The Good War, Now Not So Good

When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, he promised that he would get us out of Iraq, the war everyone hated, and concentrate our efforts in Afghanistan, the good war. We had gone into Iraq on the basis of two false premises, one implied by the Bush administration (Saddam Hussein was responsible in some way for September 11) and one stated explicitly (Saddam had a terrifying arsenal of weapons of mass destruction with which he would be attacking us any day if we didn't attack him first). But Afghanistan was the war we could agree on. Sure, we'd been there for too long, and it was a devil of a mess. But that's where the September 11 attacks came from, so we were justified in going there.

Over 12 years later, we've finally passed a milestone. According to the latest Gallup poll, a war that was supported by nine in ten Americans at its outset is now opposed by a plurality of us, with 49 percent saying it was a mistake to ever go there in the first place and 48 saying it wasn't a mistake:

We've now amassed over 2,300 American dead there, in addition to the hundreds of billions of dollars we've spent. We didn't get Osama bin Laden when we invaded. Our "partner" Hamid Karzai increasingly looks like he has lost his mind and is determined to make sure that when American troops leave later this year, the country will promptly get taken over by the Taliban again. So it isn't too surprising that so many Americans are asking what the whole thing was for.

Comments

I have to put in a word for Karzai here. He's been in power, sort of, in a hideously complicated and violent milieu for more than 12 years, first as a selected leader and then twice as an elected one, sort of, and he looks to survive through the end of his second term as president. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have tried and failed to get rid of him. The "Karzai has lost his mind" theme has played a prominent role in those efforts.

For a crazy guy in a most tenuous situation of more than a decade's standing, however, he sure has managed to hang in there pretty well. So possibly he's not as crazy as, say, the two US presidents who imagined they could accomplish something that might be seen as a conclusive victory for the US. Possibly he's intent on using his remaining time in office to extort as much as possible from a US president who likes his drones and really, really wants to keep launching them from Karzai's back yard, and who probably doesn't want to be known as the guy who turned Afghanistan back over to the Taliban.

Or maybe he's just Chauncey Gardiner in a robe. Which description seems most likely to you?

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