Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gravel’s Lament: Fighting Another Dumb War

In his truthdig.com article, Gravel’s Lament: Fighting Another Dumb War, Chris Hedges critiques war from a perspective from which others cannot: Chris Hedges is a veteran war correspondent spending nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans. No one is better qualified to comment on the horrors of war. His views are important and cannot be simply cast aside.

However, in his article, Chris Hedges embraces the views of Mike Gravel, the former two-term senator from Alaska, on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, quoting him throughout his piece.

There are significant points that are made by Chris Hedges and Mike Gravel where I agree. Nevertheless, where I agree must be qualified with the realities facing America in the engagement of those wars.

Where I agree with Chris Hedges and Mike Gravel:

… the absurdity of most war plans and the pathological addiction to violence—which is the only language most who command our armed forces are able to understand—make the American military the gravest threat to our anemic democracy … Chris Hedges

A plague of unchecked militarism has seeped outward from the Pentagon since the end of World War II and is now sucking our marrow dry. It is a familiar disease in imperial empires. We are in the terminal stage. We spend more on our military—half of all discretionary spending—than all of the other countries on Earth combined, although we face no explicit threat. Chris Hedges

We have acculturated the nation to a military culture. This is the sadness of it all because that sustains the military-industrial complex. Mike Gravel

Beyond these statatements I am pretty much in disagreement with the article literally and its tone, particularly with the views of Mike Gravel, and so therefore in this regard of Chris Hedges too, since he endorses Gavel’s view.

So, these are my qualifications based on real world realities:

To begin with, I am in sympathy with President Obama. He addressed my concerns succinctly in his Noble Peace Prize acceptance speech. As the President said, I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage.

How can anyone judge a man who has been in office for less than a year and compare or judge his accomplishments to another who was in office for eight years. The statement by Gravel, Obama has wasted an opportunity to be a great president, is a very premature presumption, and in fairness he is not giving our President his just due.

Moreover, the article is also written without any consideration given to the President who was handed two wars (along with some other very exigent situations) that have been raging in Afghanistan and Iraq for eight and six years respectively by a warrior minded nation, by a hawkish, warrior minded previous President and his Administration, and a U.S. Congress who were equally warrior minded, and who have supported both wars.

The expectation that those wars should be ended posthaste is simply not doable or reasonable, and if he were to do just that, it would be very irresponsible, if not immoral. Our President is clearly between a rock and a hard place, he is faced with some very difficult and sensitive situations.

As President Obama said, We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

So in our zeitgeist, without the desire to, and without sufficient knowledge on how to manage conflict peacefully, the mandates of jus in bello or jus ad bellum (just war) are legitimate. It declares that war is justified only when it meets certain preconditions: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the force used is proportional, and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.

The Iraq War was not justified. The United States of America conducted a preemptive attack against a sovereign nation (a nation that was encumbered with sanctions and other restrictions, and on whom we were conducting air surveillance, or fly-overs) based on the pretext that Iraq was in ways responsible for the attacks of September 11, 2001. Later we found out this to be false, and that deliberate lies were made by President George W Bush in his State of the Union Address, and by Colin Powell, then Secretary of State, to the United Nations Security Council. Furthermore, we hit Iraq, with what was headlined at the time as Shock and Awe, in violation of the Just War doctrine the attack was not in self-defense; the force used was not proportional; and, civilians were not spared from the violence.

Our war in Afghanistan was justified: we took actions for our self-defense against those who were unequivocally responsible for the attacks of September 11th; the force was proportional (Shock and Awe was not applied); and there has been a clear attempt -- albeit at times not successful -- to spare civilians from the violence.

I am a pacifist. I believe that disputes between nations should and can be settled peacefully, but in our contemporary world that is not always possible. However, when it’s not possible, nations must respect the laws and conditions delineated in the laws of Just War.

In the following quotes, President Obama is absolutely correct when he states that we must think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace; I make this [these] statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago – ‘Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones’; the task that President Kennedy called for long ago. ‘Let us focus,’ he said, ‘on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions.’

From these statements, it is at least clear to me that our President understands the intractable situations in which our world and the United States are sometimes confronted. I feel this country is blessed with a leader who is not a warrior and war hawk, and pragmatically understands that a more attainable peace is not based on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions. After all, the attainment of peace is a process.

With all due respect for Chris Hedges’s and Mike Gravel’s antiwar stance, nevertheless, articles of this ilk do nothing to ameliorate our real world situation nor do they beneficially contribute in anyway to the conversation or advancement of a lasting peace.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Peace on Earch

From our family to your family we wish very happy holidays.

