Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Jack Kelly’s column on Sunday was about words, how Obama does not sound bellicose enough to suit Kelly’s tastes. Frank Herbert today writes about consequences of actions, specifically the toll taken on those individuals (and their children) who are actually fighting the war in Afghanistan. Fewer than one percent of Americans are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, for tour after tour. It is wrecking the military we have, and yet the vast majority of us are home, grousing about the price of gas and the Stillers if we are lucky, worrying about our jobs or healthcare if we are not (although we are still luckier than the troops).

I have a bumper sticker, it says “Support the Troops” and has the numerals “55” inside a green circle (in smaller letters below it says www.drive55.org). If you haven’t guessed, it is advocating that we support the troops by driving at fifty five miles per hour, coincidentally the speed limit on most of the highways I drive. I got it as a smart ass semi-subversive kind of thing, a sort of you can’t honk at me because I am blocking you, I am being patriotic thing. But after reading Herbert’s column, I am thinking that in fact we ought to be serious about making some sacrifice(s) as a nation for the troops, beyond allowing the government to borrow from the Chinese to pay for the war.

Jack Kelly actually had the gall to compare Obama negatively to George W Bush in terms of expressing resolve for fighting in Afghanistan. We have seen the actual limits and effects of George W Bush’s resolve. We largely failed to win in either Iraq or Afghanistan, but we did manage to wreck both countries (which granted were not in great shape to start with), squandered the goodwill of the rest of the world after 9/11 and threw away a trillion dollars. Even if you link only Obama and not Congress (both parties and their roles in shaping it) to the stimulus and the automaker bailout, even if you ignore the Wall Street bailout, even if you say the stimulus has failed, do we say we owe nothing to the soldiers still fighting on our behalf in Afghanistan and Iraq? Is it only a magnetic plastic ribbon we owe them? Could we find it in our hearts to slow down, to save oil (domestic and foreign) and save lives (our own) and just make sure we leave a little earlier? Especially (especially) if you just had to buy that pickup or SUV, by slowing down to 55 you save much more gas, percentagewise, than that environmentally conscious lawyer yuppie type in his or her Prius.

Or we could demand our Congress-persons support a draft, and we could all take the risk or (in the case of people my age, risk all our children). Or, if we were really serious, we could do both.


Folk Forms said...

Bob Herbert, the NYTimes lone anti-war voice, seems to be so for reasons similar to you-- the wars have brought home lots of dead soldiers and wasted trillions of dollars, all while millions of Americans go hungry, have no health care, are being foreclosed upon and are lucky to find jobs paying a barely living wage just a few dollars more than the minimum wage.

Instead of a draft, and instead of killing lots of innocent foreign civilians in the name of "national security," lets do something else with $3 trillion. We cannot have Hummertanks and Crisco (to bring the metaphor up to date), let us bask in our fat, even if such lavish ways are made possible by the ills globalization, at least we're not creating "terrorists" by accidentally bombing their families.

There is more, obviously, to these issues but time is short, so I hesitantly ask you to remember that "War is the terrorism of the rich and terrorism is the war of the poor." Violence and crime, unless coming from the state, are almost always symptoms of poverty.

cberry88 said...

Thank you for this post. I hope many get the opportunity to read it. The sad and unfortunate fact, I believe, is that more people will read what little Jack Kelly has to offer.

Side note to Folk Forms--I hate to be 'That Guy' but I gotta correct you on one little thing about "hummertanks". I understand the updated metaphor but gotta point out there's nothing remotely close to a "hummertank" in existence. A Humvee is a military four-wheeled vehicle whereas a Hummer is a civilian automobile. A tank, of course, is an armored, tracked military vehicle.

Like I said, not trying to be a wiseguy. It's just as a former Marine, we like to correct people about stuff like that.

Perhaps M16s and Big Macs would be more fitting (I know...lame).

EdHeath said...

Well, I wasn’t trying to address the larger philosophical question of whether we should be in Afghanistan or Iraq, although I think the answer for Iraq is a clear no we should not be. As for Afghanistan, in my opinion it was a quagmire long before we got there. If the younger George Bush had shown the wisdom the older George Bush did in the First Gulf War and simply invaded, extracted Osama Bin Laden and left, we would have retained the good will of the rest of the world. Instead we settled into a poorly managed and pointless occupation (we did much the same in Iraq, with much less justification).

I mentioned the draft in part because I agree with Frank Herbert that if there was a draft, the occupations we are calling wars would come to not a swift but at least a brisk end. A volunteer army is a fine thing in peacetime, giving the poor a place to be trained in various trades, but during war I am coming to think it is better to spread the risk across all classes.

As for my personal philosophy and my acting on that philosophy, let me make it clear I am not Gandhi. Of course, I strongly suspect Gandhi was not Gandhi. But anything I do for people less fortunate than me, or to lower my carbon footprint, I generally get something tangible back. I get paid to work at the free tax site I work at, and using CFL’s means I pay a lower energy bill. I am ambivalent about that, in that it is too bad I am not more giving of my spare time and of the other resources I have. On the other hand, I think I set a reasonably good example of the concept that if we think about what we do we can do better by each other and the planet and also profit somewhat doing it. I don’t think writing about politics and profiting when I do some few decent things makes me a good person. I can’t decide whether it makes me a slightly less bad person, or a worse person because I know I could do more.

But we live in a real world, and in that real world I believe Obama is acting as he is, i.e., as a moderate, because to do otherwise would be to confirm the worst suspicions of conservatives, that Obama is a radical. Thus so far Obama has inserted tax cuts into the stimulus, continued Bush’s practice of being real nice to Wall Street and even offered medical malpractice reform on healthcare. In return conservatives have been openly contemptuous of Obama. I think the troop surge in Afghanistan is a combination of trying to reach a point of stability there and not validating the expectations of Republicans. At least, that’s what I hope. I think that once Obama is re-elected (if he is re-elected), he can say the he tried to let conservatives have input on the economy and Afghanistan; now it is time for the liberal way, including leaving Afghanistan. That my view of what conservatives (derisively) call the hopey changey thing.

EdHeath said...

I just deleted a comment from a Merlemunson, which appeared to be in Chinese, but all the words appeared to be hyperlinks. Seemed like something that could be dangerous.