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"Hastening the day Americans stop dying for a lost cause is the right call"

Posted by The Agonist on February 2nd, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Romney charges that the Obama administration’s announcement of a 2013 end to combat missions in Afghanistan and 2014 pull-out date “makes absolutely no sense.”

One of the few moderate, sane Republicans left, James Joyner, responds:

Critics who worry that this announcement of a withdrawal severely undercuts our negotiating position with the Taliban are surely correct. They can easily bide their time now that they have a date certain.

So how can a decision that undermines our allies and our own negotiating power nonetheless be the right one? Because the alternative is to continue getting people killed — not to mention inadvertently killing innocents — in a fight we can’t win.

…As with many other Obama foreign policy decisions, one might have wished for a better rollout. Consultation with our NATO allies and partners on the matter would have been good form. And, after a more than a decade of fighting, a presidential speech rather than a casual announcement by the defense secretary would have been more fitting.

Ultimately, though, hastening the day Americans stop dying for a lost cause is the right call.

The Taliban always could “bide their time” in Afghanistan. They live there. Announce the timetable or not, it’s meaningless.

I’m highly skeptical that this announced transition will actually mean the end to Americans fighting and dying in Afghanistan, and even more so that 2014 will see the end to a US military presence there, but I cannot help but concur with James’ sentiments about “dying for a lost cause”.

Alas, I’m fairly sure that Simon Jenkins is right when he writes that nothing has been learned from Afghanistan.

More alarming about the Afghan war has been its psychology. It has generated some two dozen books on my shelf, and every one of them warns, cautions, criticises, condemns. The Pashtun Taliban should not be underestimated. Defeating them by main force flew in the face of all experience. Pakistani intelligence would offer them sanctuary and support. Nato should not drive al-Qaida, a tiny Arabist cell in 2001, into alliance with the Taliban. The idea that force of western arms could turn a corrupt Muslim statelet into a sanitised, pro-western democracy was arrogant and unreal.

Every warning was disregarded in a classic of “cognitive dissonance”.

…Unlike most European countries, sucked into the Afghan vortex by Nato blackmail, Britain and the US were willing warriors, with belligerence in their cultural genes. Discussing “what must be done” to order the rest of the world is second nature to their political class…Which is why this is not the endgame. Britain is even now rattling sabres and dicing with disaster alongside the US against Iran. Such a war would be as catastrophic as could be imagined, and against a country that poses no conceivable threat to western security. The sole reason for going to war against Iran is to go to war against Iran. That is how we went to war against Afghanistan and Iraq. Clearly, nothing has been learned.

If not Iran, then Syria. If not Syria, then somewhere else. It certainly seems correct to say that the US and Britain share some subtextual notion of “manifest destiny” that means they can keep on blithely assuming they have the right and wherewithall to “order the rest of the world” at gunpoint. To truly “hasten the day Americans stop dying for a lost cause” we’re going to have to deal with that notion. I confess, I’ve no blessed clue how.

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