December 27, 2008

Another Unnecessary War

But then again, aren’t they all?

In case you haven’t been following the news lately, the situation in Afghanistan keeps worsening. For the United States, anyway. Things keep looking brighter and brighter for the Taliban. Not only have they gained a permanent presence in 72% of the country, but they continue managing to disrupt NATO supply lines from Pakistan.

The US, of course, is not one to walk away from a fight. So the response to this “grim” situation has been to send more troops. Adm. Mike Mullen, who in October predicted that things in Afghanistan would probably worsen over the next year, recently announced plans to send 20,000-30,000 more forces by next summer, something President-elect Obama has been recommending for some time now.

If history is any indicator, it’s unlikely that 60,000-80,000 troops (the number expected to be there by summer) will be able to defeat the Taliban insurgency. One hundred and twenty-thousand Soviet troops, let’s remember, were unable to vanquish the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s.

Moreover, as numerous invaders, among them the seemingly indomitable Alexander the Great, have learned, the Afghan people are not easily conquered. Efforts to occupy and rule the country, British historian Sir John Keegan wrote back in September 2001, have “usually ended in disaster.” For this reason, Keegan warned that “America should not seek to change the regime [in Afghanistan], but simply to find and kill the terrorists.”

But, as usual, the politicians proved then, and are proving now, to be impervious to the lessons of history. Pay no attention to all that academic-speak, they tell us—this is a war we will win, simply because this is a war we must win. And why must we win this war? In order to defeat al-Qaeda, of course. Never mind that Osama bin Laden and his pals fled Afghanistan back in December 2001. Never mind that the people we’re fighting now had nothing to do with 9/11. And never mind that the US could keep al-Qaeda out of the country without a military presence there.[1]

Never mind all this. The politicians claim that winning the war in Afghanistan is essential to keeping us safe, and the American people, as usual, believe them.

Far from keeping us safe, however, the war is actually increasing the likelihood of a future terrorist attack. For US-led military actions in Afghanistan are killing innocent civilians. Not that coalition forces mean to kill civilians, but given the nature of modern warfare, efforts to kill militants often produce headlines such as the following:

US air strike wiped out Afghan wedding party

Tensions Rise as Afghans Say U.S. Raid Killed Civilians

NATO Troops Open Fire on Afghan Bus, Kill Four Civilians

Afghan official ‘saw bodies of 50 children’ killed in US strike

Needless to say, such civilian deaths serve to turn the Afghan people against the United States. (Just think how you would feel if you were in their shoes.) For this reason, the longer the US stays in Afghanistan, and thus the longer it continues killing innocent people, the more terrorists it will end up creating.

This claim, of course, runs counter to conventional thinking, as most Americans seem to think the terrorists hate us because we’re free and because we’re Christian and because we allow our women to run around without headscarves. But the truth of the matter is that we were attacked on 9/11 because the US government has for several decades now been murdering and oppressing Muslims throughout the world. Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, has repeatedly stressed this fact, pointing to such actions as the US sanctions in Iraq (which killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children), its stationing of troops in Islamic holy lands, its support of various Muslim-oppressing dictators, and it exploitation of Muslim lands for oil.

If the US government really wanted to protect its citizens from future terrorist attacks, it would stop killing and oppressing innocent Muslims overseas and would instead start bringing the troops home.[2]

A radical suggestion, to be sure, and one that few in Washington would take seriously. But why should we expect them to? War, after all, is a racket. At least for them.


[1] As Andrew Bacevich, former U.S. army colonel and now professor of international relations at Boston University, writes, “Offered the right incentives, warlords can accomplish U.S. objectives more effectively and cheaply than Western combat battalions. The basis of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan should therefore become decentralization and outsourcing, offering cash and other emoluments to local leaders who will collaborate with us in keeping terrorists out of their territory.”

[2] Such an action, of course, would buoy many al-Qaeda terrorists. Just as, I imagine, many Lebanese terrorists were buoyed after Ronald Reagan began withdrawing US Marines from Lebanon in 1984. But the Lebanese terrorists, let’s remember, didn’t follow the Marines back to America and in fact haven’t targeted America ever since.

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