On Memorial Day, the NYT editorial board contemplates the “Groundhog Day” war in Afghanistan, as the administration contemplates a request from the Pentagon for an additional 5,000 troops. Excerpt:
The United States has spent 16 years fighting the longest war in its history at a cost of more than $800 billion and 2,000 American lives. Where there is still no peace, and where everything seems to be going backward. Where the Taliban has regained the initiative, attacking as it pleases and expanding its territorial reach, and where other extremists — Al Qaeda and the Islamic State — also have a foothold.There are now about 8,400 American troops in Afghanistan. Military commanders have asked for reinforcements of up to 5,000 more. Just a modest increase, they argue, a “mini” surge of troops. But 5,000 troops would boost the American commitment by roughly 60 percent, a sizable reinvestment in a conflict that President Barack Obama had promised was drawing to a close.It is not unusual for American military commanders to ask for more troops and weapons in pursuit of victory. But can they make a decisive difference? How can 3,000 or even 5,000 more American troops ensure victory when the United States at one point had a force of nearly 100,000 in Afghanistan and was unable to defeat the Taliban and stabilize the country? And what would victory look like anyway?
Regardless of whether the generals get their 5,000 additional U.S. troops, the White House is pressuring allies including Canada to send troops, and Australia has already modestly increased its contingent, though some are asking “What’s the point?”
In Iraq, PM Abadi is said to expect the battle for Mosul to conclude within a week, after the death or injury of more than 30,000 civilians.
Oil well fire in Kirkuk, apparently result of sabotage.
UN warns of water and food shortages for the 200,000 civilians still trapped in IS held territory in Mosul.
Mad Dog announces “annhilation tactics” against IS, says that civilian casualties are “a fact of life.”
Poet Archibald MacLeish wrote this for his brother, who died in World War I.
Ambassador Puser the ambassador
Reminds himself in French, felicitous tongue,
What these (young men no longer) lie here for
In rows that once, and somewhere else, were young . . .
All night in Brussels the wind had tugged at my door:
I had heard the wind at my door and the trees strung
Taut, and to me who had never been before
In that country it was a strange wind, blowing
Steadily, stiffening the walls, the floor,
The roof of my room. I had not slept for knowing
He too, dead, was a stranger in that land
And felt beneath the earth in the wind’s flowing
A tightening of roots and would not understand,
Remembering lake winds in Illinois,
That strange wind. I had felt his bones in the sand
. . . Reflects that these enjoy
Their country’s gratitude, that deep repose,
That peace no pain can break, no hurt destroy,
That rest, that sleep . . .
At Ghent the wind rose.
There was a smell of rain and a heavy drag
Of wind in the hedges but not as the wind blows
Over fresh water when the waves lag
Foaming and the willows huddle and it will rain:
I felt him waiting.
. . . Indicates the flag
Which (may he say) enisles in Flanders plain
This little field these happy, happy dead
Have made America . . .
In the ripe grain
The wind coiled glistening, darted, fled,
Dragging its heavy body: at Waereghem
The wind coiled in the grass above his head:
Waiting—listening . . .
. . . Dedicates to them
This earth their bones have hallowed, this last gift
A grateful country . . .
Under the dry grass stem
The words are blurred, are thickened, the words sift
Confused by the rasp of the wind, by the thin grating
Of ants under the grass, the minute shift
And tumble of dusty sand separating
From dusty sand. The roots of the grass strain,
Tighten, the earth is rigid, waits—he is waiting—
And suddenly, and all at once, the rain!
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