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No, Seriously; What Price Defeat?

[ 89 ] August 10, 2011 |

My column this week calls for a more rigorous appraisal of US interests in Afghanistan, and gives some reasons why we’re unlikely to see it:

In other words, would it make sense for the United States to “lose” the war in Afghanistan simply to put an end to the steady stream of casualties and the ongoing political and military investment in the survival of the Afghan government?

Some argue that the idea of winning by losing is a contradiction in terms. If the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai fell and the Taliban returned to power, they say, U.S. interests around the world would suffer grave reputational harm. Defeat would also increase the likelihood of additional terrorist attacks. However, the idea that the United States must “win at all costs” isn’t very satisfying. Even maximalists will find some measures — a domestic draft, for instance, or the mothballing of the aircraft carrier fleet — too high a price to pay for victory.

Assessing the cost of victory is complicated by two factors. The first is that costs are most clear in hindsight. It is very difficult while in the middle of a conflict to project how long the current level of spending and casualties will continue into the future. This is doubly true of counterinsurgency conflicts, which most often lack clear victory points. Second, the measure of “national interest” is more complicated than it sounds, as not everyone in the United States has the same foreign policy interest. To take an obvious example, workers very often benefit from protection against international competitors, while capital benefits from mobility and the relatively free movement of goods.

Comments (89)

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  1. c u n d gulag says:

    What is victory going to look like?

    How different will it look than defeat?

    How different will it look than a stalemate?

    In my opinion, I think they’ll all look about the same.
    We’ll never have a VA Day, with sailors smooching nurses in Times Square.

    Do what we should have done in Vietnam – declare victory, and get the hell out.

  2. Hogan says:

    If we fold this hand, no one will ever play poker with us again, even though we pretty much own the casino.

  3. Talking about the main-force fighting going on in Afghanistan as something distinct from the war against al Qaeda is a mistake that goes back to the Bush administration in 2001. It’s the reason we had 30,000 troops garrisoning Kabul while the Talibuddies escorted the Taliban and al Qaeda leadership out the back door from Tora Bora.

    We are legitimately fighting in Afghanistan because we had to go through the Taliban in order to get at al Qaeda, and to deny al Qaeda the resources of a sovereign state, which they enjoyed on 9/11. It is, always has been, and should always be discussed as, an annex to the war against al Qaeda.

    If Leon Panetta kills his last 20 guys, we win, and it doesn’t matter, in terms of our victory, what the government of Afghanistan looks like.

    Reputation is a lousy reason to kill people and sacrifice our blood and treasure. War for Feelings: Pffffftt!

    • Malaclypse says:

      If Leon Panetta kills his last 20 guys, we win,

      There will never be a “last 20 guys.”

      • I think you might not understand. Panetta’s not talking about killing the last 20 terrorists on earth. He’s talking about there being about 20 high-level commanders and organizers in al Qaeda that provide it with the structure, organization, and connections that allow it to be more than an ordinary terrorist organization, and operate as a strategic threat to us comparable to a hostile state that is conducting acts of war against us.

        Of course there will still be terrorists, there will still even be something called al Qaeda, after we win the war, but it will be an ordinary terrorist group that doesn’t require anything more than the ordinary law enforcement/intelligence means to keep a lid on it.

        • Bill Murray says:

          It’s good that in Lowell, no one else who ever could be associated with al Qaeda will ever have these skills, so Panetta’s 20 guys are the end.

          • Did I write anything about skills? More thought, less snark, please. It would be nice to keep this on a level above “…in Lowell…,” thanks.

            In a war, if a single general is killed, they can always promote a colonel.

            If enough of them are killed in a certain amount of time, the ability of the armed forces to operate as a cohesive force falls apart, and they can’t simply stick capable guys into slots.

            It’s the difference between picking 20 oranges off the pile, so that the pile is now 20 oranges smaller, and pulling out 20 oranges so that it falls apart, and there is no more pile.

        • Malaclypse says:

          more than an ordinary terrorist organization

          The Red Brigades were far more of a threat to Italy than AQ was to us. The PLO were more of a threat than AQ. The IRA were more of a threat. What makes AQ extraordinary was one spectacular “success” followed by our overreaction.

          • None of those organizations came even close to the level of damage al Qaeda has done its history.

            Did any of them blast embassies? Could any of them have sunk a warship? (The Cole very nearly sunk). Were any of them capable of operating in a couple dozen countries at the same time? Were any of them working in partnership with a sovereign government?

