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, coör­di­nated inter­na­tional police work: 

    http://​www​.here​and​now​.org/​2​0​0​9​/​1​2​/​r​u​n​d​o​w​n​-​122 – 2/

    • 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 🙂