Keith Boyea's Blog

Notes & Commentary on National Security, Current Affairs and Bourbon

Afghanistan is a Tragedy

Thesis: Our continued involvement in Afghanistan is a tragedy.

As I walked home today I asked myself the following question:  Is it a bigger tragedy that 9-11 happened (and that our government failed to stop it) or that the  reaction to 9-11 has been a never-ending, already a decade long, war in Afghanistan (one that could extend until 2024)?

I tend towards the latter.  9-11, even though it should have been stopped, was difficult to foresee.  We had never seen the planes as a missile tactic.  It was, in part, a failure of imagination.   But ten years after our initial invasion of Afghanistan, we continue to actively choose to try to accomplish a mission that is already achieved or completely useless.

If our mission in Afghanistan was to destroy Al-Qaeda then, well, mission accomplished.  Bin Laden’s dead, as are a few dozen #3, and now a #2.  The Arab Spring happened in spite of AQ, not because of them.  (The jury is still out on the Arab Spring though.)  The remaining AQ threat can be mitigated with good intelligence programs and international policing.

If our mission in Afghanistan is to build a democratic state with a large army to protect itself from internal and external threats, then that mission is  useless from an American security standpoint.  Terrorists can operate from nearly anywhere in the world–they need not Afghanistan specifically.  In fact, given that Osama was hanging out in Pakistan, Afghanistan’s neighbor is a bigger problem from this perspective than Afghanistan.

Democracy doesn’t have much to do with terrorism either, as some of the 9-11 hijackers lived and went to school in democratic countries.  The Army we are building for Afghanistan is too large for Afghanistan to sustain, even though we just figured that out last Friday. Seriously.

I can’t help but think that the strategic bankruptcy of the Afghan campaign is exacerbated by the commentariat’s obsession with Afghan minutia.  Just today there was a long discussion on twitter about Mullah Omar’s apparent desire to negotiation.  What exactly the United States has to negotiate with Mullah Omar is beyond me, but this was hotly debated.  Why did Karzai scuttle the talks? Is Omar really amenable to talking with the Americans?  What about negotiating with the Afghan government?  Who is this emissary? Is the Taliban less rigid than it used to be?  It made my head spin.

Excuse me, but what the fuck are we doing there in the first place?  61 American military members died in Afghanistan this month.  For what?  So we can be the intermediary between someone we dislike, Karzai, and someone we hate, Omar?  From where I sit, the talk, especially at this late day, should ALWAYS be about the why–the how’s are done.  And when one tries to answer “Why?”, they realize the why is too.  So let’s pull back a little and see the burning forest.

That’s why the Afghan campaign is the bigger tragedy.  We continue to choose this senseless path.  It is a path that provides no additional security to America, but sacrifices the lives of some of its bravest citizens.


Written by keithboyea

August 30, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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