            Al Qaeda was already a bigger threat to us than any of those organizations before 9/11 even happened. That’s why Clinton ordered the CIA to go to war against them. That’s why he attacked bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan. That’s why Richard Clarke was “running around with my hair on fire” trying to overcome the Bushies underreaction to them.

            • Malaclypse says:

              Did any of them blast embassies?

              The IRA killed Lord Mountbatten. The Red Brigades kidnapped a Prime Minister from off a busy street, help him hostage for 54 days, then executed him.

              The execution of Aldo Moro was a much bigger threat to the Italian social order than anything AQ did.

              • A guy.

                A guy.

                The execution of Aldo Moro was a much bigger threat to the Italian social order than anything AQ did.

                That is ridiculous. Nearly 3000 people died in one day on 9/11, and the only reason the Capitol building wasn’t destroyed was because the one plane that didn’t hit its target was the one that happened to target it.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Nearly 3000 people died in one day on 9/11

                  Two months’ traffic fatalities. 9 months of OSHA violations.

                • So now we’re off of the claim that the Red Brigades are the equivalent of al Qaeda?

                  Just making sure – we’ve dropped that claim? It’s no longer operative?

                  I don’t want to swat this latest one down and then have you change the subject back.

                • OK.

                  Here’s the entire statement:

                  Nearly 3000 people died in one day on 9/11, and the only reason the Capitol building wasn’t destroyed was because the one plane that didn’t hit its target was the one that happened to target it.

                  Doing a small amount of damage to a strategic target – shooting JFK – isn’t a national strategic threat.

                  Doing a large, diffuse, untargeted amount of damage isn’t a national strategic threat.

                  But to be able to target a large amount of damage at a strategic target – to concentrate all of the death and carnage on all of the country’s highways in a month – into one strategic target, or a set of related strategic targets, at one time is a BFD.

                  You’re at another level.

                  BTW, if you add up everything done in a year to reduce traffic fatalities – from policing to the extra expenses from safety equipment to the extra expenses from building roads according to safety standards to pedestrian improvements to traffic checkpoints to striping and crosswalks to license tests to street lights, to signalization, blah blah blah blah blah, it’s a BFD, too.

          • Or maybe Bush was right on August 6, 2001.

          • The Red Brigades were far more of a threat to Italy than AQ was to us.

            Well, no, they never managed to do much of any significance. An assassination sucks, a few bombings suck, but that’s SLA-level stuff, not a strategic threat.

            The PLO were more of a threat than AQ. The IRA were more of a threat.

            The PLO was a much greater strategic threat to Israel than al Qaeda was to us. Israel also spent no end of military effort to address that threat.

            The IRA were a strategic threat to the UK, but less than al Qaeda is to us. They might have made an overseas colony ungovernable – which is certainly a strategic threat – but their operations in the UK itself were on the level of an ordinary terrorist group like the SLA or the Red Brigades. That’s probably why the British utilized military means against them in Ireland, but law enforcement means at home.

            • Emma in Sydney says:

              Right. So killing Americans in one attack is strategic, but killing hundreds of Brits and injuring thousands over a 25 year campaign with over 500 incidents in mainland Britain is, what, a misunderstanding. Easy to see, Joe, that you didn’t drink in any Birmingham pubs in the 1980s. It felt fucking strategic, I can tell you.

              • It felt fucking strategic, I can tell you.

                I think you might have a teensy-weensy misunderstanding of what a strategic threat is.

                Easy to see, Joe, that you didn’t drink in any Birmingham pubs in the 1980s.

                I just described Timothy McVeigh, who killed more Americans in one day than the IRA did in England over the entire decade of the 1980s, as not amounting to a strategic threat.

              • So killing Americans in one attack is strategic

                Al Qaeda only killed Americans in one attack?

                ORLY?

                You’re entitled to your own opinion. You are not entitled to your own facts.

            • herr doktor bimler says:

              but their operations in the UK itself

              You appear to have your own idiosyncratic definition of “United Kingdom” which excludes Northern Ireland.

            • herr doktor bimler says:

              That’s probably why the British utilized military means against them in Ireland, but law enforcement means at home.

              Dunno. My impression at the time was that the Brits were deploying troops in Belfast because (a) the Ulster Constabulary were hopeless corrupt and compromised; and (b) the IRA were sufficiently sheltered by local supporters that ordinary police powers were hampered (see also Diplock Courts and the like).

