Proof that people would rather die than ask simple questions of their so-called “superiors.” Theirs was not to reason why–and evidently still isn’t.
My view on Afghanistan, circa 2008, from a review of Sarah Chayes’s much-praised book, The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban (2006).
A government policy cannot rest on an illogical, inarticulate sense of commitment, and cannot be premised on the quixotic thought that good intentions trump feasibility. But that is effectively what our Afghan policy rests on today. To ‘keep trying’ to occupy and rebuild Afghanistan is to sacrifice lives and money on an ill-defined, increasingly pointless, and probably Sisyphean venture. A thousand lives and billions of dollars into that quest, we’re no closer to its completion than when we were when we first started. That is as much a ‘punishment of virtue’ as anything Chayes describes. We’re entitled to ask when it will end.
It still hasn’t: no end in sight, in either sense of “end.” As I’ve mentioned before (scroll down), Chayes dismissed my review as unworthy of consideration (“pretty hilarious”) because unlike her, I’d written it from an armchair in New Jersey. Well, I have to admit: she got it half right.
For a much earlier (and much better-informed) prediction of failure in Afghanistan than mine, read Milton Bearden’s October-November 2001 Foreign Affairs piece, “Afghanistan, Graveyard of Empires,” published as the U.S./NATO invasion took place, but written before it.
The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan had an initially plausible justification: it was widely regarded as a justified response to the unprovoked aggression of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and was widely described as an attempt to prevent the recurrence of another similar attack from the place where the first one had originated. If the most plausible American war can come so thoroughly to grief, what to make of the claims made on behalf of less plausible ones? Maybe the advocates of “appeasement,” “isolationism,” and non-intervention have a point.
Ukraine and Syria, anyone? How about Iran?