Nobody wants another war. I think that is a fairly universal sentiment. Yet we now find our armed forces active in Iraq and Afghanistan. And last week the United States, as part of an international coalition, began air bombardments in Libya. The action is as a result of a United Nations Resolution 1973, which was approved by a vote of 10 – 0, with 5 abstentions (including Russia and China).
I think the sentiment is right here. The idea is to use whatever means necessary to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya in order to protect innocent civilians from the wrath of Muammar Qaddafi. The people of Libya seem to be tired of the Qaddafi regime. There is a desire for freedom, democracy and jobs. Like in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia, the people began protesting all around the country. Unlike in those other countries, Qaddafi decided to strike back at the people instead of stepping down from his 42 year reign of terror.
The problem I have with this action is that there does not seem to be a plan as to what comes next. We are determined not to commit ground troops. Yet Libya’s troops continue to attack rebels and civilians, even after the heavy coalition bombardments. We did something similar in Iraq. We expected a “video game war,” where we bombard from the air, wipe out any resistance and then overthrow Hussein. We did not think about what would come next. The result was a quick “victory” followed by years of sectarian violence. Will we ever learn?
At the present time, the US is fighting two major wars; one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. The rationale for both wars is pretty widely known. Afghanistan is where al-Qaeda and bin Laden trained the terrorists that took part in the 9/11 attacks. Iraq was supposedly a hot bed of al-Qaeda training as well (though this was proven to be false, with al-Qaeda not coming to Iraq until well after our invasion). It was also supposedly sitting on a store of weapons of mass destruction (also proven to be false).
This past June, the nature of our involvement in Iraq changed to such an extent that you could almost say that we are really not fighting a war there anymore. American troops left all Iraqi cities and turned over the security of these cities to the Iraqi armed forced and police.
Afghanistan is a very different story. When we first went into Afghanistan, we quickly made substantial progress towards removing the Taliban from power. 8 years later, however, the Taliban is back in control of the majority of the country. How is this possible? One of the reasons, in my opinion, is that once again, we went into the conflict without enough troops. We like to believe that war has changed and that it is run more or less like a video game, with superior air power overriding the need for troops on the ground. I think Iraq, to some extent, and Afghanistan, to a much greater extent, prove that this is just not the case. Afghanistan’s hills and mountains are full of deep caves that are virtually impenetrable from the air. So no matter what we throw at them, it is not going to work.
The real problem, again in my opinion, is that we want to fight these “limited wars.” Sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan is just not sufficient. I feel that if we are willing to go to war, we should be ready and willing to use ANY AND ALL tools at your disposal. If we are not willing to do that, we should not go to war. Now believe me, I am not in any way condoning war. I don’t think we should have ever gone into Iraq and I am not sure that we should have even gone into Afghanistan. The real enemy is not any particular country. It is an ideology that seeks to destroy America and all other Western powers and impose a theocratic government based on warped interpretations of Islam and the Koran. That makes it hard to pin down and even harder to defeat. Every time we cut off a head, another one grows somewhere else.
I think that it is high time we end our involvement in both Iraq and Afghanistan completely. We need to bring all of our troops home and stop wasting our resources in these areas. We should not be involved in nation building. We should be worrying about fixing our problems at home.
I recently heard a statistic: the poverty level in the US has risen to 13.2%. That’s 1 out of every 8 people. That, to me, is heart breaking. We have spent $1 trillion dollars in Iraq and Lord knows how much in Afghanistan while people at home are barely able to feed themselves. I am not saying that we should go into protectionist mode, but I still think our primary responsibility should be to our own citizens. Then after that, we can worry about problems overseas.