“We’ll end the war just as soon as…” is the rhetorical parent of empire-crushing quagmires. The conditional changes as needed, because it needs to stay fresh to stay plausible. One president will claim that the right enemy leader needs to be killed, another that more troops need to be temporarily added.
Strategic changes can change the tide of a military conflict but Afghanistan is now an eight-year-old war. We’re not battling some other empire for control of territory. The fighters shooting at American soldiers are Afghani. They will still be there when we leave, whenever we leave. They are Afghanistan’s future whether we like it or not. The only real question is whether we’ll leave as friends or as enemies. Thirty thousand additional U.S. troops will be 30,000 additional U.S. rifles aimed at 30,000 more Afghanis who simply don’t want us there. Eighteen months will be eighteen more months of Afghan seething over the corrupt U.S.-backed Karzai government.
I’m no fan of the Taliban. But it’s hard to imagine being the country being ruled by anyone else when the U.S. troops eventually do pull out. Ten years of war will have insured another generation of radicalized Aghani youth. And what about America? A whole generation got interested in politics because of a bright young president promising change, yet here we have the same tired quagmire playbook. It’s a shame.