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Finally…we start bringing ’em home

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By Rick Howell

    Saying “it’s time for nation building here at home,” President Barack Obama took a step in the right direction last week announcing that he will withdraw 33,000 troops from Afghanistan within a year.

    Steady troop withdrawals will follow until we are out entirely by 2014, just as the president promised when he bought into the military’s logic and sent in more troops, his own so-called surge.
    At that point, Obama was giving the Afghan war - which he’d never opposed on the campaign trail – one more chance. Now, he’s seen enough, and so have most Americans.
    It is time to leave the Afghans to themselves, Taliban or whatever. It’s not our concern, and no more Americans should die in a country that clearly doesn’t want us.
    Haven’t we had enough insults from that guy in the little hat, the former Shell Oil lobbyist, who is supposedly the president? He threatened to join the Taliban at one point and has done nothing but complain about America and NATO. Let him figure it out on his own.
    Yes, the war made sense at first, but only for one reason. We knew that’s where Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden were after the 9/11 attacks. We had every right to go after them.
    But George W. Bush, the president who launched the war, had a completely unreasonable obsession with Iraq and Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do with 9/11.
    Bush put a token force in Afghanistan, just to satisfy public opinion, and thought only about Iraq. Bin Laden got away, and it took Obama to get him later.
    But now, every reasonable person knows it’s way past time to get out. If the Taliban takes over, who cares? It’s up to the Afghans to deal with that, and they don’t seem to care much who rules them. Bin Laden is dead and Al Qaeda is basically a spent force.
    Reaction to the president’s decision has met criticism from both the left and the right. But that only demonstrates, as it usually does, that when a president gets heat from both sides he must be doing something right.
    Some people on the left just don’t know how to be satisfied. I got an e-mail from Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) that headlined their comments on the speech with the all-caps word, WRONG.
    Jim Wallis, the founder of Sojourners magazine and a leading voice of the Christian left (yes, Bedford, there is such a thing), said he thought the president hadn’t gone far enough. The complete withdrawal should happen now.
    Sorry, guys. One of the realities about war, one of the many that should make us hesitant to start one, is that it’s always easier to begin than it is to finish. Yes, I’d like to see all the troops come home tomorrow. But that’s not possible.
    Of course, the hawks, led by the war-loving John McCain, just don’t want it to end, period. I’m so glad he didn’t win the election in 2008.
    I’ll close with the words of another columnist, Richard Cohen, who said Obama’s decision marked the end of “the American century,” the Henry Luce idea that America would always be the great world heavyweight, able to do anything it wants.
    He wrote, in the Washington Post: “Bin Laden is dead. Al-Qaeda has been riddled by drones. The job is done, or done enough, and we are broke and in need of some R&R. Obama surely knows his history and does not want it repeated -- neither as tragedy nor as farce. We are not Henry Luce’s America -- not because we no longer want to be, but because we no longer can be.”

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.