Saturday, June 26, 2010
So President Obama has fired General McChrystal. He fired the warrior, but he should have fired the war instead.
Afghanistan is now the nation's longest war, and it is an unwinnable engagement, perhaps the very definition of quagmire. The news is full of the McChrystal intrigue but scant attention is being paid to the substance of the conversations reported in the infamous Rolling Stone article.
I don't pretend to know much about military matters, and so I'll just take it at face value that the disparaging remarks about administration officials quoted in the article necessitated McChrystal's firing. Apparently the general and his inner circle questioned President Obama's engagement, and one aide said that White House national security adviser Jim Jones was "stuck in 1985."
There were other, ruder, remarks quoted in Rolling Stone, and the sum was clearly enough to get the general fired.
But the article also quotes McChrystal's chief of operations, Major General Bill Mayville, saying of the overall situation in Afghanistan that, "It's not going to look like a win, smell like a win or taste like a win. This is going to end in an argument."
When the military leaders charged with directing a war realize that there is no way to achieve anything that will even look like a conventional victory it is time to find leaders who will simply get us out quickly and responsibly.
As a soldier returned from Vietnam, John Kerry famously asked of America's second longest war, how do you ask one more young American to die for a mistake.
It's way past time to ask now about the wisdom of asking one more young American to die for an argument.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Our fifth grader completed elementary school today. This morning we went to her promotion ceremony. I always love attending events at the school if for no other reason than reading the names of our kids' classmates: Uuganzul, Tasnim, Tamudgen, Mustafa, and my favorite, Dixie Espinoza.
The children at Hoffman-Boston speak dozens of languages and come from families with roots planted in soils all over the world. More of the kids there receive subsidized school lunches than at any other elementary school in Arlington, as well. Some of the families may be poor, but the school provides a rich learning environment. But it is a failing school under terms of No Child Left Behind.
Whenever I hear discussion of that law I think of Hoffman-Boston. Our kids have had a phenomenal experience there -- richer and deeper by far than they experienced in some high-achieving, affluent, suburban districts in other districts whose student populations were more monochromatic and mono-socio-economic. It's far from perfect, and, sadly, the worst educational aspects of the experience come when the school drills its students for the tests that determine whether or not the school is considered failing.
Still, as I watched the beautiful children walk across the stage this morning, I watched the future of the nation and I trust that when they take center stage perhaps no child will be left behind.