              Your point here — peripheral though it is to the broader topic — has a chronology problem. IIRC, the IRA only took to bombing English civilians when they could no longer attack ‘hard targets’ at home. They were weakened; the army bases were fortified. So they broadened the concept of ‘legitimate target’ to include English civilians.

              In other words, it’s not so much that their attacks in Manchester & London were weaker because it was away from their home turf; rather, the IRA were attacking away from home turf because they were weaker.

              The 1984 Brighton bombing against Thatcher and the entire UK cabinet… does that count as ‘strategic’?

              • My impression at the time was that the Brits were deploying troops in Belfast because (a) the Ulster Constabulary were hopeless corrupt and compromised; and (b) the IRA were sufficiently sheltered by local supporters that ordinary police powers were hampered (see also Diplock Courts and the like).

                (b) is just a description of how the strategic threat the IRA posed operated. They were basically operating as a popular insurgency, and in doing so, rendering one of Britain’s overseas possessions ungovernable, so that they had to send in troops to try to restore order.

                Your point here — peripheral though it is to the broader topic — has a chronology problem.

                I don’t understand how the chronology is supposed to be a problem. Going back to 1916 and before, and at various other times, the IRA posed a strategic threat to the British in Ireland, but they never did in Britain. While your description of their tactics in one period is roughly true, it doesn’t seem to have much to do with the point.

                IIRC, the IRA only took to bombing English civilians when they could no longer attack ‘hard targets’ at home. They were weakened; the army bases were fortified.

                But nonetheless, even “weaker,” the IRA constituted a strategic threat to British control of an overseas possession.

                The 1984 Brighton bombing against Thatcher and the entire UK cabinet… does that count as ‘strategic’?

                I think the IRA would have liked to constitute a strategic threat in Britain itself, but as the outcome of that event demonstrates, they never quite got there.

        • Paul Campos says:

          He’s talking about there being about 20 high-level commanders and organizers in al Qaeda that provide it with the structure, organization, and connections that allow it to be more than an ordinary terrorist organization, and operate as a strategic threat to us comparable to a hostile state that is conducting acts of war against us.

          The idea that AQ has ever been, is now, or could ever be “a strategic threat to us comparable to a hostile state that is conducting acts of war against us” is completely nuts somewhat implausible.

          • Is this going to be one of those endless examples of you making one of your pronouncements from on high about how the opinion you don’t hold can’t possibly be anything but foolish, and then never appearing again on the thread to back it up?

            Al Qaeda has already killed more Americans in our country than all of the Central Powers in World War One combined. It all but destroyed two embassies on the same day. It was dumb luck that the Cole – a billion dollar war ship – didn’t go to the bottom of the ocean. Any one of these factors by itself would be recognized as a strategic threat by anyone without an ax to grind riding on the outcome.

            But I suppose we should just Paul’s word that the opinion held by the Secretary of Defense, CIA Director, President, Vice-President, and ever member of the Join Chiefs of Staff is not only wrong on balance, but “completely nuts.”

            • rea says:

              Al Qaeda has already killed more Americans in our country than all of the Central Powers in World War One combined.

              117,465 US dead in WWI. I don’t think al Qaeda has topped that.

            • “There has been enormous damage done to al-Qaida,” beyond the death of bin Laden, in the areas of western Pakistan where the group is believed operating, Petraeus said. “That has very significantly disrupted their efforts and it does hold the prospect of a strategic defeat, if you will, a strategic dismantling, of al-Qaida.”

              Asked how he defines a “strategic defeat” for al-Qaida, Petraeus said it means that “they can’t carry out strategically important attacks.”

              But what would he know, he’s just a career military officer turned CIA Director. He’s not just wrong, but it’s completely nuts for this much-better-informed person to hold this opinion.

              • The default position of trust in those authorities hasn’t resulted in the completion of tasks that started a decade ago.

                Career military guys, like all good workers want to finish a job. Will this job ever be finished?

                • This isn’t a point about trust.

                  This isn’t a point about whether he’s right or wrong at all.

                  This is a point about whether it is “completely nuts” to hold a position about strategic threats which differs from that of Poli-Sci Professor Campos.

                  Career military guys, like all good workers want to finish a job. Will this job ever be finished?

