I will preface this post with the obligatory disclaimer, whenever one is speaking about our troops: I greatly appreciate the service that our troops do for our country. For a human being to voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way, regardless of the outcome, is noble and heroic.
Unfortunately, that is as far as I go. If the most recent war were the Revolutionary War or either of the World Wars, I may be more apt to give our military commanders and those at higher levels of the area of government that oversees our military some benefit of the doubt. But, I cannot. I say this, even though some of my good friends are and were in the United States Armed Forces. In fact, my brother-in-law has made the Army his professional career, about to be shipped out to Afghanistan this month for his first tour of duty.
Many times, in the past decade, I have heard individuals praise our military men and women for their service to our country. Again, I do not disagree, by definition. But, it seems that the consensus is such that our fighting folk are out in the world attempting to maintain our freedoms and our American way of life. I cannot, for the life of me, reconcile this last point. I do not understand how our foreign adventurism into Iraq, Afghanistan’s current war definition, Bosnia, Vietnam, Korea, and more recently, the beating of the war drums to go into Libya, protects our freedoms and American way of life.
After September 11, 2001, our government determined that the attack had been devised, planned, and orchestrated by an evil, murderous organization by the name of Al Qaeda. I hadn’t heard of them before, except for little tidbits after the U.S.S. Cole was attacked in 2003. But, now, this tiny, havoc wreaking group of people had broken onto the front pages of every newspaper in the world. Al Qaeda was no longer a theoretical, movie plot birthing, possibility. They were here - and here to stay – at least until the sleeping giant obliterated them from the face of the earth.
America woke up to the fact that, though we weren’t in the Middle East, or even a stone’s throw away, in Europe, or across a desert and a mountain range or two, in Russia, we were still as vulnerable to a terrorist attack on our home soil. America’s way of life and enviable freedoms were at stake. And we responded. Not by lobbing a few missiles into a few camel behinds, but by putting together a very successful campaign to root Al Qaeda out of their home turf – Afghanistan.
I remember very well, the Northern Alliance and the elation they showed when the Taliban fell. I read book after book, news stories and blogs, about the terrors of the Taliban’s iron-fisted pseudo-theocratic rule. I read about Russia’s land war in the rugged mountains of this seemingly backward country. I thoroughly enjoyed stories like “The Kite Runner,” that depicted life before the Russian invasion and the subsequent Taliban victories. I became enraged at how these rulers pretended to have utmost respect for their God, but instead, had only a thirst for more power, mutilating, maiming, and murdering those who dared get in their way. My heart skipped a beat when this evil “government” fell so easily. Our casualties were light and the alliance we had formed with the native people was what I thought at the time, a glowing example for future battle plans.
Ten years later, I sit here, wondering what became of our victory. We uprooted Al Qaeda, losing Osama bin Laden in the process. We think he is somewhere in Pakistan – an off and on ally in our purported quest for world peace. The Taliban are gaining footholds all across the country. Their power in the northern part of Afghanistan is growing quickly. The government of Hamid Karzai is more reminiscent of our history with the west’s propped up Shah of Afghanistan’s neighbor, Iran, in the middle 20th century. It is becoming more apparent that the people in Afghanistan want us gone at any cost. We have lost our way.
No longer is this fight about terrorism. All of our current foreign entanglements have gone the way of the much maligned nation building. Our former President, George W. Bush, spoke about democracy in the Middle East. Now, our current President, Barrack Obama is maintaining the status quo. My first question is very simple – why still?
What if the people of the Middle East don’t want democracy? What if they are just fine with nomadic, tribal, loosely knit family government systems? Why do we not look back at the myriad examples of history and see that empire building begets only one result – destruction of said empire? Why can’t we look at Egypt and even if the Muslim Brotherhood (or whomever is or will be in charge for that matter) are radical murderous people like they say they aren’t, and yet let them do as they please, maintaining a powerful domestic national defense to deter any attack from them or their emissaries? In short, why can’t we let people of other countries rule themselves?
We love our way of life in this country. We believe in the truth and strength of our Constitution and our laws. We have freedom like no other country has ever had before. Since our inception, we have enjoyed wealth beyond the dreams of any nation in the history of the world. But, I am convinced it has gone to our heads. Democracy may work for us and be completely wrong for others. Elected, representative government is a great idea for the United States, but may be entirely backwards for those not inclined to peaceful negotiations, as we are.
Let me put forth a novel solution.
Bring the boys and girls home. All of them. Let us no longer foray out into the world to make others more like us, but rather create the beacon on a hill where the world, with all of its sorrows, can see the shining light, and find their way to the new Ellis Island, ready to begin a new life. Let us show the world what true freedom and happiness is, rather than force it upon them. Let them see and hear the theoretical American democracy and desire to feel and live it for themselves. Let us be – heaven on earth for all the oppressed.