Buchanan: “What is There to Win in Afghanistan?”

Posted: 20 December 2008 by Little Alex in Af-Pak War, International Affairs, Political Science
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Up to an additional 30,000 troops could be sent to Afghanistan by next summer, according to the CJCS Admiral Mike Mullen, on a visit to Kabul. This after Afghan President Hamid Karzai (right) responds to the rise in civilian deaths with a list of demands to the US:

“Part of that list was that they shouldn’t, on their own, enter the houses of our people and bombard our villages and detain our people,” Karzai said.

Afghanistan’s president has repeatedly called for foreign troops to do more to prevent civilian deaths during strikes and raids. He also wants them to show more respect for the country’s traditional Muslim culture, in which men can cause great affront by entering a house with women inside.

The U.N. said in September that 577 Afghan civilians had been killed this year by U.S., NATO and Afghan troops, a 21 percent jump from 2007. However, the U.N. tally said Taliban fighters and other insurgents had killed even more civilians: at least 800 this year.

The  illusion that Afghanistan is the “good war” is slowly deteriorating and Patrick J. Buchanan (left) raises great points in questioning our efforts there:


Just two months after the twin towers fell, the armies of the Northern Alliance marched into Kabul. The Taliban fled.

The triumph was total in the “splendid little war” that had cost one U.S. casualty. Or so it seemed. Yet, last month, the war against the Taliban entered its eighth year, the second longest war in our history, and America and NATO have never been nearer to strategic defeat.

How do we win this war, if by winning we mean establishing a pro-Western democratic government in control of the country that has the support of the people and loyalty of an Afghan army strong enough to defend the nation from a resurgent Taliban?We are further from that goal going into 2009 than we were five years ago.What are the long-term prospects for any such success?

Each year, the supply of opium out of Afghanistan, from which most of the world’s heroin comes, sets a new record. Payoffs by narcotics traffickers are corrupting the government. The fanatically devout Taliban had eradicated the drug trade, but is now abetting the drug lords in return for money for weapons to kill the Americans.

Militarily, the Taliban forces are stronger than they have been since 2001, moving out of the south and east and infesting half the country. They have sanctuaries in Pakistan and virtually ring Kabul.

The supply line for our troops in Afghanistan, which runs from Karachi up to Peshawar through the Khyber Pass to Kabul, is now a perilous passage. Four times this month, U.S. transport depots in Pakistan have been attacked, with hundreds of vehicles destroyed.

Before arriving in Kandahar, Gates spoke grimly of a “sustained commitment for some protracted period of time. How many years that is, and how many troops that is … nobody knows.”

Gen. McKiernan says it will be at least three or four years before the Afghan army and police can handle the Taliban.But why does it take a dozen years to get an Afghan army up to where it can defend the people and regime against a Taliban return? Why do our Afghans seem less disposed to fight and die for democracy than the Taliban are to fight and die for theocracy? Does their God, Allah, command a deeper love and loyalty than our god, democracy?

America, without debate, is about to invest blood and treasure, indefinitely, in a war to which no end seems remotely in sight, if the commanding general is talking about four years at least and the now-and-future war minister is talking about four decades.

What is there to win in Afghanistan to justify doubling down our investment? If our vital interest is to deny a sanctuary there to al-Qaida, do we have to build a new Afghanistan to accomplish that? Did not al-Qaida depart years ago for a new sanctuary in Pakistan?

What hope is there of creating in this tribal land a democracy committed to freedom, equality and human rights that Afghans have never known? What is the expectation that 54,000 or 75,000 U.S. troops can crush an insurgency that enjoys a privileged sanctuary to which it can return, to rest, recuperate and recruit for next year’s offensive?

Of all the lands of the earth, Afghanistan has been among the least hospitable to foreigners who come to rule, or to teach them how they should rule themselves.

Would Dwight D. Eisenhower – who settled for the status quo ante in Korea, an armistice at the line of scrimmage – commit his country to such an open-ended war? Would Richard Nixon? Would Ronald Reagan?

Hard to believe. George W. Bush would. But did not America vote against Bush? Why is America getting seamless continuity when it voted for significant change?

For more, “The Libertarian Case Against War in Afghanistan” by David Henderson is a great article.

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