The war in Afghanistan is not about anything. It’s not about Al Qaeda or the Taliban. It’s not about terrorism or preventing another 9/11, and it’s certainly not about running a pipeline across Afghanistan. Granted, many of our policymakers think it’s about one of more of these things, but his only proves that if you scratch a policymaker you find a fool mired in the past.
Andrew J. Bacevich points out that Afghanistan is simply a futile effort to breathe life into a dying lifestyle.
For sixty years America has been on a war footing. Most all of our leaders and policymakers grew up with this. They know of no other lifestyle, nor can they conceive of one. As Samuel Beckett once said, “Habit is a great deadener.”
It was easy during the Cold War. We had convinced ourselves that the Soviets were bent on our destruction, so we maintained, and improved upon, the military machine that had given us victory in World War II.
From our founding as a nation, America has always distained the idea of a standing army. We recognized earlyon that a standing army was ultimately a threat to democracy. A standing army and a democratic republic are like oil and water. The military thrives on quick decisions and rapid deployment. It is terribly efficient; democracy isn’t. The military is a cash cow; democracy isn’t.
Prior to World War II, we fought our wars by mobilizing our citizens, fighting the war then demobilizing the army, leaving only a cadre of professionals in place to train a citizen army in the event of another war.
America was war weary by the end of World War II. However, our leaders had a problem. The war had put an end to the Great Depression, and our best and brightest feared that dismantling the military machine would sink the country back into depression.
Luckily, Joe Stalin raised his ugly head and we had our rationale for keeping our war machine in place. Sen. Arthur Vandenberg told Truman that the only way he’d be able to sell the Cold War was to, “…scare the hell out of the American public.” He did and thus was born the nuclearized security state and institutionalized paranoia.
Well, the Soviet Union went belly up trying to keep up with us militarily, here we were with all this military hardware and no place to go, led by leaders who had no concept of peace. (Some have suggested that the Cold War produced two casualties. The Soviet Union was simply the first to fall.)
Things were getting a little tense as it started to become clear that our military establishment was a dinosaur that had outlived its usefulness. Then 9/11 hit and our military leaders breathed a sigh of relief. Once again their lives had meaning.
Instead of relying on intelligence and police work to contain terrorist activity, the knee-jerk reaction was a military response. It was a deliciously self-fulfilling policy. A military action kills a lot of people, many of them innocent. This pisses off their survivors and friends which creates more terrorists who become the justification for our continued military actions. No wonder our leaders speak of a long war.
This is why we need Afghanistan to drag on and on without resolution. We’re buying time until we can flush out another threat to our existence.
As Bacevich points out, escalating Afghanistan will, “Affirm that military might will remain principle instrument for exercising American Global leadership, as has been the case for decades."
We need threats just as a drunk needs his booze. It’s not a problem of being unable to think outside the box; it’s a problem of being unable to think outside the coffin.