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Rotary Club hosts local war historian as its guest speaker

By Staff | Nov 5, 2009

A Florida Gulf Coast University professor and wartime historian discussed the war in Afghanistan and Iraq at the Rotary Club of Cape Coral’s weekly meeting Wednesday.
Guest speaker Dr. Peter Bergerson has been an educator for 42 years. Before becoming a professor at FGCU eight years ago, he taught at Southwest Missouri State University for 34 years.
Paul Sanborn, Rotary Club speaker chairman, said he chose Bergerson because of his resume. He added that Bergerson is a war historian and would discuss Afghanistan, which is a timely subject.
“(I have) been a student of politics and foreign policy since my senior year in high school,” Bergerson said.
His first interest in Afghanistan grew in the 1980s when the Russians were there and the United States supported the Taliban to drive them out in 1989.
Bergerson began his discussion at Wednesday’s meeting by explaining the background of Afghanistan and how it has turned into the country it is today.
He said Afghanistan, a poor country due the average monthly income of approximately $50, currently has a population of 34 million.
Bergerson explained that Afghanistan is rural, tribal and mountainous. There are no borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Tribes, families and local customs are what separate the two countries, he said.
When the United States invaded Afghanistan after Sept. 11, the troops had to uncover and search 80,000 caves, Bergerson said.
Toward the end of his discussion, Bergerson addressed the issues that President Barack Obama is facing concerning the war. He said Obama is in the process of producing a policy, along with making a decision on whether troops should be sent to Afghanistan.
“There is a debate among foreign policy,” Bergerson said, adding that the topic of what should come next in Afghanistan is also being discussed.
Bergerson said he believes an announcement will be made soon concerning the next step the administration will take concerning the war.
He said Obama commented on the Afghanistan war three weeks ago by stating that it is a “war of necessity, not of choice” and “this is a war worth fighting.”
“There is no easy solution, and whatever the president decides there will be a mountain of criticism,” Bergerson said, adding that international support will be a big factor on the policy.
“The U.S. and NATO forces will have to redefine what is winnable and doable and acceptable to their own citizens and what the Afghans will accept as outside occupation forces,” he said.
Sanborn said the club had a great turnout Wednesday, which he has not seen in a while. He added that the Rotary members seemed to enjoy Bergerson’s presentation because they were attentive.