synthetic zero

December 3rd, 2009

I’m going to say something that perhaps some of my friends will disagree with, but which I think must be said at this point. I’m a liberal — I’d even call myself very liberal. I believe strongly in gay rights, women’s rights, I believe the wealthy are too wealthy and they’ve siphoned off a lot of this country’s wealth in a way which disadvantages us all, I am a strong believer in social justice and supporting the dignity and well-being of all people, I was a fierce opponent of the Iraq war, the list goes on. But though I identify strongly with and support the goals of left I disagree quite frequently with the means the left sometimes chooses to pursue these goals. Above all, I believe that in order to achieve peace and justice one has to look very carefully at the details of every situation and think carefully about the impact of every policy, strategy, and tactic from a larger perspective. In other words, I am against dogma on the right or the left: I am pragmatic.

War is terrible but war in self defense is, I believe, a sad necessity. Obama campaigned on the notion that Afghanistan was the war we should have been fighting, that Iraq siphoned off men and attention from that war, and that we should have before and should now focus our efforts there. This is not only not a surprise but his speech represents a softening of his position.

And not only did he campaign on this, I say he was absolutely right. Al Qaeda actually did attack us on 9/11. They continue to have the desire to attack us. They are in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A failed state in Afghanistan is therefore a direct threat to our national security. And it is the job of our government, and the President, to act to protect national security when necessary.

Pulling out of Afghanistan under these circumstances strikes me as foolish. I part ways with some of my Democratic friends here, but this situation is very clear to me.

The problem with Bush wasn’t that he went to war against our enemies; it was that he went to war against people who had nothing to do with attacking us, diverting vast sums of money and sacrificing lives in the service of a war which made no sense whatsoever. Meanwhile, our actual enemies remained in Afghanistan and Pakistan, continuing to plot against us. We haven’t achieved our goals in Afghanistan, we haven’t captured bin Laden, we haven’t achieved stability there. If you’ve been paying attention to the news coming out of Afghanistan (and most people, on the right or the left, haven’t), you’d know that the situation steadily deteriorated during the Bush Administration. To my mind Obama has no choice but to increase our efforts there, which is diametrically opposed to what Bush did and far more logical and sensible.

If anything I think 30,000 troops is probably too low a figure, but it is at least a substantial number. It does not follow that putting in more troops would mean more Americans killed or our involvement there would last longer. In my opinion you ought to go to war reluctantly but when you go to war you should go all out, or it will drag out. Is this or is this not a war we should fight? I believe it certainly is, and if it is, we ought to go in with overwhelming force, just as Shinseki recommended in Iraq and McChrystal recommended here.

Of course I recognize that the Afghan government is corrupt. This doesn’t change the fact that it is in our national interest to track down and defeat our enemies, the ones who attacked us and continue to want to attack us. To walk away now would be as absurd as Bush ignoring the “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Within the United States” memo. Bin Laden is still determined to attack within the United States. Just because we’re tired of war and we had to live with inept execution of the war by Bush doesn’t change this fact. Just because we’re liberals doesn’t mean we ought to be sloppy with national security or military matters. Bush was incredibly sloppy and inept with this, despite his cowboy rhetoric; we should do better. I believe Obama is right about this, he understands the security situation and he’s doing the right thing here, or if anything doing a little less than he should. He is making up for years of inept policy on the part of Bush — it is going to take troops and intelligence to rectify that. Walking away from a situation involving people who not only attacked us but are avowedly trying to do it again would be more than foolhardy, in my view.

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5 responses to this post:
  1. magda says:

    Would you go to war?

    January 13th, 2010 at 9:11 pm
  2. mitsu says:

    Anyone who believes that there are things worth fighting for should believe those same things are worth dying for.

    January 13th, 2010 at 9:16 pm
  3. magda says:

    Things as in ideas or…

    Do you think ideas are worth fighting/dying for?

    January 14th, 2010 at 12:15 am
  4. mitsu says:

    Ideas are physical. They are embedded in our physicality, limited by it, and also connected to something not fully knowable through that. That means that, for me, fighting or dying is just another aspect of that physicality.

    January 14th, 2010 at 12:17 am
  5. mitsu says:

    (Fighting, dying, and killing are a kind of limit of ideas, and they precess simulacra into the real. It’s why “reality-based” ideas turned out to be so much more prescient than what the Bush Administration ineptly tried to do in Iraq. But the answer in my opinion is not to eschew specific techniques (war, for example) in general, in a context-free way, but to recognize the entire embedded quality of the situation, which is to say, you take into account as much deep context as possible when deciding when and how to fight. The answer should be you rarely fight, but if you do, you fight with great force, as briefly as possible, while understanding who you are fighting as well as possible and ending it as soon as possible, etc. Rules of thumb, but they have their basis in this physicality I was talking about (physicality is information and information is physicality — I don’t mean to propose a dualism here).

    January 14th, 2010 at 12:21 am

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