Friday, August 7, 2009

Guns, Death and Butter

From the L. A. Times:

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan -- The pace of American combat deaths in Afghanistan has quickened anew as roadside bombs killed five U.S. troops in 24 hours in the same western province, the American military said Thursday.

The deaths bring to 11 the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan so far in August, on the heels of what was the worst month for Western and U.S. troop fatalities since the conflict began in 2001. Forty-three American military personnel died in July.

Bin Laden predicted that the 9/11 attacks would knock down the towers in a way that would symbolize the knocking down of American capitalism. Given the financial crisis, it's not clear that was crazy in that prediction. The question is not now whether the Taliban are good or bad guys. The questions are whether America is truly going to make the financial sacrifice required to fight another Iraq-level war in Pak-ghanistan, whether it can win, whether the Karzai government is a real government worth for and with, and whether the American public will tolerate Iraq-level casualties.

If the answers to the above and related questions are not encouraging, the wise physician knows when to accept a suboptimal outcome. So should the wise President. Everyone knows that the U. S. can impose a Carthaginian solution upon Afghanistan if it should provide the territory for another attack upon the U. S.

Barack Obama has similarities to Lyndon Johnson: grand plans to expand the welfare state, and escalation of a land war in Asia after running with the image of a peace candidate (to be fair, candidate Obama has been consistently hawkish on Pak-ghanistan, though he was known first and foremost for his opposition to the Iraq War and the "surge" in Iraq). "Guns and butter."

Economic bananas come and go, but wars and sweeping government programs are irrevocable.

Consequential matters are happening.

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