obama’s inclination seems to be that if it isn’t working it’s because we aren’t doing enough of it. So far, rather than getting up out of Iraq, he’s merely expanded the war into Pakistan so that now we are fighting three nations instead of two.

I voted for Obama because I did not want John McCain as President, endlessly harping to us about keeping us safe, fighting wars without exit strategies and dictating to other nations what they must do. I did not expect that I would have Obama working from that same playbook.

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