                  That’s what makes Panetta and Patraeus’ statements so encouraging: they are identifying an end to the war on al Qaeda, not talking about it as a “generational conflict” and making Cold War comparisons.

              • Hogan says:

                It sounds like he’s saying we’re a strategic threat to al Qaida, not the other way round.

                • He’s saying both. Look at the last sentence:

                  Asked how he defines a “strategic defeat” for al-Qaida, Petraeus said it means that “they can’t carry out strategically important attacks.”

                  He is describing a future situation that he thinks can come to pass – that al Qaeda will be rendered incapable of dealing us a strategic blow.

                • I don’t buy it. Timothy McVeigh could deal out an Al-Qaeda like attack: as long as those guys and like-minded maniacs are out there they can creatively cause some pretty major damage.

                • Timothy McVeigh couldn’t strike two embassies in two different countries simultaneously.

                  Timothy McVeigh carried out the most successful domestic terror attack in American history, and it was a fraction of 9/11.

                  But, yes, domestic anti-government militias could well pose a strategic threat to the US if left unaddressed. Fortunately, because they’re operating within the United States where the full resources of federal, state, and local law enforcement are available to us, they aren’t able to grow into anything like what al Qaeda was when George Bush thought the threat described in the August 6 PDB was overblown.

                • The point is not that McVeigh=Al Qaeda or that Oklahoma City=9/11 but that guys without a lot of technology and with a lot of motivation can get horrible stuff done. In the absence of an Al Qaeda leadership there remain the maniacs who enjoy shooting Americans.

                • In the absence of an Al Qaeda leadership there remain the maniacs who enjoy shooting Americans.

                  And in the absence of a generaltariat, the most powerful army in the world remains a collection of units that can achieve tactical objectives and kill a lot of people, without coordination, until they cease to be able to sustain themselves in the field.

                  No one is talking about eliminating any and all threat from al Qaeda; that’s impossible. But there is a big difference between the Red Brigades and what al Qaeda was from 1999-2001.

                • guys without a lot of technology and with a lot of motivation can get horrible stuff done

                  The second was one of the things that an al Qaeda organization was able to provide. Nineteen hijackers possessing the intent and determination they had on September 11 – not carrying out out the physical demands of the job, but to actually being ready willing and able to go through with it – don’t dump themselves on your doorstep ready to go. These weren’t fanatic privates willing to carry out their suicidal orders when living in a military unit in the barracks or in the field. They sent these guys out, out of control of home base, months beforehand, and charged them will getting the skills and documents necessary to do what they did and put together the operation and then go through it, months later.

                  People like that are made. It take the CIA years, and lots of recruits, and millions of dollars, to produce a handful of people to set loose to operate independently, undercover, out of their reach, in hostile territory, to do much less-dangerous things.

                  It takes resources and organization and professionalism and expertise and scale to produce any meaningful number of people like that.

                • No one is talking about eliminating any and all threat from al Qaeda

                  Well, such is my point I guess. I realize the argument is that the generals/Panetta believe that getting those 20 is worth it, but up to now there have been over 1500 US deaths and over 11000 wounded, to say nothing of what’s happened to the Afghans. That seems like a big win for the crazies who love to die and the country isn’t secured. Here’s hoping the heirarchies that get left over once the war ends – if it ends – are navel-gazers rather than being interested in world affairs.

                • but up to now there have been over 1500 US deaths and over 11000 wounded

                  I would argue that most of those losses weren’t the necessary cost of getting al Qaeda to where they are, but the consequence of the strategic bungling of the Bush administration, in their handling of the Afghan War, and in taking their eye off al Qaeda to concentrate on their Really Big Idea That Couldn’t Possibly Go Wrong in Iraq.

                  We had 30,000 troops garrisoning Kabul when the leadership of al Qaeda and the Taliban walked out the back door at Tora Bora. We could have been done with the actual war against al Qaeda years ago, if they’d actually been interested in fighting it.

                • Nineteen hijackers possessing the intent and determination they had on September 11 – not carrying out out the physical demands of the job, but to actually being ready willing and able to go through with it – don’t dump themselves on your doorstep ready to go.

                  There’s a pretty meaningful way in which they do: most of those hijackers went to join fighting in Bosnia or Chechnya or Afghanistan. Those guys joined up and weren’t pushed. The Hamburg folks were probably different.

            • Paul Campos says:

              Al Qaeda has already killed more Americans in our country than all of the Central Powers in World War One combined.

