Afghanistan: Already A Lost Cause?

The US military possesses the most advanced means to wage war in the world, but after over a decade of dangerously near-sighted strategic vision, our leaders don’t seem to be able to see the forest for the trees.   We’re spinning our wheels in a mire of overused  tropes when it comes to defining exactly what it is we are trying to do (and whether these goals are doable and more importantly whether they’ll improve our national security footing).  Even a foreign policy genius like Henry Kissenger moved from urging for a strategy in 2010 (here) to backtracking to an American  face-saving exercise in 2011 (here).   As a starting point, in the future we need a take off the rose-colored multiculturalist shades and look at the world as it is, not as we want it to be (hint: this isn’t Mr. Rogers neighborhood, not everyone responds well to the homey sweater and friendly hellos).  We need to stop trying to affix our hopes and dreams onto others, in the delusional belief our Western value system will be embraced universally.  Our  reverence for individual freedom isn’t so revered in a culture that values submission to Allah and societal conformity to rules woven into their cultural fabric for centuries .  A decade of trying to bribe and buy loyalty in Afghanistan should provide all the evidence we need that imposing democratic forms does not a democracy make.   Does anyone believe we are any further along at “winning the hearts and minds” than when we started down this haphazardly constructed nation-building road?  And really is “winning the hearts and minds” really a top-priority national security objective?    Here is an excellent work on understanding big picture strategy  (nation/state level) by Dr. Harry Yarger that I read  a while back.    He lays out how to think about strategy.   Before we even get to the forming a strategy  part, here in the real world we need to start reading real history and realize every group of people on earth has their own unique story and their story provides the framework for their world-view.  Sorry, Afghan tribesmen didn’t attend any fancy lectures on Afghanistan’s future at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Relations to learn about what’s best for them.  In November Carlo D’Este wrote an excellent perspective on the situation in Afghanistan.  Here is his article, “The Endless and Unwinnable War” that appeared in Armchair General magazine.


Filed under Foreign Policy

2 responses to “Afghanistan: Already A Lost Cause?

  1. Gladius Maximus

    There were several things I did not like about the policy of President George W. Bush. However, the one thing he did right was limit the troop involvment in Afghanistan to support bases with precision strikes to kill or capture enemy combatants. There is no hope whatsoever of “winning the hearts and minds” of those folks. They don’t want what we have to offer. This is, indeed, an endless and unwinnable war. The British first and then the Soviets had enough savvy to figure that one out. With our high ideals and liberal, nation building designs, we have not yet come to that conclusion.

    • Often I wonder just who or what sources of information our military planners consult before formulating their plans. I don’t mean to gratuitously pick on GEN Petraeus, but the things he said publicly and the things the press reported led me to believe he put a lot of faith in the left-leaning sociopolitical types to be found at places like Princeton’s, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Relations. I wonder if anyone read through the wide body of information from the British experience. There’s plenty of public domain stuff available that I read a few years back when the Afghanistan surge took form. And the Russian experience has been chronicled too. Here ( is one British book on Imperial Policing from the 1930s. Very interesting reading! As an aside I remain baffled why our military not only embarked on a full-spectrum nation-building/democracy implantation operation, they decided to export our war on drugs too, which we all know has been such a smashing success. I watched reports on TV of the lofty idealism, thinking to myself c’mon do you really think these Afghan poppy farmers are going to stick to crops that bring in a fraction of the profit that poppies do. I guess the smart planners thought a bunch of illiterate Afghan farmers would see the sense of their high-minded drug eradication goals (NOT). Just paint me perpetually perplexed at the thought process going on behind these decisions.

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