At this time of the year, regardless of ones God, faith, or other belief, the most important prayer or plea we all should make ought to be for peace on earth, greater tolerance, and compassionate good will towards all of earth’s people, and for every New Year to continually commit oneself to that goal.

For would not that be the commandment of the Prince of Peace?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Story You Should Know: Stones Into Schools


The story of Greg Mortenson and his mission in Pakistan and Afghanistan to build schools, in my mind, ranks amongst one of the more important stories of today’s Pakistan and Afghanistan. Since 1996, Greg Mortenson, a mountaineer and humanitarian, has built 78 schools, many of them focusing on education for girls, first in Pakistan and then in Afghanistan, through the Central Asia Institute (CAI), which he and Dr. Jean Hoerni, a silicon transistor pioneer, co--founded. CAI also sponsors the Pennies for Peace program, where schoolchildren raise pennies to help fund CAI's activities.

Central Asia Institute's achievements include:

Established or significantly supported 131 schools in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan;
Fully or partially supported 687 teachers;
Provided education for over 58,000 students, including 44,000 girls;
Provided ongoing education for victims of Pakistan's October 2005 7.8 Richter scale earthquake. (The quake killed 74,000 people, including 18,000 students, and displaced 2.8 million refugees. CAI has rebuilt or re-established 16 schools destroyed in the earthquake.)

Greg Mortenson’s awards, book awards and mentions, and honorary doctorate degrees are many.

In 2009, Greg Mortenson received recognition for his work in Pakistan: the Sitara-e-Pakistan (Star of Pakistan), Pakistan's highest civilian award, for his humanitarian work and promotion of girl’s schools and education.

He was recently deservingly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, by several bi-partisan members of U.S. Congress, and according to Norwegian odd-makers was believed to have been in a handful of finalists of the Peace prize that was awarded to President Obama on October 10, 2009.

It is clear from what has been written, Greg Mortenson is an extraordinary human being. His humanitarian work in Pakistan and Afghanistan is something truly to behold. Against formidable odds, he has accomplished more to uplift the people in these countries, albeit his work geographically localized as it might be, than the Afghan Internal Security Force or the U.S. Military, any diplomat, President or Head of State. And, he has been the protagonist; his work has been all hands-on, it has not been from behind a desk. Every American should be humbled by this man’s persistence and endurance, compassion and courage. Our country should hold Greg Mortenson’s accomplishments as a model and example of what can be achieved, here at home, in Afghanistan, or anywhere in the world. And we should be proud because he is an American.

As a child who lived in Tanzania, East Africa, for 12 years, he tells of an African proverb that states educate a boy, you educate an individual; educate a girl, and you educate a community, which has turned out to be his life’s destiny. That adage became the premise for his Afghanistan mission: books, not bombs, are the best weapons against extremist groups like the Taliban.

The Christian Science Monitor posted an excellent article, Key to Afghan crisis: tea and education. In that article it is written: Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, says success lies in building trust and schools in rural Afghanistan; As President Obama pledged another 30,000 US troops Dec. 1 to root out terrorists in Afghanistan, Mortenson is suggesting that effort must go hand in hand with another: grass-roots education; education is the long-term solution to terrorism and violent extremism; Greg Mortenson doesn’t need to rely on think tanks or arcane policy documents to find the road to a better Afghanistan.

It is also clear from what has been written that he has influenced Admiral Mullen, General Petraeus, and General McChrystal, in that President Obama’s new Afghan strategy seems to reflect in many ways Greg Mortenson’s Key to Afghan tactic.

Greg Mortenson is the author (one was co-authored) of two very inspirational books: He describes his initial journey into Pakistan in Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace … One School At A Time, a New York Times bestseller who he wrote with journalist David Oliver Relin; and a new book, a sequel, Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On the Blackfive.com blog there is a tab labeled, Someone You Should Know. Its stated mission is to protect and promote the reputation and dignity of America's Warriors. The blog posts stories of heroism.

In America, a militaristic country, the common thought is that nothing can be done in a non-belligerent way. For the most part, Americans believe that talking gets us nowhere and that negotiations are synonymous with appeasement. Americans are under the misguided belief that if we did not have a military we would not have a country. Consequently, they buy into stories as told in Someone You Should Know, and the warrior becomes the true hero. These stories are the ones that are usually headlined.

