The Big Lie at work in Afghanistan – an open discussion

In most of the 24 posts on this site about the Afghanistan War people post comments saying (in some form or another) that the war prevents another 9-11-type attack.  Several things remain clear in this discussion.

  1. Nobody has presented evidence that activities or camps in Afghanistan provided any essential (or even substantial) support for 9-11.
  2. Nobody has cited work by relevant area experts supporting the war in terms of American national interests.  I do not mean COIN or geopolitical gurus, but rather people who know the languages and history of the Afghanistan peoples.
  3. Nobody has drawn an explicit chain of reasoning between a likely outcome of the Afghanistan War and any future attacks on the US.

This has gone on long enough so that I believe a tentative conclusion can be drawn that the Afghanistan War is based on one of the classic agitprop techniques:  the big lie (see Wikipedia for details).

This is an open thread for discussion of these three statements.  Let’s hope some advocate of the war can do what nobody has yet done with respect to these three tasks.  Otherwise we can only conclude that our money and blood has been spilled for no gain to America — and this will continue at an accelerating rate for the foreseeable future.

Please do not just assert your opinion with respect to numbers one and two.  Please provide some evidence, or cite something resembling expert opinion.

Remember, thewar’s opponents need not prove that there is no relationship between Afghanistan and 9-11, or between this war and our strategic goals. Just we need not prove there are neither magic dragons nor elves.  It is those advocating war who must make the case.


To read other articles about our wars, see these FM reference page (listed on the right side menu bar):

Posts about the War in Afghanistan:

  1. Scorecard #2: How well are we doing in Iraq? Afghanistan?, 31 October 2003
  2. Quote of the day: this is America’s geopolitical strategy in action, 26 February 2008 — George Friedman of Statfor on the Afghanistan War.
  3. Another perspective on Afghanistan, a reply to George Friedman, 27 February 2008
  4. How long will all American Presidents be War Presidents?, 21 March 2008
  5. Why are we are fighting in Afghanistan?, 9 April 2008 — A debate with Joshua Foust.
  6. We are withdrawing from Afghanistan, too (eventually), 21 April 2008
  7. Roads in Afghanistan, a new weapon to win 4GW’s?, 26 April 2008
  8. A powerful weapon, at the sight of which we should tremble and our enemies rejoice, 2 June 2008
  9. Brilliant, insightful articles about the Afghanistan War, 8 June 2008
  10. The good news about COIN in Afghanistan is really bad news, 20 August 2008
  11. Stratfor says that our war in Pakistan grows hotter; Palin seems OK with that, 12 September 2008
  12. Pakistan warns America about their borders, and their sovereignty, 14 September 2008
  13. Weekend reading about … foreign affairs, 19 October 2008
  14. “Strategic Divergence: The War Against the Taliban and the War Against Al Qaeda” by George Friedman, 31 January 2009
  15. America sends forth its privateers to pillage, bold corsairs stealing from you and I, 9 February 2009
  16. “The Great Afghan Bailout” by Tom Engelhardt, 14 April 2009
  17. Stratfor: “The Strategic Debate Over Afghanistan”, 13 May 2009
  18. A joust between two schools of American military theory, 19 May 2009
  19. Can we answer SecDef Gates’ question about NATO and the Af-Pak War?, 19 May 2009
  20. Troops without proper equipment in 2004, troops without proper equipment in 2009 – where’s the outrage?, 20 May 2009
  21. New bases in Afghanistan – more outposts of America’s Empire, 21 May 2009
  22. The simple, fool-proof plan for victory in Afghanistan , 1 June 2009
  23. Advice about our long war – “It’s the tribes, stupid”, 9 June 2009
  24. An expert explains why we must fight in Afghanistan, 11 June 2009
  25. Some experts’ review of a presentation about the War (look here, if you’re looking for well-written analysis!), 21 June 2009

25 thoughts on “The Big Lie at work in Afghanistan – an open discussion”

  1. And just in time, the U.S. rationale for its continued presence in Afghanistan has morphed into “the war on drugs”: “America’s War in Afghanistan Becomes America’s Drug War in Afghanistan“, Drug War Chronicle, 19 June 2009.

