FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Another Lost War

by WILLIAM S. LIND

With the usual fanfare, the Obama administration has proclaimed a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan. On the surface, it does not amount to much. But if a story by Bill Gertz in the March 26 Washington Times is correct, there is more to it than meets the eye. Gertz reported that

The Obama administration has conducted a vigorous internal debate over its new strategy for Afghanistan…

According to two U.S. government sources close to the issue, senior policymakers were divided over how comprehensive to make the strategy…

On the one side were Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg, who argued in closed-door meetings for a minimal strategy of stabilizing Afghanistan…

The goal of these advocates was to limit civilian and other nonmilitary efforts in Afghanistan and focus on a main military objective of denying safe haven to the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists.

The other side of the debate was led by Richard C. Holbrooke, the special envoy for the region, who along with U.S. Central Command leader Gen. David H. Petraeus and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton fought for a major nation-building effort.

The Holbrooke-Petraeus-Clinton faction, according to the sources, prevailed. The result is expected to be a major, long-term military and civilian program to reinvent Afghanistan from one of the most backward, least developed nations to a relatively prosperous democratic state.

I have not seen similar stories in other papers, so it is possible Gertz is not correct. But if he is, the Obama administration has just made the Afghan war its own, and lost it.

Ironically, the reported decision duplicates the Bush administration’s error in Iraq, another lost war (the next phase in Iraq’s Sunni-Shiite civil war is now ramping up). The error, one that no tactical or operational successes can overcome, is setting unattainable strategic objectives.

Short of divine intervention, nothing can turn Afghanistan into a modern, prosperous, democratic state. Pigs will not only fly, they will win dogfights with F-15s before that happens. The most Afghanistan can ever be is Afghanistan: a poor, backward country, one where the state is weak and local warlords are strong, plagued with a drug-based economy and endemic low-level civil war. That is Afghanistan at its best. Just achieving that would be difficult for an occupying foreign power, whose presence assures that war will not be low-level and that no settlement will be long-term.

In fact, even the minimalist objectives reportedly urged by Vice President Biden are not attainable. We cannot deny safe haven in Afghanistan for the Taliban, because the Taliban are Afghans. They represent a substantial portion of the Pashtun population. The most we can hope to obtain in a settlement of the Afghan war is the exclusion of al Qaeda. That is a realistic strategic objective, because al Qaeda is made up of Arabs, i.e. foreigners, whom the Afghans dislike the same way they dislike other foreigners. The Taliban’s commitment to al Qaeda is ideological, and the right combination of incentives can usually break ideological commitments.

Instead of a pragmatic, realistic approach to attaining that limited objective, it seems we are committed to a Quixotic quest for the unattainable. Again, that guarantees we will lose the Afghan war. No means, military or non-military, can obtain the unattainable. The circle cannot be squared.

Here we see how little “change” the Obama administration really represents. The differences between the neo-liberals and the neo-cons are few. Both are militant believers in Brave New World, a Globalist future in which everyone on earth becomes modern. In the view of these ideologues, the fact that billions of people are willing to fight to the death against modernity is, like the river Pregel, an unimportant military obstacle. We just need to buy more Predators.

Meanwhile, the money is running out. The ancien regime syndrome looms ever larger: we not only maintain but increase foolish foreign commitments, at the same time that debt is piling up, those willing to lend become fewer and we are reduced to debasing the currency. Historians have seen it all before, many, many times. It never has a happy ending.

It appears Afghanistan will be the graveyard of yet another empire.

WILLIAM S. LIND, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

More articles by:

WILLIAM S. LIND, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

November 22, 2017
Jonathan Cook
Syria, ‘Experts’ and George Monbiot
William Kaufman
The Great American Sex Panic of 2017
Richard Moser
Young Patriots, Black Panthers and the Rainbow Coalition
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness
Lee Artz
Cuba Libre, 2017
Mark Weisbrot
Mass Starvation and an Unconstitutional War: US / Saudi Crimes in Yemen
Frank Stricker
Republican Tax Cuts: You’re Right, They’re Not About Economic Growth or Lifting Working-Class Incomes
Edward Hunt
Reconciling With Extremists in Afghanistan
Dave Lindorff
Remembering Media Critic Ed Herman
Nick Pemberton
What to do About Al Franken?
November 21, 2017
Gregory Elich
What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?
Louisa Willcox
Rising Grizzly Bear Deaths Raise Red Flag About Delisting
David Macaray
My Encounter With Charles Manson
Patrick Cockburn
The Greatest Threats to the Middle East are Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman
Stephen Corry
OECD Fails to Recognize WWF Conservation Abuses
James Rothenberg
We All Know the Rich Don’t Need Tax Cuts
Elizabeth Keyes
Let There be a Benign Reason For Someone to be Crawling Through My Window at 3AM!
L. Ali Khan
The Merchant of Weapons
Thomas Knapp
How to Stop a Rogue President From Ordering a Nuclear First Strike
Lee Ballinger
Trump v. Marshawn Lynch
Michael Eisenscher
Donald Trump, Congress, and War with North Korea
Tom H. Hastings
Reckless
Franklin Lamb
Will Lebanon’s Economy Be Crippled?
Linn Washington Jr.
Forced Anthem Adherence Antithetical to Justice
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Do Civilians Become Combatants In Wars Against America?
November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
Thomas Knapp
Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition
Binoy Kampmark
Trump in Asia
Curtis FJ Doebbler
COP23: Truth Without Consequences?
Louisa Willcox
Obesity in Bears: Vital and Beautiful
Deborah James
E-Commerce and the WTO
Ann Garrison
Burundi Defies the Imperial Criminal Court: an Interview with John Philpot
Robert Koehler
Trapped in ‘a Man’s World’
Stephen Cooper
Wiping the Stain of Capital Punishment Clean
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail