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Facing Reality in Afghanistan

Richard Haass proposes embracing endless, unwinnable war:

Continuing to a fight a war that we know cannot be won is a senseless waste. Refusing to give up on an unwinnable war because we don’t want to admit failure is insanity. Putting more American lives at risk to perpetuate a pointless war is unconscionable, and the costs of doing so will necessarily outweigh the non-existent benefits. The U.S. has spent and lost far too much in Afghanistan already, and it is time to acknowledge that. Concocting new excuses to keep a failed policy going just so that we can keep denying that failure is absurd, and someone in Haass’ position should be embarrassed to be making such an argument more than 17 years after the war began.

The longer version [4] of Haass’ argument is no more persuasive. Here he desperately invokes the discredited “credibility” argument to defend his position:

Another reason not to leave in a manner unrelated to conditions on the ground is that, coming after Syria, such an exit would cast further doubt on America’s willingness to sustain a leading role in the world. This is not to say that the US should remain involved in Afghanistan simply because it has been involved. But perceptions matter, and simply walking away would lead many allies – not just in the region, but also in Asia and Europe – to wonder if they might be the next American partner to be abandoned.

The fear of what other allies might think about U.S. withdrawal from an unnecessary war has driven some of the worst foreign policy decisions in modern American history. Our European and Asian treaty allies aren’t going to conclude that the U.S. will abandon them if we finally acknowledge that we should get out of Afghanistan. The difference between the significant interests that the U.S. has in Europe and East Asia and the scant interests we have in Afghanistan speaks for itself. Maintaining a “leading role in the world” does not depend on staying in Afghanistan forever, and wasting resources and lives on fruitless, costly wars like this one makes it more difficult to sustain such a role. Perceptions may matter, but realities matter far more, and the reality is that continued military involvement in Afghanistan is a drain on U.S. resources and a detriment to our interests.

8 Comments (Open | Close)

8 Comments To "Facing Reality in Afghanistan"

#1 Comment By HenionJD On January 14, 2019 @ 7:01 pm

“What we need is an open-ended, affordable strategy for not losing.” Wow! It’s a simple as that? Quick! Somebody run out and tell our generals that the goal is to ‘not lose’.

#2 Comment By Fred Bowman On January 14, 2019 @ 8:17 pm

The only reason we stay in these wars is that it enriches the MIC and all their fellow travelers. Remember war is profitable for those who profit from war. And they sure don’t want to see their “gravy train” end. Such is thinking of the American Empire. Of course, in the mean time the Republic rots away.

#3 Comment By George Hoffman On January 14, 2019 @ 11:44 pm

Richard Haas represents the elites at the Council on Foreign Affairs in New York City and takes his marching orders from the arms merchants listed on the NYSE who are preoccupied with the corporate bottom line rather than reassessing our National Security priorities. And he has found a home on Morning Joe at the faux liberal MSDNC, which right there, demonstrates just how debased his intellectual currency is. I remember when the wise men of Wall Street went to the White House and gave LBJ his marching orders after the Tet Offensive of 1968. They told Lyndon,in no certain terms I would add, Lyndon, the war had become bad for business. He exited stage left like Sir John Falstaff did. But today the wise men are the greedy men who are financially dependent on the military/industrial complex to show profits with their federally subsided Keynesian monetary policy for the warfare state. And Haas probably knows as their spokesman he either sprouts the corporate groupthink, or else he will be eased out just as unceremoniously into retirement as the wise men did to LBJ. So I woildn’t take his assessment of these failed wars on terror too seriously.

#4 Comment By It’s Over On January 15, 2019 @ 2:11 am

“Another reason not to leave in a manner unrelated to conditions on the ground is that, coming after Syria, such an exit would cast further doubt on America’s willingness to sustain a leading role in the world.”

After seventeen years of blundering around the Middle East wreaking havoc and setting millions of refugees to flight, the question of leadership isn’t on the agenda anymore, Mr. Haass.

You blew it. It’s over.

#5 Comment By Christian Chuba On January 15, 2019 @ 7:15 am

I would love it if people who say things like that would actually have to live in the hell they create for others. If Haas wants an open ended engagement in Afghanistan then how about he spends at least 6mo’s there himself every 5 yrs since he is confining both our troops and the Afghanis to this fate.

Not only is there a cost to us and our troops but there is a cost to Afghanistan because we are basically using their country as a bombing platform.

#6 Comment By TomG On January 15, 2019 @ 8:48 am

If Afghanistan is where we need to be then Haas should haul his sorry behind over there and live under the same danger he so enthusiastically demands our troops endure.

When will we learn you can’t buy the hearts of a people by bombing them into submission?

#7 Comment By Sid Finster On January 15, 2019 @ 10:38 am

Of course Afghanistan is unwinnable. You know it, I know it, the Taliban know it, the Afghan puppet government knows it, Haas knows it, the MSM knows it, the Congress knows it, the generals know it (even if they cannot say so), even Trump knows it.

The problem is that if Trump were to give the order to leave, the howls of “Putin puppet!” and “abandoning muh brave allies!” would be deafening. Every night, the TeeVee would show heart-rending images of little girls denied schooling and Lord knows what else. You can rest assured that the Taliban and other jihadis would not be gracious winners.

Trump would be publicly humiliated, and Lord knows he hates that.

At the same time, Congress and the public have precisely zero appetite for expanding the war. So that’s not an option, either.

The upshot is that Trump and the generals don’t really have much choice but to squander as few resources on the war as possible and otherwise pretend they are winning, or at least not yet bodily thrown out of the country.

Of course, if Trump had ignored the generals upon taking office and gave the order to leave, he could have blamed his predecessors and extricated the country from that war with somewhat less fallout.

Instead, Trump foolishly listened to the generals. Afghanistan is his baby now.

#8 Comment By One Guy On January 15, 2019 @ 2:56 pm

What we need is a president who can explain (in small words) why we should not be in Afghanistan/Iraq/Syria anymore. This president is not up to the task, covfefe hamberders, rake the forests. Obama probably could have, but he was opposed by Congress, even if he wanted to.

I want us to get out of Afghanistan, but the American people don’t care. What’s that called? “Democracy”?