Monday, June 20, 2011

Still Waist Deep in the Mig Muddy ...

U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, envoy to Afghanistan, lobbed a parting shot at the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai over the weekend. According to an NPR report today, Eikenberry told university students in Herat that when Afghan leaders call the United States an occupying force it becomes difficult for him to look the family members of slain U.S. soldiers in the eye and explain to them what their loved one died for.
I'm sure that job is always difficult no matter the circumstances, and I do not envy those who must do it.
On the other hand, what does the ambassador expect from the leaders of a country we've been occupying for almost a decade? Moreover, we're occupying a country with a long and storied history of resisting outsiders.
On top of all that, Karzai is more warlord than president. When you lie down with dirty dogs you're going to get fleas. Reading Eikenberry's comments in the Post this morning -- "I must tell you that I find occasional comments from some of your leaders hurtful and inappropriate" -- I couldn't help thinking that Eikenberry harbors a secret wish to be like Henry Cabot Lodge, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam in the early days of that war. When Lodge got tired of South Vietnamese President Diem he simply green-lighted a coup and had him removed. Ah, the good old days.
Coincidentally, the Post carried a front page story today about the ways that American politicians profit from their incendiary sound bites. Say something outrageous and donors line up to contribute.
It's a lesson that President Karzai obviously understands. His remarks are clearly for the benefit of a domestic audience that has grown weary of Americans bombing their countryside.
Really, what do we expect from Karzai?
Really, what do we expect from the Afghan people?
We can claim the moral high ground all we want. Eikenberry told his audience yesterday that "America has never sought to occupy any nation in the world. We are a good people."
After ten years of war and occupation those words must ring pretty hollow to families whose lives have been destroyed.
Really, what should one tell the survivors -- American or Afghan -- at this point about why their loved ones are still dying a decade on when al Queda is long-gone from Afghanistan, when bin Laden is dead, when the Afghan politicians are making political hay at our expense, when no good purpose is being served by our continued presence?


Anonymous said...

The mission is clear. Oust the Taliban who are protecting Al Qaeda and its leaders. Perhaps the population would rather have that kind of oppression, since they harbor it and do not stand up to the oppression of the Taliban? Christian Wrong (Dan Hale)

Christian Wright said...

Two administrations have been telling us that for almost ten years -- most of which years have passed since the fall of the Taliban in November, 2001, and the routing of al Queda in the mountains of Afghanistan by the end of 2001. Maybe President Bush should have flown his "Mission Accomplished" banner right then and there! But that was a long, long time ago. How long are we supposed to stay somewhere the people don't want us when we can't actually say what the place should look like in order for us to leave? Our leaders -- Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives -- have simply passed my statute of limitations for incredulity. No one can say what "victory" looks like in this mess any more than they could tell us what it looked like in Vietnam, or in Korea for that matter. But we can all add up the staggering, heartbreaking costs in lives and money. I just don't think we're getting our money's worth any more, and I certainly don't think it's worth the lives of our young men and women. I don't dismiss the importance of protecting ourselves from terrorists; I just don't believe Afghanistan is the place to be doing that at this point. There's a weird momentum to military interventions, and this one has been rolling along for ten years. I doubt that Obama will do much to slow it down; after all, he pushed the pedal to the metal on it 18 months ago. It's his war now, and I'm actually far more opposed to what he's doing there than I was to what Bush did -- at least in those first several months when we actually did accomplish the mission as you state it: ousted the Taliban and dismantled al Queda in Afghanistan. I suppose Korea might be the best antecedent here: we're still there 60 years after the "war" ended. There have to be better, smarter, less costly ways to achieve just and lasting peace than that.