              They’ve also killed more Americans in our country than the Nazis, the Red Army, the Roman Legions, and Pure Evil From the 8th Dimension combined.

              Sounds like an existential threat!

              • A poli-sci professor, even if he doesn’t have the strongest grasp of strategic issues, should understand the difference between “strategic” and “existential.”

                Take away the dumb shit about “threats” that didn’t exist at any point in American history, and we’re left with the Nazis and the Red Army.

                Yes, Professor of Poli-Sci, the Nazis and the Red Army were strategic threats. Ask around at the office.

                • Perhaps it would work out better if you decided to end the condescend-a-thon?

                • Emma in Sydney says:

                  You could take your own advice here Joe, and stop thread flooding. You made a point. People disagreed. Making it again 200 times is not more persuasive. Srsly.

                • I’ll give your advice about how to comport myself all the attention it deserves.

                  And I didn’t write a word about thread-flooding, but about being a condescending prick, being pointlessly disrespectful, and about writing faux-clever one-line putdowns in place of making an argument.

                • ajay says:

                  joe, seriously, if you’re saying “Paul Campos should restrict himself to talking about things he is qualified to talk about” you have a long, hard road ahead of you.

                • Actually, what I’m saying is that he should avoid writing about topics in which the things he’s going to write are going to sound stupid.

                  Lemieux isn’t “qualified” to discuss the legal details of Supreme Court rulings, but he does so quite well. Ringo here, on the other hand, seems to have only a very narrow slice of knowledge in which he’s able to produce anything more insightful than “That’s not what I think; that’s so dumb!”

  4. Charlie Sweatpants says:

    This is the heart of the matter:

    While the Afghanistan War lacks a domestic constituency in the sense of interest group politics, any war that lasts as long as this one has lasted creates its own constituency within government. It might seem odd to think about a war as having its own constituency, but a great many people depend materially and ideologically on continued NATO operations in Afghanistan. In government, in Congress, in the Pentagon and in the archipelago of think tanks that surround the policymaking process, people have committed themselves rhetorically and professionally to the idea of winning the war in Afghanistan. Careers and relationships are at stake.

    [...]

    Applied to Afghanistan, this logic makes the overriding institutional interest of the U.S. military — again, particularly the Army and Marine Corps — relatively simple: Avoid defeat.

    The constituency for the war also extends beyond the borders of the United States. While the U.S. has expressed a growing degree of frustration with the Afghan government and Afghan security forces, many of those tasked directly with implementing the partnership have developed good relationships with their Afghan counterparts. The idea that the United States might abandon these people to their fate becomes as much a personal and moral issue as a policy problem. These relationships persist despite aggregate trends in Afghan perceptions of the United States, and vice versa.

    At the moment, Afghanistan is basically a side project of the government. It’s expensive, but hardly ruinous, and as long as the casualties come from elements of our population that have little to no media clout, the war’s domestic constituencies can continue it indefinitely. Until Afghanistan becomes the kind of decisive and prominent political issue Iraq was in 2006 (and to a lesser extent in 2008), there won’t be the kind of political will necessary to shut it down.

    For evidence of that, look no further than Iraq itself. We’re currently negotiating with the Iraqi government to modify the 2008 status of forces agreement and continue a military presence beyond 2011. These negotiations aren’t popular in Iraq, and probably wouldn’t be popular here if anyone cared about them. But Iraq is no longer the political issue it once was, so the “stay in Iraq” constituency can push for an extension against no real domestic opposition.

    The only thing that can overcome that kind of deeply ingrained organizational resistance is a major rejection of the war at the ballot box. Until that happens, we’re going to be there.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Better editors needed at WPR:
    “how long should the United States continue to accept the loss its very best in Afghanistan?

  6. herr doktor bimler says:

    Surely more a question of “What price admitting defeat?”

  7. All of this “defeat” talk is misleading anyway.

    Is “defeat” for the United States now defined as “not meeting all of our goals in a conflict?”

    And is that the standard we’re applying to the other side when discussing whether they’ve been dealt a defeat?

    In the worst-case scenario for us, is al Qaeda as well-off when we leave Afghanistan as they were when we arrived? Is the Taliban?

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      The point of maintaining a US presence in Afghanistan seems to be that Karzai and his cohort of kleptocrats are not otherwise capable of maintaining their hold on Kabul.
      Some would see that as failure to weaken the Taliban.

