Terrorism

The Difference Between Retaliation and Nation Building: About 10 Years

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In a New York Times op-ed piece, Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) argue that President Obama can and should remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan faster than he plans:

His plan would not remove all regular combat troops until 2014. We believe the United States is capable of achieving this goal by the end of 2012. America would be more secure and stronger economically if we recognized that we have largely achieved our objectives in Afghanistan and moved aggressively to bring our troops and tax dollars home.

After Al Qaeda attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, we rightly sought to bring to justice those who attacked us, to eliminate Al Qaeda's safe havens and training camps in Afghanistan, and to remove the terrorist-allied Taliban government. With hard work and sacrifice, our troops, intelligence personnel and diplomatic corps have skillfully achieved these objectives, culminating in the death of Osama bin Laden.

But over the past 10 years, our mission expanded to include a fourth goal: nation-building. That is what we are bogged down in now: a prolonged effort to create a strong central government, a national police force and an army, and civic institutions in a nation that never had any to begin with….

It is not too late to change course in what has become the longest American war in history.

That "longest war" thing sure snuck up on us, didn't it? Merkley et al. do not specify exactly when the "nation-building" phase started. But by by saying that the war's legitimate goals culminated in the death of Osama bin Laden last spring, they imply (perhaps unintentionally) that all the lives and money expended up to that point were justified. Yet Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by a helicopter-borne assault team; was a decade-long occupation of Afghanistan necessary to accomplish that? How soon would the war have been over if the mission had been limited to "bring[ing] to justice those who attacked us," "eliminat[ing] Al Qaeda's safe havens and training camps," and "remov[ing] the terrorist-allied Taliban government"?

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  1. That is what we are bogged down in now: a prolonged effort to create a strong central government, a national police force and an army, and civic institutions in a nation that never had any to begin with….

    Just last evening, I was in a discussion about this very thing. The formulation I came up with was, “If we’re trying to turn Afghanistan into California, we need to just pack up all our shit and GTFO tomorrow morning.”

  2. What will it take to get through Obama and the rest of the blood thirsty congress’ heads that enough is enough.

  3. Yet Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by a helicopter-borne assault team; was a decade-long occupation of Afghanistan necessary to accomplish that?

    Arguably, if the point was to get Pakistani cooperation/non-retaliation with the raid. We could be saying, “look, go along with this, or else we’ll invade you and occupy you for 10 years.”

  4. That “longest war” thing sure snuck up on us, didn’t it?

    When you’ve outlasted Vietnam…it’s time to get the fuck out.

    1. Why can’t we just leave and, as we’re exiting, say, “Right. Now don’t do it again.”

      1. The stupid part of the nation-building strategy is the fact that the Taliban will be back in power within 2 years of the departure of US troops. This will enable them to claim victory over “The Great Satan” (and all the little Satanists.)

        If GWB had simply extirpated the Al Queda camps and not even gone near Kabul, then Sheik Omar would have been left looking like a stupid prat who got his nation bombed because his houseguest didn’t leave his little jihad at home.

        The US would have been in and out in 90 days, max. It probably would still have taken 10 years to track down OBL, but, in retrospect, it looks pretty obvious that our Pakistani ‘allies’ were playing a double game.

        1. It’s what I thought we were doing at the time, and it’s what I think we should have done. “We Built this Nation on Shock and Awe” is a bad, bad song.

        2. but, in retrospect, it looks pretty obvious that our Pakistani ‘allies’ were playing a double game.

          That was obvious at the time. The oft-quoted “you’re either with us or against us” statement was made directly at Pakistan because of we believed that they were playing a double game and told them to make a choice. Not anyone else.

          Not that that stops people from simultaneously criticizing the US for telling Pakistan to stop playing a double game (and threatening them if they did) while criticizing the US for supposedly not realizing that Pakistan was doing so.

          1. Personally, I have to admit I was not fully aware of Pakistan’s double game, despite obvious warning signs such as the Mumbai attacks.

            I was always aware that Pakistan was a dysfunctional, unstable nation, but I didn’t really think that they were playing both ends until it became clear that OBL could not have set up the way he did in Pakistan without the collaboration of a least some faction of the Pakistani government.

            No excuse. I just hadn’t put sufficient thought into it.

        3. the Taliban will be back in power within 2 years of the departure of US troops. This will enable them to claim victory over “The Great Satan” (and all the little Satanists.)

