January 04, 2014

Saturday Morning Essay: So Much for Those 13 Years of War

Brought to you by Peet's Major Kong blend...

My preoccupations with wondering how much longer we'll have a habitable planet sometimes take me away from the day-to-day absurdities of American foreign policy, such as this recent report:

From the National Security section of the Washington Post, Sunday, December 29, 2013:

A new American intelligence assessment on the Afghan war predicts that the gains the United States and its allies have made during the past three years are likely to have been significantly eroded by 2017, even if Washington leaves behind a few thousand troops and continues bankrolling the impoverished nation, according to officials familiar with the report.

The National Intelligence Estimate, which includes input from the country’s 16 intelligence agencies, predicts that the Taliban and other power brokers will become increasingly influential as the United States winds down its longest war in history, according to officials who have read the classified report or received briefings on its conclusions. The grim outlook is fueling a policy debate inside the Obama administration about the steps it should take over the next year as the U.S. military draws down its remaining troops. 
These "16 intelligence agencies" are the same consortium that concluded, years ago, that Iran was not in fact actively seeking a nuclear bomb, a position which Iran happens to agree with.  No one believes this, of course, and official policy is exactly contrary to this position, which often makes me wonder why the CIA and the rest of the spooks even bother.  Now they're laying out the cold, hard facts about Afghanistan, which might be summarized this way: It was all for nothing.

We can't even give it a colorful, European-style name like The Thirteen Years' War, because that's taken.  The Polish and Prussian Confederation fought that war against the Teutonic Order state between 1454 and 1466.  That's too bad, because my college buddy who lives in Sandgate, England is studying these Numbered Wars and could have added an American version, out of nostalgia for the motherland.  Alas, not to be.  It remains the Afghanistan War, whatever that was.

The Spook Consortium that put together the NIE carefully notes that the progress that's going to be "eroded" is that made during the "past three years."  That's interesting; the NIE, for some reason, does not go all the way back to Obama's "surge" of 2009, when, in imitation of his foreign policy idol, George W. Bush, Mr. Obama proved that he too could commit American soldiers to a pointless death. It worked, too:

Once President Zero took over, American GI's really got pushed into the meat grinder.  Note those big spikes in 2009, the year of the "surge" and the years following.  Those were the years we were doing something or other in Afghanistan, the same something or other that is going to be "eroded."  I do not mention here the civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which seem mainly to have consisted of wedding parties and funeral corteges obliterated by drone strikes.

To be fair, most American liberals championed the Afghanistan war.  I did not, and neither did the Sage of Boynton, the World War II vet who could see it was simply political cover: a way of appearing to "do something" about 9/11 that did not involve embarrassing the true state sponsors of 9/11, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  That story remains locked up in the famous (totally) redacted 28 pages of Congressional report.  By the way, a couple of Congress people are again urging President Obama (as President Bush was urged before him) to release those pages in unredacted form, which are all about Saudi complicity in the attacks. Pardon me while I snort some Peet's coffee out of my nose.

President Obama got elected through calling the Iraq war "dumb," which it surely was. One cannot, however, call both American wars dumb any more than you can profess your atheism. Not if you want to get elected. Living Large American Lies is the modus operandi of American politics - opposing one war is okay, but you start to seem like a pacifist if you point out that the other war also makes no sense.

Reading between the lines of the second paragraph quoted up above, the NIE soft-soaps things a little by stating that the Taliban will become "increasingly influential."  If memory serves, this was the rationale for the war, President Bush's notorious "casus belli."  The Taliban, who harbored bin Laden, were in charge, and those who harbor America's enemies are equally...excuse me, I don't have the heart to type out the whole stupid thing.  Bin Laden was in Pakistan virtually from the moment we invaded, and he never needed the dreaded Jungle Gym Complexes of Kandahar in order for the Saudis and Egyptians in charge of 9/11 to train in South Florida to crash American planes in New York and Washington, D.C.  A more serious question is whether 9/11 needed bin Laden, but we've made sure there will be no answer to that question.

Summing up, the Taliban will be back in charge, as they were in 2001.  Iraq has a Shiite dictator instead of a Sunni, although Iraqis as a people seem as firmly committed to blowing each other up as ever. Iraq, as a nation, is on much better terms with our arch-enemy Iran. A lot of people are dead, Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis and Americans. The real costs for America's Twin Dumb Wars in Iraq & Afghanistan are also reported in the Washington Post, as follows:

"The U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost taxpayers $4 trillion to $6 trillion, taking into account the medical care of wounded veterans and expensive repairs to a force depleted by more than a decade of fighting, according to a new study by a Harvard researcher."
A good, solid, Thirteen Years' Work.  We'll have to call it that and let it go.