Monday, July 19, 2010

Was Michael Steele Right?

I have been a devotee of Barack Obama and no great fan of the current Republican Party; however, I'm thinking Michael Steele hit it head on when he claimed Afghanistan is now Obama's war, certainly because of the recent escalation of troops and ill-advised policies.

And Steele is not the only one; to wit, Mathew Hoh, a marine combat veteran and foreign affairs expert who resigned on principle last year because of the administration's Afghanistan policies. Take heed, President Obama. Rethink you war policies as well as your campaign rhetoric.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Afghanistan - Why are we There?

As I understand it, the strategy for what is known as AF-PAK is to keep Al Qaeda out, strengthen and support a corrupt government, teach the police and military to read and keep the Taliban under control.

In order to do that we are pumping an approximate 10 billion dollars a year into an annual economy that does not amount to much more than that, directing it mainly to the military, with much of it landing in the hands of the war lords and government officials who continue to legitimize corruption. What will happen to the Afghanistan government if we continue to do this year after year? With its newly acquired power and literacy, the military could very well take over and we may be looking at a military coup down the road. And if Al Qaeda is sponsoring terrorism all over Asia, Somalia and the rest of the world anyway, why do we continue to support Afghanistan to keep them out. It's the same flawed philosophy that took us to Vietnam in the sixties; ie, "the domino theory" which was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Of course, we don't want another attack on our homeland. But we are subjecting our citizenry to a far more dangerous situation than terrorism by spending billions of dollars to support foreign countries that should be doing it themselves, when we should be establishing WPA type projects and encouraging the private sector to hire. Private businesses have no confidence in the administration because of the current state of the economy, and the economy is currently in this state because of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When we first invaded the country in 2001, we were fighting a war -- counter terrorism. Now, we are not (exactly) fighting a war, we are trying to build a country that has never existed before. I say build, not re-build because Afghanistan has never had a centralized government and is generally made up of fiercely traditional tribes ruled or not ruled by Taliban. Why do we think that we can change what the Russians, the British and Alexander the Great could not? On top of that, our military is in greater danger because they are doing this with one hand tied behind their backs. If we continue along this course, we may well end up in that metaphoric mess known as a "quagmire." Or are we there already?

Change indeed!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Metaphor for Life

My three grown sons and a friend went on a four day hiking trip in the mountains above Grand Lake in Colorado. They are all mountain men, meaning they were all born and raised in Colorado. Still, I was worried.

What would they do, I asked myself, if something really serious happened, like a medical emergency, a heart attack, a bad fall, if someone got struck by lightening. They were expecting sore feet and aching muscles; they had prepared for that. But the air is very thin and electrical storms move across the mountains every afternoon. Cells phones wouldn't work up there and I doubted that there would be enough space for "Flight for Life" to land a helicopter if the unthinkable did happen.

As the mother of sons and an independent daughter, I knew enough to keep my mouth shut. The only thing I told them was to please take care of each other. I prayed and then let it go. I had to.

But then, I remembered an incident with my oldest son on his first day of Kindergarten.

He didn't want to go, had a temper tantrum and had to be dragged up the walk towards the multi-colored windows of the Kindergarten class by his no-nonsense mother. Then he looked up and saw children inside that window and noticed that some were looking back at him. I remember how suddenly he jerked away from me and plowed ahead to a door decorated with happy faces, his head down and fists clenched. He would do it, by God, but with no help from me, thank you very much. He has been that way all his life. They all have.

They're home safely now and since they've been back, I've kind of surmised that maybe I was not so silly to worry a little. Generally everything went well, though there might have been a few harrowing moments along the way--I haven't heard the full story yet, but there was nothing life threatening, principally because they had planned well. They helped each other and lightened the load of anyone whose pack was getting heavy or had the sorest feet and the most blisters by taking a break and allowing him to soak them in the icy mountain streams.

Their four days apparently turned into rare moments of sharing -- a little excitement, adventure and re-learning perhaps, that, as in life, one must take one step and then another to get to where one is going in spite of fatigue, stumbling, tripping and even falling; gasping for breath with each step in order to beat it over a mountain by early afternoon before the lightening comes and then rushing down again to set up camp before the rain hits. The truth is, you still have to climb the mountain to get to the other side. A cliche, yes, but cliches are cliches because they are generally true.

At the risk of mixing metaphors, this is my take: we are all heading up the mountain, aren't we? Whether rebelling at the first day of school, trudging a dreaded pathway, or pursuing long ago dreams, raising a family and embarking on a new career. It's one breathless step and then another with a few blissful moments of rest in between, icing our blistered feet in a cool mountain creek and enjoying the intensity of the incomparable Colorado sky.

It's called life. And it's worth every aching muscle.