Friday, October 16, 2015

Afghanistan forever war

So the Prez has given up. He thought he needed a "good" war and he's lured himself and us all into a tar pit. We can expect U.S. troops to be in Afghanistan for many years, even decades, until the Afghans finally chase us out.

Spencer Ackerman has been chronicling our imperial flailing for the last decade and a half:

Barack Obama was elected to end the grueling ground wars of his predecessor, but he will leave office entrenching a military era defined by an inability to achieve either victory or extrication.

Obama’s decision to scrap his long-deferred ambition to end the US military commitment to Afghanistan reflects a twilight period in US warfare: after more than a decade, military commanders are unable to defeat an insurgency or field an indigenous proxy force and political leaders are unwilling to accept the blame of losing a war or openly committing the US to indefinite combat.

The result is a fudge that favors a rump force based on dubious military necessity and a hope that, at some point, the local force – whether in Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere – will be able to shoulder the burden.

Nothing good can come of this because the "government" of Afghanistan has earned no legitimacy from its population. Those Afghans who can flee; those who can't suffer.

One of our pundit cheerleaders for empire, Roger Cohen, states the domestic reality baldly:

American power in 2015 is not American power in 1990. Hyper-connectivity and the rise of the rest will constrain any president even if the United States, as Hillary Clinton put it, is not Denmark.

Suppose — that word — Obama had been frank and said: “My job is to reduce the footprint of America in a changed world and empower other countries to do more.” That’s a total sinker in American politics.

It’s unthinkable because most Americans are still hard-wired to American exceptionalism, the notion that America is not America if it gives up on spreading liberty. So it becomes hard to find a foreign-policy language that’s aligned to reality but does not smack of “declinism” — fatal for any politician.

I'm not about to concede that what we are so committed to spreading is "liberty" -- substituting "ignorant faith in our superiority" strikes me as accurate. But Cohen has it: this President flounders because the mass of us want him to.

We're going to have to crash a lot further, before we stop behaving like dumb brats with nukes. Any of the plausible successors to the present President will almost certainly be worse. And this one has been pretty bad.


Hattie said...

It's not going to change. As Medea Benjamin says, the peace movement is dead.

Brandon said...

In Hilo, ever since 2001, the Malu Aina group has held a peace vigil every Friday afternoon in front of the Federal Building downtown.

janinsanfran said...

Hi Brandon: There are quite a few enduring peace vigils in various places. In the mid-2000s I had quite a list, as we supplied many with a free newspaper, WarTimes/Tiempos de Guerras.

There's been a particularly faithful one in Corvallis, OR, among many.

Here in San Francisco, the vigil goes on every Thursday at noon at the old federal building, populated by Quakers, Episcopalians, and many others. See here and here.

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