Like most political topics, the U.S. offensive in Afghanistan is a complicated issue, despite attempts on all sides to reduce its complexity so that the situation can best be spun to suit a given ideology. As much as I would like for it to be as simple as “get us the hell out of there,” I’m just not sure that’s realistic or even possible any more than “lets kick some ass over there so we don’t have to fight them here” is.
The fact of the matter is that the world is a mess. Granted, much of the trouble has been caused and is being perpetuated by flawed U.S. foreign policy. But it is a mess, nonetheless. I have to be extra clear here: I was not in favor of the original invasion of Afghanistan or that of Iraq. In fact, invading Afghanistan after 9/11 made about as much sense to me as bombing Michigan would have after Oklahoma City.
Unfortunately, my friends, that ship has sailed. And we have not, even by getting rid of W, managed to instigate any large scale strategic shifts on the part of the U.S. government, at least as far as Afghanistan is concerned (Iraq is another matter, for another day). So. Fact number 2–for good or ill, Afghanistan is our problem and that problem is getting bigger by the moment.
Whether we agree with it or not, whether or not we would have chosen the same path, were we in charge, the reality is that what happens there is our responsibility as a nation. It is our military that is there and in our name. Young service members live and die there every day and they are most certainly our concern. Whether or not they have what they need to do the job they’ve been given is up to us. As is how they are treated
when if they return home.
It seems to me that one of the MAIN reasons that we have stayed in Afghanistan (and Iraq) is that there is no public engagement with this war. Bush asked Americans to go shopping, spend money and stimulate the economy to pay for it, but beyond that, all of the U.S. sacrifices (the impact on Afghanistan’s people, though no less important, is also a topic for another post) made for these wars has been made by the military and their families. Everyone else goes on with their day-to-day lives with nary a tax increase, much less anything like rationing or a draft.
Don’t get me wrong–I don’t want a draft and I don’t think that’s the answer. But I think Congress should raise taxes high enough to pay for both wars. I suspect that the national outcry would be so loud, getting us out of both places would be the only option. And it would happen faster than you can say Semper Fi. Those that have been pushing and pushing for us to go and for us to stay and for surges would change their minds pretty quick if they had to deal with a fifty-percent tax rate. Or if they couldn’t get any gas for their cars because it was all going to Humvees in Afghanistan.
I don’t think Americans really believe in this war. And I suspect that, if asked to put their money, or their comfort, or their kids where their mouths are, those that support it would sing a different tune.
But as the wife of a U.S. Marine–a 26 year old guy who already faces a lifetime of mental and physical recovery from injuries sustained in Iraq in 2004–I feel I have to speak for my family and for other military families. No matter which side they’re on. No matter how unhappy I am that we are stuck in Afghanistan, I have to remind everyone that there are women (and men) raising children alone, waiting for word from loved ones. There are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins who dread the news every day, wondering if there Marine or sailor or soldier will come home and if so, will that service member be the same person that left?
There are women who, upon the happy occasion of their husband or boyfriend’s return, find that he is not the person they sent away–he is angry and, in some cases, violent. There are children who have to adjust to an absent parent, then adjust again when a stranger comes home and tries to be Mommy or Daddy.
We military families are tired. And we want our spouses and loved ones home NOW. But for us, at least for now, that just isn’t possible. So we want the support of this country, even if you don’t believe in either of these wars. Because a repeat of one of the worst mistakes of Viet Nam is possible here–and as a feminist, as a believer in diplomacy over violence, cooperation over war, failure to support the people OUR government sends into harms way, failure to do everything we can to help their families while they are gone and when they come home (or worse) will only compound the tragedy of this (these) war.