American Failure in Afghanistan

  1. Should we have invaded in Afghanistan?
    For me the answer is yes. Back in 2002, the then ruling Taliban government continued to harbor Osama Bin Laden who had taken thousands of lives during the 9/11 attacks. America’s hand was forced and Bin Laden need to be answered. Since the retrograde, misogynist Taliban regime stood in the way of the military response, their removal from power was required and few wept for their overthrow.
  2. Should we have become an army of occupation?
    This is a far more difficult question to answer. Many might argue with the “occupation” moniker, but as soon as America decided to stay, there was no other way to describe the presence of our troops. It’s unclear to me whether we intended to have a permanent presence in Afghanistan or whether we really wanted to “nation build”. That question can only be answered by Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz. Donald Rumsfeld the third partner in the neo-con occupation strategy is no longer with us. I, like many, have my suspicions that the trio wanted a permanent presence in the region to dominate the oil rich region and the 9/11 attacks provided a plausible excuse to exercise the strategy. The unwarranted invasion of Iraq in 2003 bolsters that perspective from my perspective. So if the question is should we have occupied Iraq to abet a regional oil dominance strategy, then the answer is an absolute NO. Our intent would clearly have been malign and the Afghans would never have cooperated
  3. Could America have succeeded in nation building?
    Assuming a more benign intent, could America have succeeded? I’d say the stakes were stacked pretty high against a positive outcome. We’re talking about a country highly fragmented by terrain and cultural traditions with little history of strong central government and a tradition of destroying invaders through asymmetric warfare. Afghanistan was, and is, barely a country. It’s fantastical foolishness to assume that this combination of warring fiefdoms is in anyway similar to the conditions that America encountered in post war Germany and Japan. That exercise in nation building is something every American should be proud of and delivered a more peaceful global order that persists to this day. Could America have succeeded in Afghani nation building? Only with an immense injection of resources, and a commitment to decades of occupation. Transforming an emerging country into a functional pluralistic democracy is a job of multiple generations when there is no tradition in that form of government. I expect few American’s presented with that obligation would have voted for such an effort. Failure was baked in when attention was switched to Iraq and American leadership effectively posited that nation building could be done on the cheap
  4. What should America have done to handle the Taliban protected Bin Laden?
    I’ll keep it simple. It should have been a “punch in the face” war. Destroy Bin Laden and his network of support in Afghanistan, then beat a retreat. Hope that more benign indigenous forces take control while exerting diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to withdraw Taliban support. If the problem emerges again, rinse and repeat

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store