We’re living through a time when serious political breakthroughs in America seem to require a sort of civic/political suicide. In order to have a serious debate about encryption as a means to preserve Fourth Amendment Constitutional protections, and in order to expose the government’s abuse of the public trust, Edward Snowden has functionally had to forfeit his citizenship, for example.
On another front in the category of “reckless government behavior,” President “Chaos” Trump suggested he would bring our Afghanistan war to an end. Instead, we’re re-upping on our longest war. What will it take to end this war? Kevin Williamson writes:
What is it we are doing in Afghanistan? What do we think we are doing in Afghanistan? All we can say with any confidence is that the former and the latter bear only a theoretical relationship.
The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11. Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and many of his associates were thought to be holed up there under the protection and the patronage of the Taliban, the jihadist militia cum narcotics syndicate that controlled Afghanistan at the time. U.S. forces marched in, toppled the Taliban, and installed a client regime under Hamid Karzai, a wildly corrupt and borderline incompetent leader who was, all things considered, probably the best we could do at the time. We eventually had a falling out with Karzai and his government, and Afghan democracy — “democracy” — moved on. The country has remained in a slow-motion civil war, with the Taliban waxing and waning conversely with U.S. interest in this unhappy little corner of the world.
“Killing terrorists,” Trump says. Afghanistan has its share of terrorists, but what it mostly has is an endless civil war being fought among rival tribal interests in a rugged and empty part of the world that mostly has served only to get in the way when you’re marching your Macedonian army toward India. “Killing terrorists” in Afghanistan is not a national military goal with a defined set of conclusory conditions and a working definition of victory — it’s an eternal game of Whac-a-Mole using U.S. forces as the toy mallet. If concluding our efforts in Afghanistan before Islamic radicalism has been exterminated there means handing a victory to the ghost of Osama bin Laden — who is, let’s keep in mind, dead — then we are never leaving Afghanistan.
One doesn’t expect Donald Trump to sort this out on his own, or to figure out how to match his socks.
Congress should step in here. The Authorization for Use of Military Force passed nearly unanimously by Congress and signed into law by President Bush on September 18, 2001, served its purpose in the immediate aftermath of the shocking events of September 11, 2001. The only member of Congress to vote against the AUMF, Barbara Lee of California, predicted that it would end up being a deathless “blank check” for worldwide military operations without the explicit and specific authorization of Congress, and in that she was correct. The AUMF should be repealed and funding for operations in Afghanistan cut off unless and until the United States can define exactly what it is that its military is to accomplish in Afghanistan, at which time a new, specific, and limited AUMF may be drawn up. If the answer ends up being “killing bad guys,” then maybe the current leadership in Washington should retire with a six-pack and some old Chuck Norris movies and turn this over to the adults.
They don’t know what it is they are doing, but they are sure that we should keep doing it — forever.
It’s a scandal that Congress refuses to force the president’s hand on this—and it was as great a scandal under the previous two administrations, too.