Dear Mr. President,
Sometimes I'm surprised by my own naive certainty that you're always going to make the right call. Before tonight, if any one had asked me about the discrepancy between what we spend on defense and what we spend on all the things that would make defense spending less necessary, I would have suggested it was large. I had no idea how large. 1 soldier or 20 schools? Nicholas Kristof asks in his latest column. I am often skeptical of such scathing criticism of your policies, Mr. President, but it is difficult to deny the facts Kristof cites about the unforgivable cost of this war.
I think it's funny, in that way that things like this are not funny at all, that you can give a speech on education in which you decry the current state of American education as "morally inexcusable" and remind us all that "education is an economic issue -- if not “the” economic issue of our time", and then continue to pretend like the key to Afghanistan's stability is an even bigger Pentagon budget or more US troops. Call me crazy, but if education is important to the future of America, might it not also be a better strategy for a politically and economically stable Afghanistan? Maybe you should have replaced General McChrystal with Greg Mortenson? 20 schools seems like a much better deal than a single soldier, and not just because schools are less likely to kill civilians, but because our military operation can only offer stability while it is present, while the positive effects of an education system will outlast even the schools themselves.
I know, it's more than a bit silly to read a single op-ed and feel like I've got the best plan for how to fix Afghanistan. I guess what surprises me is that I always assumed this was sort of your plan. Fewer guns, more schools. That kind of thing. I don't think I misjudged your values and I don't think your values have changed. I think it's harder to stop an object (or military industrial complex) in motion, and that sending troops and weapons looks a lot better to swing-state voters than building schools. I just hope that you read Mr. Kristof's column, and that, the next time you give a speech about the paramount importance of our own education system, you also consider how that logic might apply to the countries we've invaded, ostensibly for the sake of their own stability.