Carnes: What is ‘winning’
Who will be the last American soldier to die in the Middle East?
Yes, it is an overused question (more of a statement, really) sadly reminiscent of a semi-rhetorical John Kerry, but since President Obama and his hawks are busy attempting to develop a new strategy for Afghanistan, it is time to supply an answer.
My biggest fear is that he or she has yet to be born, meaning at least two more decades of constant cave-to-cave fighting and most certainly thousands of more U.S. soldier deaths.
And to what gain?
After six years of combat, the thousands of American dead and the prospect of thousands more, no one, not a single politician or military strategist, can provide a simple definition for winning.
Sure, anyone with an Internet connection can find blogs giving detailed yet highly convoluted answers, and I absolutely guarantee the online comments on http://www.vaildaily.com will be full of “answers” to ponder (among other things), but none of them will be the least bit specific. In fact, I’d put good money down that personal attacks involving the words liberal, socialist, commie, and so on will be the bulk of the local online responses.
Most of those people are far too obsessed with Glenn Beck and his ilk to bother with reality, however.
But to win a war means to complete an objective, however complex that objective might be.
I asked this question back in 2005 and was verbally raked over the coals for doing so, but the truth is I never received an answer.
Does it mean the very last al-Qaida lies dead in a ditch? How about the very last member of the Taliban?
Accept the fact that this conflict is a religious war and neither scenario will ever occur in our lifetime or any of our children’s children.
Although there are vast differences between al-Qaida and the Taliban (in many instances they are strongly against one another), the major trait they both share is an ideological foundation built upon Islam, and with literally hundreds of millions living today, they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
We have to deal with them one way or another, and had better get used to it, but attempting to overwhelm the bad guys with sheer volume of troops while watching the American death toll rise daily is unacceptable.
Last Saturday, eight more American soldiers died in the single deadliest assault on our troops in Afghanistan in over a year. Is America one iota safer or Iran further away from obtaining a nuke because of their deaths?
Of course not, and please do not attempt to insult my question by asking me if all the other troop deaths since 2001 were then in vain, as that is a question that is asked daily and always will be.
The president can choose to stay put, scale back, surge or get out altogether. While not claiming to know which strategy is correct for America in the long run, I do know that until someone can precisely define a “win,” nobody else does either.