It’s a script we’ve read before, and seen performed with spectacularly bloody results. A President mulls a controversial policy decision regarding a misguided war, and the Generals come out, guns blazing.
On this occasion, it is once again Afghanistan that is the subject of policy debates. The war that began nearly twelve years ago is no closer to being “won”. Driven by frustration with Karzai—who is concerned, understandably given the poor track record of the U.S. military and intelligence services, about demands by the U.S. that its personnel be above the law—the President is considering a “zero option”, which could mean withdrawing all U.S. soldiers from Afghanistan.
Karzai’s intransigence aside, I think the “zero option” might make a lot of sense. The presence of U.S. soldiers around the world, particularly in countries that have recently been bombed and occupied by the U.S., often exacerbates dislike for the U.S. and generates what the national security practitioners call “blowback”. It often provides the pretext for later attacks on U.S. soldiers or civilians, and helps to perpetuate the cycle of violence associated with high-handed American imperialism around the world. Our “clean up” operations have a tendency to just smear the mess around more.
But the generals are having none of it. According to the BBC, General Joseph Dunford, the newest ISAF commander, is arguing that “without continued support from foreign politicians, citizens’ basic rights were in no way guaranteed”. Which is a funny argument to make, because in virtually every utterance since assuming office, our President has tried to reassure the self-interested streak in the public that the last thing we are in Afghanistan to do is to protect the rights of its citizens or to care for Afghan institutions.
Instead, the President sold this war as one with narrow aims: to protect the security of the United States. With deaths mounting and no end to the war in sight, to say nothing of the intensification and geographic expansion of the U.S. War of Terror, the administration, the military, and the intelligence services have clearly failed in their task, neglecting as they did to examine the consequences of a war of this character.
Moreover, the U.S. is in the process of suspending the rule of law at home—spying on its citizens, torturing, kidnapping, disappearing, and murdering—in aid of a war, the aims of which the President and his generals cannot even articulate convincingly.
The “terrorists”, whomever and wherever they might be, have clearly won this one, and I think we need to quit before the body-count mounts and we invest ourselves in further conflicts and fronts which will only ensure that this “forever war” drags on indefinitely. At some point the cycle of violence associated with U.S. colonialism and terrorism must be broken, and ultimately we have far more to lose than the Taliban, al-Qaeda, or whomever the “enemy” is.
The military industrial complex is most likely to sabotage a total withdrawal given the ideological commitment of the national security apparatus to U.S. terrorism, and the egotistical refusal of the generals to acknowledge that we assured our defeat the moment we committed ourselves to fighting fire with fire in this terrible war. Khaama reported that “Dunford has warned that withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan next year and discussions over ‘zero option’ would be damaging to the mission”.
But what happens, General, when the mission itself is damaging to our country’s security and the public’s well-being? Because make no mistake: that’s where we are today.
As an idiot from Texas once said, “Fool me once...”