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U.S. and allies are in a no-win situation in Afghanistan

July 20, 2010

by Ed Snyder, FCNL’s Executive Secretary Emeritus

President Obama and his family vacationed last weekend in Bar Harbor, Mt Desert Island, and Acadia National Park.  Locals, vacationers and the press were agog, hoping to catch a glimpse, or better yet a handshake.

The president and his family, according to all press reports, had a pleasurable and event filled 48 hours, biking on carriage roads, hiking, boating, eating ice cream cones, dining, and sightseeing on the top of Cadillac Mountain and visiting a light house.

Locals got a taste of secret service protection as roads were closed, people diverted, and white shirts were ubiquitous.  Even my trac cell phone, which provides no service where I live on the other side of the mountains from the transmitting towers, became alive and I could use some of the 1000 plus hours I’ve accumulated and not been able to use except for travel.  Alas, the service ended about 8 Monday morning.

The preceding week our local weekly, the MDIslander, had carried a lengthy, surprisingly critical editorial on U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

My letter to the editor was published on the day before the president arrived.  Hopefully, he and/or some of his staff had a chance to read it.  It said:

“Thanks for your excellent editorial on ‘The Afghanistan Debacle’ last week.  There is no doubt the U.S. and allies are in a no-win situation, joining the other big powers who have failed to impose their will on this country.  We can only pray that General David Petraeus, who is an expert on counter-insurgency, will have the wisdom and courage to advise the president that even more military power cannot prevail, and an ordered withdrawal should begin.

“Terrorist assaults large and small are crimes and they should be dealt with by aggressive police and intelligence forces, cooperating world wide.  So far their work and a lot of luck have prevented another disaster in the U.S. and inhibited them in other countries.

“Military occupation and the ‘war on terror’ will only create more terrorists world wide.”

The several peace groups on the Island which have vigiled on village greens since September 11, 2001, first in Bar Harbor and now in Southwest Harbor, staged an impromptu vigil Saturday afternoon, covered by Felicia Sonmez of the Washington Post and others. This is the same group that just two weeks earlier in the 4th of July parade had carried signs and banners with the names of the thousands of U.S. men and women killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and referenced the many others wounded, and the Iraqi and Afghan casualties.  Our contingent, headed by slow beating on a huge drum was greeted by respectful silence and then applause from many in the crowds along the parade route.  This year I heard no critical comments.

  1. Ellen N. Duell permalink
    July 20, 2010 12:05 pm

    I am cheered by reading this post! My husband and I have participated in many peace walks and vigils. Bravo to you. Thank you for sharing.

    I am concerned about the proliferation of secret agencies and agents with security clearance who are working for the “intelligence” agencies of our federal government. This “community” is proliferating without the knowledge of the citizenry of this country, even though we provide, through taxes, for its existence. The physical locations of these new buildings with their expanding numbers of employees are all over the land. It is not really manageable, nor is it democratic.

  2. Ellen N. Duell permalink
    July 20, 2010 12:07 pm

    I just typed and submitted a comment. Why does “Error. Submit a comment appear?”

  3. Ellen N. Duell permalink
    July 20, 2010 12:07 pm

    I did just leave a reply. –Ellen N. Duell

  4. mary burton riseley permalink
    July 20, 2010 6:07 pm

    I am very confused about Afghanistan. I agree that there can never be a military solution, (there or anywhere!) but I also know that our options have to be influenced by our failure to support those Afghan citizens who wanted a democratic country after the Russians left and again when we turned our misguided military intentions to Iraq early in 2003. If, when, we were to leave Afghanistan, there will be a power vacuum there. Will the Taliban fill it? or chaotic infighting amongst warlords whom we have armed and empowered over many years? what will happen to the newly opened or reopened schools, especially those for girls? If India steps in to fill our shoes in funding programs and industrial or extractive enterprises, how is that going to affect Pakistan, with its instability and nuclear weapons? Couldn’t there be a fair likelihood Pakistan would respond to a perception that India was now operating on both sides of its borders with a nuclear attack? Surely Obama is thinking about this possibility, since he clearly has nuclear weapons on his high priority list? Of course in the best of all possible worlds, we would only have a humanitarian presence in Afghanistan. Since we don’t live in that world, we need to own the consequences of our actions, whether it be killing civilians in counterinsurgency efforts or allowing Afghan society to fall back into the hands of the Taliban. What a mess. I pray daily over it. Thanks for all your work, Ed.

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