That tired old quagmire playbook

“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.

  • Joan Broadfield

    Martin, thank you for this clear expression. FCNL staff are at the congressional hearings on the troop additions, and maybe there will be something that will emerge, but I cannot fathom it. I keep wondering what options would really clearly tell all the Afghans (some of whom DO want us not to leave immediately) that we do care. We should not be there. I have felt that since Sept 11, 2001, despite what even many Quakers were saying. I suspect that as a series of bad options, this may not be the worst, but it’s pretty bad. Quagmire~ that certainly is it!~! Love, Joan B.

  • liberata

    How about the drones? We’re really winning hearts and minds by killing people by remote control. I hear they do great training for future drone controllers at the Army Experience Center at Franklin Mills…

    Recently I discovered the blog of an Australian NGO worker in Afghanistan. He had his whole family there and truly loved the country and its people. However, because even relief workers were being killed, he and his family finally had to go home. If the military were going to be used for anything, it should be to protect relief workers and people like Greg Mortenson, who are building schools.

    As for eradicating al Qaeda, where to next? Morocco? Tunisia? Libya?

    Seriously, Andrew Bacevich gave a very interesting interview yesterday on the radio show Here and Now, saying basically, that escalating the war in Afghanistan shows a failure of imagination on the part of Obama’s advisers. The US always seems to feel that the way to show that we’re “strong” is by a show of military might. Bacevich pointed out that the real way to eradicate al Qaeda is by careful, coordinated international police work:

    • Chris Mohr

      I agree with you all. However, let’s be clear, the fault is not with a failure by “Obama’s advisors.” Escalating the war in Afghanistan was a campaign pledge often repeated by then-Senator Obama. President Obama is fulfilling what he said he would do all along.

      • liberata

        OK. However, amid all the “dithering” he could have let himself be persuaded otherwise…but then Sartre said that seeking advice is a cop-out because we tend to find counselors who confirm what we want to do :-)