    Reminiscent of the ever-changing rationales (Find WMDs! No, topple the monster Saddam! No, create democracy in the middle east! No, prevent instability in a crucial part of the world…) for our presence in Iraq, mayhap.

    Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. The Great and Powerful Oz has spoken.

  2. This applies to all the 4GW discussion. Kilcullen on the Australian Broadcasting Radio. Podcast here. His comments on the numbers in the US DOD vs the State Dept are … interesting. And backs up the argument about the militarisation of the US’s relations with the rest of the World. A must listen.

    As for Aghanistan: To quote one of the greatest Generals, as told to Moshe Dayan about Vietnam (source):

    “The Americans most important problem in running the War was that they did not have an unambiguous objective. He himself had tried to get an answer on that subject from no less a person than former vice president Richard Nixon. In response he had been treated to a twenty-minute lecture; at the end of which he remained as much in the dark as he had been at the beginning.

    To Montgomery, an exceptionally systematic commander who always planned his moves very carefully, that was the essence of the problem. Not having a clear overall policy, the Americans were permitting the field commanders to call the shots. They did what they knew best, screaming for more and more troops, locking up entire populations in what where euphemistically called “strategic hamlets”, and bombing and shelling without giving a thought to what, if anything, they were achieving. At the end of their talk Montgomery told Dayan to tell the Americans, in his name, that they were “insane”. Again Dayan did not disagree”

    You can add to the mix, the various neo-cons and their fellow travellers: vague hopes of pipelines, geo-strategic ‘Great Games’ against Russia and China, who run rings around us in this area because, they actually use money and development aid instead of guns. Plus daft ideas about breaking up Pakistan and even ‘remodeling’ the whole Middle East.

    The last gasp of the US elite? Reminders of the parallel to the UK (and France) remodeling the ME to suite their crazy ideas after WW1 come to mind. 40 years later their Empires were no more and they’d withdrawn (or were withdrawing or more usually being kicked out) from everywhere except the Falklands and Tahiti.

    Mclaren, wasn’t the whole purpose of invading Afghanistan just to get drug production back up again? That’s the only real tangible result that was achieved. AQ wasn’t taken out, the pipeline was not built .. but they got the opium trade going again (heavy sarcasm here obviously) after those terrible Taliban shut it down. Hey there is a precedent for this … the opium wars .. and could it be a future source of DOD funding (as Jerry Pournelle the SF writer predicted)? As the US economy slides into oblivion where’s the money for F-22s coming from? More sarcasm … obviously.

  3. The Afghan war was started because Bush needed a show. They spent the first weeks bombing camps that Al Queada had abandoned 5 months before. There was no military or even security logic to the war, it was at it’s core a propaganda exercise after the shock of 911. This sounds extreme but the Pentagon knows what it takes to stabilize a country like Afghanistan and there was never any doubt that that effort was never going to be made.

    What was a tight small footprint operation deliberately designed to get in and out without getting trapped in a quagmire fell victim to American politics. Bush couldn’t admit to another disaster after Iraq and Obama saw both a political stick to hit Bush with and a chance to become a great President by solving the Afghanistan problem. For the Pentagon yet another defeat will cement the American military’s reputation as a paper tiger. It is at it’s core a war for American prestige.

    Obama is doing what American Presidents always do – expand the disaster based on the hope that more resources not a failed strategy is the problem. At some point he too will be looking for a way out. The ISI is sitting in the wings waiting for that time to arrive so they can broker the deal.

  4. At least three people (above) have learned something from these wars! As for #1 of FM’s points, even the US government never proved there was any connection between the Al Q and the attacks of 9-11. The government said it would issue a “white paper”, but it never did. Years later, the FBI still did not have OBL on its “most wanted” list, for lack of evidence. The “captured” video tape of Osama celebrating the event was evidently and predictably doctored.

