Not Worth It
Right-leaning columnist George Will released a bombshell column Tuesday calling for the removal of almost all ground troops in Afghanistan. His reason? That Godforsaken country just isn't worth the amount of blood and treasure necessary to control it militarily. In other words, it's a lost cause.
The U.S. strategy is "clear, hold and build." Clear? Taliban forces can evaporate and then return, confident that U.S. forces will forever be too few to hold gains. Hence nation-building would be impossible even if we knew how, and even if Afghanistan were not the second-worst place to try: The Brookings Institution ranks Somalia as the only nation with a weaker state.
Military historian Max Hastings says Kabul controls only about a third of the country -- "control" is an elastic concept -- and " 'our' Afghans may prove no more viable than were 'our' Vietnamese, the Saigon regime." Just 4,000 Marines are contesting control of Helmand province, which is the size of West Virginia. The New York Times reports a Helmand official saying he has only "police officers who steal and a small group of Afghan soldiers who say they are here for 'vacation.' " Afghanistan's $23 billion gross domestic product is the size of Boise's. Counterinsurgency doctrine teaches, not very helpfully, that development depends on security, and that security depends on development. Three-quarters of Afghanistan's poppy production for opium comes from Helmand. In what should be called Operation Sisyphus, U.S. officials are urging farmers to grow other crops. Endive, perhaps?
Some things, in politics just like everywhere else, just aren't worth the price.
Those of you Deadheads who can remember the era before the whole Grateful Dead scene became mainstreamed will recall how precious The Grateful Dead Hour with host David Gans was. It was really the only place where you could legally hear material that had not been officially released. It may as well have been called "The Grateful Dead Bootleg Hour." Many times we would actually turn off our stereo on Saturday nights at midnight when it came on, even if we were in the middle of a party. And that was an era when every Saturday night meant a party.
The Grateful Dead Hour still exists, although the specialness it had in the pre-internet era has been reduced by the fact that most everything the Dead ever recorded is now in some way available online. Frankly, I haven't heard the show in years. But I'm saddened to hear that host David Gans has suffered a heart attack, which he describes in detail on his blog:
Something wasn’t right. Ordinarily I would have made another cup of coffee before hitting the road, and I would have had more to eat in anticipation of a long drive with few dining options. I can’t say I had an upset stomach, but I found myself uninterested in food or coffee. Last night’s dinner wasn’t all that bad, but I allowed myself to believe I might have a touch of indigestion or food poisoning.
It was a sort of hot pressure in my chest. One of the reasons I didn’t immediately go for help was that I had felt the same thing four days earlier, after a vigorous bike ride across San Francisco for a lunch date at the Beach Chaletwith a group of friends. On that occasion, the burning subsided in ten or fifteen minutes and I didn’t think much more about it. I had no further discomfort on my ride back that day, nor on subsequent days’ rides.
When I woke up Thursday morning, I had a much more intense version of that pressure in my chest. And this time, the hot pressure didn’t subside.
Gans is also a talented musician and that's his latest record above. To read about the whole heart attack ordeal click here. Let's hope he recovers really quick.
Kelsey Flynn saw a hawk eating a squirrel near her house and took this picture:
Um, I don't think think I would have photographed such a thing.
Today in Hamp
Traversing the woodland way into downtown Northampton this morning I spotted this anti-police graffiti.
Hey cops aren't pigs, they're bears, like this one stuck on a post at Smith College.
Some beautiful flowers on State Street.
Also on State Street I ran into Valley Advocate editor-in-chief and popular outdoors writer Tom Vannah riding his mountain bike.
A fly in the window of Faces.
At the beloved Miss Flo's Diner they are having a special on Irish cuisine.
Northampton mayoral candidate Mike Bardsley has opened a campaign headquarters.
I wouldn't wish the job of Mayor of Northampton on anyone. On the one hand you have a thriving downtown that requires pro-business policies, while at the same time you have an outside downtown electorate that leans so far to the left it's practically socialist. How to balance the two constituencies successfully is a real political high wire act.
For all you pregnant people.