The Goal of ‘Not Losing’ in Afghanistan

Exclusive: America’s adventures in Afghanistan – dating back to the 1980s – have led to one disaster after another with President Trump and other politicians afraid to finally admit failure, as Jonathan Marshall explains.

By Jonathan Marshall

“Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense!” – Donald Trump, January 11, 2013

Taking a break from his defense of the “very fine people” who marched with Nazis in Charlottesville, President Trump will reportedly meet with his national security team today (Friday, August 18) at Camp David to discuss a far deadlier but ironically less controversial issue: the war in Afghanistan.

President Donald Trump announces the selection of Gen. H.R. McMaster as his new National Security Adviser on Feb. 20, 2017. (Screen shot from

That war, the longest in our history, has cost the United States more than 2,350 killed, 20,000 injured, and a trillion dollars. Yet unlike Charlottesville, it arouses little passion. It gained impeccably bipartisan credentials through successive Republican and Democratic administrations. Although a huge majority of Americans today oppose the war, they lack sufficient conviction to prevent Congress from continuing to appropriate tens of billions of dollars each year to fund it.

Trump is in a bind. As Taliban forces continue to rack up military and political gains across their country, no serious expert can possibly believe that continued U.S. intervention will deliver “victory.” Sixteen years of experience show that almost every U.S. tactic has not only failed, but backfired.

Far from winning hearts and minds, nighttime Special Forces raids and bombing runs have turned countless villagers against the Afghan government and its foreign backers. Far from bolstering Kabul’s resources, tens of billions of dollars in U.S. aid created an epidemic of corruption that decimated the government’s credibility and put money and weapons in the hands of the Taliban.

Far from defeating Islamist tyranny, the United States has empowered viciously cruel warlords. Far from promoting law and order, U.S. anti-drug campaigns turned poppy-growing peasants into allies and funders of the Taliban. And far from closing off Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan, Washington’s surly relations with Islamabad have amplified dangerous anti-American sentiments in that nuclear-armed, Islamic state.

A Parallel Disaster

“It is most disturbing to find that after [many] years [the country] appears less, not more, stable than it was at the outset,” said one prominent U.S. senator. “It appears more removed from, rather than closer to, the achievement of popularly responsible and responsive government.”

National Security Adviser Walt Rostow shows President Lyndon Johnson a model of a battle near Khe Sanh in Vietnam. (U.S. Archive Photo)

That was actually the observation of Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, D-Montana, reporting on a study mission to Vietnam in the fall of 1962. It applies just as well to Afghanistan today.

Yet as Trump’s national security experts huddle with the President, most are almost certainly advocating an increased troop commitment to Afghanistan — not to bear the brunt of the fighting, but ostensibly to train government forces to stand on their own. That, of course, was the mission of U.S. military advisers sent to Vietnam in the early 1960s, before that war ballooned into a national disaster.

Trump’s generals — McMaster, Mattis and Kelly — know this history as well as anyone. (H. R. McMaster’s book, Dereliction of Duty, is considered a classic history of failed military leadership in the Vietnam War.) So does John McCain, the Senate’s most famous Vietnam veteran, who nonetheless insists on doing whatever it takes to “turn the tide” in Afghanistan. So why do they — like Obama’s team before them — keep calling for throwing away more lives and money on a lost cause?

The answer to that also lies in Vietnam. As former Defense Department official and Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg argued in a seminal 1971 essay, “The Quagmire Myth and the Stalemate Machine,” U.S. leaders knew full well, every step of the way, that their successive escalations of that war would not bring victory. Instead, their goal was to prevent defeat — and with it, a repetition of the political traumas that followed the “loss of China” and the rise of McCarthism in the early 1950s.

“If I tried to pull out completely now, we would have another Joe McCarthy red scare on our hands,” President John F. Kennedy told Sen. Mansfield in 1963. The assassination of Kennedy that November precluded any possibility that he would pull out after his reelection. Two days later, President Lyndon Johnson told a White House meeting, “I am not going to lose Vietnam. I am not going to be the president who saw Southeast Asia go the way China went.”