    So both Afghanistan and Iraq were wars of choice — possibly for as trivial a reason as oblat says above. The best comment on 9-11, from the small book “Afflicted Powers”, argues that there was no single reason for invading Iraq, but a congeries of them (oil, PNAC, old grudge against Saddam, Israel, MI complex, electoral politics) no single one strong enough to justify the action, but all together seeming to point in the same direction.

    And one more reason — Folly. As Homer personified a god of War and a demon of Rumor in order to explain why people do irrational things, so Barbara Tuchman proves there is a spirit of folly, which makes leaders do things against their best interest.

  5. FM note: this is an interesting comment. Bold emphasis added on the funny part.

    Fabius, you do not consider that you have framed this post so that realistically only those in violent agreement with you can comment?

    [OBTW, not sure those really working future problems ( not the ellites ) in DOS, DOD, DHS, USAID (see new report from the Center for Technology and National Security Policy and the CCO entitled: Civilian Surge: Key to Complex Operations) are required to pass muster with you.]

    First 4 comments as evidence: If you agree with FM, fire away. If you don’t, you can’t comment unless you speak Pashtun, have lived in an Afghan village, have a PhD, multiple tours in DOS and been a SEAL. I’m done here unless you reopen your 4GW discussion. Thanks for the ride. PWH, out.
    Fabius Maximus replies: There are two obvious levels to this comment.

    First, Ed gives a silly interpretation of this post.
    * If I ask for the location of a city, you need not be Mr. Mercator to answer. Anyone can cite an atlas.
    * If I ask for a definition, you need not be Mr. Webster to answer. Anyone can cite a dictionary.
    Similarly, when starting wars about the dangers to the US of some far away tribes or global religions — things about which few of have experience or knowledge — asking for expert evidence is routine. Anyone can cite evidence: congressional testimony, academic or think-tank papers, articles in newspapers or magazines. It’s putting the magic of the Internet to work!

    His refusal to provide any substantial basis for the Afghanistan War in terms of American national interests is the key missing link from almost every discussion about it. Millions of words about operations; almost nothing about goals — and how it supports America’s grand strategy. Yes, he prefers tactics about 4gw tactics. A tactical focus is a historically commonplace for those with war-losing strategies.

    Second, we can speculate why an intelligent guy posts such a silly comment (see the website for Project White Horse for evidence). Esp after many thousands of words discussing the War (see his comments on this thread). Here we see the core function of the FM site at work. Unlike most other websites, this gives many rounds of intense comment and reply. We’ve burrowed through the dross to the center of this issue, in this case the supporting evidence and logic for the Afghanistan War. We find at the end there is nothing there.

    For another example of working our way through many layers to a conclusion, see An expert explains why we must fight in Afghanistan.

  6. I am still looking for the big payoff. In Iraq, the payoff is obvious, oil. Like Chomsky says, if Iraq exported nothing but pickles and lettuce, we would not bother with them. In Afghanistan , the payoff is harder to see.

    TARP, TALF, PIPP, i.e., the bailout showed us who really runs this country. It is hard for me to believe they would commit all those military resources without the promise of some kind of payoff down the line. Maybe the payoff comes in all those gov’t contracts which do help transfer wealth from the poor and middle classes to the elites. At one time it was suggested that the TAPI pipeline was the reason, but the IPI pipeline seems to have negated that. There is also the promise of all those resources in Afghanistan, but without a stable gov’t, that too is negated. It is hard to see a return on investment (ROI).

    I never did buy all this BS about Al Qaeda.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Getting oil contracts for western firms is one of the widely cited benefits of the Iraq War, although the benefit goes to a few private interests. So far almost all of the oil contracts under discussion in Iraq and Kurdistan are going to foreign firms.

    I wonder if these wars are visceral actions of the US state, without supporting logic or reason. As you note, it is difficult to find reasons proportionate to the cost. Even Empires are usually built for profit, which seems missing in these wars.

