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no total failure

Reader comment on item: The Afghan War's Dismal End; Blame Bush Too

Submitted by myth (Germany), May 30, 2014 at 05:31

I do not see the Afghan war as a total American failure. I see the Afghan war as part of a phase of military engagements beginning after 9-11 and lasting until retreat from Afghanistan. To me the question is what is the Afghan war's contribution to the overall success or failure of the entire phase. Connected is another question what ingredients account for success or failure. I argue, one cannot expect one war alone to supply all ingredients. Let me go into the ingredients:

  1. Prevent, react to, punish any attack on Americans or American territory: The Afghan war certainly satisfies that. When the US was attacked in Benghazi it has been sitting silently and motionless until today. This is what constitutes total failure in the truest meaning of total.
  2. Achieve deterrence by victory: Violent islamists outside of the West would rather burn a thousand churches in the MidEast than attack the US again. That is a result of the Afghan war, certainly combined with the Iraq war. In both cases the unmatched mobility of American forces on a global scale explains victory. However the US appear quite immobile when it is time to leave. It is the open reluctance to attack Iranian nuclear facilities that crumbles American deterrence.
  3. Demontrate moral integrity to ensure public support in the West: The Afghan war put violent islamism in the region in the spotlight of Western media. Would we even know of Malala without the Afghan war? The Afghan war's moral basis proved strong enough to convince Germany and The Netherlands to send forces. On this subject the Abu Ghraib prison scandal overshadows the Afghan war, not to mention the WMD narrative of the Iraq war. Moreover, there is little to none imperative now to keep American forces in Afghanistan on moral grounds.

I see a failure in concept to pursue all three points with one engagement alone. It would have been better to have restricted the Afghan war to (1) punishing an attack on the US and pursue deterrence and moral integrity elsewhere.

Today two goals face new and old opportunities: (2 - deterrence) Destroy Iranian nuclear facilities. (3 - moral integrety) go into Nigeria without even announcing it and defeat Boko Haram with flying flags. My approach here is buy deterrence in one place and moral integrity in another.

Submitting....

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