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War in Afghanistan: Indicative of broader contradiction in US political discourse?
Ready acceptance - from Republicans and Democrats alike - of the notion that sufficient resolve or "tenacity" is all that necessary for "victory" in Afghanistan has led me to wonder: what do Americans really believe about the efficacy of government action? How is it that rather mundane problems, such as urban poverty, provision of quality education and healthcare to ordinary people, etc., are considered intractable, beyond the purview of national politics, while the construction of viable political institutions, from scratch, thousands of miles from home, is thought to be simply a matter of having sufficient willpower and troop levels? These days it seems that those who most vigorously deny that the national government can affect basic changes in the quality of life of its citizenry believe that same government (or at least its military wing) capable of accomplishing miracles overseas.
How can we explain this contradiction? Is it simply the case that our country's attachment to its "glorious" wartime history leads Americans to view military action as inherently necessary and positive? How can we remain confident of our military's ability to affect lasting positive change in foreign societies after our experiences in Vietnam and Iraq (not to mention the experiences of Britain and the USSR in Afghanistan), while insisting that more basic social problems must find solutions outside of the public sphere?

"Fighting a war to fix something works about as good as going to a whorehouse to get rid of the clap"
-Norman Mailer, via AJ Bacevich's recent article on the war
In response to Timothy Neal's question of how to explain the contradiction between our foreign policies and our domestic policies.

First of all, thank you for your well articulated postulations and question. I searched your THINQon identity and found that you are between the ages of 18 and 24, which I think is pretty remarkable considering your writing clarity and ability to present a cogent, articulately expressed fresh perspective that I have not encountered anywhere before. The aspect of your question that I like best is in your question in how it punctures through so much of the usual  "them vs us" scenarios and presents the issue as "us vs us"; a much more apples to apples question which quickly by-passes strawmen and ad hominem argumentation. As a 62 year old I salute you with full honors.****

I read your contribution for the first time a couple of weeks ago and felt overwhelmed by the magnitude of my imagined efforts to answer your question from my perspective/understanding. I read it again this evenning and feel a little more hopeful that I have a means of answering it to some extent. It is really quite a relevant and insightful question because, as a good Socratic question, it leads to greater understanding of our selves and the dilemmas we have created. So, like the book worm that I am, I will try my best to perform an autopsy on the beast that I am within.

I believe that North Americans of the USA, such as myself, have been aculturated by our society to accept a split sense of morality. I have been trained, educated and innoculated with conflicting belief systems: one Abrahamic (Judaic, Christian, Moslem) and the other Capitalistic (characterized by the belief in an inherent entitlement to private property and self empowerment at the exclusion of others). Mark Twains statement about 19th century Christian missionaries comes to mind: "The missionary's firmest belief is that nothing needs changing so much as other people's habits". 

We use our hyper-corporate-military industry power to change other countries' habits (including political survival habits) to enhance our own sense of capitalitic entitlement. We are taught to believe that "the boughs they bend to us" by God's will. The Asian peoples do not think this way (not saying that they are not greedy, over protective, fearful, vengeful or opportunistic periodically), but their religion doesn't tell them that they are the "chossen people" as does the Abrhamic religous people believe who believe in only one god (despite his many names). 

Please forgive the following asside, I go off on tangents because my mind goes off on tangetnial associations and thoughts and I feel obligated to full disclosure.


In public school I was told repeatedly how the American colonies and the US, by inference, was founded upon the search for religous freedom. I consider this as the incipient lie and world misunderdstsanding that we have chossen to feed our self identity. The Puritans were kicked out of England, they did not leave, they were eschewed because of their intolerance of other religions, specifically the Church of England, which operated at the time (and still) something like the theocratic religion of the middle east. Nevertheless their  intolerance was not tolerated in England (which obviously was not tolerant either because rejection of their church was a rejection of their government; a condition reflective of any theocracy). When they came to the colonies they were equally intolerant. They were not seeking freedom of anyone's religion but their own. I call that selfish to the nth degree. Yet, in school, in modern times, in like NOW,  their endeavors are given a far more humane disquise as though they were seeking religous freedom for ALL PEOPLES. Ok, so hold this thought for a couple of minutes while we go to how the colonies were really established.

