Obama sees surge, then a withdrawal | Dec. 2, story
Walk away from Afghanistan trap
American presidents, and especially those in the last 60 years, continue to fall into the trap of believing they have to prove they are tough, strong commanders in chief by starting or continuing incursions, conflicts or wars. In many of these cases they manufactured reasons to flex our military muscles — invade Grenada to save students, take down a drug dealing leader in Panama, or bomb parts of Kosovo.
Our military brass want to prove themselves, receive their next star, and show the effectiveness of their weapons. Therefore, they have never seen a conflict they cannot win as long as we continue to provide more troops, weapons and money. Their job is to wage war.
The same trap we faced in Vietnam is looming large as the president listens to the military for more troops and time to win. We heard this over and over as that war escalated to 500,000 troops and billions of dollars. We did not understand the culture of the country, its peoples and its past as it applied to how we planned and fought that war.
Our situation now is even worse. The country, if it can be called that, is made up of many individual tribes run by warlords. A strong central government has always been and will continue to be a joke. We cannot impose our way of thinking and government on such a country. If its citizens want a new system, then they need to do it. All we need to do is look at the history of this country and see the other great powers that have not been able to control it.
We should take a lesson from the past and walk away before we are trapped in further escalations and lose more troops and treasure.
Dale Gottschalk, Hudson
A coherent strategy for Afghanistan | Dec. 3, editorial
Afghan society too fragmented for U.S. success
This editorial, while otherwise thoughtful and comprehensive, ignored the biggest problem with President Barack Obama's Afghanistan plans. That is the nature of Afghan society and the long national history of weak central governments.
In Afghanistan everything is local and all of society and politics circles around family, clan and tribal connections. The central government is always, as seen by the Afghans themselves, an inherently corrupt and alien power. It is tolerated as long as there is a quid pro quo, usually a modicum of safety and security from outsiders, and perhaps payoffs to local leaders, in return for modest taxes, a pretense of obedience to the government and military support for it in times of revolt or invasion.
Thus far, all attempts to reform this system, so deeply rooted in Afghan society, whether by kings, communists or Taliban, have failed. And the aftermath can be tragic. Afghan society is so fragmented, so disorganized and unstable it may take years for the country to settle down to a comfortable level of modest corruption, effective local rule, and no government interference with anyone outside of Kabul.
The problems of the Karzai government, which the editorial did touch on, are a symptom, not a cause. A period of 18 months, or even 18 years, is too short to cure the basic problems of Afghanistan. As it now stands, the surge and planned expansion of the Afghan national forces will have a short-term success. But in the long run it will do nothing but enrage the clans and tribes, set up new military power centers, and guarantee fighting, civil war and another Taliban resurgence after the U.S. forces leave.
James Klapper, Oldsmar
President Barack Obama's strategy on Afghanistan has an excellent chance of being politically successful. A surge in troops accompanied by a promised withdrawal encourages any rational enemy to reduce its military activities. There is no point in its militants dying by fighting against heavy troop concentrations when they can wait two or three years until the troops are entirely gone. So, as in Iraq, the surge will appear to be a military success, and there is a good chance that this success will last through November 2012.
The major drawback is that we are unlikely to raise taxes to pay for this surge. We will therefore pay for it by either printing money or borrowing money from China. Living with this type of financing is like living on the surface of an expanding balloon. The history of the balloon suggests that it can keep expanding forever. This theory holds true until the balloon suddenly bursts.
Arthur Volbert, St. Petersburg
Obama sees surge, then a withdrawal Dec. 2, story
No more American dead
How ironic: President Barack Obama says that America cannot afford an open-ended commitment and that it is time for Afghans to take more responsibility for their country, yet he is sending 30,000 more troops to the region.
Just below this headline is a picture of West Point cadets watching the presidential speech. Their faces tell the story: How many of these sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and friends will next appear on the obituary page? How incredibly sad.
Not even one more member of our military should die. Mr. President, please don't send any more of our citizens to this killing zone!
Judy Lavaron, St. Petersburg
Obama sees surge, then a withdrawal Dec. 2, story
There are other dangers
What President Barack Obama did not say in his speech Tuesday was far more compelling than what he did say. His argument for extending our commitment to the war in Afghanistan began with reference to 19 men responsible for the 9/11 tragedy, but left unspoken was the fact 15 of those 19 were citizens of Saudi Arabia.
Another unstated fact is that much of the Islamic fundamentalism terrorizing the world today finds its roots in the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia.
Another assumption stated by Obama was that the major source of potential terrorism finding its way into the United States lies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This completely ignores a far greater danger we face from American citizens and holders of residence visas from Somalia. Many of these folks are currently undergoing training in the lawless regions of Somalia. With their citizenship and resident visas they can much more easily slip into and out of the United States undetected, far more so than Taliban or al-Qaida operatives.
Our leadership must be very, very careful to not let attention on Afghanistan cause us to lose sight of some of these equally great, or far greater dangers.
Jay Hall, Tampa
Ban on minarets
So, the United Nations called Switzerland's ban on new minarets "clearly discriminatory" and said it was the product of "anti-foreigner scare-mongering."
Excuse me? The last time I checked, Saudi Arabia was a member of the United Nations, and the Saudis prohibit any buildings there to display the Christian cross. Where is the outrage over this?
Amnesty International warned that the minaret ban would violate Switzerland's obligations to free religious expression. There are 150 mosques in Switzerland. Saudi Arabia has no freedom of religious expression. How many churches will you see there?
Fred Jacobsen, Apollo Beach