16 November 2009

Our Generals & Afghanistan

General (1993) ~ © William Kentridge.

So, who are we to believe? Our generals are disagreeing about whether to send more troops into Afghanistan. The mission is a loser. No doubt about that, though our generals seem oblivious to Afghan history and our own. The generals - General Stanley McChrystal (commander of U.S. troops) wants troops, a lot of them, now. Otherwise we will lose the battle and the war. Karl W. Eikenberry (retired general moved into the Ambassador's post) thinks it is a very, very, very bad idea to send troops now given the mess that passes for a government in Kabul. That the mess is our doing doesn't get mentioned, really. And what also gets neglected is that Eikenberry is not against sending more troops in principle, he is simply bargaining with the Afghan regime, trying to get them to shape up. Right. Like Kentridge's general, ours seem to be seeing with one eye at a time.

In the interest of expanding the conversation some, I thought I'd call to your attention another point of view. Late last week NPR ran this short segment, interviewing two Afghan women — Fatima Gailani, president of the Afghan Red Crescent Society; and Suraya Pakzad, founder and executive director of the Voice of Women Organization — and asked them for their advice on how the U.S. ought to proceed. Their views are complex, meaning that it seems unlikely the factors they think are important will be mitigated by a massive influx of troops. But simply talking to fundamentalists is problematic as well. How did we make this mess?

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