    1. Guys, I don’t know if you are aware of this or not, but Afghanistan was described in a paper that was linked to the USGS website as late as 2002 as being, “the largest untapped industrial ore resource in the world”. The survey estimates were listed in an itemized column about a page long. Before 9/11, I had read about it as “the future of heavy industry resources for Asian manufacturers”. It’s extremely dense with both rare earths, radio actives and more common metals, even gold. The Sovs surveyed to this effect in the 70’s, we soon had knowledge of this wealth at the top levels of our State Dept. and were discussing entry into the area. You’ll find more about it at your local bookstore or Amazon than you will in the popular news.

      BTW our own govn’t declared that we just serendipitously discovered it all in 2010. Which is odd, because the Brits jumped the gun on us by a few years, making the same statement in 2007. Surprised you haven’t read yet that it was never about “surface lithium”.

      1. G Pritchard,

        Anyone familiar with the Afghan War knows about the minerals. Afghanistan’s mineral wealth have long been known. ee Wikipedia’s entry).

        • Here’s the DoD’s publicity campaign (probably designed to boost support for the war): “U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan“, NY Times, 13 June 2010 — “The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists.”
        • Here is the USGS page for the results of their surveys.

        All of this has to be taken with some salt. “Largest untapped” is a commonplace phrase in mining, applied often to Tibet, the arctic, the Antarctic, the ocean floor, and Afghanistan. They have usually been identified for decades or longer, but untapped due to cost: cost of extraction (where it is), cost of refining (ore quality), and transportation. Afghanistan needs a transportation system to move ore; building one will cost a lot.

        Rising mineral prices during the past decade have kindled interest in Afghanistan.

        • Copper at Mes Aynak: In November 2007 the China Metallurgical Group (MCC) bought a a 30-year lease for US$3 billion, “the biggest foreign investment and private business venture in Afghanistan’s history”.
        • Iron ore in Hajigak: A group of Indian companies bought the rights, but is still considering how quickly and how much to invest.

        See a pattern? Much like Iraq’s oil, non-US companies are taking the lead. As a justification for the war, this is as daft as most of the other reasons.

  7. Ed: go ahead and comment, even if FM did frame the issue in a prejudicial way. You’re intelligent; I’d like to know what rational purposes you see in this war.

  8. It seems possible to me that the Afghan situation is really about positioning and the Iran and Pakistani nuclear issues. That is, while there seemingly denying sanctuaries to A-Q we just happen to be occupying the center square of the chessboard of the Great Game, and the Risk geography of the area hasn’t changed. If nothing else the US is in very good position to spy on and infiltrate both countries, and to act very quickly in case of any emergency, which would not be true if we did not have the bases and aircraft and probably all sorts of surreal equipment in place. If this is the real strategy, it still may of course be flawed, but it makes more sense than the ‘good war’ anti-terror explanation. If true, it would also be foolish to admit to.

  9. Perhaps we could apply the skills of a detective story to this .
    Two ‘ murders ‘ – 9/11 and Afgh . Coincidence , or linked ?
    One a motive for , or an opportunity for , the second ?
    Why the WTC , why Afgh ?
    What motive , what gain , what misreported or misunderstood ?
    A date in the past , 2002 , when we looked out a different window to the one we do in 2009 .
    Maigret strolls down the Quai , puffing on his pipe . He goes to talk to the clerk in Forensic , but the door is locked , but the people from Security will not let him in .

  10. From comment #6: “Like Chomsky says, if Iraq exported nothing but pickles and lettuce, we would not bother with them.”

    Well, we are paying no attention to Guinea Bissau, which is fast becoming Africa’s first narco state and the primary export of which is cashews.

    For a well written discussion on Guinea Bissau, read Marco Vernaschi’s series for the Pulitzer center.

    While I take some of Vernasch’s arguments ( about links between Latin American drug cartels and Hezbollah ) with a grain of salt, his series is a well written and gripping portrayal of John Robb’s Global Guerrillas in action.

  11. On the detective theme , there are the other murders that happened , Iraq and Pakistan , and the ones that didnt , like Libya , Yemen .

