Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Afghanistan

This past Sunday's Inquirer featured a Point/Counterpoint section on the topic of the one year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden.  Strangely, the two sides were debating how much credit the president should take for this event.  In my letter I question the need for that type of debate.  In this blog, perhaps we should review the serious topic of how this event has/should have changed the purpose of our mission in Afghanistan.

There are many things about the twin wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that resulted from the attacks on 9/11 that we don't know.  How much intel did then President Bush have about bin Laden's whereabouts?  How much intel did he have about Iraq's nuclear capacity?  How much intel did he have that linked bin Laden with Hussein?  Someday, history will reveal some or all of the answers to these questions.  At that time, America will be able to truly judge whether President Bush's actions were warranted.  Hopefully, there will be enough solid information to jjustify the thousands of American lives that have been lost, the tens of thousands of American families that have been forever changed by those wars, and the trillions of dollars that have been spent thereby increasing our deficit and diverting critical money away from the needs of those on the home front.

But, there is one thing we do know, for sure.  Osama bin Laden planned the events of 9/11.  So, whether you believe that revenge against him should have been our only focus, or whether you believe that revenge against his entire organization was required, or whether you believe that all people living in Iraq and Afghanistan needed to be taught a lesson, it can surely be said that the death of bin Laden, almost 10 years after the fact, should be cause for us to evaluate what we have done and where we go from here.

I am completely dissatisfied with the length of time it took for the American intelligence community to attain credible evidence of bin Laden's whereabouts.  I truly believe that if his location had been our only focus, we would have levied justice years ago.  As I say in my letter below, perhaps the praise for President Obama should be as much for his focus on capturing bin Laden and his associates, as opposed to the ultimate decision he made to approve the assault which resulted in bin Laden's death.  Am I saying President Bush did not want to capture him?  Of course he did.  But his puch to invade Iraq does not convince me it was his first priority.

Where to from here?  I see only one reason why we should spend any more time in Afghanistan; we owe the everyday citizens of that country some positive results of our being there.  Not because we have anymore objectives important to the United States, but because we invaded their country, killed thousands of their people, and disrupted their lives in a way that we will never understand or be able to evaluate.

But we don't need to do it with soldiers.  Do they still need to learn to fight and defend themselves?  We should continue to teach them.  Do they still need to improve and rebuild their infrastructure, their schools, their hospitals?  We should give them some money.  Do they still need our political support, our knowledge in how to set up a working government?  So be it, lets help them.  But, as my conservative friends like to say when discussing aid given to our fellow Americans, there is a limit.  Assistance, both monetary, moral and via advice for a year or two until we can get all our troops out of harm's way is my limit in this situation.

Below is my letter to the editor of the Inquirer.


To the Editor:


It is a sad commentary that we even need a Point/Counterpoint article on the one year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. Have we become so partisan that we can't give credit to all those involved? From the intel community which provided the knowledge, to the president and his advisers who weighed the choices and made the decision, to the brave SEAL's involved in the operation, everyone deserves the American public's praise and thanks.

Would any president have made that decision? Probably. Yet, it took almost 10 years from the horrible events of 9/11, seven of those under the watch of President Bush, for justice to be served. Perhaps Mr. Smerconish's opinion that Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney might not have made the same decision is right, not because given the same circumstances that they wouldn't have come to the same decision, but because they may not have had the same focus on capturing bin Laden for fear of harming our relationship with Pakistan as both stated when questioned about acting unilaterally should the intel be made known.

Without focus, goals can not be achieved.  One might say that President Bush made Iraq and Saddam Hussein priority number one, hence Hussein was captured.  Perhaps then, President Obama should be praised not so much for his decision but for his focus on capturing bin Laden. And, in the spirit of partisanship, perhaps President Obama would not have had the opportunity to focus on bin Laden had not President Bush removed the need to capture Saddam Hussein.

The problem, as is true of practically every political discussion we hear nowadays, is the focus on making points for one's own political party or viewpoint. We are all Americans, regardless of party affiliation, and until we can recognize and praise the other side when they do good for our country, the more we will tread water in a pool of political dysfunction.



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