Tag Archives: Afghanistan

New Orleans: More Deadly Than Afghanistan?

I’ve been in New Orleans twice. Once in the early ’70s visiting a former associate at Goodrich who lived there. And again in the early ’90s for business. The city unquestionably has a certain character and charm. Yet I’ll admit it. You won’t find the city on my list of favorite places.

But hey. Both times I lived to tell about the experience. Apparently that’s not always the case.

While digitally flipping through the various online media this morning — trying to figure out whether Newt was in or out and if anybody still cared at this point — I came across this NYT article, “New Orleans Struggles to Stem Homicides“:

NEW ORLEANS — Two days had passed before the family of Brenting Dolliole learned that he was dead. When his battered body was found by the police, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, he was simply John Doe.

But he was not just any John Doe.

Mr. Dolliole, who was 22, was the 175th homicide victim in New Orleans this year, a tally that matched the previous year’s homicide count, but with more than a month before 2011 was out. Since Mr. Dolliole’s killing, there have been eight more victims, including two men shot dead in a pickup truck, two shot dead in a sedan and another shot on the street in broad daylight.

Of all the challenges facing the city of New Orleans, none is as urgent or as relentlessly grim as the city’s homicide rate. It was measured at 10 times the national average in 2010, long before shootings on Halloween night in the crowded French Quarter revealed to a larger public what was going on in poor neighborhoods around the city every week. There were 51 homicides per 100,000 residents here last year, compared with less than 7 per 100,000 in New York or 23 in similar-size Oakland, Calif.

“From September of last year to February of this year,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu in a recent speech, after reciting a litany of killings from one city high school, “a student attending John McDonogh was more likely to be killed than a soldier in Afghanistan.”

Wow.

Afghanistan, War and Word Games

OK. I’ll admit it. I spent yesterday fly fishing with my son, Brian, high in the mountains in Colorado on an absolutely perfect day: bright sun, blue sky, temps in the high 60s and no humidity. In that environment, it’s tough to get your shorts in a knot over the issues — big and small, real and imagined — that I generally fret over.

Still, I watched Obama’s speech about withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. (Hey, by the time I sit down for my daily dose of Jameson because of the time difference it is already 7 or 8 p.m. in the East. If I lived here, I bet I would even be able to stay up late enough to watch Dancing With the Stars. I digress.)

As best I can tell, the Prez announced that he was sticking to the plan that he outlined previously. Good. But I would have liked to have seen us get the hell out of there sooner rather than later. We’ve done all we can in Afghanistan — thanks to the bravery and sacrifice of our men and women in the military. And no country — or group of invaders — ever wins in Afghanistan. Ask Russia.

And I recognize that not everyone agrees. Here’s from The Heritage Foundation, a conservative thank tank Inside the Beltway:

In the face of an unpopular war and an upcoming re-election campaign, President Barack Obama addressed the American people last night from the East Room of the White House to inform them of his plans to rapidly withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The President’s decision, though politically expedient, jeopardizes the successes made in Afghanistan over the last 10 months and will signal to allies and enemies alike that the United States is more committed to extricating itself from the fight than it is to ensuring that stability in the region is achieved.

The President’s decision to bring home 10,000 troops by the end of this year and a total of 33,000 troops by next summer comes despite requests from the Pentagon and General David Petraeus to limit the initial withdrawal to 3,000 to 4,000, as the L.A. Times reports. And as The Washington Postwrites this morning, the President’s decision isn’t based in a “convincing military or strategic rationale.” Rather, it is “at odds with the strategy adopted by NATO, which aims to turn over the war to the Afghan army by the end of 2014.”

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) also criticized the President’s decision to move for a rapid withdrawal, noting that “as our military commanders have repeatedly said, this progress remains fragile.”

Oh, boy. If we are going to wait until the situation in Afghanistan is not fragile, we’ll be there forever. Just sayin’.

