The Forever War Sputters to an End

When the United States invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, polls showed a remarkable nine in ten Americans supported the action. After all, we had just been attacked by an organization headquartered there, so it seemed only natural that our military would go in, hunt down the culprits, and punish them and those who helped them. But the years dragged on and on, and it eventually became clear that we weren't rooting out al Qaeda but trying to establish stability and democracy in a country that is a stranger to both. Meanwhile, over 2,000 American servicemembers have given their lives, and half a trillion dollars of our money has been spent on a war whose original purpose is all but forgotten.

Barack Obama has pledged that our troops will be coming home from Afghanistan by the end of next year. But no one seriously believes that by then the Afghan government, such as it is, will have a firm hold over the country. Unfortunately, there's little to suggest that we could bring about that stability if we stayed an extra year, or five years, or twenty years. So a report in The New York Times today comes as little surprise. "Increasingly frustrated by his dealings with President Hamid Karzai," they write, "President Obama is giving serious consideration to speeding up the withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan and to a 'zero option' that would leave no American troops there after next year."

Can anyone blame him? Some might protest that if we leave too soon, the Taliban could take over again, or the country could devolve into chaos. And yes, either of those things could happen. But they could happen just as easily a few years from now, notwithstanding all the hard work and courage of the Americans who have served there.

Supposedly, before the Iraq war, Colin Powell warned George W. Bush that if he broke Iraq, he'd have to fix it. Afghanistan was broken long before we got there, and all our efforts to put it together don't seem to have succeeded. It was probably an impossible task from the beginning, and it would have been far better if we had set out finite military goals, accomplished them, and left a decade ago. Much as we'd like, we can't turn back the clock. There is almost certainly more misery ahead for the people of Afghanistan. And probably little we can do to stop it, whether we stay or go.

So They Say

"You know, you need to stop watching these people, because they’re not gonna change. ... Your blood pressure is gonna suffer if you keep watching these people. I mean, they’re designed to get you ticked off. They’re designed to make you question your sanity. You’re gonna watch these people, you’re gonna say, ‘How in the world can we have such idiotic people?’ And you’re gonna think maybe they’re not and you’re crazy.”

Rush Limbaugh, telling a caller not to watch Fox News

Daily Meme: Middle East on Edge

  • Fifty-one people have died in Egypt since Morsi was deposed.
  • One, 20-year-old Anas Mahfous, was killed while trying to help other protesters. 
  • Foreign Policy explains the deteriorating circumstances thusly: "Let's make this abundantly clear: No one should be pleased with the division and bloodshed playing out in the streets of Cairo right now, particularly as military repression escalates. But let's also make this abundantly clear: One man bears the ultimate responsibility for the crisis of leadership—Mohamed Morsy."
  • Things don't look promising, and tensions are starting to spread.
  • All in all, even excluding Egypt, the Middle East has had a stressful week. 
  • At least 21 people have died in attacks in Iraq.
  • The humanitarian crisis in Syria is worsening, and the rebels are flailing. Even Syrian television shows have been engulfed by the conflict.
  • As mentioned above, President Obama is considering a speedier withdrawal from Afghanistan.
  • With so many variables unknown, and the changing tides impossible to qualify as "good" or "bad, the region's future is a big question mark that looks more ominous by the day.

What We're Writing

  • Conservative Greg Abbott is the favorite to win the governorship in Texas. Abby Rapoport writes that progressives won’t like him any more than his predecessor.
  • One of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul's aides has stated support for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Jamelle Bouie thinks this should surprise no one.

What We're Reading

  • Republican women are not impressed with the men lording over the abortion issue in their party.
  • Al Jazeera obtained a report revealing what Osama bin Laden was doing all those years while he was off our radar. He are the ten most revealing details.
  • Molly Redden unpacks the difficulty of reporting on donor couples.
  • What changes do employers have to grapple with post-DOMA?
  • Whodathunk? Most of the world's military coups since 1991 have resulted in competitive elections.
  • What kind of world do we live in when Rand Paul is seen as a moderate?

Poll of the Day

Newark Mayor Cory Booker has successfully wooed more than 50 percent of likely voters in both the Democratic primary and the general election, according to a new poll released by Quinnipiac University. For the primary, Booker leads his biggest opponent by a shocking 42 percent, and he wins the most likely general election scenario over probable Republican candidate, Steve Lonegan by 23 percent.

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