Every day the war’s advocates find new reasons we should fight in Afghanistan!

An excerpt from “British Court Convicts Three in Plot to Blow Up Airliners“, New York Times, 7 September 2009:

After two trials and the largest counterterrorist investigation in Britain’s history, three men were found guilty in a London court on Monday of a plot to bomb at least seven trans-Atlantic airliners on a single day with liquid explosives smuggled aboard in soft-drink bottles and detonated by devices powered with AA batteries.

… The idea, intelligence officials said, was to show the world that the security measures adopted after the Sept. 11 attacks were insufficient to foil the kind of low-technology, “asymmetric” attacks favored by Islamic extremists in their war with the West — using box-cutters in the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, and soft-drink bottles filled with a commercially available bleach in the 2006 plot. Evidence at the London trial showed that several of the plotters, like those on Sept. 11, had traveled from their homes in the London area to Pakistan and Afghanistan for indoctrination and training by extremist groups linked to Al Qaeda.

The simple conclusion from this is that these terrorists were wrong.  “The security measures adopted after the Sept. 11 attacks were” sufficient to foil this plan.  Note no mention of torture, nor of the war.  Just routine (if intense) police and intelligence work caught and convicted them.

Of course, larger conclusions can be drawn by those with more vivid imaginations. As in this comment, from “Af/Pak Still Matters“, Joshua Foust, posted at Registan (“All Central Asia, all the time”), 7 September 2009:

“You can argue whether or not Afghanistan and Pakistan matter in the grand scheme of things, but they remain important even now.”

Let’s examine the logic behind this.  We must use induction, since Foust does not explain. So this might not be his supporting logic.

  • Assuming this one sentence accurately describes the evidence (which is quite a leap of faith), AND 
  • assuming that the training in Pakistan and Afghanistan was essential (substantially more so than the small arms training the 9-11 terrorists received in Afghanistan), AND
  • assuming that the training could not have been easily done elsewhere (e.g., a wilderness area in Canada, Mexico, or USA)

THEREFORE we can conclude… what?

  • Perhaps that the “West” must occupy both Pakistan and Afghanistan — plus any similar areas in which “groups linked to al Qaeda” can operate. 

Then we will be safe.

  • Except for “groups linked to al Qaeda” operating in the EU or perhaps even the US, cloaked by our civil rights and limited internal surveillance. 
  • But since by then our military will have occupied so much of the world, why not occupy ourselves as well?

Then we will be really safe.  At a high cost, of course.


The war has reached an inflection point, as its weak intellectual foundation has been exposed.  Now is the time to speak up.  Acting together we can influence government policy.  Success here can lead to larger ones in the future.


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For more information about this topic

To see all posts about our new wars:

Some posts about the war 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. Real experts review a presentation about the War (look here, if you’re looking for well-written analysis!), 21 June 2009
  4. The Big Lie at work in Afghanistan – an open discussion, 23 June 2009
  5. “War without end”, a great article by George Wilson, 27 June 2009
  6. “Strategic Calculus and the Afghan War” by George Friedman of Stratfor, 17 July 2009
  7. Powerful insights about our war in Afghanistan, part 1, 18 July 2009
  8. We are warned about Afghanistan, but choose not to listen (part 2), 19 July 2009
  9. Powerful insights about our war in Afghanistan, part 3, 20 July 2009

8 thoughts on “Every day the war’s advocates find new reasons we should fight in Afghanistan!”

  1. Do you think that part of what allows Mr. Foust to turn a trial of wannabe terrorists who were trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan, into a reason to keep occupying Afghanistan, is that Mr. Foust accepts a certain ‘frame’, or underlying metaphor, about geopolitics? Specifically, I mean the ‘frame’ that “the West” is in a “Clash of Civilizations” with “the Muslims”. (wikipedia: definition of Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” idea. Also, definition of ‘frame’: UC Berkeley News, “Framing the issues: UC Berkeley professor George Lakoff tells how conservatives use language to dominate politics“, Oct 27, 2003)

  2. I can answer for myself on that one: no, I find Huntington’s Clash idea as intellectually bankrupt as a Tom Friedman column. Now, Benjamin Barber’s Jihad vs. McWorld work, on the other hand… it’s more convincing.
    FM Note: for more info on this see the Wikipedia entries on Benjamin Barber and his book Jihad vs. McWorld. I described our conflict with Islamic Fundamentalism in roughly similar terms in How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part I.

  3. Jihad vs. McWorld, the idea that (small-d) democratic civilization is this doubly-screwed thing, being attacked on one end by the stateless corporate feudalism of McWorld, and on the other end by the “religious”/xenophobic nuttery of Jihad? That’s the basic idea right? If so I agree with some of that.

    What do you think of the idea that there is nothing essential to a transnational terrorist in Pakistan or Afghanistan, that they could really get their training anywhere on the planet that isn’t being watched by a Power?

  4. I think it fails one basic test: that hasn’t happened. For whatever reason, militants continue to travel to the area for training and indoctrination, or rely on websites hosted and administered by militants from the area. So while we can say that it’s possible this training could happen anywhere (I remain unconvinced, but that’s immaterial the argument itself), I think we’d have to account for why it doesn’t happen.

    There are some instances, like The Lackawanna Six, that indicate it is probably harder to train and prepare for terrorist attacks here than it is somewhere like the mountains of Afghanistan. That “terror cell” also seems mind bloggingly stupid, so I don’t know if that’s a representative case.

  5. >You can argue whether or not Afghanistan and Pakistan matter in the grand scheme of things, but they remain important even now

    Of course his is true. Tapes showing wars on Muslim nations are a staple of the terrorist indoctrination. The hypocrisies and cruelty of the west in the Muslim countries is pure propaganda gold.

    Can you imagine what it would be like trying to recruit terrorists just based on opposition to fast food and porn. It would be a total disaster.

  6. In fairness, Foust makes a good point in his response here. It is fascinating that militants do indeed seem to continue to travel to the region… though in recent years most of the linkages have been back to PAKISTAN rather than Afghanistan. I worry that our sloppy use of the term Af/Pak is confusing the issue. Anyway, there is clearly something going on that we have a poor handle on. But I don’t see what any of this has to do with the war in Afghanistan, since we are not proposing to do anything about Pakistan regardless. As I keep pointing out, the risk of a sanctuary in Afghanistan would be much more frightening to me if AQ and the Taliban didn’t have a save haven in Pakistani territory already. That’s the problem… no one is explaining why an Afghan safe haven is so much different or better than a Pakistan one — except with the response that if one haven is bad, two would be worse.

  7. The Afghanistan-Pakistan situation is a repeat of the old Viet Nam-Cambodia situation. We can not legally chase the bad guys across the border.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Only superficially similar. The Taliban are an ethnic group present on both sides of the border. A border deliberately drawn to divide them (much geopol writing implies that national borders were drawn by God).

  8. The group that planned to bomb planes with bleach/ammonia mix , were UK born and educated , even if attended finishing school in Pakistan . 3 recently convicted and 3 found not guilty of conspiracy . This was a 2nd trial . The prosecutors now planning to try them 3 rd time ; I wonder whether this will be like the Irish referendum on the Lisbon treaty ( or the Afghan elections ) : keep on re-running until you get the result you want .
    Maybe this is more scary than bombs ?

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