Well, the Story You Should Know is that of Greg Mortenson. Stories such as those of Greg Mortenson take a long time, if ever, to be headlined. Americans do not view the Greg Mortensons of our world as heroes, there acts are compassionate and perhaps admired, but to most Americans, at least the ones that I know, do not think of them as heroes. Contrary to that mindset, in my mind Greg Mortenson is unequivocally a hero.

The Greg Mortensons of this world will collectively bring about peace to this world, where the belligerence of the warrior will not.

Asalaam-o-Alaikum (Peace be with you)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Global Warming: the whole thing is hooey?

Naturalist Paul Brook wrote in The Art of Seeing Nature, How much we see depends on what we bring to the encounter.

Many perceive the environment only aesthetically. While it’s important that environmental values should be seen in light of aesthetic significance, it is also, and more important that it be seen objectively and pragmatically: its effects on the health of our civilization, economy, personal health, and the health of the cosmos are very significant and far reaching.

Furthermore, Paul Brooks wrote in The Pursuit of Wilderness, We shall never understand the natural environment until we see it as a living organism.

For too many Americans, the environment is seen as being essentially a political, as well as a dollar and cents issue. Until we take politics and profit out of environmental considerations and judge environmental contamination as akin to poor health in the same way we view cancer, heart attack, diabetes …we are going to drive the quality of life and the prospects of a viable environmental evolution down into a deep abyss from which we will never be able to climb out -- if we neglect our environment, it could come to a point at some future time where bringing the environment back to good health simply may not be possible.

The natural environment, of which Paul Brooks speaks, encompasses all that is living and non-living that exists on earth and in the cosmos. It consists of all natural mass, energy, and forces. It is comprised of all organisms, air, water, rocks, soil, climate, all natural phenomenon, and their ecologies. It’s the totality of circumstances and the combination of external physical conditions surrounding an organism or group of organisms that affect their growth, development, and survival. Our environment should be considered to include even the social and cultural conditions affecting the nature of an individual or community. The natural environment is also inclusive of our consciousness. Each influences the other and interacts with each other symbiotically in such a way as to maintain a very delicate ecological balance.

Put all together, the natural environment is a vibrant structure of all existence that is not manmade: a universal space consisting of interdependent, sophisticated, infinitely complex, and profound properties. All mass and energy of the natural world is in fact a very fragile, sentiently alive organism.

However, the much-publicized issue of Global Warming is what has taken center stage in the environment debate. It is this concern that 130 nations have gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark, for the United Nations Climate Change Conference on the 7th to the 18th of December 2009. Although control over climate change and its cause -- excessive emissions of green house gasses -- is important to a very delicate ecosystem, the global concern must be more inclusive than increases in average temperature of the earth's atmosphere and its affect on climate change.

Understanding what our environmental evolution should achieve -- any journey must have a knowledge of its destination -- is essential to achieving it. What must be achieved beyond Global Warming encompasses the concept of ranking civilizations as Type I, Type II, and Type III, which according to the Kardashev scale theorizes that civilizations may be ranked by their energy consumption. Accordingly, we must do all we can to achieve the lofty goal of a Type III civilization. Machio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, explains in his Star Makers essay, that a Type III civilization is capable of harnessing all of the power available from a single galaxy.

(It is interesting to note that in the estimation of Carl Sagen, at sometime prior to 1996, he determined that our civilization on the Kardashev scale should be ranked at around .07.)

In this light, the goal of a Type III civilization essentially must include the hypothetical process of terraforming as an achievable goal. Terraforming does not happen by placing controls over green house gasses alone. It must be inclusive of advancing technologies so we can deliberately modify atmosphere, temperature, and surface topography in such a way as to advance, evolutionarily and viably, civilization.

Additionally, in order to accomplish this goal we must understand the metaphorical concept of the Butterfly Effect of chaos theory, which suggests that a single small event can ignite a whole series of seemingly unrelated other events that have an affect holistically on our planet. In a global society, that is an important understanding, since any micro or macro environmental event in any nation or territory produces at some level a consequence for the global community.

Global warming or not, it should not matter. To be skeptical, yes, but let’s not take our eye off the ball. Our concern should not be as to whether Sarah Palin is correct when she says Polar Bear populations are on the upswing in defiance of the Environmental Protection Agencies claim that they are diminishing. Nor when Palin says in an opinion piece for The Washington Post, entitled Copenhagen's political science, calling for a boycott of Copenhagen because, she believes, the whole thing is hooey. Nor whether or not Global Warming is nothing but quack or quasi-science, or as CNN describes it as either Truth or Trick, or Climategate, as some have called it. Nor whether Global Warming is a political exercise, or a moneymaker for the free market capitalist, because to one degree or another it is all of these. However, despite all of these arguments, we cannot be a day late and a dollar short if manmade Global Warming turns out to be true.

