Sometimes we find ourselves in the craggy spot between a rock and a hard place, trying to navigate our way out of a difficult situation. Which is the right path? The just and prudent path? The easy or the hard way? MAMAs consider all the circumstances and make the best decision we can and move our troops forward. If we need to make adjustments along the way, we do. But, MAMAs usually find the quickest way to accomplish our mission…or, we stop and ask for directions!
Now that the last combat brigade has left Iraq, and our mission there has changed from a war effort to civil support, the only “official” war we are engaged in is in Afghanistan. But we’re also sort of, but not officially in Pakistan and sort of, but not officially, in Yemen and now, we’re bombing Libya?! The Middle East is full of hard places, each with their own pit falls and rocky roads. So, what are we doing? What’s the big plan? What’s our new foreign policy in the region? What’s the short-term plan and the long-term plan for our involvement there? Where’s the map that shows us the way out of so much war?
On June 7, 2010, the US-Afghanistan War became our country’s longest war, spanning almost 10 years. Our troops are still stationed all over the world, from past wars and fears of yesterday’s enemies. The reasons for the length of the war are complex…the solutions, like the terrain, even more complex. The fear of mothers home and abroad is basic.
The Middle East is a region of rocky territory and complicated historical issues to navigate. Clearly, the path forward is not easy to find. Ultimately, we know that our mission is not to occupy another nation, but that is not the narrative that plays out among the Arab world. They are told that we are occupying their land for resources and we are told that tyranical leaders are keeping terrorists from taking over the countries. It’s all pretty scary and sadly, the truth is probably a mushed up version of both fear tactics. We do protect resources and they do have some extremists waiting to take advantage of the unrest and our kids are caught in the middle fighting fact and fiction.
There are no quick and easy solutions. Unfortunately, the “war on terror” is an indefinite one. There are porous borders, a history of violent insurgents vying for control, tribal dynamics, political chaos and apparent distain for the West. So, how do we “win” these wars? What is the criteria for declaring a non-war war? We are in so many combat operations all over the world, we don’t even know when our country is at war anymore. And, it seems, the President has forgotten that the process does matter. So, a little reminder…it is not about what anyone else has or has not done in the past. It’s not about what you can and cannot do. It is about what you must do as the leader of the free world. We are the United States of America and we want to know when we are at war…or in another combat mission…directly from our Commander In Chief. Yep, it warrants the whole deal…Oval Office, flag in the background, speech that informs us and calms our fears a little.
NATO allies seem to be on board with the new mission in Libya and it seems the U.S. has a kinda sorta deadline for our lead role in Operation Odyssey Dawn…”days, not weeks.” The American people are skeptical, those of us who aren’t numb to the fact that our kids have been fighting in multilple wars for a decade and the costs to our families has been great. It has been expensive in dollars, worry and blood shed and we are exhausted that the U.S. and its NATO allies find themselves literally stuck between a rock and a hard place. We need some leverage. What can we do to get unstuck? We cannot promise an uncorrupt government in Afghanistan. We cannot promise energized, focused Afghan forces there. We cannot promise to protect the citizens that help us. We cannot promise to capture Osama Bin Laden. We cannot promise that the Taliban will stop their ruthless practices. We cannot promise that Libya will be better without Gaddafi. We cannot promise that we will do no harm.
So, what can we promise that will make a difference? Hope. We can empower the people of Afghanistan to hope for their own future…to inspire them to demand an uncorrupt government, to want to protect themselves, their villages and their schools…they need to want it more than we want it for them. Otherwise, whatever temporary issues we fix, will not fly. This is the same for the rest of the region…they must lead the way.
Those that we ask to do our bidding do not go to the conflict zones as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans, unified in their objectives. Pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, not a political party. They are the ones who know that it’s their calling to stop the ones who would do our country harm, today and tomorrow. Our soldiers go where they are told to go and do what they are told to do, until they are called home. These are our children…we need to figure out how to get some real leverage in this difficult situation, and inspire the people of the Middle East to lead the way forward, or we need to hit the road and bring our loved ones back home.