Steven A Leibo is a Professor of International History & Politics at the Sage Colleges
“Time To Get Out”
I suppose I should admit it, I was one of those who thought we should invade Afghanistan. And, I should probably add that that was a surprising stance given that I have spent my entire life studying the effects of war. Literally studying the record of thousands of years of stupid reasons nations have fight from the long forgotten War of Jenkin’s ear to the stupid fly swatter incident that set off France’s conquest of Algeria.
And on a personal note I once traveled regularly through Vietnam listening to vets telling their stories of the stupidity of that particular military adventure. But, despite all that I really did think we should invade Afghanistan. Oh, It’s true long before nine eleven they had already pissed me off with their destruction Afghanistan’s Buddhist heritage and their treatment of women. And like most political analysts I truly believed that we had, however silly it sounds been attacked by a terrorist group al Qaeda, and a country, Afghanistan of the Taliban so tight was the tie between Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar.
And while I have long pondered how much of American history was deformed by the results of the Supreme Court’s cynical intervention in the failed election of 2000 Afghanistan was not one of those changes. Because Al Gore, the man who actually won the votes of the American people that fall, would have invaded just as fast as George W. Bush did.
But that was then and this is now. And I certainly appreciated Barack Obama’s reasoning during 2008’s campaign. Absolutely understood his impressive strategy of getting past Hillary by unfairly tying her to the stupid Iraq decision. And then sliding past John McCain arguing that republican war time leadership had been incompetent. Because Afghanistan the war without choice — the war that had flowed out of the assault on America, was also the war that had been weakened by the war without logic—the invasion of Iraq.
After all, no one is going to make to the White House claiming to be a completely anti-war pacifist. And Obama was certainly not taking that tack, rather calling for competent wartime leadership by a president who knew the difference between staying on target, and being distracted. Sure, I recognize that a lot of his election supporters seemed to miss the logic of his argument- somehow thought he was completely against war.
But Obama was more subtle both politically and geo-politically. He probably even believed it. I certainly did and once elected he followed through with that logic, moving to end our commitment in Iraq while escalating in Afghanistan. Yes, he ever so obviously giving the struggle born directly of nine eleven, as directly as the Pacific War flowed from Pearl Harbor the chance it never had in the Bush years.
But the points been made and it is obvious it’s time to move on, to move on because All Qaeda has been dealt the body blow it deserved. It was after the internationally minded Al Qaeda that attacked us not the extraordinarily provincial Taliban of Afghanistan. And of course these days, we are just stuck trying to destroy a movement, the Taliban whose fate really does not impact on America one whit. All the while trapping ourselves in a thousand year old Hindu Muslim, Pakistani Indian blood feud that makes the Arab Israeli struggle look like a kindergarten recess spat. Even as we watch the fraudulently elected leader of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, a man who has after all these years has still failed to develop the legitimacy any national leader must have to survive turn increasingly against us.
Can anyone still think we have accomplished anything important to America in Afghanistan lately? And the same can be said for Pakistan. Sure, some say we need Pakistan’s cooperation to lessen terrorism but the way this commentator sees it our continuing military efforts in both Afghanistan and Pakistan only increase the likelihood of more terrorism and distract us from taking on the challenges that really face Americans in this new century.