Leave Libya, Fight on in Afghanistan
By: Craig Chamberlain
“Never act without purpose and resolve, or without the means to finish the job.”- Marcus Aurelius.
Our foreign policy would find itself in a much better place if President Obama would take a page from the stoic emperor. He’s faced with two wars, both of them deeply unpopular, and one of them of his own making. Americans wants us out of both Afghanistan and Libya, as they see both wars as too costly and detrimental to America’s real national interests. There is some truth in that, we’ve been in Afghanistan since late 2001, and things are still difficult. We’re involved in an attempt to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi when he has been no threat to America, or the countries around him. It’s true Qaddafi is a beast, and brutally represses his own people, but this only means that he is no different from any other leader in the Arab world. President Obama got involved in Libya on flimsy pretexts, ignoring the War Powers Act, and seems bogged down and unable to get Qaddafi out of power. Now, to be fair, the War Powers Act is unconstitutional and deserves to be ignored, and it’s hypocritical of the GOP in congress to suddenly demand adherence to a law that they have always hated.
President Obama is going to announce a troop draw down from Afghanistan, pulling as many as 10,000 troops out of the country. The truth is he’s getting us out of the wrong war. Critics of the war, including those who should know better, are advocating surrender even if they don’t realize it. We have forgotten why we sent soldiers into Afghanistan in the first place. The critics point out that the Afghan government is hopelessly corrupt, that Afghanistan is a tribal society that will never take to democratic rule, that since Bin Laden is dead we have no reason to be there, and we’ve spent too much money on a country like Afghanistan where our bombs are more expensive than anything we could blow up.
These are all factual, valid points. President Karzai is proving himself to be more of a problem than he is worth, most of the aid money we give to the country is wasted and used to enrich government officials. Yes, Afghanistan is a tribal society where tribal elders are more respected than member of parliament or the President. And Bin Laden is now fish food. So why are we still in the country? Because all of those things are irrelevant to our actual mission. For the anti war types, and those who have bad memories, let me remind you of what our actual mission is. We are there to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists.
That is exactly what will happen if we leave, then all of the billions spent, and the lives lost will be wasted. We didn’t go into Afghanistan to create a Jeffersonian democracy where the Afghan people adopted western values and learned to live in love and peace. Not even the most enthusiastic neoconservative advocated such a thing, because such a thing is impossible. If there are changes in Afghan culture they will come slowly and will come because of internal pressure, not external pressure. Yes, the Afghan government is corrupt, but so is the Obama administration. Let’s worry about cleaning up Washington before we insist on honesty and transparency in Kabul. If President Karzai is too much of a problem then we can remind him that we made him President, we can unmake him President. As to Bin Laden and Al- Qaida, our mission was to destroy Al-Qaida, and prevent them from having a safe haven. Al-Qaida existed before Bin Laden took it over, and it exists after his death. Proclaiming victory because Bin Laden is dead is like if we had proclaimed victory after Hitlers death, and walked away to let the Third Reich rebuild. Leaving while Taliban and Al-Qaida are still fighting us is giving into them, and giving them the keys to Afghanistan. Their retaking the country would be inevitable if we left before we finished them off.
We must thoroughly, and permanently, destroy the Taliban, and Al-Qaida’s will and ability to fight before we leave. As long as there is still fight in them, as long as they believe they have a chance for victory, they are still a threat to retake the country if we are not there to fight them. That’s what this war is about. It’s about destroying them, making sure they don’t kill Americans, (or any other innocent people), and don’t have a safe place to plan their next assault.
Now, contrast that with Libya. There are no American interests involved, there are no terrorists(other than Qaddafi,who we had contained) using the country as a base of operations. Qaddafi is a thug, and there is the possibility that he will return to his terrorist ways if we fail to topple him. If that’s the case then a serious effort should be made to get rid of him, not just a bombing campaign that is nothing more than an annoyance to him. If Congress really thinks that this war is a bad idea, and there is no reason to think that it isn’t, then they should stand up, take responsibility, and cut off the funding. Given that no one in Washington wants to take responsibility for anything we shouldn’t expect real action.
Our foreign policy should be fueled by national concerns, and protecting our interests. We have an interest in Afghanistan in making sure that the terrorist networks don’t have the base of operations that they so desperately need. There is no interest in Libya that dictates we should be involved in aiding the rebels who want Qaddafi out of power. The government, and the American people, should remember that.
Let’s kill Qaddafi and get out of Libya as soon as possible. Let’s make sure we fight on until we win in Afghanistan.