So, my concern is not with the authenticity of catastrophic climate change, manmade or not, but rather with the globes concern for the natural environment in understanding that it is in its totality a living organism, and, for that reason, we should take care of, and be responsible for our earth’s environment in the same way we take care of our personal health needs and that of our loved ones, through treatment, and preventively by being proactive. If this were authentically understood, we would not have these meaningless, contentious debates.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize Recipient President Barack Obama: HE IS OUR PRESIDENT

All Americans should feel a sense of pride that we have this President of these United States. That he is ours. His Nobel Prize acceptance speech was magnificent.

President Obama’s address significantly surpasses the exhortations of President John F Kennedy’s American University Commencement Address.

Those who don’t feel that same pride, and who do nothing but claim this President does not deserve to be the President of the United States or deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize, should really self-audit, and take a close look at their own attitudes and authentic reasons why they feel that way. A significant majority of the time I find that it is because -- amongst other reasons that I don’t care to specify -- they are in solidarity with the stance and mindset ex-President Bush, ex-Vice President Cheney, and hawks, without realizing that if it were not for the actions of the Bush Administration, President Obama would not have received the Nobel Peace Prize: it was precisely the contrast President Obama has demonstrated in how America conducts its foreign policy and in establishing relations with other nations that triggered that winning nomination. If not for some Americans, at least as the Nobel Committee and a good part of the world see it, he is deserving.

Some of the points that President Obama made are the same points that I have argued for many years now, and therefore they really stood out to me: why confronting environment concerns are important, whether or not exigent global warming is a fact or not; understanding the absolutely important concept of the evolution of human institutions; setting the best example and best practices by example in words and actions; and, because of that, America must be the standard bearer.

The four excerpts form what President Obama said:

And that is why helping farmers feed their own people – or nations educate their children and care for the sick – is not mere charity. It is also why the world must come together to confront climate change. There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, famine and mass displacement that will fuel more conflict for decades. For this reason, it is not merely scientists and activists who call for swift and forceful action – it is military leaders in my country and others who understand that our common security hangs in the balance.

Concretely, we must direct our effort to the task that President Kennedy [from the American University Commencement Address] called for long ago. ‘Let us focus,’ he said, ‘on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions.’

Furthermore, America cannot insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves. For when we don’t, our action can appear arbitrary, and undercut the legitimacy of future intervention – no matter how justified.

I believe that the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength.

We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not just when it is easy, but when it is hard.

Robert F Kennedy: All of us might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil world, but we don't. And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity.

Robert F Kennedy: There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?

President Barack Obama: So let us reach for the world that ought to be – that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls.

Text of Barack Obama Nobel Prize acceptance speech

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Libertarian Ron Paul

For the most part I sympathize with the philosophy of Ron Paul, republican representative from Texas and member of the House Finance Committee.

I am particularly in favor of his positions on no need for war, elimination of the Federal Reserve and abandonment of America’s money policies, specifically fractional-reserve banking, and the practice of printing money at will -- fiat money -- and a return to the gold standard. I also believe that Misesian or Austrian economic conditions serve America much more efficiently and with greater viability than one that is based on Keynesian economic theory and central economic planning.

I am a libertarian at heart. That being said, however, I do have real-life concerns with what is essentially Ron Paul’s libertarian philosophy.

Dr. Paul is squarely against government regulation. Dr. Paul believes that an authentic free market can regulate itself. In our Keynesian free market, that has not worked. I doubt it could work in a free market without government or some authoritative agency regulation. After all, an authentic free market, to my knowledge, has never been experienced, and so therefore Dr. Paul’s vision is simply hypothetical.

