During the 1990s, victory in the Cold War seemed more than just a triumph over the Soviet Union.
“On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country…” That is the oath every Boy Scout pledges at every meeting. It also seems to be the spirit with which Robert Gates, former Eagle Scout and currently president of the Boy Scouts Of America, approached the job of Secretary of Defense between 2006 and 2011 and wrote a memoir that shows the scout spirit’s nobility – as well as limitations in positions of leadership. Since that spirit combines individual responsibility with teamwork, the higher the position the more problematic is the spirit.
Statesmen’s memoirs serve as records of events and, most importantly, as sources of insights into them. Incidentally, they tell us about the author’s character. This book’s comments on the character of President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and lesser folk have drawn attention, but are of no enduring interest.
President Obama said in his Veterans Day remarks at Arlington National Cemetery Monday that when responsibility for security in Afghanistan is transferred next year, America’s “longest war” will come to a close. But America’s longest war, the ongoing war on terror, was authorized by a Congressional resolution—the Authorization for Use of Military Force—whose alteration or repeal he endorsed six months ago but that will almost certainly endure. The promised “engagement” with Congress about its repeal has not occurred because a variety of actions and policies in the war on terrorism, from drone attacks to detention, depend on the AUMF remaining in force. The longest war persists for reasons of the longest motive: power.
The PRISM/NSA program of collecting call records of millions upon millions of Americans will surely dominate our national political conversation for the foreseeable future. The issue obviously touches privacy concerns we all have while hitting other uncomfortable spots. Release of the PRISM program obviously builds on the anxiety of the current scandals that have come to light in the Benghazi, IRS, AP and James Rosen surveillance fiascos, among others. Americans, it seems, are on a rendezvous with destiny of losing faith in the federal government as a whole because of the failures of its current leadership class found at the top of the administrative, diplomatic, and security departments and agencies. It can’t happen soon enough.
Should, as the saying goes, the road to hell be paved with good intentions, a good stretch of it by now must surely run through Afghanistan, courtesy of the US tax-payer. It does provided war journalist Douglas A. Wissing is correct in what he contends in his absorbing, if at times repetitious, new book, Funding the Enemy: How the US Taxpayers Bankroll the Taliban. Built to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people after America invaded their country in the wake of 9/11, the stones used to pave this metaphorical road have been the many actual roads and other development projects that US tax dollars have been used for to undermine support for the Taliban. In reality, argues Wissing, a not inconsiderable proportion of these tax dollars has gone into financing and revitalize them.