Sunday, June 26, 2011

Rabbi Samuel April: So Why Are We Still in Afghanistan?

"Too few, too late" was the majority's reaction to President Obama's reduction of surge forces in Afghanistan. As of today, he has promised to remove 10,000 troops by the end of this year and an additional amount by the end of 2012, leaving 68,000 in the country. Why? For years, the U.S.S.R. tried to subdue the Taliban in Afghanistan. We, the U.S.A., supplied them with weapons. The Russians gave up after almost bankrupting themselves, losing face, troops, and countless planes to U.S. handheld rocket launchers. Now our weapons are being used against us. We say we are continuing to wage the war against global terrorism there. But Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other suicide squad leaders are not confined to that one small area, unfortunately.

How did we kill Osama bin Laden? On Sunday night, May 1, 2011, twenty-four Navy SEALs accomplished what 100,000 troops could not do in ten years. We wanted justice (most say, revenge) for Bin Laden's killing of over three thousand American civilians in one fell swoop. Intrepid, embedded reporter Richard Engel insightfuly pointed out that just nineteen terrorists on 9/11 and twenty-four brave sailors were responsible for those two successful attacks. Does that sound familiar? According to the Bible, Moses sent out twelve princes of the twelve tribes of Israel amidst fanfare and great expectations to scout out the land of Canaan, yet the mission yielded disastrous results. Because of the princes' false reports, the Israelites were punished by being banished to the wilderness for forty years. A generation later, Joshua dispatched only two unidentified men on a most successful reconnaissance mission in the ancient city of Jericho. A few dedicated spies accomplished what many distinguished leaders could not.

We invaded Iraq on the erroneous information that the Iraqis had weapons of mass destruction ready to strike their enemies. We did capture Saddam Hussein, which led to his execution. How many American troops have been killed in Iraq? How many Iraqis have died in vain? Is there a better chance for peace between Sunni and Shiite today than before our invasion? Do the Iraqis appreciate our sacrifice for them, or are we hated for occupying their territory? Why are we still there?

Under the auspices of NATO, we are now trying to remove (a.k.a. assassinate) Moammar Gaddafi, self-proclaimed "beloved" dictator, from Libya. If we succeed there, why not "advise" Bashar al-Assad to leave his post in Syria, where he has openly slain tens of thousands in the last few months? What of all the twenty-two Arab countries? Is there any end in sight?

Just like the Sinai, three millennia ago, Afghanistan is a wilderness; its main industry is growing and selling opium. Tribal chieftains have ruled for centuries; there is no reason to believe they will not continue to do so, long after American forces are forced to depart. The arguments for retaining our army in that forsaken land are ridiculous, compared to the facts arrayed against that position. Withdraw now! Isn't it about time we learn from Moses and Joshua how to succeed?


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