The Cost of ‘Not Losing’

Forty-six years later, a Washington Post story on America’s longest war reports, “talk of ‘winning’ is scarce. The goal now seems more akin to ‘not losing.’” Pundits like former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta now talk of staying in Afghanistan for decades. It’s a replay of the Vietnam stalemate — but with more manageable costs, little TV coverage, and no mass anti-war demonstrations.

President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush (with First Lady Michelle Obama and former First Lady Laura Bush) walk to a White House event on May 31, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Most Washington leaders hardly know or care whether any U.S. “national interests” are actually at stake in Afghanistan. But they view the political risks of pulling out as worse than the risks of keeping the stalemate going. They don’t dare face charges that they allowed Afghanistan to become once again a haven for terrorists. No matter that Islamist jihadists operate just fine today without bases in Afghanistan — in our post-reality world, what counts are not the facts, but what fire-breathing analysts on Fox News will say about any apparent retreat.

No one knows what would happen if the United States were to pull out of Afghanistan. But if the Vietnam analogy holds, the consequences, though not pretty, would surely be less disastrous than many pundits predict. It’s hard to dispute the (admittedly self-serving) words of one Taliban spokesman, who said a U.S. withdrawal “will prevent further loss of its manpower and economy . . . This will be a means of salvage for us Afghans, too. . . Therefore, if America’s occupation comes to an end, it means that the problem between the two nations will end, too.”

Donald Trump, who had no trouble advising President Obama to quit the war, has reportedly ruled out a withdrawal from Afghanistan and complained to his military advisers that they aren’t giving him a strategy to win. If those reports are correct, he will forfeit his last opportunity to blame the war on his predecessor and cut his losses.

Senator McCain had it partly right when he said in July, “Eight [try 16] years of a ‘don’t lose’ strategy have cost us lives and treasure in Afghanistan. Our troops deserve better.”

So do American taxpayers — and Afghan civilians. Unfortunately, McCain, like most members of the Washington foreign policy “blob,” can only envision further military escalation to maintain the stalemate. What the United States desperately needs now is a mass movement to resist not only racism and plutocracy at home, but endless militarism abroad.

Jonathan Marshall is a regular contributor to

45 comments for “The Goal of ‘Not Losing’ in Afghanistan

  1. j. D. D.
    August 25, 2017 at 07:16

    President Trump has worked closely, and successfully with Russia in defeating terrorism in Syria, and in the case of Afghanistan, the new policy approach, negotiating with the Taliban toward a settlement embracing all ethnic factions in the country, is just what the Russians have promoted. However,the only approach that can actually rebuild Afghanistan and create peace requires collaboration among all the parties in the region. Iran, Pakistan, India, the nations of Central Asia, Russia, and China, however President Trump is under pressure to pursue unilateral action, and even to try to play off India against the other BRICS nations..

  2. william
    August 21, 2017 at 15:20

    We had no business invading Afghanistan & Iraq to begin with. Losing? With all the geniuses in Military Intelligence ?!
    All those smart generals?
    I’m not going to write a book —- Our military AND politicians are MORONS and have recreated Viet Nam —- GET OUT NOW.
    The Bush Family wealth should be distributed to the TROOPS who were maimed and crippled in the wars the Bush Family LIED America into fighting. The Bush Family has huge investments in “defense” stocks such as the CARLYLE GROUP and the Bush Family was PROFITTING & got RICHer as American Troops bled. Then the NEOCON-War Mongers (Cheney, Krauthammer, Kristol, Rove), the whole list of those who spread and supported the LIES) should also be stripped. – George Bush Sr. said years ago…”If the American people knew what we have done to them we would be swinging from lamp poles..”

    W-rong Bush MURDERED the First Responders who answered the call at Ground Zero. BABYBush knew the air was toxic but he sent that Whitman woman, head of the EPA out to tell them the air was SAFE.,
    Now they are all dying of cancer after HE “used” them for photo-ops and to get rid of the evidence – quickly.