  12. Why Afghanistan? Perhaps it has nothing to do with Afghanistan or current obligations in Iraq for Obama. Perhaps it is about the BUDGET of both these obligations. I can imagine Obama shutting down these budget streams to instead use them to finance his healthcare initiatives.

    While Bush paid for the war with special appropriations requests, shortly after entering office, Obama said this would end so that the people could see the costs of waging such wars abroad. $130 plus billion was budgeted for war funds for 2010, and people said “this leader, just like the last.” I now suspect that his objective had less to do with Afghanistan and much more to do with getting this outlay of money into the budget. There isn’t one thing about this president’s foreign policy (other than that budgeted money), that says anything other than his intention for the USA to have a much smaller footprint abroad. With the eventual transfer of that money, he gets a twofer…money for his healthcare plan, and a smaller footprint abroad.

    Obviously I have no “proof”, FM, but since the internet is all about the democratization of information AND ideas, I am exercising my right to throw an idea into the ring.

  13. I think it’s quite simple. After 911, George junior got out his Middle East map, and said, “We gotta show them Saudi’s we’re damned pissed about them funding this whole thing. Let’s bomb some Afghan fellers claiming they helped them Arab terrists (sic) back to the stone age.” The reply was, “They’re already in the stone age, Mr. President.”
    “Well then, we’ll bomb Iraq back to the stone age. Where is Iraq anyway? Hell, it’s smack dab in the middle of the whole darn Middle east, that’s perfect! King Saud’ll get the message. Do it!”

    Now that we’re done with Iraq, and have a super smart guy in the White House, he’s saying, “For God’s sake, don’t let another 911 happen on my watch. It’ll derail my whole domestic agenda, the work product of Harvard, Yale, the entire brain trust of the country damn it, plus, I’ll look like a pussy.”.
    The response is, “Well Mr. President, now that the Saudi funded nut bags who clearly caused 911 have been neutralized by the Saudi security forces, or by us, we could theoretically send the Saudi’s a message to, you know, keep up the good work, by putting troops into Afghanistan as a show of force at least until you’re out of office. “.
    Obama replies: “That’s just crazy enough to work! I’ll give a speech in Egypt hinting that we can do this the easy way, or the hard way, then I’ll put 20,000 more troops into Afghanistan. They’ll get the message. Do it!”

  14. FM: “Nobody has presented evidence that activities or camps in Afghanistan provided any essential (or even substantial) support for 9-11.

    1. Mohamed Atta traveled to Afghanistan prior to 9-11 to meet with Al-Qaeda leaders.
    2. The Al Qaeda leadership was able to regularly communicate with distant cells with its movie set in Afghanistan. This communication has been disrupted.

    Nobody has drawn an explicit chain of reasoning between a likely outcome of the Afghanistan War and any future attacks on the US.

    Let’s assume a static situation in which the US maintains a large presence in Afghanistan indefinitely and Al Qaeda is restricted to remote outposts while having to take extraordinary precautions for its safety. In this scenario, I think the likelihood of future attacks in the US is diminished. My support for this is extrapolated from our safety during the previous 8 years.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Let’s think about this.

    (1) M. Atta met with al Q leaders in Afghanistan? Why could he not do so undetected in the Sudan, or any of a score of other nations?

    (2) Al Q needed Afghanistan bases to make home movies? Why does that require bases, not just a camcorder and a house?

    “My support for this is extrapolated from our safety during the previous 8 years.”

    And what weight do you give to the efforts of security services of the US and allied nations during those 8 years? Disrupting al Q’s communications, killing their leaders, disrupting their finances? These all seem to me much more significant than eliminating Afghanistan bases, which in any case played little role in 9-11.

  15. Re:”I wonder if these wars are visceral actions of the US state, without supporting logic or reason. As you note, it is difficult to find reasons proportionate to the cost. Even Empires are usually built for profit, which seems missing in these wars.”

    They may be “visceral reactions”, but I think there is (or, there was) a supporting logic: Wilsonianism. Dr. Bacevich goes into this in “The New American Militarism.” Indispensable America will pacify the world by bringing our light to the darkness, at gunpoint if necessary.

