I guess I'm the only person in America who's not surprised that President Obama (still love typing that - Abogados) is going to continue the war in Afghanistan. I feel like the only person who actually listened to him during his campaign in 2008...
I am surprised that we are still in Iraq. I'm surprised that Guantanamo is still not closed. I'm surprised that Don't Ask Don't Tell is still getting people fired in the military.
I am NOT surprised we are going to send more troops into Afghanistan. Not only that as a peacenik Obama supporter, I'm conflicted in my own right as to whether or not this is a good idea.
Keith Olbermann seems stunned and furious tonight and made a great case for Obama changing his mind now. Others are sort of reporting it as if it's a new war. Peace networks are getting ready to hit the streets. All of those are valid reactions to this new escalation of the war in Afghanistan.
What does not surprise me is that we are escalating in Afghanistan and I have two reasons that it could be a less horrible disaster than the liberal peace community (of which I'm a proud life long member) is about to make a really good case for...
First, why am I not surprised? It's pretty simple actually. I listened to almost every campaign speech I could in 2008 by Obama. He must have said on a daily basis for a year something on the line of 'We are fighting the wrong war. We need to get out of Iraq and go back to Afghanistan and finish the job there including catching Osama Bin Laden.' I bet you could find a version of that phrase in almost every speech on the campaign trial... I heard it and voted for President Obama anyway. Apparently others went "la la la la la" every time he said it.
This escalation is a campaign promise pure and simple.
So I'll let the rest of the world argue about and make a fantastic case for all the reasons we shouldn't go back into Afghanistan (as Obama promised us before we voted for him, that he would).
Here are two (the only two I can think of) good ones to just trust Obama as the man we elected to make this decision: opium and real peace
Many of you have followed over the years my posts on the Afghanistan opium and the Dow Jones Industrial Average. In addition I started tracking heroin abuse in the US over the past few years. What I've found is astounding in the least and I encourage you to not only watch for the post again in January this year, but to also Google and find my previous work on this issue.
The part of that project that really bothers me is that the Taliban stopped opium production in its tracks in 2001. Around 700 mt came out of the country that year under Taliban rule. Since then the amount of opium poppy produced in Afghanistan has increased nearly 1000% to around 7000 mt!
The world only consumes about 5000 mt with the average addiction levels. Afghanistan doesn't produce all the opium that's produced world wide. We've seen a proportional increase in addiction levels in the US as the price has plunged due to overwhelming supply, and in search of new markets, the dealers have moved it into the suburbs... Teenage children in the US are dying of heroin addiction now more than ever in history. It's every where. It's cheap and it's easier to get than a bottle of beer or a cigarette. I KNEW some of these children. Lives cut short before they are even of age due to a war being lost for the last 7 years thousands of miles away from the place they first put that needle in their arm...
Still, the world is not consuming the enormous supply that is coming out of Afghanistan to the point where now the UNODC is now saying that about 2000 mt are being STORED around the world annually... Think about that. The UN Office of Drug Control knows that heroin is being stored somewhere in the world, and how much, but doesn't know where??? Apparently it also keeps really well. Nice feature for the drug dealers huh? This means that even the worst case scenario for the drug dealers is that Afghan production is stopped all together again and yet, they will have at least a year of heroin for ALL the drug addicts in the entire world stored up to continue the trade.
Every year, that stock pile gets bigger. The President of Afghanistan's brother is reported to be the most powerful opium dealer in the country. The president himself basically appointed by the Bush Administration is barely legitimate with two questionable elections this year is perilously close to a dictator.
Real peace in Afghanistan is a pipe dream right now. Literally centuries of war and hostile occupation has left that country devastated.
I could be convinced though that if the mission outlined tomorrow is not to fight a war, but to restore the country not to the current leadership or the war lords or the drug cartels, but to the everyday people of that country, and to stop the production of opium and replace it with other more profitable crops, it might be a legitimate effort.
To teach them how to take control, rid the fields of opium, and then leave in a very deliberate and highly outlined way is really the ONLY way the mission is worth it.
Our children deserve a world not flooded with low priced easy to get heroin.
The Afghan people deserve a chance to restore their own country as they see fit without the influence of corrupt leaders and superpowers who don't understand the history of struggle they've suffered.
If President Obama outlines a very narrow short term mission with two goals, to restore legitimate rule to the people and rid the country of opium production, only then could I see this mission being valuable. If he comes out tomorrow night sounding like a Bush Admin official, I don't care what this has to do with a campaign promise, he's going to have me marching in the streets in protest of this expensive, and deadly conflict.
We can only hope at this point that he gets this right. Too much is at stake.
Note I have the hard data on all of this if anyone wants it, let me know or go to the UNODC website....