World

America's Forever War Sputters Out

It is easy to be indifferent to a war if you are oblivious to its costs.

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With troops finally scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan after two decades of conflict, America's intervention there will go down in history as an accidental forever war. After the initial invasion, it was only peripherally part of the country's policy debates, rarely occupying the attention of Americans who did not have relatives involved in the fighting. While polls indicate broad public support for withdrawal, the end to years of bloody struggle approaches with little fanfare in the U.S.—and plenty of wreckage left behind.

"They destroyed our country, and now they are giving us their garbage," junk dealer Hajji Gul told the Associated Press in May as he surveyed equipment deliberately wrecked by departing American troops so it cannot be used by locals. "What are we to do with this?"

Also destined for the scrap heap: the Afghans who worked for years with Americans and are being left behind under the uncertain protection of a shaky U.S.-backed regime. "You will see the dead bodies in every street," interpreter Omid Mahmoodi predicted in an interview with USA Today. "They will slaughter us."

Americans nevertheless are ready for the war to end. An Economist/YouGov survey conducted in April found that 58 percent of Americans, including 61 percent of Americans in military households, support the withdrawal.

If a majority of Americans favor ending America's intervention in Afghanistan, why did it take so long?

"More than half of Americans (57 percent) do not follow any news and information about the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan," an A.P./NORC poll found in October 2020. Those who paid the least attention were the 18- to 29-year-olds who were most likely to fill the ranks of troops sent to the region.

That inattention had other consequences. Pollsters found that knowledge of American casualties raised support for ending the U.S. intervention, but Americans generally lacked that knowledge. It is easy to be indifferent to a war if you are oblivious to its costs.

Despite the current popularity of ending U.S. involvement in the country, the share of Americans who thought "the United States made a mistake sending troops to fight in Afghanistan in 2001" only briefly matched the share who did not think so—in 2014. After that, according to Gallup, agreement that the war was a mistake stalled around 43 percent, 10 points below disagreement with that statement.

Public indifference was exacerbated by deliberate deception. The administrations of Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump concealed the war's failure for years. "A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable," the newspaper reported in December 2019.

That unpleasant truth was easier to conceal because the anti-war movement was reluctant to hold Democrats accountable. "The antiwar movement demobilized as Democrats, who had been motivated to participate by anti-Republican sentiments, withdrew from antiwar protests when the Democratic Party achieved electoral success, if not policy success in ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," University of Michigan political scientist Michael T. Heaney and Indiana University sociologist Fabio Rojas noted in a 2011 study. "While the election of Barack Obama had been heralded as a victory for the antiwar movement, Obama's election, in fact, thwarted the ability of the movement to achieve critical mass."

Combine that partisan loyalty with the general lack of attention by voters, and there was nothing to deter a rotating cast of politicians and military officers from fiddling around the edges of the war like it was a game. They ignored its accumulating costs as they tried to extract victory from an impossible situation.

Trump ultimately lost patience and negotiated an end to U.S. intervention in Afghanistan—an agreement that President Joe Biden says he will honor. The inhabitants of that unfortunate country seem equally ready for an end to the accidental forever war, though they likely will be stuck with the butcher's bill for years to come.

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52 responses to “America's Forever War Sputters Out

  1. You talk about the cost and the pointlessness and the public’s disinterest in the war as if these were bad things. Do you realize how many people got rich off that war? Now they are just going to have to go start another low-level, expensive, pointless war in Haiti or Cuba or Venezuela or Syria or Tunisia. Assuming they actually pull any troops out of Afghanistan instead of simply re-classifying them as security personnel and that they actually cut the budget for military contractors “rebuilding” the country. We already know the CIA isn’t pulling out of Afghanistan – the opium trade is far too lucrative for them just to walk away. And where else are hundreds of retired brass supposed to go if they can’t cash in on the consultancy, advising and lobbying scam?

    1. Grandpa, opium is old news. They all want fentanyl now. Your old story is worn out.

      1. Infantile piece of shit, there’s a reason they don’t let asshole like you vote. Too STUPID.

  2. The opposite of love isn’t hatred, it’s indifference.

  3. I want to be the first kid on my block with a confirmed kill.

  4. I’m going to write a novel about a country that has a professional military that is so small that the rest of the population doesn’t know anyone in it.
    And that military is sent to fight pointless wars wars with no clear goals and no way to actually win.
    Eventually the members of this force are fed up with their weak and demented commander and his totalitarian minders.
    I don’t have an ending yet, I need to read more about the Praetorian guard and the Severan dynasty for some ideas.

    1. Very good idea, but I think Kurt Schlichter has already covered that scenario.

      Perhaps if you were to write it with more of a political instead of a tactical focus, that would work.

      1. Exactly: Starship Troopers. It’s a parable, not an adventure story.

  5. “Those who paid the least attention were the 18- to 29-year-olds who were most likely to fill the ranks of troops sent to the region.”

    You know what else young Americans don’t know or care about?

    1. Answering your question?

    2. COVID vaccines?

    3. Who shot JR?

      1. Who shot Ashli Babbitt?

    4. their President Nixon?

    5. Everything?

      1. Correct. You control the board.

  6. “The inhabitants of that unfortunate country seem equally ready for an end to the accidental forever war, though they likely will be stuck with the butcher’s bill for years to come.”

    Then they can surrender to the fascist theocratic Taliban and things will get back to normal I guess.