  3. PJ London
    August 21, 2017 at 14:31

    What is missing from all the analyses is why US went to Afghanistan in the first place and why they are still there.
    16 years ago, the US had the idea that they could ‘own’ the Caspian basin and all the ”Little Stans’ around it. Russia was reeling, and US was thumping it’s chest, cock of the roost. Afghanistan was the pipeline to move oil from the biggest reserve to the potentially largest market, northern India.
    It would have worked had US been honest with Pakistan and not supported the Baluchistan separation. India was never going to be friends with Pakistan and vice versa. Getting the two to work together was like discovering oil in Gaza.
    So now 16 years later the whole Afghanistan rationale is gone, dead and buried.
    India did not grow the manner expected, the ‘Stans’ turned back to Russia and those darn Afghanis and Taliban did not lie down and die.
    Nothing has replaced the rationale except ‘we must not be seen to lose.’
    Too late buddy the whole world is laughing at you. No-one is scared any more. It is not that there are no ‘good’ options, there are no options, period.
    Bannon is the only sensible thinker, but he has discovered ‘realpolitik’.
    The only logical thing to do is declare victory in Afghanistan, (and Iraq and Syria) and walk away.
    The fact that this is the only sensible thing from any angle does not mean it will happen. Millions of American jobs depend on continuing war and weapons. Walking away will cause immense economic disruption. Staying the course will put off the evil moment but the eventual crash will be worse.
    America is like a car travelling down the highway with a trailer that is swaying from side to side. Put on the brakes and the trailer overturns and crashes. Accelerate and the trailer looks more stable, but it only makes the inevitable crash more certain and much more destructive.
    Everyone can see it coming, Trump was the idiot who took the wheel.

  4. August 21, 2017 at 09:16

    Contrary of what is widely believed Bin Laden did not create the Taliban. He was their paymaster. I doubt very much that the Taliban was interested in the 9/11 bombings.
    The principal “value” of Afghanistan for the CIA and other US intelligence agencies is that it is located between Iran and Pakistan. That must be protected at all costs.

  5. Carroll Price
    August 21, 2017 at 06:37

    The last time America made the mistake of winning a war was in 1945. And probably had no intention of winning that one if not for the fact Russia had recently declared war on Japan and preparing to invade the island. World War 2 taught America an important lesson – serious money is made fighting wars, not winning them.

  6. Vurun Kahpeye
    August 21, 2017 at 01:35

    Inconvenient truth is,American foreign intervention policy is all the mother of the KAOS in the world,we all know this and we all expect something has to happens to reverse this foreign policy disaster.
    Perhaps, it is high time building Iraq / Afghanistan / Syria / Libya and apologize to distraction to much to ask? I guess this is rethoricall question and instead of responding perhaps everybody has weird smile saying; are you real or get real.

  7. Mike from Fordham
    August 20, 2017 at 18:42

    I’d be curious to hear how Barack Obama feels now about his decisions to continue the Afghan War. I have never seen references to any sense of regret on his part but the fact is that if he had simply withdrawn US forces after Bin Laden was killed, Trump would not now be in a position to demand more deaths – all to prove that he will win the war that Obama could not.

  8. Alex cox
    August 20, 2017 at 12:15

    The purpose of the Afghan invasion was the restoration of the heroin trade, was it not? In 2000 the Taliban had reduced opium production to zero. After 16 years of CIA and US military support, production booms. The purpose of a system is what it does…

  9. August 20, 2017 at 09:19

    We have a regime in Washington that is deeply corrupt. The us of ordinance through permanent war is the reason for those wars. There is no attempt to have a well-reasoned strategy or use good tactics to achieve a goal because the only goal is to fight. The military officer class likes it because they get promotions and cushy jobs when the retire and politicians get rich as well. Afghanistan was fought like Vietnam with the certain knowledge that there would be no victory, no result just continued war. Without understanding how Washington actually works you cannot understand any U.S. war.

  10. Susan Sunflower
    August 20, 2017 at 00:15

    Interesting and colorful, report from Afghanistan — apparently violent infighting between warlords has broken out big time … and they are so engrossed fighting each other they’re not fighting the Taliban and are, by extension of these rivalries, fighting “government supporters” (as warlords are generically considered, being — cough — anti-Taliban)

    I was realizing today that the news black-out wrt Iraq remains near total except for the brave daring successes of the military in fighting ISIS…

    Pepe Escobar’s article linked above wrt Moqtada al Sadrs visit to KSA is much appreciated …Al-Sadr has amazing political instincts and skill … there’s subtlety and a willingness to listen. He has always resisted Iraq being “annexed” by Iran … from day one.
    Other news is that Netanyahu is soon to be visiting and consulting Putin.

