"WOW!" That was the expression used by Lesley Stahl in her interview with the departed commander in Iraq, Gen. Raymond Odierno, on 60 MINUTES yesterday when he told her that "it is yet to be determined" whether Iran will become the biggest beneficiary of the Iraq war. This was after it was reported in the New York Times that the newest attempt to form a coalition government in Iraq now includes the supporters of Moktada al-Sadar against whom American and Iraqi troops fought so violently in 2007, and who the current administration feels would have strong ties with Iran, thus increasing their influence in Iraq. So, after seven years, 4,500+ lives lost, no telling how many hundreds of billions of dollars spent and a Middle East now more fragile than ever, we learn that the very country we would least want to rise in influence in that region is now on the verge of doing that very thing. I agree - WOW!
As that conflict supposedly winds down with the largest movement of troops and material since WWII, we find just the reverse in the war de jour - Afghanistan, geographically separated from Iraq by only one country. Guess who? Iran. Just this past weekend I was privileged to hear an officer in our armed forces, who had just returned from Afghanistan, describe first hand what's going on there. Obviously, we all know about the surge which brings with it another significant movement of troops and material, but under much more difficult circumstances than moving out of Iraq including weather, lack of infrastructure in many places, multi-tribalism, corruption and the absence of a strong central government. What was news to me, however, is the apparent fragmentation and friction among our individual "coalition" forces (e.g. Britain, Germany, Italy, etc.), as well as with NATO itself. Much like Berlin after WWII, the country has been divvied up between coalition forces where each force is responsible for its own sector to the extent that there are sometimes even communication problems between these forces, caused not by language barriers but, rather, hardware incompatibility. While hopeful, this young man did not seem very encouraged by his experience. So, at a time we are winding down in one theater where the measure of success is very much in doubt, we're cranking it up in another where there may be even less chance to achieve a meaningful purpose, particularly if we continue to alienate Pakistan. This was another WOW moment for me.
And then there was the report in yesterday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette by David Zucchino of the Los Angeles Times that the U.S. military is now going "back to basics" and concentrate on fighting big wars. To quote that article: "Drained of grueling efforts to win over civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military is refocusing on fighting and killing the enemy, not nation-building". In the words of Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, "The United States is unlikely to repeat a mission on the scale of those in Iraq or Afghanistan anytime soon. Instead, U.S. forces will probably be called on to help other countries' armies defend themselves, particularly against terrorist attacks, but also against conventional armies". To further quote Lawrence Korb, Assistant Secretary of Defense, "We aren't going to be doing counterinsurgency again.... We're not good at it". WOW again! What a great time to figure that out, just as we today absorb the latest travel alert for Americans going anywhere in Europe as a direct result of another more general terrorist threat.
And, finally, while we have been bogged down with these two conflicts for almost a decade, excluding Iraq 1, we now learn that China has cornered the market on rare-earth oxides that are essential in building the very arms necessary for our defense weapons to fight these wars, as well as building electric vehicles and wind turbines, both elements of our transition to a green economy. And this latest revelation is on top of them buying up all of the conventional minerals they can world-wide, purchasing billions of dollars of our debt, manufacturing a slew of our imported products which are apparently subsidized with currency manipulation and more recently slapping a tariff on our poultry exported to China. WOW! WOW! WOW! WOW! We need to get "back to basics" all right, but in more ways than one, in my view.
Laura Raborn at http://paintingsofhome.com and http://claygifts.com
Jim Johnson at http://yessy.com/jimjohnson/gallery.html
Russ Powell at http://powellphotos.com
Linda Flake at http://lindaflake.com
Tom Herrin at http://tommysart.blogspot.com
Matt McLeod at http://firstname.lastname@example.org
Artists Registry at http://www.arkansasarts.org/programs/registry/default.aspx
Sandy Hubler Fine Art at http://sandyhublerfineart.com
George Wittenberg at http://postcard-art-gallery.com
Local Colour Gallery at http://localcolourgallery.com
Chroma Gallery at http://chromagallery.com
Cantrell Gallery at http://cantrellgallery.com
Greg Thompson Fine Art at http://gregthompsonfineart.com
Red Door Gallery at http://reddoorgalleryonline.com
M2 Gallery at http://m2lr.com
UALR Gallery Program at http://ualr.edu/art
Gallery 26 at http://gallery26.com