When I was an undergraduate, majoring in Mideast Foreign Affairs, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. In those days we saw geopolitics through the lens of the Cold War. The globe was a giant chess set and the red pieces were on the move, aiming for their coveted warm weather port it seemed.
History now knows the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to have been a blunder. Eventually the Soviets had slightly more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, and approximately 1,500 per year were killed in the nine year conflict, fighting many of the same Islamic fanatics who we then supported, but now oppose. The enormous cost of the war contributed to the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union.
Those who do not learn from history, are destined to repeat it.
There are currently 68,000 western troops in Afghanistan, the vast majority of them American. President Obama has recently announced his intention to send an additional 17,000 American troops to Afghanistan, and there is little opposition to the plan.
There are 32 million people in Afghanistan.
The 2001 congressional authorization to use force in Afghanistan (which was itself an improper delegation of Congress’ power to declare war) permitted military action to “prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.” It did not sanction nation-building, or refereeing centuries-old Afghan power struggles.
In 2004 Osama Bin Laden announced that his goal in Afghanistan is to “bleed America to the point of bankruptcy.” “All that we have to do,” he continued, “is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note. . . .”
In 2009, over seven years after our invasion, amid repeated reports of fraud, abuse and corruption, the US is spending billions of borrowed dollars in Afghanistan every month, putting the tab on the national credit card for our children to pay. Meanwhile, American casualties continue to increase in Afghanistan, and chickenhawk supreme, Vice President Biden, has announced that the nation should expect an “uptick” in American blood spilled there.
This insanity simply has to end. Eventually it will have to, of course, for the simple reason that it is unsustainable. We will eventually run out of money (likely because our Chinese lenders will stop giving it to us), and we will eventually run out of people willing to be sent to ratholes like Afghanistan to play lethal games of Whack-a-mole. But let’s hope that good sense will prevail before then and no more American blood and treasure will be wasted in places like Afghanistan.