Friday, November 03, 2006

Response to a Disillusioned Officer

I want to thank "Anonymous" for his comment yesterday. The statement is profoundly worrisome. I here parse what he said, to make clear how significant this brief note is.

"I am a senior military officer who recently returned from Afghanistan. It is shocking to me that there is little understanding, or concern, about the war in Afghanistan here in Washington. When one is in Afghanistan, particularly when one is in the field, one deludes oneself into believing that someone is in charge and someone cares what is going on. There is no such someone. I feel particularly sorry for the Afghans."

It is easy to see why this "senior military officer" has to speak anonymously. He is shocked at the lack of understanding and concern about a war that has been going on since 2001 and has taken several hundred American lives. He has been "deluded" into believing that someone was in charge in Washington who actually cared about that war: No such person exists. The implications of this statement by a "senior military officer" are shattering.

"Anonymous" has had responsibility in a setting ("the field") where his own life and the lives of others were likely put at risk, and now, after such effort and so much risk (and loss?) he is shocked to discover that no one in Washington cares.

Two important consequences of his experience: One is that the struggle to establish a secure and stable state in Afghanistan is unlikely -- can we say it is effectively impossible? If no one in the Washington establishment actually cares, what hope is there of getting control of the situation in a difficult and conflicted place like Afghanistan? The other consequence is the likelihood that disillusionment will eat away the commitment and morale of troops being deployed into Afghanistan and Iraq and indeed in other dangerous places. We have already noted how "The Destruction of Conscience and the Betrayal of the Honor Code from the Top Down" (October 20, 2006) became a rot within the military system after the Vietnam War. What are we doing to our military, the finest in the world, under these circumstances now?

Thank you, Anonymous, for your note. We join you in your disillusionment and feelings of helplessness. Like Jeremiah we are crying out "O Land, land, land! Listen!"


1 comment:

hamesha said...

That the situation in Afghanistan is increasingly dire is scarcely shocking for me. Yet that a 'senior military officer' speaks in such worrisome tone about it is indeed revelatory. I hope voices like this trickle through the labyrinth that is Washington DC and reach the right ears. Just like Iraq, there is a need to abandon the 'stay the course' mentality in Afghanistan and get serious about it, and the fact that many delude themselves into believing that all is well and dandy in Afghanistan only delays that.