The ebbing tide of war

swimming to afghanistan

“…tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding.” – President Barack Obama, announcing the first Afghanistan withdrawals, June 22, 2011

For 10,000 American men and women, their boots are wet as they stand in the sand of the ebbing, bloody sea. Soon, they will turn and march for home. Obama calls it bringing “these long wars…to a responsible end.”

Sounds civil enough, very, um, responsible. Even if you disagree with the pace of the withdrawal that Obama proposed, Wednesday, it’s hard to argue with being a “responsible” commander-in-chief. Hard to argue, but apparently not impossible, if you’re running for that title.

Declared GOP 2012 candidate Tim Pawlenty almost broke out the old “cut-n-run” whimper that was prevalent under Bush 43.  He told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that “a responsible end” was not the “outcome” Americans prefer. “When America goes to war,” he said, “America needs to win.”

Yep, Americans should not leave until we hand Karzai the keys to a gold Cadillac, that he can take down to the A&P without getting shot. Politico’s Alexander Burns called Pawlenty’s reaction “the full Douglas MacArthur.”

Politico also reported that candidate John Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, wanted a faster paced withdrawal, and that Mitt Romney didn’t commit (shock!), one war or another, vaguley slamming what he called “an arbitrary timetable.”

For all that, having only a third of the troops out by the end of next year seems not to go far enough in getting us out of there by 2014. The president claims that this is “a more centered course” and “we must be as pragmatic as we are passionate; as strategic as we are resolute.”  He may be right, but the fact remains, we shouldn’t have been there this long.

Obama acknowledged, in his plan, that “even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance.” Maybe, but if you’re a soldier at sea in that ebbing tide, that light on the shore can keep moving farther and farther away. For them, the coming peace still feels a lot like war, because when they wake up, they are still in Afghanistan. When they eat breakfast at the mess, they are still in Afghanistan. When they go on patrol, they are still in Afghanistan. From morning to morning, and night to night, they are still in Afghanistan.

Please bring them home, soon and safely.


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