Since the bombs started falling in Central Asia in October 2001, critics of the American Empire warned that the initial “success” in Afghanistan was an illusion. The country was no match for massive US firepower, but the lessons of history would make this war unwinnable. It would drain our resources, create exponentially more enemies, and further destabilize a region that had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11.
Eight years later, as both civilian and US military death counts are surging, even the US’s top torturer/executioner in Afghanistan is admitting this. General Stanley McChrystal is witnessing firsthand the rising casualties and warning that the Taliban are winning:
The Taliban have gained the upper hand in Afghanistan, the top American commander there said, forcing the U.S. to change its strategy in the eight-year-old conflict by increasing the number of troops in heavily populated areas like the volatile southern city of Kandahar, the insurgency’s spiritual home.
This startling admission coming from Obama’s handpicked Afghan ethnic cleanser is just another sign of a undefined and ever changing imperial strategy, all of them with no conceivable chance of success. First, the goal was to tame the Taliban, a ragtag group of poor Muslim fighters who did want war with the US but got it anyway. Now, McChrystal is admitting that the Taliban can’t be defeated, and the job of the US military is now to “defend and protect the Afghan population.” Rather than cut our losses and come home, Obama and his war machine are putting new slogans and rhetoric to justify this imperial overstretch.
At the same time McChrystal is giving these warnings from Central Asia, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is claiming that it is a “mystery” how long US troops will be fighting and dying in Afghanistan:
Defeating the Taliban and al-Qaida will take “a few years,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, with success on a larger scale in the desperately poor country a much longer proposition. He acknowledged that the Taliban has a firm hold on parts of the country President Barack Obama has called vital to U.S. security.
Gates’ testimony represents the complete absence of logic behind the “war on terror” and Obama’s proclamation that the war in Afghanistan is “the good war.” Obama excited a war-weary American public with campaign talks of peace and pullouts, but now that the emperor’s torch of power has been handed to him, he sees no reason why this pointless and counterproductive war should end.
More than anything Obama attempts to do domestically, nothing has the chance to bring Obama’s presidency down like this expensive and bloody quagmire in Afghanistan. Critics of Obamacare like to point out the high costs of his healthcare policy and the likelihood that taxes will be raised. But the costs of government healthcare will be minuscule compared to the costs of fighting in Afghanistan: trillions of dollars, thousands of more troops killed or forever maimed, and the continuing growth of Taliban popularity in response to massive US air raids.
Obama did not create this Mesopotamian madness, but he has the power to put an end to it, to seek diplomacy, and to work towards something American foreign policy hasn’t witnessed in decades: genuine peace. President Eisenhower ended the disastrous Korean War, President Coolidge withdrew troops from the Dominican Republic, and President Reagan cut-and-ran from Lebanon; all of these actions secured peace and US security. Obama’s wise engagement with Israel is beginning to extinguish some fires in that trouble region, yet he insists on throwing more and more gasoline on the Afghan flames.
This war will be Obama’s Waterloo, and with its continuing costs and burdens, time is not on his side.