As the death toll among U.S. service members in Afghanistan continues to mount — 2010 is the deadliest year of the war thus far — President Barack Obama may regret his administration’s decision, correct though it was, to permit the media to cover the return of dead soldiers’ remains to Dover Air Force Base. Scenes such as this one reported by the Associated Press may become all too common: “Several of President Barack Obama’s top national security advisers stood on a silent, windy tarmac Wednesday night to watch as the bodies of six U.S. soldiers killed by a rogue Afghan policeman returned to U.S. soil.”
In 2008 a series of terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, claimed the lives of 164 people. According to the New York Times, one of the key plotters of the attacks was David C. Headley, a former drug dealer then serving as an informant in Pakistan for the U.S. government. To make matters worse, Washington had evidence that Headley was a terrorist sympathizer yet kept him on its payroll, says the Times, “even as he was learning to deal with explosives and small arms in terrorist training camps.”
Americans do not like to think of their government as an aggressor against foreign countries. We prefer to believe that our country is always the victim of unprovoked attacks and that military actions our government takes against other countries are always in response to such unwarranted aggression. For this reason, Presidents have generally felt it necessary to provoke attacks secretly, knowing that once the country was attacked, seemingly with no cause, Americans would rally ‘round the flag and support the war the President had wanted all along.
In a famous TV commercial from the 1980s, an elderly woman, surveying the minuscule amount of hamburger in the middle of a bun, asks pointedly, “Where’s the beef?” One year after President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize despite having been in office only a short time, ABC News’ Russell Goldman reports that many people are asking, “Where’s the peace?”
The average Afghan — and, indeed, the average American — may be deriving very little benefit from the United States’ continued occupation of Afghanistan and the billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars that continue to be poured into that country, but in both countries the well-connected make out quite handsomely. In Afghanistan, the key to prosperity and power, it seems, is having the surname of Karzai, as in President Hamid Karzai.
President Barack Obama may have publicly stated that U.S. troops will begin withdrawing from Afghanistan in July 2011, but according to reporter Bob Woodward, both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen. David Petraeus have other ideas. The Huffington Post reports that Woodward’s new book, Obama’s Wars, portrays Gates and Petraeus as anticipating — in Gates’s case, perhaps even desiring — a long-term U.S. presence in the “graveyard of empires.”
During his run for the presidency, Barack Obama promised Americans change we could believe in. Little, however, has changed in domestic policy from the George W. Bush era, except to accelerate the already breakneck pace of government growth. And in foreign policy, the one area where Obama seemed to offer some significant contrast to his predecessor, there has been even greater continuity.
Suppose you’re the President of the United States at a time when your country is facing a $1.3 trillion annual budget deficit and a $13 trillion national debt. Meanwhile, a country on the other side of the world is running a budget surplus but could potentially end up slightly in debt if it pays for its own security instead of depending on U.S. taxpayers to do so. What would you do?
President Barack Obama set a date of July 2011 to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. This does not, however, mean that the United States will cease pouring billions of taxpayer dollars into the country at the same time.