Wednesday, July 7, 2010

We Can't Get Our Paws out of the Sugar Bowl in Afghanistan

My father spent some of his young formative years in the 1930's in India, as a Protestant evangelist. In one his stories to me about that time in his life, my father told me about the simple method Indians used to capture a monkey. They would set out a bowl attached to a chain, containing sugar that is much loved by monkeys. The opening in the top of the bowl was small enough for a monkey to put its hand in, and grab a fistful of sugar. But the hole was too small for the monkey to pull a sugar-filled fist out of the bowl. The monkeys virtually always refused to release the sugar, even though they could easily have removed an empty hand from the sugar bowl, and thus escape.

It seems to me that the US now faces a similar situation in Afghanistan. Our fists are filled with so much history that is hard to release: the very sad deaths and maimings of the many American soldiers who have served so bravely in that country; the long history of our attempts to defeat the Taliban there, most recently through attempts to "win the hearts and minds" of the Afghanistanis; and our national pride that would cause us to lose face in the world if we lost this war as we did the one in Vietnam.

Many Americans seem to be in favor of our ending the war in Afghanistan by adhering to a firm date for removal of our troops. But Obama's deadline for doing this in July 2011 seems to become less firm the closer it comes. Isn't there some way that we could release our fistfuls of unfortunate history in that country, thus opening our hands and allowing us to leave the quagmire that Afghanistan has become ?

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