So maybe Stephen Colbert has it right. He opines that we should end the Afghanistan war — by calling it something else. Here’s from a story on Mediaite:

Last night President Obama addressed the nation to clarify his latest plan to draw down troops from Afghanistan. And while Stephen Colbert taped his show before Obama’s speech, he still found a way to make some useful suggestions on how the White House could simply improve the nation’s foreign policy, focusing on the semantic opportunities provided by the War Powers Act. How best to end the war? Just change the name to something like a “heavily armed semester abroad.” Done!

The semantic gamesmanship was first raised by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates who recently defined US military operations in Libya as a “limited kinetic operation,” and not a war. So it only stands to reason that if our nation is openly admitting to playing with words (and meaning?) why not go all the way? Watch the clip, courtesy of Comedy Central.

“Heavily armed semester abroad.”

I kinda like that. At least it would allow us to win the word games that are being played over our involvement in Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere.

 

 

Libya: Another Long War?

Wow. Talk about March Madness. One week Prez O was dithering about Libya while making his NCAA picks and the next Hillary has a coalition of the able and willing dropping bombs like three-pointers on Mad Dog Gaddafi and associates.

OK. I’ll admit to having some reservations about this latest military adventure — consider Afghanistan and Iraq before sending nasty emails — although I agree that something had to be done to prevent the massacre of civilians.

And I’m hopeful that this won’t become another American war where we commit ground troops to go on a search for the light at the end of some tunnel that never ends. Let’s face it. In just about every military action these days, the French head home following Happy Hour. Just sayin.’

Saying all that, it seems to me that the Prez should be taking some time to explain what is going on in Libya — the Middle East in general — and how we are going to get the hell out of this mess.

Here’s Richard Cohen opining in WaPo, “Mixed Signals from Obama and the Middle East.

The Middle East is a mess and a muddle, all of it happening at pretty close to warp speed. The search for a Unified Theory of What Is Happening is futile. Bahrain is our pal; Libya is not. Saudi Arabia has all that oil; Egypt doesn’t. Iran is our enemy and its enemies must be our friends. The scorpion that lethally stings the frog that’s transporting it across the Suez Canal is not a metaphor for the Middle East but a virtual position paper. Look: The Arab League’s Amr Moussa — its departing secretary general — called for a no-fly zone and then, appalled at the violence of this military strike, expressed second thoughts. Moussa has the countenance of a Las Vegas blackjack dealer, a rare manifestation of form following function.

Still, the Obama administration has applied incoherence to confusion. It is an odd, dangerous, mix. A day into the operation, the bedraggled chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, appeared everywhere but on Animal Planet to say that the operation he himself clearly did not favor might end with the man the president said he wanted gone — a certain Col. Gaddafi — still in power. “That’s certainly, potentially, one outcome,” Mullen said on “Meet the Press.”

And the editors of the New York Times have some tepid reservations as well. Here’s from this morning’s editorial, “At War in Libya.”

Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi has long been a thug and a murderer who has never paid for his many crimes, including the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. The United Nations Security Council resolution authorized member nations to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians and was perhaps the only hope of stopping him from slaughtering thousands more.

The resolution was an extraordinary moment in recent history. The United Nations, the United States and the Europeans dithered for an agonizingly long time and then — with the rebels’ last redoubt, Benghazi, about to fall — acted with astonishing speed to endorse a robust mandate that goes far beyond a simple no-fly zone. More extraordinary was that the call to action was led by France and Britain and invited by the Arab League.

And:

There is much to concern us. President Obama correctly agreed to deploy American forces only when persuaded that other nations would share the responsibility and the cost of enforcing international law. The United States is already bogged down in two wars. It can’t be seen as intervening unilaterally in another Muslim nation. But even with multinational support, it should not have to shoulder the brunt of this conflict.

Not exactly a commentary or opinion that will stir the masses to action. Looks like the NYT editors are going to drive down the middle of the road on this one — unless a truck comes barreling the other way.

