My next door neighbor is a helicopter pilot with the Army. He has been to Iraq and to Afghanistan at least once, and will probably go again if the war continues on. We were talking about many things the other day, and the conversation came around to Afghanistan. I made the oh-so-wise comment that nobody has ever won a war there since the days of Alexander the Great. This is partly true because, as I have been told, Afghanistan was never a country as such, but a collective of tribes. Allegiance is to the tribe, not to a country.
I understand why we went into Afghanistan in the first place, and even supported that. I think we should have stayed with the plan to capture Ben Laden and then leave the country. Unfortunately, our leaders got distracted by a side issue, Ben Laden escaped, and we are now locked into a war whose reason has been lost. It’s like a mindless whirligig that has been wound up and can’t stop until its energy is all spent.
I re-read the lyrics of Leonard Cohen’s song, “Song of Isaac,” this morning. I was struck by the line “A scheme is not a vision.” I thought about the war in Iraq, the thing that side tracked us from the main purpose of our being in Afghanistan, and how we are no closer to capturing Ben Laden now that we were ten years ago. In fact, I don’t hear anybody talking about that these days, so what is the point of our being in this war? Has it become like Gustav Holst’s Mars theme from “The Planets,” a driving energy that doesn’t know how to resolve itself? I wish I had an answer.
My neighbor and I talked about this and that for some time, but at the end, I wished him a good day and we both went back to what we were doing. It wasn’t until later that I realized what I didn’t say was a simple ‘Thank you for doing what our leaders say must be done.’ I plan to correct that error soon.