    I suspect much is “in motion” because even folks who “hate” the Iran nuclear deal (and hate Iran) don’t actually want to see it scuttled (as may happen due to Trump) so they’re negotiating without him …

  11. August 19, 2017 at 18:09

    Keep the country in anarchy and chaos,and exploit the heroin trade for black ops,
    The main goal is to stymie China’s one belt one road initiative that will link Afganistan
    and vastly improve the economy and living standards of Afgans,as far as the US is
    Concerned this must be avoided at all costs,hence the longest drawn out mess that
    Is the US war on the Afgan nation,

    • Sam F
      August 20, 2017 at 07:29

      Good point that the dark state needs the Afghan heroin trade to fund Mideast wars that bring in zionist bribes to politicians, and secret wars against socialism in Latin America that define the Repubs.

  12. Lawrence Fitton
    August 19, 2017 at 14:41

    the small brains in d.c. – particularly george w. bush – did exactly what osama bin laden wanted them to do. washington fell into his trap – bogged down in a long asian ground war. but bush doubled down by invading iraq. 6 trillion dollars and16 years later we have not only failure but spectacular failure.
    not satisfied with the twin disasters, the next president went for north africa and syria. more idiocy.
    and every war is a war crime. torture too, is a war crime.
    bin laden ended one empire.
    will america be next?

    • Susan Sunflower
      August 19, 2017 at 15:15

      actually I see that ” Bin Laden wanted / predicted this ” meme too often … actually I don’t think that was his intent at all … yes, he knew there would be blow-back, but he believed it would be short lived and — having shown the USA as a “papertiger” local Jihad movements would rise to throw the Western/Infidels out of Muslim lands… and so could begin the transformation, the shedding of the West’s toxic influence necessary for the reestablishment of the Caliphate .(eventually) … (ISIS turned that on its head and conquered Muslim lands and enslaved the people, establishing the Caliphate by enslaving the local Muslim population, endlessly suspected of being insuffiicently loyal). Things are much worse for most of the middle east and even possibly — if oversimplified — for the world muslim community. They know it, even as they may resent Western domination in all things, personal and political. Barber’s Jihad and McWorld resonates.

      Peter Bergen CNN

      I’m not “trying to pick a quarrel” but the Bin Laden as Superhero/Mastermind meme has got to be destroyed … I think he was the big-idea guy, the visionary, but perhaps not more so than ?Ayman al-Zawahiri … Bin Laden may have been largely “the face of Jihad”, the poster boy … I’m still trying to figure this out.

  13. Susan Sunflower
    August 19, 2017 at 07:21

    Morality aside, the obvious and often critical problem with “regime change” is that the new government is viewed as illegitimate … imposed… even a virtual occupation …

    The problems facing “democracy” in impoverished or failed states are many … “free choice” does not exist in a countries where everything is for sale … funny how we in “late capitalism” have similar problems (alleged “Russian meddling” has nothing on “Citizens United” for destroying our democracy (such as it was))

    The Taliban offer Afghans courts and legal judgements that they respect… and that resolve disputes … the government is too corrupt to do so and is so log-jammed that disputes (legal matters) are never resolved … failing at one of the few essential functions of government …

    • Sam F
      August 20, 2017 at 07:23

      Exactly, the oligarchy has done a fine job of destroying the democracy that existed in the US before the Civil War, without any help from the foreign monsters they need to pose with the flag and accuse their moral superiors of disloyalty.

  14. Burt
    August 19, 2017 at 02:35

    Foreign powers always had a tough go…..

