Tuesday, May 09, 2017


The war that didn't end

In the wake of the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, we went to war in Afghanistan. With varying degrees of intensity, we have been at war there ever since.

The goal initially was to topple Taliban rule, defeat Al-Qaeda, and capture Osama bin Laden. All of those objectives have now been achieved (though remnants of Al-Qaeda remain).  Though we turned over leadership of the military efforts in Afghanistan in 2014, we are still at war there-- including dropping the "Mother of All Bombs" last month. 

Why are we still there? Do engagements like this ever end, and should they? 

I don't see these questions being asked, and for the most part Americans have forgotten about the conflict. Yet, our money and soldiers are still going there.  I worry that the end will be defined by an unattainable goal, such as the eradication of all vestiges of Al-Qaeda. Am I wrong?

We were involved in Afghanistan long before 2001. We created the organization that became Al-Qaeds to counter Russian occupation. Our military decided to use religion as a a motivator to get the results that we desired. We have successfully achieved those goals. We have since purchased tons of weapons and sent them to the region. Our military also brought a huge amount of weaponry to Iraq and carelessly distributed it along with most of the Iraqi weapons. We fired the standing Iraqi army who are now along with these weapons the force behind Isis.

We now have no civilian oversight in the Defense Dept. War is their business. The military knows the more a country spends on the military the less secure it becomes.
Spending on the military does not stimulate the economy nor peace.

Afghanistan has been a violent place for 60 years. It is the only sure employment they have. This makes it a good playground to practice using violent theories and big bombs.

We have spent billions, most of the money has ended up in the pockets of corrupt men here at home and in the pockets of some friendly Iraqis.

As long as it is profitable we will continue to send arms that will be often used against us and troops to defend us from them. Ugh.
Part of the fear from a policy perspective is that we will lose everything we have gained if we withdraw. You could argue that such logic relies on the sunk cost fallacy--and to a certain extent you'd be right. You could also argue that allowing Afghanistan to return to Taliban (or equivalent) rule would jeopardize American interests and security going forward--and to a certain extent you'd be right. That's the nature of a quagmire. So our answer has been to hold the course, with only the occasional troop withdrawal or MOAB strike to rock the boat.

However the ultimate end is defined, it will be tied to "winning" a war where the enemy is an ideology. That's true in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the larger Global War on Terror. And I don't know how you defeat an ideology. Time?
CTL I really agree with all your thoughts.

I think you defeat an ideology by offering a convincingly better ideology, but first you have to have one and live by it. Without a replacement, time won't help.

Martin Luther King Jr offered the right idea. You must break the cycle of violence.
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