    1. I don’t give the afghan people a pass in this. The ultimate reason the war was unwinnable was that the taliban and their policies (no education for women, women as property, Islamic law, etc.) were broadly popular, especially with pashtuns, the largest ethnicity among them. The ones who claimed to want live in a more liberal society were mostly unwilling to fight for it. Fatalism and greed were the two most apparent aspects of the afghan military officer corps. They were disappointing allies, even compared to notoriously awful Iraqi Arab military units.

      1. “afghan people”

        Derp doesn’t seem to know they are multiple warring tribes and always have been.

        1. “They destroyed our country, and now they are giving us their garbage,”

          It is not as though it were a paradise to start with; let’s see how he likes it when the Taliban strong arms everyone into compliance, as they were doing before the US went in. It is “unwinnable” because the people who live there want no part of being a cohesive country. Policy wonks seems to think that every country should be like post war Germany or Japan.

          1. Policy wonks seems to think that every country should be like post war Germany or Japan.

            Yeah, it’s kind of tough to “nation build” when there was no nation to begin with.

          2. “It is not as though it were a paradise to start with”

            The country was at peace in the 70s until the political turmoil that continues today broke out. Afghanistan was the ultimate destination for the ‘magic bus’ tours from Europe attracting thousands of hippies and other aficionados of fine hashish.
            Youtube has a full version of Meetings with Remarkable Men, the last English movie to be filmed on location in Afghanistan. The ‘music contest’ of the first five minutes is well worth a look if only for the costumes of the local extras.
            https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=meetings+with+remarkable+men

        2. You’re so fucking stupid you don’t apparently know what “pashtuns” in my comment means. It’s one of the “multiple warring tribes”, dumb fuck.

          I love it when you guys self-own.

          1. “You’re so fucking stupid you don’t apparently know what “pashtuns” in my comment means. It’s one of the “multiple warring tribes”, dumb fuck….”

            You’re so fucking stupid as to assume what he knows; I love it when steaming piles of lefty shits selrf-own.

  7. Pop quiz!

    What does the opening photo show?
    A) A typical street scene in Kabul.
    B) A typical street scene in Detroit.
    C) A typical street scene in Seattle’s CHAZ/CHOP.
    D) A typical street scene in Los Angeles’ homeless quarter.
    E) All of the above.

    1. Teaser for Fallout 5?

      1. Buttplugs front yard

    2. Third world shithole is as third world shithole does.

      It’s not about the climate, or geography, or even resources. It is who lives there that makes it what it is. No silk purses out of sow’s ears.

    3. I can immediately tell from the obvious dryness that it’s not in Seattle.

  8. Growing up I thought that Vietnam would have been the lesson to keep us out of these no-win wars. As an adult I saw us go right back and do the same thing with Afghanistan and Iraq. Hopefully the message will stick this time.

    1. Hopefully the message will stick this time.

      I wouldn’t bet on it.

    2. Stick to what, exactly? Politicians [at least the successful ones who spend their lives in office] are made of Teflon.

    3. “Growing up…”

      You should give that a try; you’ve been something going on 15 for as long as you’ve been here.

    4. Problem was that Iraq-1 was a military success, so it was easier for many to see Vietnam (and Korea) as an outlier.

  9. >>rarely occupying the attention of Americans who did not have relatives involved in the fighting

    O said it was “the Good War.”

    1. As he ordered drone strikes down on women and children

  10. I was thinking about this the other day, isn’t the Korean War only a ceasefire? Why is that not our longest war?

    1. World War I had an Armistice, not a Peace Treaty. So it never officially ended, even though the empires of Austria-Hungary, The Kaisers’ Germany, and The Ottoman Empire no longer exist. So really we have two unofficially ended wars.

  11. “The antiwar movement demobilized as Democrats, who had been motivated to participate by anti-Republican sentiments, withdrew from antiwar protests when the Democratic Party achieved electoral success, if not policy success in ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,”

    Behold the truth

    1. I think the anti-war movement was finished with the failure of the ANSWER demonstrations, despite their large turnout. It was finished with the selection of presidential nominee John Kerry over anti-war candidates like FOX news contributor Dennis J. Kucinich. By the time Barack Hussein Obama came to power, the wars were largely forgotten and no longer an issue.

      1. You stupid shit, the anti-war movement was destroyed by Obo’s election; all the partisan shits couldn’t gripe about a D war-monger.

  12. Accidental forever wars? Really?

    “They destroyed our country, and now they are giving us their garbage,”

    You would think a junk dealer would be more excited by this. Then again…

    “What are we to do with this?”

    Spoken like any welfare recipient when the faucet is finally turned off. Piss off. Run your own country.

    1. “You would think a junk dealer would be more excited by this. Then again…”

      There is a good market for scrap copper and other metals in India whose economy is growing rapidly.

  13. They destroyed our country,

    To be fair, the Taliban destroyed the country. We just helped for a while.

    1. That place was already a trash heap.

  14. “…Trump ultimately lost patience and negotiated an end to U.S. intervention in Afghanistan—an agreement that President Joe Biden says he will honor…”

    If Joe can remember.

  15. You hush up now. Obama won that Nobel Peace Prize fair and square.

    1. In the pop-up vid, Bernstein is whining that Trump is a war criminal! The only POTUS not to have started a war in the last 20 years!
      Pretty sure Bernstein is as addled-pated as Biden at this time.

  16. Sad after all the lives and money wasted that we’re right back where we were 20 years ago.

    Next time, maybe the politicians will listen to me. (Get in quick, knock AlQueda out of business and then hand the whole mess over to the NATO or the UN; let them take the blame for fraking it up when it revert to the dark ages.) Yeah, right…..

    Drink!

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