Dr. Paul asserts that an authentic free market would set the cost of labor, and consequently there would be full employment -- wages do not need to be governed with minimum wage standards or other government regulation. The question is, what would be the minimums and maximums of those wages? For those at the bottom of the labor force, would they be compensated with a living wage? Does anyone truly believe that a free market capitalist would be willing to pay a living wage or have any concern for the general welfare over or equal to their concern for profit? There may be full employment, I will give Dr. Paul that, but Americans would still be living in the streets and in greater numbers than now; most Americans certainly would not be capable of purchasing healthcare, adequate nutrition would be greater problem, and there would be many more like problems as well. Maximum wage earners and the wealthy would monopolize the market. This is, maybe, to the extreme, but someone at the bottom making a dollar or two an hour cannot compete in the market place with someone whose income is one million dollars a year. That is because there will be an adequate number of wealthy and high-income consumers who will keep the price of goods and services high simply because they can afford to pay the prices, and markets would focus on those high earners, not those at the bottom who cannot afford to pay.

It has been reported that in 2008 the compensation for Aetna’s CEO was twenty four million ($24,300,112); other CEO compensation: Cigna - $12,236,740; Health Net - $4,425,355; Humana - $4,764,309; WellPoint - $9,844,212. These companies certainly do not have any concern whether someone can buy health insurance. All they are interested in is high compensation, in salaries and in profit. There are ample high-end earners to satisfy their profit expectations without any reliance on purchases from lower-income earners. Therefore, healthcare insurance providers can operate at-will.

Dr. Paul believes that management and funding for healthcare, security, highways, railroads, public schools, etc., should be left to the individual States. That the federal government has no constitutional role in providing or controlling these activities or services. Some States are doing some of these things to one extent or another now. However, to expect each State to effectively step up to the plate, and be consistent with other States, is an unreasonable expectation; for example, what would happen if a citizen had health insurance in one State and then moved to another?

Dr. Paul’s assertion regarding no taxes is not possible. Of course, Dr. Paul is talking about federal taxes. However, there would still be federal taxes for national defense and national security. If there is a shift from federal to State for services the federal government now regulates, there would simply be a shift from federal taxes to State, City, Town, County, and/or some other community based tax to fund those services. Therefore, the incumbency of paying taxes will not be eliminated, and in the end, they may even be greater.

Dr. Paul believes that the free market in-and-of-itself would intrinsically manage the failures of financial institutions, the automotive industries, and all of the things that the government otherwise chose to manage with the economic stimulus and bailout of the U.S. financial system, saying that businesses should be allowed to collapse into bankruptcy or otherwise simply go out of business. He said that for Americans it would be painful for about a year, but that the recession would not last as long. In consideration of his previously stated philosophy on wages and no government interference, I assume, therefore, he would not support federal dollar allocations to the States for extended unemployment insurance benefits. Since under these circumstances, unemployment would most likely be greater, would Americans put up with the conditions following corporate bankruptcy or failure? After all, we tout government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and if there ever were a President Ron Paul, he would need to respond to their outcry.

Furthermore, If Ron Paul was President of the United States, with a Republican controlled congress, and he actually was able to accomplish his conservative goals of no federal government interference, just what do you think his ratings in the polls would be? Would he simply ignore American dissatisfaction?

The most significant concern I have is with the nature of money, and especially that of profit itself.

We need to take the need for profit, and for the time being, at least, excessive profit, out of our way of life. Essentially, over time, we need to discard money-based policies and replace them with resource-based policies. I suppose it is with some incongruity, taking my adverse stance on profit and money that I think of myself philosophically as libertarian. Incongruous because, libertarianism, conservatism, and liberalism are as such only because of our money-based system and Keynesian economics, and so, in a resource-based system those designations would have no meaning -- I don’t even see a need for political parties, Democrats, Republicans, or Independents. In a resource-based system, I believe society would be fundamentally libertarian: in the essential meaning of that word: i.e., the maximization of individual rights and minimizing the role of the State.

The real-life issue, which I have pragmatic concern, is how we move forward within the realities of present day circumstances. Do Americans understand and are they willing to accept the conceptual process of evolutionary change, or is their insatiable desire for immediacy going to prevail. Viable progress cannot be achieved without an understanding that change will always be resisted and will always be adversarial, coupled with an understanding of the reality and necessity to work from present day circumstances in order to move forward. An understanding that change is a process; it’s not an event.

With present day realities in mind, libertarianism or resource-based systems are equally utopian. In order to achieve either libertarianism or a moneyless society, an ongoing process occurring over time has to be incrementally implemented.

No one should be under the impression that circumstances can change on a dime, or that by 6:00 tomorrow morning any new system could be in place. President Obama nor any other President or Congress, nor any American can make that happen without infinitely planning long-term with infinite vision. It takes time; we have to work from the point of where we are now and not from where we would like to be. Our vision must represent where we would like to be at each step in the process. We have evolved economically as a result of the congressional initiatives of both conservatives and liberals, and from Keynesian economic management, wherein the economic system has been manipulated by the Federal Reserve and by government. We cannot change that in a flash.