          So? Why don’t “we” just say the Taliban is now on our side, and claim victory when they, our allies, come back into power?

          1. We have always been allied with Eastasia.

          2. Well, we could start giving the Taliban monetary assistance like we did in the early 2000’s, say six months before the WTC attacks.
            To Wit

        4. That’s a bit silly. The Taliban were part and parcel of the Islamic Totalitarian threat they had to go.

    2. I blame Colin Powell’s stupid “Pottery Barn” Strategy. I propose we conduct all future military operations on the “Rubble not Trouble” strategy. Bomb all their bridges, port facilities, and factories; kill the head-of-state; then leave. Or else it isn’t important enough to take military action.

  5. If you use the Gulf of Tonkin Incident August 2, 1964 (which I think is a very late date – the Vietnam War had really been going on for some time before that) and the Fall of Saigon April 30, 1975 as your beginning and end dates, the Vietnam War is still longer.

    1. The French hired SS men to take back Vietnam starting right after WWII.

      1. I agree with you. I was just using two dates that put a minimum length of time on the Vietnam War to make the point that, even by the tightest definition, Vietnam lasted longer.

        1. Absolutely, in place of French they had Soviets for round one. The fooking commies tried to make it into a socialist paradise with equal rights for women, education, blah, blah.

      2. An anti-Communist is an anti-Communist.

      3. So the Nazis were responsible for Vietnam, too?

    2. We had withdrawn all combat troops by 1973, a full two years prior to the fall of Saigon. The only people remaining were training units.

  6. Longest war? Pshaw! Still have a year or two to go before we break the record set by the 1961-1975 Indochina conflict.

    1. Combat units were only in Vietnam from 1965-1973. Advisers and embassy guards and such don’t count.

      1. Uh-huh. So all those service medals awarded from ’61 on for “participating in or directly supporting ground (military) operations” went to advisors and embassy guards? We had 16,000 troops on the ground in Vietnam in ’63. It strains credibility to assert none of them were combat troops, especially when DOD was handing out medals for particpating in ground combat.

  7. Pardon me if this sounds ignorant, but weren’t we in Vietnam for a lot longer than a decade?

    1. Vietnam gets murky because of the issue that initially, we really did just send over advisors. Then things slowly ramped up until the point where the advisor fiction became too broken to sustain, and we finally admitted we were at war. Shit, we had advisors over there when Eisenhower was President. Our involvement goes from 50-75, so pick a point where you think it was a hot war for US and go from there.

  8. What Afghanistan needs:
    Light rail
    free health care
    Organic gardening
    Green jobs
    Unionization
    Subsidized arts.

    1. Oh, please!

      Show some compassion for the poor Afghan people.

      😉

      1. Soviet brutality or American compassion: they still want to go back to the old ways.
        We should just give green cards to all women and children. Leave the men to bugger goats and fight over their tribal rock piles.

    2. And indoor plumbing.

  9. The fooking commies tried to make it into a socialist paradise with equal rights for women, education, blah, blah.

    This sounds oddly familiar.

  10. I, as a war-mongering conservative, wholly support the “Rubble not Trouble” strategy. Which is exactly what I’ve been arguing for since 9/11. When the offending party is not strictly speaking a nation, ground war is not appropriate. Bomb the shit out of wherever they’re hiding, and go home. If they peak out and shout something threatening, bomb them again. Eventually they’ll learn to keep their mouth shut. Countries that allow them within their borders will get sick of us bombing their territory, and hunt them down themselves.

    1. Can’t win a war without ground troops. But otherwise I like it.

  11. These goo-goo doves think that, somehow, we can walk away and let the corpse of Afghanistan rot in the sun, but that the terrorist vultures will, for whatever reason, not return to the feasting.

    If we leave under conditions that let the Talibs back in control of Kabul, terrorists will harbor in Afghanistan once again, if only because the place will be such a hyper-impoverished cesspit that there won’t be any effective mechanism for excluding them.

    Any government that has as its core function the sustenance of goon squads that go around beating up women because their shoes make a sound on the sidewalk is not,

    I repeat, not

    — can you hear me now? NOT —

    going to have the will or the means to exclude Islamic terrorist groups.

    Afghanistan without US troops will look like Somalia, or Congo, or the Uganda bush country — all places where terrorists are more-or-less free roaming and striking at will in any direction.

