Soul Search in Afghanistan – Oak Park
Afghanistan is a local problem because some of our neighbors have served there and because each of us is responsible on our own small scale for what we have done or have not done over the past two decades in this country.
I will preface everything I say with comments from Dr. Paul Roach who completed two tour service as a Navy surgeon in Afghanistan.
Commitment to allies
Are our promises ethical or transactional?
Roach: “The president / my president,” Paul wrote in an email, “talks about ending the war, but he didn’t mention the end of the partnership we had forged. … Whether it was a good initial idea or not, after 20 years we were partners… and then we ditched them.
I got to know many entrepreneurs in the city by being a member of our Chamber of Commerce for 30 years now. Many are ethical people who keep their promises even if it hurts their results.
But others, when I bring up the topic of ethics, respond by saying, “It’s business, Tom. Ethics are not part of the game. It’s just for business.
You see the analogy with foreign policy. One definition of realpolitik is “a system of policies or principles based on practical considerations rather than moral or ideological”.
Why does keeping His promises apply to my marriage, my friendships, my religious community, my part-time job at the Journal, but suddenly ethics don’t apply to business or to foreign policy?
Or, is moral behavior possible between people who have face-to-face relationships but is it impossible between societies or nations that are, in a sense, abstractions?
“After 20 years,” says Roach, “we were partners because we had brought many of the 38,000,000 Afghans into a modern existence. A whole new generation as well, and we’ve taken many of them a long way to believe that the West is good. We taught girls that they can and should be educated. We taught women that they have rights … and then we dumped them.
Before my son was born, I took Lamaze classes which taught fathers to be present while their wives were in labor. They kept telling us, “You were interested enough to be there for conception, and you better be there for labor and delivery as well.”
Polls show that most Americans don’t want another son or daughter killed in Afghanistan. I agree with this wish. However, the Fact Check website reported that over the past six years, 100 servicemen have been killed there. It’s 17 per year. Compare that with the statistics reported on the Officer Down memorial page, which so far this year has revealed 287 police officers have died in this country in the line of duty in the past nine months.
Be the judge. Is 16 deaths a year too high a price to help a nation of 38,000,000 maintain the same freedoms we hold so dear, especially when we made the promise to do so?
Dr Roach says, “I feel like it was screwed up from the start; not at the lower levels, but above, at the highest strategic level.
My father hated war, but when he was drafted he did his duty. He flew 50 missions in a B26 bomber in the Korean conflict. I think he would do the same in Afghanistan if he was 25 today and called to serve.
Check out this quote from the History website regarding the Vietnam War. “Although each president [from Truman to Ford] privately expressed doubts about US involvement, no one wanted to be blamed for losing Vietnam to the Communists.
Mayor Hoskins must constantly make decisions that are never universally supported by all residents. Mayor Hoskins and Tony Calderone and Lorraine Popelka before him have never made decisions that have cost Forest Parkers their lives or billions of dollars. Most of us can see that they were trying to balance competing interests, so we give them a break at election time. In other words, they have not betrayed our fundamental trust in government.
But in my lifetime, so many leaders at higher levels – Illinois governors, US presidents, Catholic bishops, and even popes – have failed to lead with character and skill.
So Dr. Roach and many commentators are calling for a season of “soul searching”. I agree, and my next question is “whose soul is to be searched and who is to be searched?” “
I just started looking for my own soul and here is a report on what I found. First, I want my government to behave as ethically as I do. It is not “just business” and it is not “fair politics”. That I don’t always behave ethically is not the problem. Ethics should always be a part of our evaluation behavior, both at the personal level and at the company level.
Second, we have an obligation to help build other nations. God is not American. From God’s point of view, America First is a very questionable point of view. From a practical point of view too. To paraphrase the golden rule: love other countries in the world as you love America.
And finally, incompetent leaders are a problem, but in a representative democracy, we are the ones who elect our leaders. Voting is the bare minimum. As we probe our souls, we must first blame ourselves because we are the ones voting these leaders.
Tom Holmes writes for our sister publication, the Forest Park Review.