    “May God keep you away from the venom of the cobra, the teeth of the tiger, and the revenge of the Afghans.”
    Alexander the Great —4th Century BC

    when Alexander was stationed in Afghanistan nearly 2,300 years ago, during the course of his almost all conquering expedition, he wrote a letter to his mother in which he briefly hinted at the badassitude of the Afghans, his words echoing the inherent fears of Kipling had regarding fighting in Afghanistan:

    I am involved in the land of a ‘Leonine’ (lion-like) and brave people, where every foot of the ground is like a wall of steel, confronting my soldier. You have brought only one Alexander into the world, but every mother in this land has brought an Alexander in the world.”

    Alexander the Great that Afghanistan “is easy to march into but hard to march out of”
    In the 4th century B.C., Alexander the Great fell afoul of Pashtun tribesmen in today’s Malakand Agency, where he took an arrow in the leg and almost lost his life. Two millennia later the founder of the Mogul empire, Babur, described the tribesmen of the area now known as Waziristan as unmanageable; his main complaint seemed to center on his inability to get them to pay their taxes by handing over their sheep, let alone stop to attacking his armies. A couple of hundred years later, in the middle of the 19th century, the British experienced disaster after disaster as they tried to bring the same Pashtun tribes to heel, particularly in the agencies of North and South Waziristan.

    When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
    And the women come out to cut up what remains,
    Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
    An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.
    Go, go, go like a soldier,
    Go, go, go like a soldier,
    Go, go, go like a soldier,
    So-oldier of the Queen!
    Young British Soldier, Stanza 13.
    RUDYARD KIPLING – on the deaths of 2500 British during the 2nd invasion of Afgahnistan.

    16000 die in retreat to Jalalabad, only one Britsh surgeon survives

    Incredible story of the British soldier who was the only survivor of a 19th century Afghan conquest – and the warnings for today’s military missions–warnings-today-s-military-missions.html

    • Sam F
      August 20, 2017 at 07:14

      I am surprised that Kipling, the poet of British empire. wrote such lines about Afghanistan. It appears that each generation that learned something about war there, left an anti-war generation, followed by another generation of warmongers who lost again: 1839, 1878, while 1914 and 1939 came a bit early for them, having suppressed the imperial aspirations of Germany.

      Perhaps the US oligarchy enthusiasms of 1980s and 2001 will find that suppressing the ambitions of Russia and China will similarly force them to bring fresh generations in the US to new understandings.

  15. exiled off mainstreet
    August 19, 2017 at 00:17

    The parallels with Viet Nam, as mentioned, are obvious, as is the history of Afghanistan as the graveyard of empires from Alexander the Great onwards. George Aiken, the 1960s GOP Vermont Senator had it right: declare victory and get out. As is mentioned, Trump himself took a similar view in 2013. It is only common sense.

  16. bob
    August 18, 2017 at 21:51

    russia is ready are you?

  17. August 18, 2017 at 19:40

    This is disgusting: where is the outrage?

    Missouri Senator: ‘I Hope Trump Is Assassinated!’
    12:46 PM 08/17/2017

  18. Joe Tedesky
    August 18, 2017 at 15:00

    Although the death count, and wounded, are not even close, there are parallels between the Afghanistan war, and the Vietnam war, that for the lack of a better phraseology you could label both these wars as their being a quagmire. With that, I find it sadly ironic that Brzezinski who armed the mujahideen back in the late 70’s with the idea of handing Russia their own Vietnam, and here the U.S. is now in 2017 bogged down in the same quagmire Zbigniew waged against the Russians. Is this where the saying, ‘what goes around comes around’ fits?

    It’s time the U.S. shut down their global military base system, and come home. America will never be able to replace the vast amount spend on these needless wars, and especially sad are the many lives loss (on many sides) who will never experience a peaceful sunrise again, because of this greed that pushes our nation ever closer to a nuclear Armageddon.

    • mike k
      August 18, 2017 at 17:46

      You’ve got it Joe; greed is the basic dynamic behind all this mayhem.

      • Joe Tedesky
        August 18, 2017 at 20:31

        Thanks mike I appreciate your comment.

