FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Losing the War

The US and NATO have begun an ambitious counterinsurgency program in Afghanistan that places great importance on winning the support of the Afghan people. But there is a rarely-considered corollary in the counterinsurgency effort: Afghanistan must win the support of western publics. Thus far, Afghan politicians and officials and other power holders have been steadily losing western hearts and minds. The Afghans may soon face the withdrawal of western forces.

Support for the war has sagged badly in the United States, where military ventures are more admired than they are in Europe. Since last May, support for the war has fallen from fifty percent to thirty-nine percent; opposition has risen from forty-eight percent to fifty-eight percent. Eight percent of recent respondents thought the war was showing progress; twenty-six percent thought it was getting worse. Twenty-nine percent support sending more US troops; twenty-seven percent thought troop levels should remain the same and thirty-two percent favored decreasing troop levels.

Many in the public are reluctant to respect the oft-heard admonishment that present wars must not be compared to a previous one, yet comparisons are inevitable. The public sees a self-aggrandizing mandarin atop a corrupt and feckless government, a spineless military leaving the fighting to others, and a largely indifferent if not hostile population. Why, Americans are asking, should more of their soldiers be sent half way around the world to do a job that Afghans should be doing?

The administration’s statements on the war are strangely bereft of the confident and hortatory tones that any policy matter, foreign or domestic, usually enjoys. Congress shows little support for sending in more troops. General Petraeus, who pressed for his surge policy in public hearings and whose prestige rose with the turn of events in Iraq, is silent on the war to the east, even though he now oversees it.

Reversal of these trends is unlikely to come from other western political leaders, none of whom is especially supportive. Nor is it likely to come from events in the field. Counterinsurgencies are painfully slow. They often last ten or more years and do not have pivotal battles that bolster public opinion. Counterinsurgencies have only thousands of parleys, engineering projects, skirmishes, and roadside bombs – the Afghan insurgents’ weapon of choice today. The petty pace will wear on public support, and the higher casualties from the recent order to rein in air strikes will wear harder.

The revival of support in the West can only come from political events inside Afghanistan. The Afghan president must find a way to build an effective government, one capable of dealing with disparate peoples, especially in the Pashtun regions, and also capable of providing an attractive alternative to the insurgents. The Afghan army must become an effective organization that can work along with local populations and detach them from supporting the insurgents. The Afghan people themselves must build, in conjunction with counterinsurgency forces, intelligence networks and village militias to identify and wear down the insurgents.

Failing that, European countries will shake their heads at the war’s cost and begin to withdraw their troops within a year. The American public might be unlikely to support fighting and dying there much longer than that. Thus far, many Afghan political figures have behaved like black marketeers and con men in a devastated postwar country – grabbing as much as they can while they can. It is they who are losing the war.

BRIAN M. DOWNING is the author of several works of political and military history, including The Military Revolution and Political Change and The Paths of Glory: War and Social Change in America from the Great War to Vietnam. He can be reached at: brianmdowning@gmail.com

 

 

More articles by:

Brian M Downing is a political-military analyst, author of The Military Revolution and Political Change and The Paths of Glory: Social Change in America from the Great War to Vietnam, and co-author with Danny Rittman of The Samson Heuristic. He can be reached at brianmdowning@gmail.com.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
August 23, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Notes on Inauthenticity in a Creeping Fascist Nuthouse
Andrew Levine
Recession Now, Please
Rob Urie
Mr. Trump Goes to Kensington
Jeffrey St. Clair
Deep Time and the Green River, Floating
Robert Hunziker
Earth 4C Hotter
Kenneth Good
Congo’s Patrice Lumumba: The Winds of Reaction in Africa
Pete Dolack
The Realism and Unrealism of the Green New Deals
David Rosen
The White-Nationalist Great Fear
Kenn Orphan
The War on Indigenous People is a War on the Biosphere Itself
L. Michael Hager
What Netanyahu’s Travel Ban Has Revealed
Ramzy Baroud
Jewish Settlers Rule the Roost in Israel, But at What Price?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Is Environmental Protection Possible?
Josue De Luna Navarro
What It’s Like to Grow Up Hunted
Ralph Nader
They Don’t Make Republicans Like the Great Paul Findley Anymore!
Gary Olson
Whither the Resistance to our Capitalist Overlords?
Dean Baker
On Those Downward Jobs Revisions
Rev. William Alberts
Beware of the Gun-Lover-in-Chief
Helder F. do Vale
Brazil: From Global Leader to U.S. Lapdog
Laura Finley
Educators Actually Do “Work” in the Summer
Jim Goodman
Farmers Need a Bill of Rights
Tom Clifford
What China’s Leadership is Really Worried About: Rising Debt
Daphne Wysham
Saving the Planet Means Fighting Bipartisan Corruption
Tierra Curry
Amazon Fires Put the Planet at Risk
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Decentralize Power and Revive Regional Political Institutions
John W. Whitehead
American Apocalypse
George Wuerthner
How Agriculture and Ranching Subvert the Re-Wilding of America
Daniel Murphy
Capital in the 21st Century
Jessicah Pierre
400 Years After Slavery’s Start, No More Band-Aids
Kim C. Domenico
Finding the Comrades: Maintaining Precarious Sanity In Insane Times
Gary Leupp
“Based on the Fact She Won’t Sell Me Greenland, I’m Staying Home”
John Kendall Hawkins
The Chicago 8 Trial, Revisited
Rivera Sun
Tapping into People Power
Ted Rall
As Long as Enemies of the State Keep Dying Before Trial, No One Should Trust the State
Jesse Jackson
The Significance of the “1619 Project”
Thomas Knapp
“Nuance” in Politics and Public Policy? No Thanks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and Endangered Species, Wildlife and Human
Mel Gurtov
China’s Hong Kong Nightmare, and the US Response
Ron Forthofer
Sick of Being a Guinea Pig
Nicky Reid
Why I Stopped Being White (and You Should Too)
Jill Richardson
As the School Year Starts, I’m Grateful for the ADA
Seth Sandronsky
Rethinking the GDR
Adolf Alzuphar
Tears / Ayizan Velekete
Stephen Cooper
General Jah Mikey: “I Just Love That Microphone, Man”
Louis Proyect
Slaves to the Clock
David Yearsley
Moral Cantatas
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail