Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Robert Wright on Afghanistan: Worse than Viet Nam

Robert Wright's article in the NYT today sets forth a distinct case against continued military operations in Afghanistan. I note that he cites the Afghan Study Group report in the postscript of his article, and I heard member Michael Hoh speak last week at the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council. I am becoming more and more pessimistic about this whole enterprise: a drain on lives, morale, and treasure--for what? I want to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt on all of this, but how long can we sit quietly? The big difference from Viet Nam, of course, is the lack of widespread resistance to the war at home. Since the sons and daughters of the middle class aren't going to war, we see no widespread protests. And, not wanting to repeat the shameful treatment given to many Viet Nam vets by the nation, we want to be very careful not to harm the brave men and women who serve. Be certain: the domestic resistance the Viet Nam war caused a great deal of havoc and really hurt the nation, as did the war itself. Cool heads don't prevail in times of war, which is one reason that war is poison for democracy. It may be a necessary poison, but it should be suffered only when absolutely necessary and in the very smallest possible dose.

We need to make some hard strategic decisions here. I think that it's time for me to write my congressional representatives. What do you think?

Niall Ferguson on the West & China: Past, Present, and Future

This article really deals with two topics. First, how "the West" came to such a great lead in development over Asia, and second, how that's now changing very quickly. The first question about the history of development is one that I'm reading about currently in Ian Morris's Why the West Rules--for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future , a very extensive history of human development from paleolithic times to the present and into the future. Very good, but more about it later. ( Ferguson gave it a shout out in this review in Foreign Affairs.) The second part of Ferguson's article deals with current developments. This, too, is fascinating, as we're seeing a new challenge to U.S. and Western leadership. How we address these issues will prove a real challenge to our leadership.