      • Some would be mistaken, since even in a post-war situation that left the Taliban in control of Kabul, they would no longer have access to bin Laden’s international organization and volunteers, and would still be subject to various American interventions and containment.

  8. DocAmazing says:

    Al-Qaeda is not at all the same thing as the Taliban. We can go home now; the al-Qaeda presence in Afghanistan is probably not significantly greater than that in Iraq or Yemen (or a post-Qaddaffi Libya).

    • Paul Campos says:

      You still don’t get it, do you? He’ll defend Obama’s policies! That’s what he does! That’s ALL he does! You can’t stop him! He’ll wade through any internet thread, reach down to the bottom of the comments, and “conclusively refute” everything you’ve said!

      • Whatever, Ringo.

        This is what you bring to the discussion?

          • DocAmazing says:

            I dunno, I thought the Terminator reference was pretty funny…

          • jeer9 says:

            Too many exclamation points indicate shrieking. Please refrain from this and make your comments more useful.

            • My point exactly.

              I mean, look at this mess:

              They’ve also killed more Americans in our country than the Nazis, the Red Army, the Roman Legions, and Pure Evil From the 8th Dimension combined.

              Sounds like an existential threat!

              You still don’t get it, do you? He’ll defend Obama’s policies! That’s what he does! That’s ALL he does! You can’t stop him! He’ll wade through any internet thread, reach down to the bottom of the comments, and “conclusively refute” everything you’ve said!

              Two comments, eight declarative sentences, seven exclamation points.

              • Paul Campos says:

                Joe, I’ve re-read your comments from this thread that you re-posted, and you’ll be happy to hear that through the mere act of re-posting them and pointing out how perceptive they were, you’ve convinced me that your analysis of the situation is as remarkably insightful as you correctly perceived to be in the first place.

                I’m sorry I tried to make a joke at your expense, and in the future will treat all your contributions with the solemn respect they so clearly deserve.

                • Something short of “sneering contempt at anything that doesn’t seem right to me” would be fine, thanks.

                  Since you’re reviewing things, here’s a thought: read the entirety of your contribution to this thread, and ask yourself, is this the person you want to be, and want to present to the world?

                • I do like the idea of reposting things, though.

                  I write things like:

                  I think you might not understand. Panetta’s not talking about killing the last 20 terrorists on earth. He’s talking about there being about 20 high-level commanders and organizers in al Qaeda that provide it with the structure, organization, and connections that allow it to be more than an ordinary terrorist organization, and operate as a strategic threat to us comparable to a hostile state that is conducting acts of war against us.

                  Of course there will still be terrorists, there will still even be something called al Qaeda, after we win the war, but it will be an ordinary terrorist group that doesn’t require anything more than the ordinary law enforcement/intelligence means to keep a lid on it.

                  You still don’t get it, do you? He’ll defend Obama’s policies! That’s what he does! That’s ALL he does! You can’t stop him! He’ll wade through any internet thread, reach down to the bottom of the comments, and “conclusively refute” everything you’ve said!

                  I know I’d be bursting with pride, Ringo.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  I do like the idea of reposting things, though.

                  Some good advice.

    • Al-Qaeda is not at all the same thing as the Taliban.

      Back before and during the first year or so of the invasion, they were. Al Qaeda was basically running the Afghan military, training their troops. A couple days before 9/11, they blew up Ahmed Shah Massood, the leader of the anti-Taliban forces. They were fighting under a unified command, with bin Laden’s international volunteers helping in the civil war, and that continued during the invasion, up to and including Tora Bora.

      We can go home now; the al-Qaeda presence in Afghanistan is probably not significantly greater than that in Iraq or Yemen (or a post-Qaddaffi Libya).

      That’s true now. It’s probably been true for years. The point is to make sure it stays that way.

      • Malaclypse says:

        The point is to make sure it stays that way.

        Forever.

      • DocAmazing says:

        What’s the endpoint, then?

        • jeer9 says:

          Of late, the United States planned to expand the Bagram, Kandahar and Mazar-e-Shairf air bases in Afghanistan with an allocation of 300 million US dollars. The expansion of U.S. military bases in Afghanistan is obviously running counter to the commitment to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2011; the United States is aiming to build permanent military bases in the “post-antiterrorism era” and to consolidate its global military network and to guard against the possible future global volatile situations.