        • Susan Sunflower
          August 18, 2017 at 21:32

          In both Vietnam and in Afghanistan, our “war” appeared to be in the service of attempting to prop up an illegitimate regime … there’s no comparison wrt body count or intensity … just the futility …

          Afghanistan had settled on the Taliban after 5 years of civil war, after the US-aided overthrow of a perfectly legitimate if weak and not terribly popular communist government. The Taliban won because most preferred the brand of religious honest and principled (if cruel and despotic) rule to the capricious night-riding terror of the war lords who were also cruel and despotic …

          That was the comparison I intended …

          • August 19, 2017 at 11:36

            Peace is not a part of the business model; perpetual war is it’s catalyst.

  19. Susan Sunflower
    August 18, 2017 at 14:40

    Illiteracy is still blamed for “hindering” the training the of Afghan army … even though quite likely the new recruits were toddlers or younger when we invaded in 2001 … the unfinished training of the Afghan army is of course the evergreen unfinished critical mission (excuse) )that precludes withdrawal of forces, much as it was in (post-colonial) Vietnam

    Is Afghanistan another war needlessly prolonged to assuage the vanity of the current CIC who refuses to be the person who “lost Afghanistan”? (for a great summary of the Vietnam war, the Ellsberg Documentary “Most Dangerous Man in America” provides a concise summary of the war and the place of the Pentagon Papers in ending the charade and exposing government lies)

    The preview of the new KenBurn’s Vietnam doc was marred for me by the appearance of a teary eyed war protestor regretting the hostile welcome received by some returning GI’s from people “like herself” even though those accounts have been shown to be almost entirely the stuff of (never happened) urban legend … I fear we will get more tributes to our brave soldiers fighting a misguided war … although I hope we’re spared the (10 years after) urban legend that “we weren’t allowed to win” … (because, that story went, civilian control of the government and (petty) partisan politics hobbled the righteous Generals)

    My suspicion for the last couple of years has been that we will remain in Afghanistan in preparation for war with China … as part of our attempted encircling of China as we have encircled Russia … Afghanistan geographically girdling both … We may end up disgracing Putin by making him seem gullible for attempting to “negotiate” much less “cooperate” with us. Fool me once … etc.

    Shifting strategic alliances between China, Russia, Pakistan and India are significant and Afghanistan allows us to demand a seat at many tables.

    • Sam F
      August 20, 2017 at 07:03

      Very good points. The US oligarchy will disrupt development in Central Asia to disrupt business competition, but I suspect the Brzezinski faction will decline, as the zionists/WallSt factions control mass media and want the wars to be in the Mideast. The MIC “heroes” don’t care where the wars are, as long as they get money to kill and abuse other people.

  20. Stephen
    August 18, 2017 at 14:37

    Now that Washington’s and Riyadh’s terrorists are being defeated in Syria, another disaster is playing out in South West Asia as well. Here is Pepe Escobar on the subject.

    • Bob Van Noy
      August 19, 2017 at 12:00

      Really excellent link Stephen. Thank you.

    • Sam F
      August 20, 2017 at 07:57

      Yes, a very clear and interesting article.

  21. mike k
    August 18, 2017 at 14:07

    Uttering the name Afghanistan is enough to prove the utter stupidity and senseless cruelty of the American government.
    What a tragic nightmare! Complete withdrawal and carefully administered war reparations are the only correct course to atone for this criminal assault on their culture.

    • Sam F
      August 20, 2017 at 06:53

      Yes, although I wonder who could administer war reparations there, after Pilger’s book We Meant Well describing the willfully prolific waste of USG money on fake reconstruction projects, and the corruption of the Afghan government we set up. The people may have meant well but certainly not the oligarchy.

  22. August 18, 2017 at 13:44

    I, Eqbal Danish, a U.S citizen who was born and raised in Afghanistan, and also worked as a linguist for US armed forces as a linguist for more than ten years throughout Afghanistan, I am greatly disappointed to read these news articles that are far untrue and baseless. I clearly remember when I first started working as a linguist at Bagram air base when I was 18 years old. back then I was trying to convince the US military officials that why you guys giving $ away for warlords and drug dealers, they were telling me that Iqbal, “We do what we been told.” I remember when they were awarding contracts to local militia commanders in Bagram district. From the very beginning, US government didn’t have a clear vision or policy toward Afghanistan. To speak frankly, unfortunately, until this day, US government doesn’t have a good understanding of Afghanistan and its people. Afghanistan is far complicated than any of these generals (Mattis, Mcmaster or Kelly know). Long story short, I am not positive about any upcoming strategy which will be announced by Pres. Trump will be any different than his other predecessors.