    From this viewpoint, we’re in a second phase. The wild-eyed idealists took their shot and made a mess, and now the steely-eyed, Ivy league professionals are going to do their best to clean it up. Iraq has become independent enough to assert legal authority, but Afghanistan must be patched together. We’ve made a gut-level decision that this is our responsibility. The reasons are amorphous and unsatisfying under logical scrutiny because we’re inventing them to justify an emotional decision. The payoff, I guess, is knowing what a good job we did and what a nice country we are, when we succeed.
    Fabius Maximus replies: A great comment; thanks for posting!

  16. FM: “Even Empires are usually built for profit, which seems missing in these wars.

    DOD contractor profits are obvious. Rush Limbaugh is worth considerably more than I am nowadays. There’s profit – if you look for it.
    Fabuis Maximus replies: Quite right (I usually note the private profits in such statements). But that’s not the point here. Other Empires were profitable for the State (from Athens and Rome to the UK), even if private interests benefited disproportionately).

  17. Fabius Maximus starts off by claiming opponents of the war in Afghanistan have nothing to prove. Nice try, but not so. If you oppose something, you have an equal burden to show the reason for your opposition.

    Regarding the comments in #14. Atta met with Al Quada leaders in Afghanistan because that is where the leaders were (under the protection of the Taliban). If the leaders had been in the Sudan, Atta would have gone there and the US would have gone after Al Quada in Sudan.

    Second, since Al Quada was fond of releasing propaganda videos of terrorist training camps (BBC), it is hard to see how a house and video camera would have sufficed.

    I am mystified by the comments that the US should have just gone after the Al Quada leaders in Afghanistan, or anywhere else, without the consent of the local government. That would be an act of war in the first place. Even in Pakistan, the Predator attacks are at least tacitly sanctioned by the Pakistani’s.

    Finally, the reason for the war in Afghanistan was to prevent the Taliban or others from protecting and supporting terrorists and then claiming their own innocence since they were not actively involved in the terrorism. I agreed with Bush when he said “… and those who support them”.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Another odd comment.

    (1) “If you oppose something, you have an equal burden to show the reason for your opposition.”

    I don’t know where you learned logic and debate, but on most of planet Earth that is not so. If pro-war advocates speak of the Tailiban — or al Qaeda — as a vast, powerful organization determined to destroy America, it is not my job to prove them false. The case is theirs to make.

    (2) “since Al Quada was fond of releasing propaganda videos of terrorist training camps (BBC), it is hard to see how a house and video camera would have sufficed.”

    Why is it “hard to see”? Please explain, as this statement makes no sense to me.

    (3) “I am mystified by the comments that the US should have just gone after the Al Quada leaders in Afghanistan, or anywhere else, without the consent of the local government.”

    Who has said such a thing?

    (4) “the reason for the war in Afghanistan was to prevent the Taliban or others from protecting and supporting terrorists and then claiming their own innocence since they were not actively involved in the terrorism.”

    Perhaps that was the reason for the initial invasion, which displaced the Tailiban from power. It seems a lame excuse 8 years later, for a general war against the Pashtun tribes.

  18. From this link: “9/11 Report: ‘Incontrovertible Evidence’ that Saudi Gov’t Supported Hijackers; CIA and FBI Face Scathing Critique“, Democracy Now, 25 July 2003 — Excerpt:

    “The report also raises more questions about a foreign government’s complicity in the attacks: longtime U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia. The report finds that the Saudi Arabian government thwarted efforts to prevent the rise of Al-Qaeda and stop attacks as well as provided financial and logistical support to the Saudi-born 9/11 hijackers. 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi Arabian.

    Large sections of the report explaining how the Saudis did not cooperate remains classified. The Washington Post reports an entire 28-page section detailing whether Saudi Arabia was somehow implicated in 9/11 is missing. This despite a seven-month campaign by congressional investigators and others to have them made public.

    The CIA argued that disclosure of the details could upset relations with a key US ally.”

