How you feeling about that war in Afghanistan these days? Ready to sign up for duty?
Afghanistan is the war no one covers much, the war that rarely comes up in presidential debates, the war being fought in the rural hills and mountains of a country with a corrupt government a bazillion miles from here, the war with an enemy that specializes in sleight of hand, the war where nothing is ever as it seems or like anything we’ve ever seen.
It’s a war that doesn’t have you wanting to set your GPS for the closest recruiting station.
A poll in the NYT two days ago showed 68-percent of Americans thought things were going pretty goddamn dreadfully in Afghanistan. Even the majority of Republicans thought so, and they don’t like to be against war.
Afghanistan is a war riddled with downsides. Guys are getting killed. Guys are going batshit crazy, urinating on dead bodies and killing innocents, kids included. And there are also guys, supposedly our Afghan partners who we’re trying to help, turning around and killing our guys. “It is a characteristic of this kind of warfare,” said Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of NATO forces, in the NYT.
I’ll bet that little warfare factoid isn’t included in the military’s recruitment handouts.
Fact is, we don’t think about the war in Afghanistan much at all. We may catch a headline on occasion, but our interest pretty much stops right there. Afghanistan doesn’t affect us personally. Gas prices, that affects us. Health care, that affects us.
Afghanistan? It’s hard to get worked up. We don’t know anybody over there, not personally, so we’re not going to go all loco and take to the streets and demand withdrawal and stuff. The president and the military will figure it out one of these days.
It’s that sentiment, the sense that this is a war for others, not for us, that sticks in Rachel Maddow’s craw. Maddow, an MSNBC host, the one with the fertile brain, could have chosen to write a book about a whole array of far sexier topics. Instead she’s written a book called Drift, in which she argues that we’ve become a nation “weirdly at peace” with perpetual war.
We’re at peace with war, for a number of reasons, argues Maddow, prominent among them the fact that it’s a plummeting percentage of American families whose children fight our constant wars, like the one we’re fighting in Afghanistan.
Suppose, for a second, we moved away from a volunteer army and reinstituted the draft. Lots of those that would be draft eligible would find their way around it, they always do. But some would get snared—and the very possibility of being sent there would scare the hell out of everyone. Imagine how long we’d be in Afghanistan if brother Joe or boyfriend Fred or cousin Sandy was faced with the possibility of boarding a plane for a tour of duty. Think there’d be interest then?
Back during the days of Vietnam, a disc jockey at one of the city’s underground radio stations would play gunfire in the background as birthdays were picked to see who would be going to Southeast Asia first.
The draft lottery scared the hell out of everybody. Funny what happens when war affects you personally. It has a way of ending.