Sunday, November 29, 2009

Youthful Thinking

Two events surfaced last week that reinforce my conviction that the Beltway is a sheltered workshop for arrested adolescents. The Obama administration announced it would not sign an international convention banning land mines, and it appears likely that Obama will ask for an additional 30,000 troops for his Afghan quagmire.

The treaty banning the production and use of antipersonnel landmines was signed in 1999 by 150 countries, including all of our NATO allies. The United States said, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

The treaty was inked at a time when the millions of landmines scattered indiscriminately over the face of the earth (some dating back to WW II) were killing and maiming some 26,000 people a year. Because of the treaty, that number has dropped to 5,000 a year and some two million antipersonnel mines have been cleared.

The philosophy behind the antipersonnel mine is particularly onerous. The aim of the mine is to maim, not to kill. The thinking is that if an enemy combatant is killed, his buddies let him lstay where he fell. If, however, the mine maims, then two to four combatants will be tied up carrying him back to the nearest aid station.

The announcement that the administration would not sign the treaty was an exercise in adolescent thinking. The administration has promised to review the treaty with an eye to seeing if the United States would reverse itself and sign it.

State Department Ian Kelly said the review was completed and the decision made not to sign the treaty because Washington “would not be able to meet our national defense needs, nor our security commitments to our friends and allies if we sign the [landmine] convention.”

It’s the same old story: give a boy a toy and he’s loathe to give it up. Gotta strut your stuff, you know.

Well, all hell broke loose, so the next day, the selfsame Kelly, with a straight face, announced that, golly gee, the review was still ongoing.

Senator Patrick Leahy called the decision a “default of U.S. leadership.”

Hell! What cave have you been living in, Patrick? This is U.S. leadership at its finest. We are a militarized security state, and militarized security states leave all options on the table, no matter how many people they kill or maim.

And all options appear to be on the table when it comes to Afghanistan, said options being rumored to include an additional 30,000 troops to fight a war military experts agree cannot be won militarily.

Obama says it is a war we must win. Retired Army Col Andrew J. Bacevich says it’s a war we cannot win. “But for some reason, Obama views this remote, landlocked, primitive Central Asian country as a vital U.S. security interest.”

It’s the old Beltway philosophy that it is far better to lose than to cut your losses and withdraw.

Writer Ron Smith, who quoted Bacevich in his article, concludes that, “It seems insane, doesn’t it? We’re deep in a debt pit and digging our self even deeper, soothed by the conceit that America is too big to fail, even though all previous world hegemons have in the end failed. We think of ourselves as an exception to that historical record, but the chances are we’re not.”

True. How many adolescents have died doing something stupid?

America has to do something with her arrested adolescents, and the Beltway is as good a place as any to warehouse them. But someone should really take their toys away.


Cirze said...

Great essay!

Wish I were more awake right now as I'd remember who it was that was the money behind the American landmine business precluding our signing the treaty.

It will come to me.

Anybody else remember?


Case Wagenvoord said...

I'm not sure if its money or simple momentum and an inability to think outside the national security box.

TAO Walker said...

Better sound-proof the wreck-room (sp.?), too, while you're at it.


Ivan Hentschel said...

More often than not, "Youthful thinking" is a contradiction in terms, just like "military intelligence". The US has always viewed its' military arsenal as a giant toy box of "gizmos" , with which to "play", consequences and collateral damaged be damned. The only aspect of this that we have to be even remotely thankful for, is that no one in that giant sandbox has seen fit to play with the one labled "nuclear weapon" since Nagasaki.