    Russia tried to give up and walk away from a terrorist Islamic threat in Chechnya. A few years later, after more terrorist bombings and a kidnapping pandemic, they were back in with guns blazing. So it is, so it was, and so shall it ever be.

    1. Russia tried to give up and walk away from a terrorist Islamic threat in Chechnya.

      Since when does russia “try to give up and walk away” from anything?

      1. I kinda wondered when Russia pulled out of Chechnya.

        Musta been in the term of President Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

        1. Actually, they did pullout in the early ’90s. Chechnya Islamicized; there were bombings.

    2. Also, you shouldn’t try to wage an asymmetric war with non-state actors. If terrorists are at your doorstep, you go after them with privately contracted mercenaries, not regular army. Fight fire with fire, I say.

      1. ^^THIS^^
        Letters of Marque and Reprisal, Article 1 Section 8. Enumerated Powers for the win. Fuck the Paris Declaration Respecting Maritime Law of 16 April 1856, the US was not a signatory. Related question for Constitutional scholars in the commentariat: Is it even possible for an Enumerated Power to be abrogated by treaty with foreign nation-states? I have heard quite often from Obamalovin’ friends that US warmaking authority has already been conferred from Congress to the UN by the US being a signatory to Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

        1. Is it even possible for an Enumerated Power to be abrogated by treaty with foreign nation-states?

          No. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, followed, I suppose, by treaties, then other federal law. A treaty does not amend the Constitution, ergo, it cannot limit an enumerated power.

          1. The argument I hear put forward is that since the US signed the UN Charter and Chapter VII of the charter contains language giving warmaking discretion to the Security Council, Congress has already made the decision to make war by granting that power to the Security Council by proxy. Essentially, they are telling me that the UN can compel signatory nation-states to wage war. Has anyone else ever heard this line of reasoning?

            Article 42 contains the following – “Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations.

      2. Cool idea!

    3. did he say “somalia”?

    4. So, Danny, I gather you are volunteering for the Permanent Afghanistan Occupation Force?

      Along with your children? And your childrens’ children? “Unto the seventh generation” and all that?

      1. No kids. Too old to enlist. Happy to see my tax dollars turned into bullets inside Talib corpses, though.

  12. any chance of getting the correct link?

  13. …a strong central government, a national police force and an army, and civic institutions in a nation that never had any to begin with….

    I certainly believe we should get the Hell out but that is a gross oversimplification and misunderstanding of regional history. While the central government/police/army have had varying degrees of success, they have existed; they just aren’t as central to the people. Afghans identify themselves by Qawm, a subnational identity based upon kinship, residence, & sometimes occupation. This instinctive social cohesiveness includes tribal clans, ethnic subgroups, religious sects, locality based groups, & groups united by interests. The Qawm, not Afghanistan, is the basic unit of community and, outside of family, the most important focus of individual liberty. This decentralized political, economic, and military structure provides a means to cope when the central government collapses (Anglo-Afghan Wars 1839-1842 & 1878-1880, and again during the Soviet Afghan War). From full independence from Britain in 1919 until the Soviet backed coup in 1978, Afghanistan was a relatively peaceful, tolerant, agrarian monarchy with a decent national army (90,000 soldiers). It was the Soviet intervention (killing 1.3 million and displacing 7.5 million in a nation of only 16 million people) and the Pakistani intervention (complete control of ALL western monies sent to fight the Sovs, and creation of the Taliban to be a bulwark against imagined Indian machinations in the region) that have caused the bulk of Afghanistan’s woes prior to the US intervention.

  14. Happy to see my tax dollars turned into bullets inside Talib corpses, though.

    Great. Your mother must be proud.

    1. …dollars turned into bullets inside Talib corpses…
      IDK, that’s a clever, albeit amoral & unprofitable, bit of alchemical transmutation. No Philosopher’s Stone, mind you, but impressive in its own way. How does one acquire the Talib corpses? Danny, are you in Kaffiristan with a loyal Igor to rob fresh graves or do you ship them to the US?

  15. At this point, I’m undecided about bringing our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. We stayed in Japan and Germany for 20 years after WWII. If we call that being at war, then WWII was much longer than our current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  16. I personally would like to know what Congressmen Weiner thinks of the pull out plans.

  17. I personally would like to know what Congressmen Weiner thinks of the pull out plans.

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