For any journey to be successful, one must know the destination. In terms of Iraq, Afghanistan, monetary policy, and healthcare reform, we must start from where we are now and move forward to where we wish to be.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Afghanistan: the long deliberative decision

A comment posted on my Facebook Wall:


-- something I thought I would share from one of my Facebook friends.

I agree [with the position taken] being from the Vietnam era...

Afghanistan has the potential of being this generations Viet Nam.

It is a difficult region, with Cave Dwellers who live and fight as if it were the 13th century, and it is a war that is unwinnable for us, just like Nam.

Obama is listening to his advisors, just as LBJ listened to McNamara and his other Military and Pentagon advisors [in other words, Obama is listening to political advisors and not General McChrystal, if I read this statement correctly], and this course of action has a very ominous déjà vu appearance to it.

In acknowledgement is my follow-up comment:

There are somewhat similarities, but there are also some more very appreciable differences.

Unlike Vietnam, in Afghanistan there is a moral purpose: self-defense. The attacks of 9/11 support every justifiably moral and legal reason why we are in Afghanistan. Our combat operations in Afghanistan have international legitimacy to exercise our right of self-defense; after 9/11, a majority of nations were in sympathy with and fully supportive of America. There are 43 nations that are in Afghanistan because they believe in its purpose -- not a coalition of the willing as in Iraq – not America with the help of small numbers of other troops, such as the Aussies, as in Vietnam.

We committed as many as 500,000 U.S. troops to Vietnam with about 1 million ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) troops, and there were some Australian troops, against approximately 100,000 VC (Vietcong) and 850,000 PAVN (Peoples Army of Vietnam) forces -- a ratio of approximately 1.6 U.S.-ARVN to 1 VC-PAVN.

In Afghanistan, when 30, 000 U.S. forces are added we will have committed 100, 000 U.S. troops with 50, 000 ISF (International Security Force) forces against approximately 28,000 Taliban -- a ratio of approximately 5.3 U.S.-ISF to 1 Taliban. (Afghan Army cannot be counted -- yet).

(these numbers are arguable, but for the purposes of this writing, they are close enough)

Vietnam and Afghanistan are very much alike in the sense that neither war had/have the possibility of being winnable. Winnable, that is, as Americans think of winning – i.e. to conquer.

The fact is, unlike Vietnam, that there was a point where we did have the upper hand in Afghanistan. President Bush decided though that Iraq was a more important goal and switched our efforts in Afghanistan to Iraq before the work in Afghanistan was completed -- Bush jumped the gun for something that met his, Cheney’s, and the neoconservative hawks special agenda: The Project for the New American Century.

In consideration of that previously stated fact, it seems to me -- albeit not exactly as I would prefer the outcome -- we do have a significant probability that we can turn the situation around in a way that is suitable and appropriate for Afghanistan and the United States of America, and the 43 participating countries involved in this conflict.

Moreover, it seems to me -- and I forget who in essence said this -- that Americans want to start at positions we wish we were in, instead of understanding the position we are in, as it is and where we are now. It’s absolutely necessary to understand that concept to appreciate fully what our way forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan should and must be.

The President is the Commander in Chief, and should and does listen with consideration to operation commanders and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, just as McChrystal listens with consideration to those who are subordinate to him. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean they should follow their recommendations or advice; consider them, yes, but each level in any organizations hierarchy increasingly has a greater appreciation of the larger goal (the big picture) that have built-in other considerations, and at each level in turn is able to make built-upon knowledge leading to better decisions. That’s the reason why President Obama was patient and considerate of all positions and conditions -- international and political as well as military -- in his long waited deliberated decision. No one would expect General McChrystal necessarily to follow the recommendations or advice of his operations commanders, and likewise no one should expect the Commander and Chief necessarily to follow the advice of his operations commanders, i.e. the Joint Chiefs of Staff; certainly not of General McChrystal, for he reports to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

If this structure of government did not exist, there would be another branch of government: Executive, Judicial, Legislative, and Defense. In consideration of American proclivity for all things military, we would have a government controlled by the military -- a junta of sorts.

On Tuesday night, President Obama looked and sounded like the Commander in Chief; he looked and sounded like the President of the United States.

In consideration of the here and now we find ourselves, and although I would require a different win-win way forward, I fully support President Obama.