When Barack Obama was inaugurated, I promised Lodi News-Sentinel readers that when warranted I would write as critically about him as I had about his predecessor, George W. Bush.
I disapproved of Bush, and specifically his Iraq War policy, from the beginning.
Now I can write that Obama's recent escalation of the Afghanistan War that began in 2001 is as craven as anything Bush did in Iraq. And I'll add the frightening footnote that more bloodshed in this latest lost cause is inevitable.
The administration's Afghanistan goals range from eliminating terrorism threats posed by al-Qaida—based in neighboring Pakistan, not in Afghanistan—to building a stable democratic state, however that may be defined.
In an unannounced move revealed this week by the Washington Post, Obama will dispatch an additional 13,000 US troops to Afghanistan beyond the 21,000 he announced publicly in March.
Although the soldiers are primarily support forces such as engineers, medical personnel, intelligence experts and military police, the buildup Obama has approved for Afghanistan totals 34,000.
In addition Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top military commander in Afghanistan, has requested up to 80,000 more American troops even while he warns that rampant corruption may prevent victory against the Taliban and al-Qaida.
Interviews with senior administration and military officials and recent reports assessing Afghanistan's progress show that nearly seven months after Obama's stepped-up civilian efforts to bolster his deployment of 17,000 additional American troops, many institutions have deteriorated along with the country's overall safety. [Analysts Expect Long-Term, Costly W.S. Campaign in Afghanistan, by Walter Pincus, Washington Post, August 9, 2009]
To explain the Afghan escalation, Obama aides say the United States is falling far short of its goals to end endemic corruption, to create a stable government and legal system and to train a local police force currently crippled by incompetence.
Afghanistan is now so dangerous that many aid workers cannot travel outside Kabul to advise farmers on crops, a key part of Obama's March statement that he was deploying hundreds of additional civilians to work in the country. The $13 billion spent on civilian aid since 2001 has produced nothing. [ Administration Officials Admit Civilian Goals in Afghanistan Largely Unmet, by Elizabeth Bumiller and Mark Landler, New York Times, October 9, 2009]
Our results to date in Afghanistan have been so dismal that it is impossible to make an intelligent case for spending more money or putting more lives at risk.
Measured in human terms, the lost American lives in Afghanistan have risen from 12 during 2001 to 242 in 2009 bringing the total number of our dead soldiers to 872.
Besides lost lives, military experts project that the Afghanistan War will last at least a decade and its cost will eventually exceed what was spent in Iraq.
Since our invasion into Afghanistan, the United States has spent $223 billion on war-related funding, according to the Congressional Research Service. Aid expenditures, excluding the cost of combat operations, have grown exponentially, from $982 million in 2003 to $9.3 billion last year. During eight years, the United States has allocated nearly $13 billion for civilian aid to Afghanistan.
The National Priorities Project, which calculates the tax consequences of Afghanistan and Iraq Wars on individual communities, estimates that Lodi residents have so far paid $162.5 million to finance those conflicts. That sum, according to the project's analysts, would be enough to hire 2,300 elementary school teachers or provide health care for every man, woman and child in Lodi.
The costs keep growing. Obama is overhauling the U.S. approach to Afghanistan, putting its focus on long-term security, economic sustainability and development. Since Afghanistan is one of the most dysfunctional nations in the world, those tasks will require deployment of more Americans.
Anthony H. Cordesman, a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who has advised General McChrystal, said that while progress had been made since 2001 when American-led forces toppled the Taliban, the overall effort: "has been a nightmare; vast amounts have been wasted."
Some argue that the money spent on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq help protect Americans from future terrorist attacks. That's debatable.
What's not up for discussion is that the wars are financed with borrowed money. America is more than $10 trillion in debt and counting.
Among the many ways to ruin a nation, bankruptcy is high on the list. One way to climb out of the financial mire that's engulfing us would be to withdraw from the costly, senseless, impossible quests in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.