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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/1/11

It Is Time to Leave

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Follow Me on Twitter     Message Sandy Shanks

Pardon me; it is way past time to leave. There comes a point where enough is enough. While Congress and the President are debating endlessly over raising the debt limit on our huge national debt, they are ignoring two elephants in the Oval Office, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While they quibble into infinity on that issue, Americans, having endured nearly eight years of war under Mr. Bush and over two years of war under Mr. Obama and weary of war, have decided on the overlying issues, two needless and costly wars. Poll after poll has indicated the American people's decision. They want out of the Iraq and Afghanistan and demur on further engagements in the Middle East, a land distant from ours, culturally and politically. Americans can see this clearly, but not American leaders.

Americans are also weary of the sanctimonious and ubiquitous ceremonies and endless emails regally our troops. Americans love our troops, and we do not need endless reminders. What we do need is American leadership that recognizes that devotion to our beloved troops and gets them to hell out of harm's way. The abject futility of their brave efforts combined with the dismal performance of their leadership will now be illustrated.

Part of the problem some Americans have in recognizing an existential threat is the rise of an American professional military, euphemistically called an all-volunteer force. The "all-volunteer force," or professional military as many prefer to call it, is the brain child of the 1969 President's Commission on an All-Volunteer Force, which came to be known as the Gates Commission after its chairman, Thomas S. Gates, Jr., an investment banker and former defense secretary. Nixon received the commission's report (PDF here) in February 1970. And little more than three years later, in June 1973, the last man drafted into the U.S. military reported for training. Gone was the draft, gone were the days of Vietnam, gone were the days of the Pentagon and the President having to deal with draft protests across the country, and gone were the days when average American families had to deal with war with loved ones going off to fight due to conscription. Defense Secretary Robert Gates -- no relation to Thomas -- stated simply while Speaking at Duke University in September, "Whatever their fond sentiments for men and women in uniform, for most Americans the wars [in Iraq and Afghanistan] remain an abstraction. A distant and unpleasant series of news items that does not affect them personally " warfare has become something for other people to do."

One of the unintended consequences of President Bush's invasion of Iraq was the rise of Iran in the Middle East, resulting in its dominance of Iraq when Iran's deadly foe, Saddam's Iraq, was eliminated. Recently, the United States told the Iraqi government last week that if it wants U.S. troops to remain in Iraq beyond the deadline of Dec. 31, 2011, as stipulated by the current Status of Forces Agreement agreed upon between Washington and Baghdad in late 2008, it would have to inform the United States quickly. Unless a new agreement is reached soon, the United States will be unable to remain.

The American concern, of course, has to do with Iran. George Friedman of Geopolitical Weekly writes, "The United States has been unable to block Iranian influence in Iraq's post-Baathist government. Indeed, the degree to which the Iraqi government is a coherent entity is questionable, and its military and security forces have limited logistical and planning ability and are not capable of territorial defense. The issue is not the intent of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who himself is enigmatic. The problem is that the coalition that governs Iraq is fragmented and still not yet finalized, dominated by Iranian proxies such Muqtada al-Sadr -- and it only intermittently controls the operations of the ministries under it, or the military and security forces."

The point is, as Friedman states, "The United States made a pledge to the American public and a treaty with the Iraqi government to withdraw forces, but the conditions that were expected to develop simply did not."

Many lamented over the SOFA in late 2008. Many lament it now. Why? The facts are apparent to any observer. The presence of American ground troops in Iraq are as ineffectual in 2011 as they were in 2003. After eight years of war what have we accomplished? Nothing. True we have eliminated a heinous dictator only to be replaced by anarchy with leaders sympathetic to America's sworn enemy, Iran. If a reader believes that human rights and basic democratic freedoms, or even reliable electricity and availability of potable water are now accessible to Iraqis, and the human tragedy of Iraq is a thing of the past, I have some beach property in Kansas I would like to sell you.

Americans may not be personally affected by our wars, but Americans should take heed that our beloved nation is " in every way possible.

We now turn to Afghanistan, which is even more disheartening, as if that were possible. The end is now projected as 2015. Just the other day it was 2014. What is it going to be a month from now? Will this war ever end?

When Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold lost his bid for re-election, advocates working to end the war in Afghanistan lost their champion in the Senate. However, California Sen. Barbara Boxer has reintroduced Feingold's bill requiring the president to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan -- a timetable with an end date . That is the good news.

Here is the bad as columnist Robert Naiman writes, "Furthermore, in this particular case, the question of an actual end date for the deployment of US troops in Afghanistan is absolutely crucial right now, because the administration is talking out of both sides of its mouth about what is going to happen in 2014. On the one hand, the administration is saying that the United States is leaving. On the other hand, the United States is trying to negotiate a "Permanent Bases Agreement" with the government of Afghanistan, an agreement the United States hopes to conclude by July. But, as The New York Times pointed out, if the United States insists on keeping troops in Afghanistan past 2014, that is likely to scuttle peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, for whom the departure of foreign forces from the country is a red line in negotiations. So, the question of ending the war hinges crucially on setting a definite end date for the departure of US troops ."

It was reported on April 16th that a member of the Afghan National Security Forces for the second day in a row succeeded in attacking forces attempting to disrupt the Taliban. The suicide bomber entered the headquarters of the Afghan 201 Corps in eastern Afghanistan on a Saturday morning and killed five NATO troops and four Afghani security members. One day earlier another member of the Afghani security forces assassinated Gen Khan Mohammed Mujahid, the police chief of Kandahar Province and a highly respected figure. On April 27, eight NATO troops and a contractor were killed by a veteran pilot of the Afghan security forces when he opened fire on trainers during a meeting in a military compound at supposedly secure Kabul International Airport. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for these attacks declaring that this was the beginning of their spring offensive, which they said would focus on infiltration of the security forces.

There have been seven such attacks this year. These folks are supposed to be on our side. So, who exactly is on the offensive? You know, I seem to remember someone saying -- gosh, I think it was President Obama when he sent 30,000 more troops into the cavernous hellhole known as Afghanistan -- that we were supposed to be on the offensive. We have heard very little of NATO successes in Afghanistan, although we have heard of huge successes of drone attacks on Pakistan. Are we at war with Pakistan? If so, I seemed to have missed that important item. On the other hand, unfortunately, we are hearing a great deal about Taliban successes in Afghanistan. Of course, this comes as no shock. This has been true since the days of Alexander the Great. Afghanistan is not called the Graveyard of Empires for nothing.  

Andrew J. Bacevich, writing for Tom Dispatch, states, "The sequence of military adventures set in motion when Jimmy Carter promulgated his Carter Doctrine back in 1980 makes for an interesting story but not a very pretty one.  Ronald Reagan's effort to bring peace to Lebanon ended in 1983 in a bloody catastrophe.  The nominal victory of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, which pushed Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait, produced little except woeful complications, which Bill Clinton's penchant for flinging bombs and missiles about during the 1990s did little to resolve or conceal.  The blowback stemming from our first Afghanistan intervention against the Soviets helped create the conditions leading to 9/11 and another Afghanistan War, now approaching its tenth anniversary with no clear end in sight.  As for George W. Bush's second go at Iraq, the less said the better.  Now, there is Libya."

He then adds, "The question demands to be asked: Are we winning yet?  And if not, why persist in an effort for which great pain is repaid with such little gain?"

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Sandy Shanks Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

I am the author of two novels, "The Bode Testament" and "Impeachment." I am also a columnist who keeps a wary eye on other columnists and the failures of the MSM (mainstream media). I was born in Minnesota, and, to this day, I love the Vikings (more...)
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