Mission Accomplished—Not

Posted 2 May 2011 by
USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) Mission Accomplished

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) Mission Accomplished (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Juan E. Diaz. (RELEASED), 2 May 2003)

My guess is that every US citizen alive on September 11, 2001, has their reminder of the day. As I type this, my reminder is about 1 to 2 miles from me, the USS Abraham Lincoln at its current homeport at Naval Station Everett.

More importantly, it was a lesson in how not to solve a problem.

There is an old joke about someone trying to find a lost coin that runs into another person outside, on the sidewalk.

Person 1. Where did you lose the coin?

Person 2. Oh, down in my basement.

Person 1. Why are you looking here, out on the sidewalk?

Person 2. The light is much better here.

To translate this into the events of the past 10 years, it needs to read a little different.

Person 1. Where was the terror attack planned?

Person 2. In Afghanistan, by Al Qaeda.

Person 1. Why are you sending troops to Iraq to attack Saddam Hussein and his regime, who the leadership of Al Qaeda wants removed from office?

Person 2. It is easier to look in Iraq, instead of Afghanistan or Pakistan.

Why you would ever remove your eye from the prize—a prize sought out by Presidents Clinton and Bush—until you found Osama Bin Laden is beyond me. While Hussein needed to be dealt with one day, he was not the immediate issue, nor an immediate threat to the United States. (Found those weapons of mass destruction yet?)

My thoughts are not about silly priorities, though. They are about what comes next.

We have to realize that the death of Bin Laden does not make things even. To think so insults the memory of those who died on September 11, 2001. It insults those that died on the USS Cole when Al Qaeda attacked that ship. It insults those who died in Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban with Al Qaeda support.

Those lives were not so insignificant that it takes the death of thousands to equal one despot.

We need to stop speaking of finally getting even. That is impossible. Trying to even things up will never be possible. It only makes us bitter if we try. Now that Bin Laden is dead, it is a chance to move on with change we can believe in.

Where do we move? History gives us some ideas on what to do and what not to do, provided we want peace and prosperity.

After World War I, the winning allies tried to make Germany pay for what it did. This resulted in hyper-inflation, misery, and an unstable political system that opened the way for Adolf Hitler.

After World War II, the United States instituted the Marshall Plan, which included aid to (West) Germany and Italy. There has not been another international European war since then.

The Marshall Plan was not perfect. In many ways, this plan was self-serving for the interests of the United States. Even so, the basic idea worked. Conditions in Europe have not drawn the United States into another war in Europe.

How much do we want peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

We have not accomplished the mission yet. I firmly believe a comment I saw in my Twitter feed on Sunday evening. Reworking that idea a bit, we could not win without something happening to Bin Ladden, but something happening to Bin Ladden does not mean we have won. Now, the hard work begins.

While Al Qaeda still requires dismantling, we need to take away anything that fuels its existence. How do we bring the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan to the point where they demand democratic reforms and will not settle for less? How do these people become like Moroccans and Egyptians?

It will not be attained at the point of a gun. It will be attained only with economic improvements.

We need to dust off the Marshall Plan, bringing other nations with us into the next part of the battle for peace, not the battle for death. With the results of World War I, do we have any other choice?

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