Letter: It is time to lend a helping hand

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Project Anaconda has had quite mixed results. The United States has been training an Afghan army. Part of that army has been utilized in the recent heavy fighting in the Gardez area. At first the Afghan forces retreated when they were badly needed. But their American instructor continued working with them until now, at the end of the engagement, they have improved a great deal and will be used to search caves for any lingering al-Qaida. The Afghan army is composed of forces that have long disagreed with one another. As part of its continued long-term plan, the American "central command" will train the Afghans further and work at helping the factions mediate their differences and show them methods of mediating their own problems. This is an excellent goal and it is hoped that after the training to date and the fighting together that "such ties will enable the U.S. military to help establish an Afghan national army capable of preventing terrorist inroads in the country." The bulk of U.S. forces should be withdrawn from Afghanistan quickly, leaving behind sufficient troops to take care of any additional flare-ups.
Our troops are now spread from Afghanistan to Kuwait, Georgia, the Philippines, etc. In addition to training Afghan troops and helping to feed the Afghan people, the United States is working harder at making friends with the intention of rooting out terrorism, but there are still other things to be done. We need to continue asking why the al-Qaida came into existence in the first place and why many people and countries are still angry with the United States. It is partly because of the immense disparity in material goods. There are still many millions of people that starve to death every year. It seems to me that if we helped supply clothing, food, medicines and such things as water purification tablets, it would help us as well as the recipients of the aid. A very important part of any such undertaking would be careful monitoring to see that supplies are distributed equitably and that corruption be kept to a minimum. Such an undertaking would require a lot of money, but it could come from part of the enormous budget for the military. We are already so far ahead of other countries and combinations of countries that we don't need so much military hardware. On leaving office, President Eisenhower warned us to watch out for the military-industrial complex. The people in the Middle East and many other countries admire the democratic form of government the United States had, but they don't know how to put it into effect. We could help some that have a strong desire to change, but it is not easy. After all, the United States had 169 years of practice in an isolated area before declaring independence. By doing everything we can to gain the confidence and good will of other nations, we can cut down on the number of those who, like the al-Qaida, wish us ill.
Another thing we can do is to offer more scholarships for Arabic studies such as Arabic language, history, culture, customs, etc. We could do the same in other areas deemed worthwhile.
Jerry Rudolph
Steamboat Springs

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