Remembering 9/11. Forgetting Afghanistan.

Posted on September 20, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Government, In the News | Tags: , , , , , , |


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Last Monday marked the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. A few days later, Dakota Meyer became the latest recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in a war that the US waged as a result of these attacks. Though we all remember 9/11, where we were and what we were doing, how many of us continue to remember Afghanistan?

Part of me was happy that I had actually known about Meyer’s actions before Obama presented him with the award. But I was also frustrated and disgusted that I hadn’t known about so many others’ actions. Worse, I couldn’t articulate what those actions were accomplishing, or what our endstate is for Afghanistan.

Why don’t most of us know more about Afghanistan? Is it because we think the issue is too complex? Because we don’t have time?  Because we don’t care? For me, I wanted to keep a very scary reality at arm’s length, an sorta irrational form of denial.

Ten years after 9/11, polls show that Afghanistan is not a top concern to Americans.  There are  ‘more pressing’ issues like the recession, gas prices, inflation, and a crumbling housing market to worry about. But if we are sending men and women to a remote dusty country, breaking up families for up to a year (and sadly, sometimes a lifetime) shouldn’t we care a little more?  Who can articulate in one sentence why the United States is still committing its forces there?  Or what the definition of victory is?

I consider myself a reasonably well-informed citizen, but I can’t answer these question anymore. I don’t even think our President (or the last one) can, despite the Ivy League sophism. This bothers me. Not as a Marine wife who is preparing for my husband’s deployment to the graveyard of empires. Not as a tax-payer who finances the war’s costs. Not even a dorky Risk player who could tell you it doesn’t matter how many men you have, you can’t control Asia. It bothers me as an American that sends men and women to go fight my battles for me. Perhaps its time that we, as a society, start becoming more informed.

The first step to gaining insight is to determine the source of our ignorance.  If you stroll through Proverbs, you will find that knowledge and wisdom are very closely connected with the concept of discipline. Proverbs 12:1 says, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge.” ”The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge but fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Prov 1:7).  Reading these verses is sobering.  The Bible says that discipline, not enough “free time” or interest in the topic at hand, is the key to knowledge.

If we as a country want to continue in Afghanistan, ordering young men and women to commit violence on our behalf, we owe it to them to provide a reason for that sacrifice.  Our mission should be defined, and our desired endstate achievable.

I know this post is somewhat of a Debby Downer, violating my commitment to try to keep things light. I’ll try to keep the depressing posts to a minimum. But I think the problem with September 11th is that politicians and frankly the American populous are intentionally keeping this topic too blithe and vague. We may continue to remember 9/11, but we’re forgetting Afghanistan by not knowing anything about this war. I pray we aren’t becoming the fools who despise discipline and knowledge.

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