So let’s see what George Will has to say on what is certainly one of the big fish in the skillet here — “Is it America’s duty to intervene wherever regime change is necessary?

The missile strikes that inaugurated America’s latest attempt at regime change were launched 29 days before the 50th anniversary of another such — the Bay of Pigs of April 17, 1961. Then the hubris of American planners was proportional to their ignorance of everything relevant, from Cuban sentiment to Cuba’s geography. The fiasco was a singularly feckless investment of American power.

Does practice make perfect? In today’s episode, America has intervened in a civil war in a tribal society, the dynamics of which America does not understand. And America is supporting one faction, the nature of which it does not know. “We are standing with the people of Libya,” says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, evidently confident that “the” people are a harmonious unit. Many in the media call Moammar Gaddafi’s opponents “freedom fighters,” and perhaps they are, but no one calling them that really knows how the insurgents regard one another, or understand freedom, or if freedom, however understood, is their priority.

But, then, knowing is rarely required in the regime-change business. The Weekly Standard, a magazine for regime-change enthusiasts, serenely says: “The Libyan state is a one-man operation. Eliminate that man and the whole edifice may come tumbling down.” And then good things must sprout? The late Donald Westlake gave one of his comic novels the mordant title “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?” People who do not find that darkly funny should not make foreign policy.

So we’ll see. Another foreign policy of shock and awe potentially to be replaced by hope and pray.

But I am standing behind Prez O on one thing no matter what.

We’ve both got Kansas at the top of the NCAA totem pole.

Afghanistan: Why Don’t We Care About This?

OK. I had an enjoyable Thanksgiving: belly full of bird and booze. And I guess since I’m up at 3 a.m. I should be doing something righteous for the economy — like working my way into the queue for the mad dash into the stores on Black Friday.

Instead, I’m sitting here — a pajama-clad citizen journalist — fretting about the war in Afghanisan. Admittedly, I’m losing it. And is this war something that anyone in this country cares about or even thinks about these days?

We should. The adventure in Afghanistan is now the longest war in American history. And there ain’t no light at the end of the tunnel — despite the heroic efforts of our men and women in the military.

Here’s from an interesting and insightful NYT Op-Ed by Robert Wright, “Worse Than Vietnam“:

You have to give the people at Al Qaeda this much: They plan ahead. And they stick with their goals. If bombing the U.S.S. Cole failed to get American troops mired in Afghanistan, maybe 9/11 would do the trick?

You might say. Last week at the NATO summit President Obama pushed the light at the end of the tunnel further down the tracks. By the end of 2014, he now tells us, American combat operations in Afghanistan will cease.

It’s not as if we need those four years to set any records. At just over nine years of age, this war is already the longest in American history. And this Saturday we’ll eclipse the Soviet Union’s misadventure in Afghanistan; the Soviets brought their own personal Vietnam to an end after nine years and seven weeks.

Is Afghanistan, as some people say, America’s second Vietnam? Actually, a point-by-point comparison of the two wars suggests that it’s worse than that.

The Soviets, like every other country in history that has invaded Afghanistan, eventually got its lunch eaten. Shouldn’t we be worried — or at least care — that we are now standing in line at the same delicatessen?

By the way, I gained this perspective on Afghanistan by reading Charlie Wilson’s War by George Crile, a writer and producer with CBS News. Read the book and you’ll understand why no country — including the Soviet Union — goes into Afghanistan and comes out a winner.

That’s reality.

And don’t rent the movie by the same name and starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. The reality facing our military — men, women and their families — isn’t as funny as that movie made it out to be.

By the way, as promised here a few posts ago, I managed to irritate and agitate everyone during Thanksgiving dinner with my endorsement of Sarah Palin and my lament that Bristol got the shaft on Dancing With the Stars.

Probably would have been better off and saved considerable emotional angst and personal attacks that questioned my sanity by talking about the war in Afghanistan.

Nobody cares about that.