September 12, 2009

It's All About US (Refrain)

In an otherwise mostly well-aimed and thoughtful NYT OpEd article a few days ago about Afghanistan, Bob Herbert writes "It's obscene what we're doing to the [US] men and women who have volunteered for the armed forces [...]".

Well, yes; but the real obscenity is what's being done to the men and women (and children) of Afghanistan, often enough in the name of the US. It's diagnostic that Herbert — a voice of what passes for the soft left here in the US — couches his jeremiad almost entirely in terms of the financial, moral, and human costs of the war to the US. As with the Vietnam war (the war he uses as a cautionary comparison), where US commentators (and movies, books, etc.) so often completely left out the Vietnamese, and the later debates on the Iraq war which did the same, in US debates on the Afghan war the Afghanis seem little more than ghostly abstractions if they're mentioned at all.

Like it or not, the US and allies chose to invade Afghanistan, and have a responsibility to the Afghan people that transcends pure self-interest; as with Iraq earlier, though, more and more the public calculus on the Afghan war is being discussed purely in terms of what's best for the US. Foreign war as continuation of domestic politics, I guess (yes, I've said that before, too).

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