Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 174-Secretary of War

Dear Mr. President,

I think that replacing General McChrystal was a necessary thing. The war in Afghanistan does not seem to be going well, and much of our own conduct has been unacceptable. I don't know that General Petraeus is the best man to replace him, but, as I'm not a military officer, and am in no way qualified to comment on the best way to wage a war I fundamentally oppose, I have no particularly strong feelings about this choice. I hope that, if nothing else, the change in leadership provides an opportunity for us to seriously reconsider and reexamine our entire strategy in Afghanistan. What is our goal? Safety? Stability? I do not see how more weapons, more violence, more destruction, will help achieve these ends. What real purpose is our mission there serving? Do we seek to gain strategic global positioning? Is it conflict for conflict's sake, a vain attempt to slake the bloodthirst that we can't even admit to having? Is it the same death throe delusion that has taken down empire after empire daring to set its sights on this land? Or is it just old-guard military men who want to beat the Soviets, even at empire, hell-bent on completing their cold-war victory even all these decades later? Because, Mr. President, and I confess I am no expert, it does not appear, at least, that we are doing anything more than strengthening the terrorists we claim to be fighting. Osama Bin Laden has not been caught, and even if he is, it does not matter. Our invasion has spread one man's delusion beyond his loyal band of followers and made them a global political and military force to be reckoned with. Were we just looking for another challenge? I don't know what is true, I don't know what I believe, and I don't know what the best solution is. I feel certain, however, that there is more motivating our actions than self-defense. Be it vengeance or greed or a need for chaos, I am uneasy, as an American, being represented that way to the rest of the world.

Today a friend asked about the Secretary of War, a position he read about in Lincoln's cabinet. He was curious as to what it had become. Did the men who decided to change the name of that position think that it would mean less war? Or did they just find the name too impolite for modern sensibilities? We can call it defense, or even homeland security, but war has certainly not become any less fashionable. I may be less involved, and asked to sacrifice even less, than the generations of American civilians who committed their whole selves to the national war efforts, but still I am tired. I am so tired of this war, and I have not been fighting it. I have not been dying or suffering in it, either. Bombs are not dropping in my neighborhood, as they are for countless Afghan civilians, but I am still tired of their sound. This war is exhausting, because it has no clear objective and it has not clear imperative. This war is exhausting because it strengthens the forces we claim to oppose, extending and provoking and ensuring that another generation will pick up the kalashnikovs their fathers are dropping as we gun them down. Because each life lost leads only to more lives lost; the overwhelming suffering and destruction leads only to more suffering and destruction. We are better than this, Mr. President; better than our conduct in this war, better than the petty despots we've propped up, the violence we've perpetuated, or the viciousness of those who attacked us. I know there is a significant and vocal portion of our population that equate war with patriotism and justice and righteousness, but I also know that we are better than that, too.

Respectfully yours,


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