Friday, August 6, 2010

Where Have All the Bleeding Heart Liberals Gone?

Writing about our military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan in the previous blog reminded me of an observation I've made over this past year and I want to get your take on it. I don’t know what percentage of the American population have soured on the war in Afghanistan. I’ve heard different pundits cite different polls. Here’s the thing. Generally speaking, people left of center would have us get out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. (True, now that a Democratic president is directing the war less Democrats advocate a withdrawal than before. The cover of Time magazine, a liberal publication, recently pictured an Afghan girl with her ears and nose cut off and a caption that reads: “What happens if we leave Afghanistan.”)  Fair enough. If it’s ultimately a losing fight, why shouldn’t we? First of all, if you were to look up the word corruption in the dictionary, you’d see a picture of Hamid Karzai and his government. Why do we want to support a regime that has no clout among the people? Been there, done that. Besides, how many more American soldiers are we willing to sacrifice? And what progress have we made in the last nine years?  Poppy cultivation and the drug trade seem to be as strong as ever.  Finally, what makes us think that we can turn around a medieval culture any more than the Brits or Soviets? Keep in mind that the Soviet Union had half a million troops in the country at one point and didn’t tie their soldiers' hands with rules of engagement.

As you can see, I find validity in the turn-tail-and-run option, even if I view of the oft-cited comparisons to Vietnam superficial and polemical. What I don’t get, however, is how readily liberals and progressives dismiss or ignore the consequences of a pull-out. Once the U.S. and NATO forces leave, the Taliban, an odious totalitarian organization dreaded by the majority of the Afghan people, will initiate a program of retribution so heinous that it will make their earlier time in power look like child’s play. First, they’ll rape the women, stone them in the soccer stadium, and ban the rest from any form of education.  Heads will roll.  They'll force all men to grow beards and make an example of any "collaborators" with the West.  All I ask is that liberals and progressives—self-proclaimed advocates of women’s rights and democracy—acknowledge these consequences. They rightfully ask conservatives to weight the consequences of their actions by asking the question: How many men and women in the American uniform are you willing to send to their death? That’s a legitimate question.  Likewise, a liberal should consider this question: All things considered, are you okay with the rape, murder and oppression of the Afghan people?

Why do they overlook the consequences of a U.S. withdrawal? I suspect a number of reasons. Some of them are legitimate, such as the concerns I’ve stated in the first paragraph. Others see the conflict in Afghanistan as Bush’s War, and they hate Bush. Then there are those, both on the near left and far left, who would oppose any war, or so they claim. Purist pacifists are hypocrites at best, for they often oppose only wars when it suits their partisan outlook. Pacifists are also parasites—loathsome creatures who would thrive in the peace and freedom established by the sacrifices of others. As science fiction writer Robert Heinlein once wrote: "Pacifism is a shifty doctrine under which a man accepts the benefits of the social group without being willing to pay—and claims a halo for his dishonesty."  Above all, those who want us to leave Afghanistan are not unlike their conservative opponents in one respect: they want us to take care of Americans first and foremost. Looking out for our own is rooted in our evolutionary psychology and, apart from Jesus’s injunction to love one’s enemies, in the Bible as well.

Don’t misunderstand me, dear reader. I’m not saying we should stay in Afghanistan indefinitely. We all know why we went there in the first place: to deprive Al-Qaeda a base of operations and thereby avoid another 911. Having said this, our military presence in Afghanistan brings to mind a number of issues that I’ve written about elsewhere. Are we the policeman of the world? Mass rape and genocide occur seemingly non-stop throughout the world. How can we stamp out this evil? Why are we so worked up about the Taliban when Kim Jong Il, the Mullocracy of Iran, and Robert Mugabe, to name only a few culprits, have people tortured and killed every day?

I suppose I find myself in the camp of those who think we should be in Afghanistan but that our government has not conducted the war in both Afghanistan and Iraq as it should. That is, when we fight a war we should have as much of the American public involved as possible. Only a few hundred thousand have made sacrifices: the military and their families. The rest of us have not had to fight or pay an extra war tax. Also, I’m highly critical of our use of contractors, which outnumber our troops, from the mercenary soldiers a la Black Water to those who do the cooking and laundry. What a soldier does for $30,000, a contractor does for $150,000 or more. It’s disgusting and corrosive to our military. But the bigger problem, again, is that we aren’t fighting this war as a nation.

So why should we maintain the fight?  My only point is this: Before you so readily argue for a U.S. withdrawal, think about the consequences. Think about the Afghan people, especially the women and girls. Be mindful of what it is you’re asking.