Sunday, June 27, 2010

Pay Attention

Let’s pay more attention to the war in Afghanistan!
by Charlie Leck

A Frank Rich column in the NY Times about General Stanley McChrystal’s public criticism of President Obama turns on its heel about half way through and becomes a general lament about the war itself and the characters involved in it.

“The war, supported by a steadily declining minority of Americans, has no chance of regaining public favor unless President Obama can explain why American blood and treasure should be at the mercy of this napping Afghan president. Karzai stole an election, can’t provide a government in or out of a box, and has in recent months threatened to defect to the Taliban and accused American forces of staging rocket attacks on his national peace conference. Until last week, Obama’s only real ally in making his case was public apathy. Next to unemployment and the oil spill, Karzai and Afghanistan were but ticks on our body politic, even as the casualty toll passed 1,000. As a senior McChrystal adviser presciently told Hastings, “If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular.”

“To appreciate how shielded Americans have been from Afghanistan, revisit Rahm Emanuel’s appearance last Sunday morning on “This Week,” just before the McChrystal firestorm erupted. Trying to put a positive spin on the war, the president’s chief of staff said that the Afghans were at long last meeting their army and police quotas. Technically that’s true; the numbers are up. But in that same day’s Washington Post, a correspondent in Kandahar reported that the Afghan forces there are poorly equipped, corrupt, directionless and infiltrated by Taliban sympathizers and spies. Kandahar (pop. 1 million) is supposed to be the site of the next major American offensive.”

I have enormous sympathy for President Obama. He came into office with two stupid and essentially unneeded wars going on. He inherited a near fatally wounded economy that needed emergency resuscitation that called for him to do things that he absolutely would have preferred not to do. He also encountered a right-wing political element that had been lying in the weeds, ready for an explosive growth spurt, for years.

Nevertheless, no one made him run. It was his choice, so there’s no crying now over spilt milk. This President has got to put up or shut up. He needs to get on with cleaning up the mess we’re in and figuring out some way to win more seats in this November’s election than most people think he can. Then he has got to challenge the Congress to fix both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Then, the big lesson America must learn is to stop dabbling in foolish, frequent wars. (1) We can’t afford them and (2) we nearly always mess them up.

Somehow, someone has got to make the general public pay more attention to its government’s foolishness. George W. Bush and his administration dragged us into this mess and it happened before a public that didn’t care to pay attention.


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