    I strongly suggest to the US officials, including Pres. Trump to respect all Afghans (not only one tribe, “Pashtun”, but to sit with all other minorities and listen to the roots of their problems.


    Eqbal Danish

    • ranney
      August 18, 2017 at 16:32

      Eqbal, thank you for your comment. And thank you for your help as translator for Americans stationed in Afghanistan. I am constantly astonished by the thick headedness of our leaders (and also the leaders of other European countries). We constantly hear it said that no army has been able to control Afghanistan starting with Alexander the Great and running through the British empire and now, of course, the US. Thousands of years of attempting to subdue your people without success. I wonder why we are so stupid? I suppose your countrymen wonder that too.
      You suggest that U.S. officials sit with other minorities besides the Pashtuns and listen to the roots of their problems. Could you tell us what some of those roots are? Or tell us what you think is the most important problem? I for one, think that would be very helpful.

    • Bob Van Noy
      August 19, 2017 at 11:58

      Eqbal and rainey, thank you both for the valuable exchange. This is at the very heart of the whole arguement against Empire. It is America’s great tragedy that the whole concept of America as The Exceptional Nation has gotten to this point of collapse, not once but twice. First in Vietnam and now in Afghanistan. Those of us who have long realized the error of Vietnam, understood from the beginning that Afghanistan would end similarly because America has no capacity or even the knowledge of Nation Building. Never did; never will.
      We are left to ponder the basis of this truly awful policy of geomanipulation. I blame Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski and those uninformed enough to “buy” their false philosophy, then back it to absurdity. I guess that we will now wait for the ultimate humiliation of the final exit from the final base in Afghanistan.

    • know the truth
      August 21, 2017 at 11:50

      Hi Eqbal, you wrote :

      ” unfortunately, until this day, US government doesn’t have a good understanding of Afghanistan and its people”

      I have to tell you they are not there to have a “good understanding” of Afghanistan or its people, they are there simply to rip off Afghanistan and its people for its valuable mineral resources which they are shipping out by the helicopter load and for the drugs which the CIA is shipping out by the plane load, why do you think they are throwing $ at the war lords and drug dealers as you say, and the corrupt officials in your own government are deeply involved in this drug trade too. the Americans will never leave Afghanistan until you get rid of your corrupt government and kick them out.

  23. August 18, 2017 at 13:44

    Jonathan Marshall gives many good reasons why we shouldn’t be in Afghanistan and there are many good reasons why we never should have gotten involved there in the first place. The best chance that country had of achieving any kind of stability was thwarted when the U.S. intervened to supply munitions(including Stinger missiles) to the Taliban during the era of Soviet influence. There are, however significant differences in the current situation with that of Vietnam War. Afghanistan is an artificial nation, roughly divided between Pashtun and Dari(a Persian dialect) speakers with a sprinkling of other minorities. There is no popular resistance leader(i.e. Ho Chi Minh)to surrender to and it is virtually a failed state. No real effort was made by allied forces toward reconstruction and instead, the country has been pilfered and plundered by private contractors(who also have plundered the U.S. Treasury/taxpayers). At this point I don’t believe withdrawal would leave a significant terrorist threat. That is more likely to come from our “ally” Saudi Arabia, which was after all the source of Al Qaeda’s involvement in Afghanistan.

