Trump, Afghanistan & the Messy Endings to US Wars

Any deal with the Taliban will resemble the other retreats from the anti-colonial and counterinsurgency conflicts the U.S. has fought since  1945, writes Danny Sjursen.

By Danny Sjursen

Could President Donald Trump end the Afghan war someday? I don’t know if such a possibility has been on your mind, but it’s certainly been on the mind of this retired U.S. Army major who fought in that land so long ago. And here’s the context in which I’ve been thinking about that very possibility.

Back in the previous century, it used to be said that “only Nixon could go to China.” In other words, only a longtime Cold Warrior and red-baiter like President Richard Nixon had the necessary tough-guy credentials to break with a tradition more than two decades old in February 1972. It was then that he and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger traveled to Beijing and met with Communist leader Mao Zedong. In that way, they began a process of reestablishing relations with China (now again being impaired by Donald Trump) broken when the Communists won a civil war against the American-backed nationalists led by Chiang Kai-Shek and came to power in 1949.

U.S. Air Force helicopters on deck of  aircraft carrier USS Midway during U.S. evacuation from Vietnam, April 1975. (DanMS, Wikimedia Commons)

By the same token, perhaps no one but Nixon could have eventually — after hundreds of thousands more Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians and Americans died — extracted the United States from what was then (but is no longer) America’s longest war, the one in Vietnam. After all, in 1973, it was hard to imagine just about any Democrat agreeing to the sort of unseemly concessions at the negotiating table in Paris that resulted in an actual peace accord with a crew of Communists. But Nixon did so.

After those “peace” talks and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from that land, the corrupt, battered U.S.-backed South Vietnamese government barely held on for another two gruesome years before a massive Communist offensive finally took Saigon, the capital of the American-backed half of that country in April 1975. Images of U.S. military helicopters hastily evacuating American diplomats and others from Saigon would prove embarrassing indeed. Yet, in the end, little could have altered the ultimate outcome of that war.

Nixon, a cynic’s cynic, evidently sensed just that. Yes, he would prolong the war to the tune of more than 20,000 additional U.S. troop deaths and seek to create a politically palatable pause between the withdrawal of American troops and the unavoidable Communist victory to come (at the cost of god knows how many more dead Vietnamese). It was what he called breathing space.”  In the end, in other words, in the bloodiest way imaginable, he finally accepted both his presidential, and Washington’s, limitations in what was, after all, a Vietnamese civil war. 

Fellow TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich has referred to such realities as the limits of power.” As a longtime military man who once carried water for the American empire in both Afghanistan and Iraq, let me assure you that, almost two decades into the 21st century, those limits still couldn’t be more real.

Recently, I got to thinking about Vietnam and Bacevich — himself a veteran of that war — while following the strange pace of the Trump administration’s peace talks with the Taliban. It struck me that the president, his negotiators, and his loyally “deplorable” backers might (gulp!) just be America’s best hope for striking a deal, 18 years late, to conclude the U.S. military’s role in Afghanistan. If so, he would end the war that replaced Vietnam as this country’s longest — and that’s without even counting the first Afghan War Washington fought there against the Red Army of the now-defunct Soviet Union from 1979 to 1989.

An Unwinnable War

For someone like me who long ago turned his back on America’s never-ending wars on terror, it’s discomfiting to imagine the process that might finally lead to a U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, especially one negotiated by The Donald and his strange team of hawks. Of one thing, rest assured: bad things will happen afterward. Afghans to whom Americans are sympathetic, especially women, will suffer under the heel of the kind of extreme Islamism that will be in command in significant parts of the country. And getting there could be no less grim. After all, Trump, that self-proclaimed “deal-maker,” has so far shown himself to be anything but impressive in striking deals. Nevertheless, he has, at least, regularly criticized the ill-advised Afghan War for years and his instincts, when it comes to that conflict, though unsophisticated and ill-informed, seem sound.

