David Brooks | The American Identity Crisis – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

For most of the past century, human dignity had a friend — the United States of America. We are a deeply flawed and error-prone nation, like any other, but America helped defeat fascism and communism and helped set the context for European peace, Asian prosperity and the spread of democracy.

 

Then came Iraq and Afghanistan, and America lost faith in itself and its global role — like a pitcher who has been shelled and no longer has confidence in his own stuff. On the left, many now reject the idea that America can be or is a global champion of democracy, and they find phrases like “the indispensable nation” or the “last best hope of the earth” ridiculous. On the right the wall-building caucus has given up on the idea that the rest of the world is even worth engaging.

Many people around the world have always resisted America’s self-appointed role as democracy’s champion. But they have also been rightly appalled when America sits back and allows genocide to engulf places like Rwanda or allows dangerous regimes to threaten the world order.

The Afghans are the latest witnesses to this reality. The American bungles in Afghanistan have been well documented. We’ve spent trillions of dollars and lost thousands of our people. But the two-decade strategy of taking the fight to the terrorists, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, has meant that global terrorism is no longer seen as a major concern in daily American life. Over the past few years, a small force of American troops has helped prevent some of the worst people on earth from taking over a nation of more than 38 million — with relatively few American casualties. In 1999, no Afghan girls attended secondary school. Within four years, 6 percent were enrolled, and as of 2017 the figure had climbed to nearly 40 percent.

David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT comment:

This is a complicated essay by David Brooks, and I’m afraid he might have more good points than bad ones, but he fails to convince this reader, becasue of the dearth of real facts and knowledge of Afganistan. His first major mistake, was leaving out Vietnam in the first paragraph. He says we are keeping the Taliban at bay with little cost and almost no casualties, but what exactly are the numbers over the last five years. We already spent over a trillion dollars in Afganistan, because we wasted $2 trillion in Iraq, in a war that was a tragic mistake. I am knowledgeable now in the history of Vietnam, and our dive into that civil war was also an unmitigated disaster, based on a complete lack of appreciation for Vietnamese history and culture. What real experts in Afganistan’s history and culture think that there is any force in Afghanistan strong enough to stand up to the Taliban, without a lot more treasure by the US. The Taliban appear to be the most determined, and disciplined in this war, just like the Vietnames communists under Ho Chi Minh were. If that is not a fair comparison, who can explain in detail, why the forces we have supported have any chance with light support against the Taliban. Our side appears to be better at corruption and graft, than at fighting the Taliban.

David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs mostly at InconvenientNews.Net.

Opinion | The Afghan War Is Over. Did Anyone Notice? – By Elliot Ackerman – The New York Times

Mr. Ackerman is a former Marine and intelligence officer who served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Credit…John Moore/Getty Images

“I first read “The Iliad” in high school. The translation my teacher handed out had a single photograph on the cover: American G.I.s on D-Day storming out of a landing craft onto Omaha Beach.

The subtext of this pairing wasn’t obvious to me, as a teenager. The rage of Achilles, the death of Hector and all those Greeks in their “black-hulled ships” seemed to have little to do with the Second World War.

Many years later, after having fought in two wars of my own, that image has come to resonate in a new way. If “The Iliad” served as an ur-text for the shape the ancient Greeks assumed their wars to take (Alexander the Great, for example, is said to have slept with a copy beneath his pillow when on campaign), then World War II has served a similar function in our society, framing our expectations of war, becoming our American Iliad. We still expect to be the good guys; we expect there to be a beginning, a middle and an end; and we expect that the war is over when the troops come home.

But that final expectation — that a war is only over when all the troops come home — has never really held true, not in World War II, and not today.”

Opinion | When I Step Outside, I Step Into a Country of Men Who Stare – By Fatima Bhojani – The New York Times

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Ms. Bhojani is a writer from Pakistan.

Credit…Abdul Majeed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — I am angry. All the time. I’ve been angry for years. Ever since I began to grasp the staggering extent of violence — emotional, mental and physical — against women in Pakistan. Women here, all 100 million of us, exist in collective fury.

“Every day, I am reminded of a reason I shouldn’t exist,” my 19-year-old friend recently told me in a cafe in Islamabad. When she gets into an Uber, she sits right behind the driver so that he can’t reach back and grab her. We agreed that we would jump out of a moving car if that ever happened. We debated whether pepper spray was better than a knife.

When I step outside, I step into a country of men who stare. I could be making the short walk from my car to the bookstore or walking through the aisles at the supermarket. I could be wrapped in a shawl or behind two layers of face mask. But I will be followed by searing eyes, X-raying me. Because here, it is culturally acceptable for men to gape at women unblinkingly, as if we are all in a staring contest that nobody told half the population about, a contest hinged on a subtle form of psychological violence.

“Wolves,” my friend, Maryam, called them, as she recounted the time a man grazed her shoulder as he sped by on a motorbike. “From now on, I am going to stare back, make them uncomfortable.” Maryam runs a company that takes tourists to the mountainous north. “People are shocked to see a woman leading tours on her own,” she told me.”

Biden Says He Didn’t Oppose Raid That Killed Bin Laden – 10/20/2015- The New York Times

“When asked specifically whether he had advised against the raid, Mr. Biden said: “Let me put it this way: My advice was, follow your instincts, knowing what his instinct was.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Biden’s evolution continued. Before an audience at George Washington University, Mr. Biden said he never gave Mr. Obama definitive advice on controversial issues in front of other officials, mindful that he did not want the rest of the team to see a difference between his opinion and that of the president. With others around them, Mr. Biden said he suggested one more pass over the Abbottabad compound with an unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone.

After the meeting in the Situation Room, though, Mr. Biden said he privately gave the president his real view. “As we walked out of the room and went upstairs, I told him my opinion, that I said that I thought he should go but to follow his own instincts,” Mr. Biden said Tuesday.”