“We are spending $10 billion a month that we can’t even pay for,” said Congressman Walter Jones, that rarest of birds, a Southern Republican dove. “The Chinese — Uncle Chang is lending us the money to pay that we are spending in Afghanistan.”
On Tuesday morning, members of the House Armed Services Committee tried to grill Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, the commander in Afghanistan who succeeded David Petraeus, about the state of the mission.
The impossible has happened in the past few weeks. A war that long ago reached its breaking point has gone mad, with violent episodes that seemed emblematic of the searing, mind-bending frustration on both sides after 10 years of fighting in a place where battle has been an occupation, and preoccupation, for centuries.
I think there have been more “Southern doves” out there that Dowd–or many others in our “knowledge class”–realise. It’s been conventional wisdom for years that fanatic fundies have blindly supported our military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that’s really not been the case. Southern culture is not well understood–if at all–by those who currently pull the levers of power, but there are a few things that need to be sorted out.
The first is that, because of the nature of our military, most of those who are in harm’s way come from “Red States,” and especially the South. Most of them are also from the less-than-elite socio-economic classes. Looked at from a class standpoint, they’re fighting someone else’s war.
But people here don’t look at it that way. This is the United States; we’re supposed to be doing it for the country, or to put it more informally, this is another one for the team. That deep sense of duty is just that: deep. The neo-con “swivel-chair, broomstick pilots” (to use my grandfather’s phrase) may have delusions of grandeur, but most of those who actually do the fighting and dying don’t. (And that phrase can apply to our other elites, too, we are not well served by those who run the show on either side.) What else is a defence force for if not to protect the country from attack? Isn’t that what precipitated this whole thing, especially in Afghanistan? One reason Barack Obama is deeply unpopular here is that many people viscerally believe that he doesn’t care if the people who “cling to their Bibles and guns” are secure or not. And honestly I have my doubts, and have from the start.
Things haven’t worked out in Afghanistan as advertised. Nation building in a country where the whole concept of nation really doesn’t exist is futile. That was George Bush’s downfall, but our elites are on the whole myopic about the exportability of our “experiment”. Now that the reality of the problem is sinking in, given that we’re taking all of the punishment, why shouldn’t we want to get out? Why isn’t someone who ran on getting us out actually doing it? Why is he forcing the military to cover for all of this? These are questions that are finally being asked, and they need answers.