Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Where the Wars Will End

Tonight President Obama addressed the nation from Afghanistan, where he signed the agreement that leads to the end of the war, on the first anniversary of the action he ordered that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.

Pundits swarmed afterwards to say how complicated and fraught the situation still is, and how many ways it could all collapse.  I don't think the American people actually care anymore what happens to Afghanistan.  They want the war to be over.

President Obama refocused Afghanistan as much as he could on dismantling al Qeda, and in his address he made it clear that this is the objective, and continuing a large U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan is no longer necessary to that end.  That's also what the American people wanted: the terrorist threat to be crippled.  Osama bin Laden's death or capture was probably necessary to allow a U.S. president to get us out of Afghanistan, and so this address was more than symbolic on this anniversary.

As I listened, I could feel the accumulated weariness of so much war.  Vietnam exhausted my generation to a point that has still not been fully reckoned.  Then El Salvador--does anybody remember the proxy war in El Salvador, the Contras?--further poisoned the poisonous 80s.  And the horrible Iraq aggression further sucked the life out of this country in so many ways. 

The military-industrial complex has been the most direct way the 1% has used government to enrich itself.  That as much as anything explains these awful years, and all the lives lost and ruined and diverted over these decades. 

It's still possible that this carefully geopolitical policy will yield some pleasant surprises, like an actual coalition government in Afghanistan.  But who really cares anymore?  Just so it is over.  For most Americans, it is over.  President Obama made sure to mention the country's obligations to the veterans who executed this policy, and paid for it in some very sad ways.  We must make sure they are not casualities of our exhaustion.  Otherwise, we're probably too tired and sick at heart to celebrate.  But it will be over.  And we have at least a chance--financially , politically and morally--to address our real problems, the real threats to our country and the world.   

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