    • Sam F
      August 19, 2017 at 20:57

      Yes, wars in Afghanistan are the surest sign of US degeneration into oligarchy:
      1. Afghanistan is an unpleasant land, good only for opium, impossible to conquer.
      2. So it makes a perfect buffer zone between empires.
      3. No one has ever wanted it, except in fear that another empire would somehow take it.
      4. Alexander the Great was lessened by it.
      5. The British oligarchy feared for no reason that Russia would take it, lost two wars in 1839-42 and 1878 without realizing that nobody wanted it, and would have lost a third had not WWI distracted them.
      6. The US oligarchy feared for no reason that Russia would take it, although we do not even have an empire there to protect, and has been fighting there since the 1980s without realizing that nobody wants it.
      7. The US oligarchy has made the ultimate comedy of errors there, setting a trap for Russia by creating Al Qaeda there as “freedom fighters” for head-chopping fundamentalism, to attack a USSR government trying to provide development which the US did not seek to provide, found itself attacked by its “freedom fighters” on 9/11/2001, and then walked into its own trap in 2001-present. There is no funnier lesson in all of history. And still we did not learn the lesson.
      8. The reason that the British and US oligarchies did this is that oligarchies are stupid, greedy, and proud, do not care about their own people let alone others, and are forced to maintain foreign wars to pose with the flag as false patriots and denounce their moral superiors as disloyal, as Aristotle and Plato warned about the tyrants over democracies. Democracies do not try to conquer Afghanistan: we do not have a democracy.
      9. The reason that the US has an oligarchy despite revolting against the British oligarchy is that the middle class did not notice or fear the rise of economic concentrations and their gradual control of mass media and elections.
      10. The US Constitution does not permit foreign wars at all, ever, regardless of any act of Congress or the President: just suppressing insurrections and repelling invasions. Foreign wars require a treaty to add this federal power, and these were wisely avoided until WWII, after which we joined purely defensive NATO and abused it to start wars of aggression. Military treaties were used by the US oligarchy to seize power and establish a British tyranny over the people of the United States and every country they wished to conquer. We must repudiate or revise NATO and all other military treaties to permit only defensive actions, mediated by the UN.
      11. We cannot stop foreign wars or restore democracy in the United States without overthrowing the oligarchy of MIC/WallSt/zionists. We cannot do that peacefully because the mass media and election tools of democracy are controlled by oligarchy.
      12. We must see that the sole historical meaning of our lives is the overthrow of US oligarchy and restoration of democracy.

      • August 19, 2017 at 21:20

        “We cannot do that peacefully because the mass media and election tools of democracy are controlled by oligarchy.”

        Yes Sam F, rebellion is never peaceful, but it is also never a conspiracy…oppression has its spontaneous consequences.

        • Sam F
          August 20, 2017 at 06:48

          Yet oppression does not spontaneously correct itself. Reversing economic oligarchy without popular force would require executive overreach, to:
          1. prosecute Congress and the Judiciary for corrupt influences,
          2. give the mass media temporarily to the universities, hold new elections, and
          3. demand amendments and law to protect elections and mass media from money.
          But with Trump we have seen how far executive overreach goes: no dissenter is elected unless he is himself an oligarch, and his dissent lasts a few months against the dark state and corrupt mass media, and accomplishes zero.

          More likely we will see a pathetic 40 – 80 years of decline punctuated by recessions and military defeats of the oligarchy, until they are too discredited, demoralized, and cowed by foreign powers to dare further perversion of the course of history. That will be a defeat for oligarchy but a victory for the people, who will be much better off if that catastrophe can be hastened.

          • August 20, 2017 at 12:14

            “More likely we will see a pathetic 40 – 80 years of decline punctuated by recessions and military defeats of the oligarchy,”…. Sam, I’ve seen enough of the decline, and like many here I would love to see a non-violent revolution against the dark forces of greed and insanity. As much as I admire your manifesto I’m afraid most of us are condemned to being curmudgeons speaking the truth as we see it.

          • Sam F
            August 20, 2017 at 21:26

            I was not proposing a conspiracy of us curmudgeons: by “decline punctuated by recessions and military defeats of the oligarchy” I was referring to defeats of military adventurism elsewhere. I work for nonviolent change, but do not expect that the oligarchy will be displaced that way.

          • August 20, 2017 at 23:24

            Sam…I know you’re a good person aspiring for a better society for future generations…I just regret that most of us will probably not be around to see it. But.yes, I think it’s very important that we retain a positive attitude even though we may be pessimistic about the immediate future.

    • August 21, 2017 at 09:09

      Some of the Stinger missiles had to be bought back!

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