          Apparently, the United States will not abandon the strategic and geopolitical interests it has paid in blood for easily. At a time when the Taliban insurgent forces are staging a comeback, the U.S. will easily find many excuses to suspend withdrawing its forces.

          As a matter of course, the United States has made a series of preparations for its permanent presence in Afghanistan. The U.S. 2005 Annual Defense Report made it clear [that it would] increase the number of military bases in southwestern Asia, in an effort to cope with the possible volatile global situation in the years ahead. In 2006, the U.S. forces started building a 3,000-meter runway at the Bagram air base and a living facility for 1,000 servicemen the Corps of Engineers were building at the time, a giant step ahead toward the goal of building the permanent military bases.

          There is none. We have always been at war with Eastasia. Clearance for take-off on Airstrip One will resume shortly.

          • ajay says:

            I don’t know where that quote’s from but they badly need an editor whose first language is English.

          • With a stated intention of staying through 2014, an expansion of bases in 2010 is not “obviously running counter to the commitment to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2011.”

            Particularly since an ultimate withdrawal from Afghanistan, like that from Iraq, would first involve pulling back from many smaller forward bases to a few larger bases away from population centers.

        • What’s the endpoint, then?

          As I said at the beginning, I don’t think the end point is decided by the main force conflict in Afghanistan, but by the war against al Qaeda.

  9. Uncle Kvetch says:

    And I didn’t write a word about thread-flooding, but about being a condescending prick, being pointlessly disrespectful, and about writing faux-clever one-line putdowns in place of making an argument.

    Joe from Lowell wrote this? Srsly? Joe from Lowell?

    Joe, awhile back I made a point of defending you against the accusation of being a troll. He’s abrasive, I said, his style can be off-putting, but no, he’s not a troll.

    I hereby take it back. You are doing as much as Normy ever did to render this blog’s comments unreadable.

    • Malaclypse says:

      I would, respectfully, phrase it differently: some people, who are not trolls, should nevertheless not be fed, particularly on certain topics.

      There are many topics that JFL discusses, knowledgeably and well. Then there are, well, other topics.

      • Oh, good, a sub-thread about me.

        How fascinating.

        Is it even remotely possible that the two of you could not do this for a day?

        Give it a shot: 24 hours. Really stretch yourself.

      • Talking about the main-force fighting going on in Afghanistan as something distinct from the war against al Qaeda is a mistake that goes back to the Bush administration in 2001. It’s the reason we had 30,000 troops garrisoning Kabul while the Talibuddies escorted the Taliban and al Qaeda leadership out the back door from Tora Bora.

        We are legitimately fighting in Afghanistan because we had to go through the Taliban in order to get at al Qaeda, and to deny al Qaeda the resources of a sovereign state, which they enjoyed on 9/11. It is, always has been, and should always be discussed as, an annex to the war against al Qaeda.

        If Leon Panetta kills his last 20 guys, we win, and it doesn’t matter, in terms of our victory, what the government of Afghanistan looks like.

        Reputation is a lousy reason to kill people and sacrifice our blood and treasure. War for Feelings: Pffffftt!

        There are many topics that JFL discusses, knowledgeably and well. Then there are, well, other topics.

        Cool story, bro.

      • Uncle Kvetch says:

        You’re right, Mal…I wrote that comment in a fit of exasperation and I overstated the case.

        There are many topics that JFL discusses, knowledgeably and well. Then there are, well, other topics.

        Agreed.

    • Talking about the main-force fighting going on in Afghanistan as something distinct from the war against al Qaeda is a mistake that goes back to the Bush administration in 2001. It’s the reason we had 30,000 troops garrisoning Kabul while the Talibuddies escorted the Taliban and al Qaeda leadership out the back door from Tora Bora.

      We are legitimately fighting in Afghanistan because we had to go through the Taliban in order to get at al Qaeda, and to deny al Qaeda the resources of a sovereign state, which they enjoyed on 9/11. It is, always has been, and should always be discussed as, an annex to the war against al Qaeda.

      If Leon Panetta kills his last 20 guys, we win, and it doesn’t matter, in terms of our victory, what the government of Afghanistan looks like.

      Reputation is a lousy reason to kill people and sacrifice our blood and treasure. War for Feelings: Pffffftt!

      I hereby take it back. You are doing as much as Normy ever did to render this blog’s comments unreadable.

      You just look fucking stupid when you write something like this after a thread in which I’ve written things like this.

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