Warren, this is a serious and well considered evaluation,
and I regret that American politicians have not faced up to these issues in the
way you suggest. I wish somebody would make a public address raising these
points. But you have done your part.
Mark [Falcoff, AEI, Washington DC]
As long as Americans do not associate the costs of war with
a war, we will be mired in these stupid wars. I liked it when Johnson
added a Vietnam war surcharge to tax bills It brought home the costs of
the war to every American. If every taxpayer saw what it was costing them
to perpetuate these military forays into strange lands, I suspect we would be
doing far less of them. At least during Vietnam, the draft kept the
personal costs in focus. Now, even that is limited to a few.
[Although I must say the shift to relying on National Guard units to
supplement military strength rather than a larger standing army was a good
move. The Guard had become a country club for men who like to play
soldier. Now they earn their extra salaries and pensions from the Guard.
Of course, it would be better if we could do with less of both, a Guard
and standing army.]
Always enjoy your insights, my friend.
Peter Ilchuk [Key West]
(currently in Rio for three months….)
Regarding your piece on Afghanistan, why are you writing if
you do not have any idea what to do? That is a cop out. You write
as if you were writing for the New York Times. You are even politically
correct writing concerning our "men and women soldiers" etc.
How many women soldiers have died in combat? What I don’t get about the
"elite" in which I include you, is how they can discuss Afghanistan
without discussing the Pashtun, their historic role in Afghanistan,
Pashtunwali, etc. If you know about these things, why do you persist in
talking about the "Afghan government." Karzai is a Pashtun
figurehead on a Northern Alliance (TAjik Army). If you do not know about
these things, then how are you qualified to discuss the matter? You have
to discuss the tribes and warlords of Afghanistan, to know the players and how
they fit together.
I suggest you revisit your piece and acknowledge that
1) there can be no martial victory in Afghanistan, and 2) we need to fashion an
exit strategy. 3) Europe will NOT continue to support our folly and
misadventures. Each day costs us another 187 million dollars we don’t
have but have to borrow from the Chinese.
Bill [Hulsy, Southern California]
Thanks for your comments. My main political message was that
Afghanistan is an unpromising place for foreigners to fight wars even if they
think they have good reason to. I stated my views on what we should have
done in late 2001 in my #3. Fulfill our military objective (kill Ben Laden).
Though as we ran out the Taliban government, we did have an obligation
under international law to provide security until a new government was in place
to do so. Of course I know the ethnic divisions in Afghanistan (check out some
of my earlier notes). We pressed an inappropriate, overly centralized
government structure and constitution on Afghanistan back in 1382 (2003), but
that is a different subject to what we should do now. I accept General
McChrystal’s plan if its conditions can be met as our best hope at this point.
Those conditions include a credible partner (Afghan government). We don’t have
that now, but it is not impossible to establish one in the coming months. Maybe
I am copping out, but I can’t pretend to have clear, magic answers when I
don’t. I don’t think that means that I have no light to shed on the subject
however. I basically agree with your four concluding points.
And by the way, there are a lot of women in the American military
in Iraq and Afghanistan, though not many casualties as not many are assigned to
combat. The Washington Post publishes the name and (when they can get
it) picture of every American solder killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. From a
visual scan there are few women. The Post allows you to search on these
listings by name, age, home state, military branch, theater of death, and date
of death, but not sex. This reminds me of a conversation I had last month in
Kabul with an Australian personnel policy advisor to the Afghan civil service
about the tribal ethnic problems in employment. Personal records do not
indicate ethnicity on the grounds that that kept hiring "color
blind." He argued (correctly surely) that every one knew the tribe (chain)
everyone else belonged to and that omitting that information from personnel
records only made it easier to hid gross discrimination in employment (each
ministry tends to be one or another). He was pressing hard to have the
Your old Bakersfield/Berkeley friend,
Now that’s the punchy insider info laden stuff that I like
to hear from you. I think that the Pashtunwali honor code precluded
turning over "old friend and ally" Ben Laden to the Americans by
Mullah Omar and the Taliban, and we knew it. We didn’t want Ben Laden, we
wanted to project power there Their offer to turn him over to a third
country (where of course he could have done no harm) for trial whould have been
an honorable compromise. I think our demand was pretextual, so that
we could involve ourselves in saving the Northern Alliance which was down to 1%
of the Afganistan land space. But we did intervene. Now, what to
do? Al Quaeda is gone (essentially). Did you ever think that in the
days of the Blatt that you would end up a player in the international
scene? Wow. I do enjoy you reportage. I like the real stuff
like the pictures of the sandbags up and down the walls of your office,
etc. Also, the real stories of the Green Zone. Could you become a
reporter (perhaps under an assumed name) consistent with your duties to
your clients? You have your blog. Why not a column? Instead
of being "embedded" with the military, you would be embedded with the
foreign governments. Just an idea. Lots of money in getting the
real story on Iraq out now that the dying (by our troops) has ended.
Your jealous friend,
Thanks so much for your nice comments. It happens that I
just sent my only copy of the Special Issue of The Weekly Blatt on the Berlin
Wall (building it not tearing it down) to the Bakersfield College Archives.
They promise to keep it safe forever. I appreciate your suggestion that I do a
real column. The fact is, I derive enough pleasure from my notes hearing
that they are occasionally enjoyed and informative. If I turned them into a
regular column, it would become work with deadlines, etc. Writing something
when I feel like it and think that I might have something interesting to share
is perfect for me.
Your friend and frat brother,
I think we should stop trying to take credit for getting
things done and intensify the use of our technological and training advantage
to increase narrowly targeted attacks on problem people/facilities, etc that
present legitimate threats to national security.
There’s an old saying that you can achieve anything in this
world if you don’t need to claim the credit for it.
[David Garland, Roanoke, VA]