The colonies in North America were established in the same way as all the colonies in the New World were, as capitalistic ventures cenetered in Europe. Rich folks (royalty) in Europe invested in "corporations" which promised huge, huge, profits in establishing communities in the new world where their investors were assured gold and silver lay on the ground just for the picking it up. And the labor was mostly free (enslaved aboriginals or imported criminals). We do not come from a moral back ground. God doesn't smile on us, or it it does, I have no idea why it should.

I am sure that this is boring to most people who read this letter. But I am trying to get you folks to dig into the reality of the events and the drives of what has established this country because it lives on and on like dropping a mirror on the floor and seeing thousands of reproductions of yourselves bent over trying to pick up the mirror pieces. What was our past is the paradigm of our future. We are stuck with an Abrahamic religous belief (in all its limitations) and a greedy, heartless Capitalistic mentality and the only means of escaping these must come from within it which it, by its nature, won't allow. Here are some examples that are, in addition to the ones you mentioned above in your querry, about the conflict between our foreign and domestic policies.

Excuse me please I need to leave for a bit. James Lambert
 Continued:  This is James Lambert responding to Timothy Neal's query.

So examples of the conundrum created by Christianity and Capitlism: We don't take care of our own people. Why? Because our religious and capitalistic values are inherent in our system. Even those who are suffering believe in it as much as the Mayan sacrificial maiden believed on the alter as the priests cut her heart out in order to bring better weather conditions that it must be. They had not been indoctrinated differently. The socialistic countries of Denmark, Norway and Sweden do not share the capitalistic limitations to their immaginations that we do. I lived in Denmark for a summer in 1963. Copenhagen, the capital and all other cities that I saw had none of the social failures that we have (or had at that time). There were no homeless people, no trash on the streets, no barrios,  no barred store fronts, no hookers on the corners, no crippled children begging for money on street corners, very few police ... I never saw even one, no visibly sick people, I saw no suffering of any sorts or kind. NONE..not one. These people hadn't been gathered up and carted away and stored in a sunken pit but rather they had their condition prohibited by their governmental policies that PREVENTED such conditions from existing. The drug addicts and homeless folk (they have them .. all societies have them) were accepted as such and taken care of, they have a place to live and food to eat and medical care and it is cheaper to take care of them upfront than to take care of them after they run amuck in society, go to emergency rooms, get abused by opportunistic street villains, hurt by machinery etc.

I was very impressed how intelligent the Danes were. The family I lived with did not like paying 50% of their wages to taxes but they did like having free health care, free college education, and a healthy society. And they knew it. I do not think that the US can get there. We can't get to democratic socialism because of our Christian-capitalistic heritage prevents us to achieve it. Imagine socialism as invented by republicans, well you would end up with something like we already have , a failed system because they would have to include an opportunistic middle man in the plan, someone to make a profit upon others endeavors, which is why they are against the single payer structure in our upcoming health care proposals. And why do those very people who would benefit from a single payer system join the  capitalistic structure you ask? It is because  they have been brainwashed to believe that poor people are bad people and undesearving. They believe in the Abrahamic law and capitalism against their own self interest. We are brainwashed by our culture to only see answers in terms of the tools we have. The saying that a carpenter sees solutions only in terms of a hammer applies here.
 
Yes, Timothy you have struck the American chord, or may I say discord.  I must agree with James Lambert's critique of your insightful question and topic.  I, like my friend James, lived in three European countries in the sixties.  I lived and worked in England, Germany, and Holland and I found it much the same as James' description.   Funny thing, before I left for Europe I was told by the government that I would have a culture shock as a result of my "adjustment" to my relocation in Europe ~ after four and a half years of living in a socialistic environment the culture shock came only after coming back to the U.S.A.   What I experienced was an unpleasant realization of just how my country was, compared to what I thought it was.  It appeared as a dirty, unkept, uneducated, consumer ridden, racially divided, police state.  I wanted to leave America for I had fallen out of love with her.  

Forty years later I have come to terms with America.  From where I stand I see a third world country in the making. Thirty three years ago we chose to live in the inner city of Cleveland, Ohio.  My wife and I were optimistic and we thought we could "make a difference" ~ today we are realistic.  As realistic as James' last paragraph above.  We now feel hopeful that a miracle will save the day, but only if we work hard and together to achieve it.  It will take bringing love into the American equation for, I believe, our only hope is through a spiritual awakening and the concern of young people like     Timothy Neal.  
   
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