    From these guys:

    * Melvin Goodman, former CIA and State Department analyst. He is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and director of the Center’s National Security Project. He is the author of the forthcoming book Bush League Diplomacy: Putting the Nation At Risk (Prometheus). He is a professor of international security studies and chairman of the international relations department at the National War College.
    * Stephen Push, spokesperson for Families of September 11. His wife of 21 years, Lisa Raines, was on American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
    * Robert Fisk, foreign correspondent for the London Independent. He is speaking to us from Baghdad. He has covered the Middle East for over 20 years and has interviewed Osama Bin Laden three times.

    If you seek a rational explanation for the war on AQ in Afghanistan, you first must understand the complicity of Saudi Arabia in the events of 9-11.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Much more evidence supporting this has emerged in recent years. Just today see “Documents Back Saudi Link to Extremists“, New York Times, 24 June 2009 — Opening:

    “Documents gathered by lawyers for the families of Sept. 11 victims provide new evidence of extensive financial support for Al Qaeda and other extremist groups by members of the Saudi royal family …”

  19. bc: How does the complicity of Saudi Arabia justify/rationalize the foray into Afghanistan?
    Fabius Maximus replies: Good question. Rather the opposite, I would expect.

  20. What is missing in most of these conversations is that a lot of people conflate the initial operation – Infinite Justice / Enduring Freedom, where some guys on horseback used laser sights to precision bomb specific AQ / Taliban targets in an effort to kill or capture Bin Laden – with the ongoing operation 8 years later.

    The first operation was totally justified but we should have left after it became clear we weren’t going to neutralize Bin Laden in Afghanistan.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I totally agree. With one addition: the CIA bagman, buying support for the Northern Alliance, were probably as — or even more important — than the US military (Special Ops plus bombs) contribution. Given our love of force, this is usually ignored.

  21. re:bc:
    How does the complicity of Saudi Arabia justify/rationalize the foray into Afghanistan?

    In the white hot political and emotional climate after 9/11, the mantra was,”Do something!”. Combine this with what I believe was a certain knowledge in our intelligence services that high level Saudi nationals were up to their eyeballs with complicity, combined with our inability to overtly punish any Saudi’s for several reasons, and I conclude that Iraq II was a warning to the Saudi’s to get their house in order. Eight years later, I suspect, but cannot prove, that forcing the Saudi ruling class to clamp down on internal extremist elements has worked. Have things stopped blowing up here because we take our shoes off in airports? The logic flows that what worked for eight years can work for another eight, but only if we force the Saudi elites to continue clamping down on extremists. I’m sure Clinton and subsequently Bush had assurances that the Saudi’s were on the job, but after 9/11, we realized that they needed more incentive to face down unpleasant factions inside the house of Saud. Troops in Afghanistan is one more way to say, “If anything blows up in America, we are right next door. Food for thought.”

  22. (1) Regarding Fabius Maximus positions at #17. There is nothing “odd” about requiring a counter argument.

    Me: We are going to the movies
    You: No
    Me: Any reason?
    You: No
    Me: We are going; see ya’ later.

    What is odd is claiming that there is no requirement for an argument against an action. Your claim seems to be if there is one “no”, that is sufficient to stop a group action. In what alternate universe does that pass for logic and debate? Is “no” now a complete debate? Where did you ever learn that?

    (2) It is still difficult to see how al Quada could film progaganda videos of training camps with just a house and a camera unless the house and camera were situated in the middle of the training camp? Is that not obvious?

    (3)You did in the reply to #14 when you said

    “Disrupting al Q’s communications, killing their leaders, disrupting their finances? These all seem to me much more significant than eliminating Afghanistan bases, which in any case played little role in 9-11.”

    Or, do you have some magic bullet theory that would allow us to kill the Al Quada leaders without actually going into Afghanistan?
    Fabius Maximus replies: This is just silly. Try re-reading what I said, and pay attention to the words. As for the videos, repeating what you said does give it greater strength (no it is not obvious, nor have you given any basis for the statement).

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