I had to put my newspaper down the other day after reading an article about six brave soldiers who recently joined the ranks of the "forever young" after an improvised explosive device went off in Afghanistan May 26, 2010. It's been a long 10 years.
War is not for the fainthearted, nor is it for the impatient. I am guilty on both counts, but believe I am not alone in my feelings as I come to understand that the cost of war expands far beyond America's diminishing treasure; our blood investment must indeed reap benefits beyond an "an eye for an eye." We are better than that.
With scant media reports about the positive impacts of our presence in Afghanistan, it's easy to fall prey to a feeling of hopelessness regarding our operations there. A cursory glance at Afghanistan seems to project a dysfunctional nation infested with godless, faceless, soulless lunatics who will stop at nothing to "kill all infidels." This type of generalization makes us worse than our enemy - because we know better.
It is far too easy to politicize a war. Those who believe that we should "cut and run," reveal their own cowardice and give no thought to the ramifications thereof - the certain and absolute loss of untold innocent lives. Think: Cambodia Vietnam. Now is not the time for Tuesday morning water cooler discussions about what could've, should've or would've been done yesterday. We are where we are, and must see things as they are - today. We must also see the faces of real Afghanis trying to make a difference.
"Skin" in advertising sells magazines the same way bad news sells newspapers. I had to search far and wide for good news regarding our military presence in Afghanistan, and found it at a little known website at goodafghannews.com:
• This spring, 32 Afghan students, including eight women, made history as the first graduating class of American University of Afghanistan. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, gave the keynote speech, and a video message recorded by former First Lady Laura Bush, well-known for her work to promote equality and quality of life for Middle East women, was played during the ceremony.
• New schools and universities are not the only things to sprout up throughout Afghanistan. New hospitals and airports are in process as well as the rebuilding of canal systems and wells that were utterly destroyed during the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. Once rebuilt, Afghanistan will have the ability to provide food, water, health care and transportation for its people, and boost its economy with new jobs and exports.
• The beverage industry in Afghanistan is growing at 30 percent annually and PepsiCo is building a $60 million plant in Kabul to distribute Pepsi products, which will create 800 additional jobs.
Although it seems that for every step forward, we take two back, in reality, we are slowly winning Afghani hearts and minds. The International Council on Security and Development completed a recent survey of 1,400 representatives throughout Afghanistan that found our military achievements "unquestionable," with the majority believing that NATO and the Afghan government are "winning the war."
Enjoying a cold Pepsi in Kabul or a woman graduating from college cannot make up for the loss of a single soldier's life, but these events remind us, and the Afghan populace we're not just there to kill Bin Laden, we're there to save a people from the grip of the savages among them who checked out of humanity a long time ago. And for that, the sacrifice is not in vain.
Getting lost in the darkness of war has a tendency to overshadow its purpose, and sometimes we need to be reminded why it is good to take the next step forward. In his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, author J.R.R. Tolkien amply explained "why," when his character, Sam, encouraged his buddy Frodo to continue in the fight. Tolkien wrote, "By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are... It is only a passing thing, this shadow... A new day will come... There's some good in this world... and it's worth fighting for."
• Susan Stamper Brown is a nationally syndicated columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org