The Zero Option

Bill Tatro
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Posted: Jul 18, 2013 12:01 AM

It’s a straightforward lesson that should be very understandable for everyone — just think of the countless number of times that people have been to the beach in order to spend hours and hours playing with their children or grandchildren by building sandcastles.  Yet, no matter how much time, work, effort, and money that can be put forth in constructing the perfect sand edifice in the eye of the builder, the outcome is always inevitable.  Even if you start at sunrise and work diligently into the night — as a result of the inescapable high tide — it’s as though nothing had ever been there at all.  

Last year, my favorite U.S. Senator, John McCain (R-AZ), said that in order to justify the deaths of 2,000 American soldiers in the Afghan war; we should send another 2,000 soldiers and put them into harm’s way.  So, what does a sandcastle and the McCain statement have in common?  In fact, what does any of this have in common with the “zero option” in Afghanistan?  With the greatest amount of respect for the past military record of Senator McCain, he has somehow lost his sense of reality regarding the tragic loss of 2,000 young Americans.  While it’s obviously of no concern to some people, I struggle mightily with rationalizing the loss of 2,000 troops by putting another 2,000 soldiers into harm’s way.  With Afghanistan historically built upon thousands of years of tribalism, chicanery, and an individualistic way of life, the outcome of the war is truly inevitable.    

As much as this Afghan “zero option” is being talked about as a far-fetched alternative, it perhaps makes the most sense of any previously discussed strategy because of the following:

  • It’s an unwinnable war

  • Just like high tide, the sands of time will eradicate everything that has come beforehand, thus making it seem as though the American military was never in Afghanistan at all     

  • Placing another young American life into harm’s way may sound good at the Washington, D.C. cocktail parties, but it doesn’t play well on Main Street  

How many people remember the number of Russian soldiers that were killed in the nine-year Soviet war in Afghanistan?  If the Russian people had a choice at that time, I’m quite sure they wouldn’t have thought the “zero option” was so far-fetched.  And if you ask the average U.S. citizen about this newly proposed “zero option,” they would probably agree that it’s the best choice.  Irrespective of all the idle chatter, the die has been cast.  In my opinion, the “zero option” will definitely be implemented.  However, if you ask Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai about the prospects of a “zero option” — with all the covert negotiations currently taking place behind his back — Karzai’s answer might be unpredictable.  In fact, he’ll probably have his very own question:  When it comes to the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, or the Afghan people, where do the true sympathies of President Obama lie?