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What's the answer in Afghanistan?

September 10, 2009

Re "Is Obama 'all in' on Afghanistan?" Opinion, Sept. 7, "Afghanistan isn't Vietnam -- yet," Opinion, Sept. 6, and "Shedding armor to win the battle," Sept. 6

The wise doubts that Andrew J. Bacevich raises regarding the impending U.S. escalation in that tragic country of Afghanistan are right on target.

As with all historical empires, our policymakers blend a toxic mixture of arrogance and ignorance in the formulation of foreign affairs. The result: the disasters of Vietnam and Iraq.

It is now time for our citizens of all political stripes to reassess the role of this country in the world. Our Founding Fathers would have been appalled to see that in 2009, we have become the world's hyperpower. That's not why they fought a revolution.

Bob Teigan

Santa Susana

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Your front-page article on Afghanistan quotes Navy SEAL Cmdr. Jeff Eggers in comparing the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan with the Soviet war from 1979 to 1989: "We are not the Soviets, not by a long shot." Eggers wasn't talking about the length of each "mission," but one really can't avoid the stubborn fact that in two years, the U.S. will have been at war in Afghanistan as long as the Soviet Union: 10 years.

That's uncomfortably Soviet-like and not such a long shot after all.

Bill Clifton

Glendale

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With regard to Bacevich's opinion article on President Obama and Afghanistan, I think that even though we know the answers to most of his questions, they are not the right questions.

The problem is not the country of Afghanistan but simply that the land on which Afghanistan sits is used by jihadis to live on and to kill.

To me, the only question should be: What is the best way to get rid of terrorists living and killing in Afghanistan? I think that the answer -- a cold but very reasonable answer for the United States -- is simply: drones.

The fact that civilians will be killed with drones does not alter the fact that thousands of Middle Eastern civilians have been killed in this war without drones.

I hope that other countries will also realize that drones are the right kind of weapons to use on terrorists who are willing to die while killing infidels and who are often acting as individuals.

David Burkenroad

Los Angeles

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Bacevich says the president needs to reassure us that, among other points, "Afghanistan constitutes a vital national security interest. " I have to ask: How?

Along with millions of others in this country, I seriously need to know in exacting detail how the dots leading us into more terribly bloody, maiming and outrageously expensive warfare in Afghanistan connect to us here at home?

And until we are carefully and convincingly apprised of that connection, the amount of expense or our military/diplomatic capabilities there mean nothing to me. The vague, ubiquitous world enemy called "Taliban" doesn't do it for me.

Need it be recalled that weapons of mass destruction were the bogus rationale for Iraq?

Jim Gould

Burbank

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I voted for Obama mainly in protest against President Bush's Iraq war. Now I feel betrayed.

Obama seems to be choosing to expand our folly by a major increase in troops in Afghanistan. We have no discernible reason to be there.

Let's bring our troops home and concentrate on solving the many problems facing our own country.

Eleanor Heyman

Hesperia, Calif.

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It's quite remarkable for a professor of history to remark that "history has no relevant lessons to teach" regarding Afghanistan.

The Soviet Union spent 10 years in Afghanistan; in two years we will have been there that long too. What have we achieved? What are we trying to achieve? Are we winning? What are we winning? These are valid questions.

Considering all the gang warfare locally and all the meth labs in the desert that we can't control on our home turf, it is stunning to continue to delude ourselves into thinking we can "win" against insurgents who are quite at home on very hostile terrain.

Afghan insurgents humbled the Soviet superpower; are they doing the same to the remaining superpower? We need to get out of Afghanistan now.

Dean Chantiles

Palm Springs

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Doyle McManus summarizes the Afghanistan war and compares it to Vietnam. He says the Department of Defense will request 18 more months to decide if the war is winnable.

Recent reports from the front include:

The situation is deteriorating after eight years of deaths. We support the local government but suspect it to be corrupt and incompetent. They had an election, but we don't know for sure who won.

Richard Holbrooke says we need more U.S. civilian officials. The generals are not sure whether U.S. troops under attack in Humvees should speed up or slow down. Afghanistan is a different culture. We don't need 18 more months. Everyone knows the answer.

Ray J. Heaney

Fountain Valley

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