Saturday, April 10, 2010

Out of the Fire, Into the Frying Pan

The War on Terror is a misnomer. It should be renamed as the War on Ourselves and Everyone besides the Terrorists. Although terrorism is a serious issue, America has made devastating strategic blunders. What it should do now is get out of Iraq and into Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is riddled with instability and terrorism, and our troops are needed to take care of the situation. There are around 150,000 troops in Afghanistan right now, and the US troops make up about 2/3 of that number. Still, a surge is needed. The recent increase has allowed US troops to bring peace to many areas that were in control of radicals.

There are some of you that remain unconvinced that more troops in Afghanistan would alleviate the problem. However, there have been great improvements in military tactics. There has been a closer look on the bigger picture in Afghanistan. An example of this is the new focus on the drug trade. The US has known about the drug issue for a long time, yet it has not done anything about it. The public officials declared that they would tackle the drug problem after there was more stability and less terror in the country. Yet, the poppy fields have been empowering the radical groups and creating a steady stream of cash for them. The US has realized its mistake and is instructing some of the military and police force to handle the poppy problem. This does more than weaken the radical groups financially. It allows the forces to have an opportunity to bridge between differences with the Afghan government. Fighting against the drug trade also has its benefits for the world, since 92% of the world’s opium is produced in Afghanistan.

While having troops in Afghanistan is important, withdrawing troops from Iraq has its benefits. The US military is dangerously overstretched. Too much of the military is overseas and in different parts of the world. Having a small force in some of these areas jeopardizes the success of the missions. Afghanistan needs more forces, but there does not seem to be enough soldiers to pull from the US. Withdrawing troops from Iraq would free them up, allowing a surge in Afghanistan.

Also, there is not just a soldier overstretch, but a resource overstretch as well. Right now in Afghanistan, many of our troops are going hungry. The people that choose to risk their lives fighting for the security of our nation deserve at least their basic needs. Placing troops geographically closer would immensely improve the resource shortage by facilitating the transportation issue.

Some might argue that the troops in Iraq are still important. The troops stationed there are indeed important, but they are not necessary. The soldiers in Iraq are mostly there to prevent conflict between the different ethnic groups in Iraq. Although there is some conflict, the situation has improved from previous years, and Saddam Hussein has been executed. If there are still problems after the troops leave from Iraq, the military can potentially return full force to Iraq after there is relative security in Afghanistan and an agreement has been made between the US and Iraq.

One last thing to talk about in the role of the US in combating terror is the image it creates. A common argument against troops in Afghanistan is that it would spur anti-Americanism. However, this argument applies to Iraq and not to Afghanistan.

In Iraq, US troops depict our nation as an arrogant one. Iraqis claim that the US does not belong there. When Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim, was in power, the Shiites demanded the US to leave the country and to not deal with the internal affairs of another nation. Now that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, is in power, the Sunnis demand that we leave. Despite the flip-flopping of the ethnic groups, it is true that we are interfering in the internal affairs of another country, and even if we believe that it is justified, many others do not. Our presence in Iraq makes us look bad in the eyes of the international community, especially after the accusations of nuclear weapons in Iraq were proven false. Lastly, there is the US-Iraq SOFA (Status of Force Agreement). This agreement states that US forces will leave Iraq by December 31, 2011. Our troops are mandated to leave the country in about a year and a half. If the US does not leave, the entire global community would have a less than favorable opinion about us.

However, US troops need to be in Afghanistan. Not only are they there to increase security, but they are also there to enhance our image. It is true that US troops in the Middle East has not made America the most popular country. Yet, more nations sympathize with our position in Afghanistan than in Iraq. Although some issues in the Middle East are deemed as not our problem, the US has issues in Afghanistan that it has somewhat of a right to tackle. Afghanistan harbors terrorist groups that have made devastating attacks against the Western world. In fact, it was the attacks on 9/11 that set the flood of troops into Afghanistan, and although the Taliban regime was toppled, there is still dangerous activity in the region. Also, it would actually make the US look weaker in the eyes of some countries. After all, we still have not found Osama bin Laden, and withdrawing troops after no success in a hunt only makes us look like the losers.

There is hard power and soft power. Hard power is the military might that a country has and the intimidation factor. Soft power is the credibility and trust of a country. The ideal is a form of power known as smart power: a strong combination of soft power and hard power. Smart power for the US right now can be achieved by relocating the troops in Iraq to Afghanistan.

Again, the troops in Iraq should be moved to Afghanistan because it would help fight against terror, solve the overstretch problem, and place a desirable balance of power in our nation’s hands. We need to get out of the fire and into the frying pan. However, the fire is not just Iraq, and the frying pan is not just Afghanistan. The fire is the current state of global instability, and the frying pan is a world, although imperfect, that has less terror, less violence, and less conflicts.

Note to Glenn: This blog entry is over 1000 words long. You’re welcome.

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