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Update about the state of the Af-Pak war; my forecast was wrong

1 March 2010

Source:  My forecast last August about the course of the Af-Pak War was wrong.  The reason why reveals much about our wars, about America, and the path to reform.

In September and October of last year a public debate erupted over the purpose of the Af-Pak War, the first since Operation Enduring Freedom began in October 2001.  Appropriately, the primary forum was the blog of Andrew Exum (Captain, US Army, retired; Wikipedia) the website of the Center for a New American Security (started 2007, Wikipedia) — which rapidly rose to well-founded prominence as the #1 non-governmental organization producing propaganda for the war.  The debate quickly expanded across the Internet.  Among those offering reasons for waging the war:

  • Steve Coll (CEO of The New America Foundation; Wikipedia)
  • Bernard Finel (Senior Fellow at the American Security Project)
  • Joshua Foust, writing at Registan (“All Central Asia, all the time”)
  • Jari Lindholm (journalist; Editor-in-chief of the Finnish weekly magazine Seura from Sept 2004 – April 2006)

Astonishing both sides, the war’s advocates were routed.  Unable to find factual support for strategic benefits, they fell back to lies (preventing another 9-11) and odd claims (helping Afghanistan’s women and preventing an India-Pakistan atomic war) — or giving muted reasons for continuing the war but radically changing our tactics (an effective way to remaining comfortably pro-war while escaping blame if it turns out poorly).  The debate slowly dribbled out in late 2009.  At the end of this are links to posts providing a blow-by-blow account.

I made two predictions when the debate began (The beginning of the end to our war in Afghanistan, 13 August 2009):

  1. The war’s advocates could state no clear strategic benefit to the US for the war.
  2. This debate would mark the beginning of the end to our war in Afghanistan.


The first proved correct.  The second was not only wrong, but foolishly naive.  The reasons for the war ranged from sophistry to outright lies.  The specious basis of the war mattered not at all.  The war continued and expanded. 

The source of America’s problems

The real source of America’s problems:  us, its people.  Too bleak a prospect, we adopt the mantra “it’s not our fault” — our response to all bad news.  It’s the fault of the flaws in the Constitution, capitalism, the rich, the poor, the left, the right, foreigners, Islamic fundamentalists, christian fundamentalists, effete elites, and the ignorant masses.

I discussed this source of our economic problems in A look at our government’s debt – rising because we like to spend.  The same applies to our wars:  their roots lie in our minds as much as the actions of our enemies.  From The key insight to understanding America’s wars (11 December 2009):

President Obama’s speech make this clear to anyone paying attention. As does his pop in the polls following the decision to expand our wars.

  • The wars are not those of our ruling elites.
  • Our wars are not our those of our military.
  • Americans like our wars.
  • Their appeal crosses party lines.
  • We’re almost indifferent to the supporting reasons, as seen in their flimsy ever-changing nature.
  • The wars’ benefits might be imaginary. The costs ruinous.
  • That’s the core reality we must address.

For a longer discussion see this series about our Long War:

  1. How will the Long War affect America? Will it make us stronger or weaker? Crazy? Unleash our dark side?
  2. Why we fight. Causes of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  3. Killing prisoners, our new tactic in the War on Terror?
  4. Bloodlust – a natural by-product of a long war?

Attempting to step the long war by appeals to reason will continue to fail.  Our long war will continue until we better understand ourselves– or until we lose (or go broke).   More on this later today.

For more information from the FM site

Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.  To see all posts about our new wars:

Why we fight in Afghanistan:

  1. Why are we are fighting in Afghanistan?, 9 April 2008 — A debate with Joshua Foust
  2. Stratfor: “The Strategic Debate Over Afghanistan”, 13 May 2009
  3. An expert explains why we must fight in Afghanistan, 11 June 2009
  4. The Big Lie at work in Afghanistan – an open discussion, 23 June 2009
  5. “Strategic Calculus and the Afghan War” by George Friedman of Stratfor, 17 July 2009
  6. Exum: “Introducing the Afghanistan Strategy Dialogue”, 8 August 2009
  7. The beginning of the end to our war in Afghanistan, 13 August 2009 — More about the debate.
  8. We must stay in Afghanistan to prevent atomic war!, 24 August 2009 — The debate moves into fantasy.
  9. Quote of the day: Our Afghanistan War explained in 22 words, 26 August 2009
  10. Foust describes the case for our war in Afghanistan, 28 August 2009
  11. Another attempt to justify our Af-Pak war, and show the path to victory, 31 August 2009
  12. The advocates for the Af-pak war demonstrate their bankruptcy. Will the American public notice?, 1 September 2009
  13. Today’s volleys in the domestic battle about Afghanistan, 2 September 2009
  14. Every day the war’s advocates find new reasons we should fight in Afghanistan!, 7 September 2009
  15. A new reason to kill thousands of people? Stay tuned for the answer!, 24 September 2009
  16. The three kinds of advocacy for the Af-Pak War, 15 October 2009
  17. Bernard Finel shows how to end the Af-Pak in days. Now. Guaranteed., 6 November 2009
  18. We destroy a secular regime in Afghanistan (& its women’s rights), then we wage war on the new regime to restore women’s rights. Welcome to the American Empire., 20 November 2009
  19. Bernard Finel justifies our crusade in Afghanistan (insufficiently), 24 November 2009

Afterword

Please email me if you have a correction to this post.  Or email me if you wish to make a comment and either have expertise in this field or are mentioned in this post. Send messages to fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

Also — you can now subscribe, receiving posts by email — see the box on the upper right.

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