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Are we really protecting America?

Going to war is the most serious decision any nation can make because what is at risk is nothing less than our only true treasure, our sons, our daughters, our fathers and mothers, our future leaders.

And so President Barack Obama gave a thoughtful and sincere consideration to the request by the American military to expand the war in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, his decision seems to reflect the American commitment to the influence of the military/industrial industry more than to the security of the American people.

For to justify our soon-to-be decade of war in Afghanistan the argument must be that our national security is at risk.

Only then should an American president be permitted to commit our troops without a congressional declaration of war.

So does Afghanistan place at risk the security of America? Consider the facts:

Our military tells us that there is little evidence of any Al Qaeda activity in Afghanistan, that the current role of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is one of “influence” only.

Al Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden, if still alive, are widely thought to be hiding in the mountainous region of Pakistan that borders Afghanistan. It is thought that their numbers, greatly reduced by 3,000 killed by the U.S. and our allies, may number a few hundred in total.

They no longer have the capability to construct training camps or occupy territory.

Beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan Al Qaeda has become a brand name, a generic description of terrorists and terrorism practiced anywhere upon the planet. Whether in Somalia or Indonesia, when terrorists groups act Al Qaeda is mentioned.

So the brand of Al Qaeda remains in the public eye, but the organization itself remains a few hundred men hiding in the hills of Pakistan.

Are they a threat to America? Can they defeat us as a nation?

Perhaps more to the point can we justify 100,000 troops in Afghanistan and 50,000 troops in Iraq, at a cost of $1 billion every three days to fight these hundreds of enemies dispersed in the countryside and hiding from the world?

Maybe if we toss the Taliban into the mix we can justify the investment in American lives and treasure. The Taliban, we are told by our military, numbers as high as 25,000 in the combat season.

In the winter months that number is considerably lower as combat is reduced. It seems that many of the Afghanistan Army regulars serve as Taliban soldiers in the summers because the Taliban pays better than the Karzai government.

So with our NATO committed troops we will have nearly 140,000 soldiers at the peak of the Afghanistan surge, complimented by an Afghan Army of at least 130,000 and the Afghan police force.

This force of over 300,000 will be poised to combat the 25,000 seasonal Taliban and the few hundred Al Qaeda.

So far we are told by our military we are not winning this war. We outnumber the enemy by ten to one or more and we are not winning the war. And our military experts tell us we had to commit more troops to the war effort.

In an unrelated matter U.S. sales of military hardware in the Middle East are soaring, with several nations so impressed with our high tech equipment that they have decided to arm themselves with all the new weapons demonstrated in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Protecting America in Afghanistan seems to be defeating a few hundred Al Qaeda and a few thousands of Taliban at a cost of a billion dollars every three days. Feeling safer yet?

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Tribune and a former educator at Ohio University Southern.