Somebody Please Tell Me

Obama - Afganistan drawdown

October 15, 2015 – President Obama announcing he will keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan through the end of his term in office

Reading time – 69 seconds  .  .  .

We were told by President Bush that we should invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and because he was in cahoots with al Qaeda in the 9/11 attack. Besides, Saddam was a bad guy. Okay, at least he got the bad guy thing right. So we attacked a nation that had done us no harm. In fact, they had been our ally just 20 years earlier.

Before that we invaded Afghanistan. At the time I thought about the British, who tried to subdue that country (1839-1842) and were humiliated, with thousands of British killed. A hundred years later the Soviets tried to subdue Afghanistan and gave up after ten years of frustration, death and enormous expense. How is it that our leaders didn’t see the pattern? How is it that they still don’t?

We were told the invasion of Afghanistan was to go after (i.e. kill) the al Qaeda members hiding there, plus to deny al Qaeda safe haven – as though preventing their use of that geography would somehow prevent any further al Qaeda training for attacks on America. Then the purpose was somehow stretched to include driving the Taliban out of Afghanistan, or at least removing them from power. We weren’t given much of a reason for the stretch; the goal posts were just moved to include waging war against people who had not attacked us. It was the same song as with Iraq a couple of years later, including that they had been our ally just a few years earlier.

Afghanistan is a country that has never had a strong central government and which was mostly a bunch of tribal clans within Afghanistan’s geographical borders. Oddly, after deciding that we were going to drive the Taliban from power we once again adjusted our purpose for making war there to include planting a national democracy. What could possibly go wrong with that? Oh wait – that’s exactly where and how we failed in Iraq.

President Obama campaigned in 2007-2008 promising to end the war in Iraq. At least most of our troops were withdrawn, but we left behind the chaos that the world continues to deal with now. Then we were going to have all of our troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. That didn’t happen and now the President has informed us that not only will at least 5,500 troops remain in Afghanistan through the end of his second term in office, but that he will be leaving the entire mess for the next president.

What remains perfectly opaque is the reason that the U.S. should have any troops in Afghanistan. What is the compelling national security purpose of putting our troops at risk, such that some number of them will be killed and about 8 times as many will be wounded? How are we better off by intervening in that country, killing some of its people and continuing to be the chief recruiter for yet more angry Islamists to want to attack the U.S.? What is the return on our investment of trillions of dollars?

Somebody please tell me why we should continue to be at war in Afghanistan.


Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

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7 Responses to Somebody Please Tell Me
  1. Dan Wallace Reply

    Jack, we went into Afghanistan 2 years before we went into Iraq, and only 3 months after 9/11. Everything you say about it is true – no history of a strong central government, certainly no tradition of democracy, a country ruled and run by the shifting allegiances of tribes. That said, it also, perhaps specifically BECAUSE of its lack of a central government, became vulnerable to extremists who took it over AND make it a haven for the people who perpetrated the worst attack on America since Pearl Harbor. It would have been pretty hard, and I think pretty wrong, for an American president of any persuasion not to have done something about that.

    • JaxPolitix Reply

      To do something was, indeed, an imperative, Dan; however, neither Afghanistan nor the Taliban attacked us. They didn’t hit first.

      al Qaeda did hit first, so going after them made sense. We demanded that Afghanistan turn over Bin Laden, which they refused to do without proof of his participation in the 9/11 attacks, so we invaded on October 7, 2001 with Tony Blair’s misbegotten and cherry picked intelligence as part of our justification. We called it “Operation Enduring Freedom.” Now, of course, the only thing that is enduring is war.

      Attempting to find and detain or kill al Queda leaders did not justify a full scale invasion of an entire country that did us no harm, nor does it explain why we should still have thousands of troops in Afghanistan. That is to say, it is clear that justice wasn’t the primary goal of that invasion. What was?

      And what is the goal now? How long will it take to achieve that goal? Or will the goal posts get moved yet again?

  2. Jim Altschuler Reply

    The answer, of course, is simply that we would put all threats for fanatics permanently out of not only our misery but out of the misery of the rest of the countries in the world.

    See how well that worked? See what spending the lives of many of our young people as well as the lives of so many of the native peoples (men, women & children) has accomplished? See what having thousands of people of multiple origins maimed, exploded and psychologically destroyed has accomplished?

    NOTHING! ABSOLUTELY FREAKING NOTHING!! Enough already. Get them the heck out of there. The quote is perfectly appropriate.

  3. David Houle Reply

    Jack- when we invaded Afghanistan I went to the history books. When you look at the maps of the conquests of both Genghis Khan and Alexander, they both had a hole where they failed to conquer. The hole? Afghanistan.

    The quote about history goes here!

    • JaxPolitix Reply

      I think the quote to which David refers is from George Sanayana:
      “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

  4. Dominick Reply

    A former President already answered this question Jack. When you elect people to represent you in government based on their promises, this is the result. As long as we allow our political system to function as an 18th century elective monarchy, where our voices in government can only be heard at the next election, what else should you expect? Do we really need to be reminded that our elected officials have no obligation to listen or respond to the electorate as soon as they take office?

    Therefore, the answer to your question is the profit to be made by our military-industrial complex. Obama, the gang of bribe-taking politicians occupying the seats of Congress, and their campaign investment partners in armaments, as well as the mass media businesses are happy to assure you that you will be safer from foreign terrorists. Obviously, having yourself or your children killed by domestic terrorists, as more guns are dumped into our streets, should not be a concern as well. Killing by your fellow citizens is far more acceptable than by foreigners – at least they don’t blow themselves up in the process and we can sometimes find them to serve justice.

  5. Joni Lindgren Reply

    In answer to your question, Jack…..have you noticed that once we are “in” a country, we never leave? We have troops in a gazillion places.