Blogging Obama’s War

CNN’s got a promising new effort to involve people in what is likely to become one of the two key discussion points over the next 3 years:  The growing US War in Afghanistan (the other is obviously the US / Global economy)     Here’s the Afghanistan war blog

In my view it is very hard to comment wisely about details and policy without a lot more of the “secret” military information – threat assessments, probabilities, estimates of deaths.    Without this it is simply not reasonable to attempt to evaluate the complex international military strategies of Obama or any president.

If, for example, there is good reason to believe that the terrorists have a good chance of destabilizing Pakistan and taking over intercontinental nuclear missles the stakes are very high indeed.   If that is extremely unlikely it changes the game considerably.

It is odd to me how people who argued Obama was “a communist / marxist”   refuse to grasp the obvious reality of his moderate policies.   Few Marxists or far left folks (outside of China! 😆 )  supported Obama.  They will call this a simple extension of US imperialistic power.   For many moderates the hypocrisy is also glaring.     They called Bush was a “war monger” but now seem very comfortable with Obama’s very similar military directions.    I’ve spoken about this with several who remain generally supportive of the President’s international efforts.   It is as if they are more interested in how we talk about war than how we prosecute these wars.

Lost in the details of the military aspects of the strategies is the calculation that addresses the single most important concern – do the benefits of US security and help to the Afghans outweigh the losses they and we will endure over the next three years?

I can’t second guess our leaders on this, but I’d sure like to see the numbers.     Like others I’m waiting anxiously to hear the president’s speech tonight but I doubt it will shed much light on how many people will die, even though these estimates are a critical part of the strategic process at the Pentagon.

Although I believe you can make a case for war in some cases, it’s absolutely immoral to fail to adequately determine if the benefits outweigh the massive human costs.     I know Obama tried to do this, but he should tell us what went into the calculations.    These are not simple calculations, but contrary to what many assert you *must” place values on lives whenever deaths are going to happen.    Do you try to do this directly (with numbers and specific assumptions) or indirectly with vague or general assertions and assumptions.    The government will maintain the pretense of thoughtfulness even when indirect and vague policies are driving things forward.

Governments often do many types of comparisons that shed a lot of light on how to move forward.      Transportation and Environmental agencies do this type of thing all the time when deciding how much to spend on safety / health / etc.   In those calculations lives in the USA are each worth about two to five million dollars.    It’s about time we started publishing a lot more information about the rationale for these numbers, and publishing the military rationale for the massive numbers of civilian casualties in our wars.    People don’t like to know their life has a very finite value to agencies of the  government (as it should by the way), but as we move into the challenges we’ll face from countries where lives are effectively valued by their leaders and governments  in  “hundreds of dollars” rather than “millions of dollars” as here in the USA.