U.S. Marines with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit after seizing a Taliban forward-operating base Nov. 25, 2001. (Sergeant Joseph R. Chenelly, United States Marine Corps)

U.S. Marines with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit after seizing a Taliban forward-operating base Nov. 25, 2001. (Sergeant Joseph R. Chenelly, United States Marine Corps)

In a sense, the situation isn’t complicated: the U.S. war in Afghanistan cannot be won. The Kabul-based government’s gross domestic product can’t even support its own military budget, leaving it endlessly reliant on aid from Washington and its allies. Its security forces have been taking what, last December, the American general about to become the head of U.S. Central Command termed unsustainable casualties — 45,000 battle deaths since 2014. Those security forces simply can’t recruit enough new members to replace such massive losses. 

Today, the U.S.-backed regime controls less of Afghanistan than at any point in the nearly two-decade-long war, despite all the American bombs dropped and troops deployed these past 18 years. Rather than grapple with that inconvenient fact, the U.S. military simply stopped counting how much of the country the Taliban now contests or controls. For these and a plethora of other reasons, that military and its Afghan proxies won’t be able to change the ultimate outcome of the Taliban’s war in Afghanistan. Forgive me, then, for placing some hope in Trump and his negotiators.

The disconcerting truth is that the brutal, venal, medieval Taliban movement is popular in the ethnic-Pashtun-dominated south and the mountainous east of Afghanistan. In 2011-2012, as a lowly company commander in a sub-district of Kandahar, the province that birthed the Taliban, I saw firsthand just how much sympathy villagers seemed to have for that Islamist cause. Sure, many — so, at least, they said — were opposed to that movement’s violent campaign to control the province and the country, but culturally and religiously in some fashion many of them seemed to agree with the group’s basic agenda and worldview. 

Most of the Taliban foot soldiers I faced were little more than impoverished farm boys with guns drawn to the movement as much by patriotic opposition to the American military occupation of their country as by any desire for the application of sharia law. In addition, many in the region were making at least modest sums off Afghanistan’s record-breaking opium trade, something the U.S. was never truly capable of controlling or suppressing. The bottom line: the American war in Afghanistan was essentially over then. It’s over now, a defeat that neither politicians in Washington nor Pentagon officials have been able to accept to date.

Messy Wars Since 1945

The certainty of imperial failure in anti-colonial and counterinsurgency conflicts has defined the era of war making since at least 1945. So it shall be in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, it’s worth considering some of those oft-forgotten conflicts.

In the favored American version of war, endings involve unconditional surrender by a defeated enemy, whether Robert E. Lee at the Appomattox Courthouse in 1865 or imperial Japanese officials on the deck of the USS Missouri in 1945. But such moments, historically speaking, couldn’t be more rare in “the American century.” After World War II, as the last colonial wars of the European powers ended in defeat or the withdrawal of imperial forces, the U.S. military went to war globally with Third World “Communism” — and victory became a thoroughly outmoded word. In the Korean War (1950-1953), which never officially ended, the U.S. finally settled for a status quo truce with its North Korean and Chinese opponents. Tens of thousands of American troops and millions of Koreans died in what essentially amounted to a negotiated draw. Vietnam, as noted, ended in the negotiated version of an outright defeat.

U.S. military devastation of North Korea. (Keystone/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the French, already booted out of Vietnam in the First Indochina War (1954-1962), tried to torture and kill their way to victory in colonial Algeria before accepting defeat there, too. (A coup attempt by disgruntled right-wing military officers during that counterinsurgency almost cost France its democracy.) Nor could a declining Great Britain kill its way out of the last of its colonial wars, the Troubles in Northern Ireland (1969-1998). That 30-year war with the quasi-socialist, nationalist Irish Republican Army (IRA) only ended when London demonstrated a willingness to negotiate with that group and draw it into electoral politics. Not only was there no military victory to be had, but Britons had to swallow the embarrassing spectacle of former IRA bombers being released from prison and onetime IRA commanders entering parliament at Westminster.

In smaller conflicts and interventions, the American military withdrew from Lebanon in 1983 after some 220 Marines (and 20 other service personnel) were killed in a suicide bombing and the until-then hawkish President Ronald Reagan realized he’d stepped into an unwinnable morass. In 1994, President Bill Clinton did the same in Somalia after 18 U.S. troops were killed in a chaotic shootout the previous year with a warlord militia in a local civil war. (Twenty-five years later, however, U.S. drones and special operators are still battling it out in that chronically war-ravaged society.)

One lesson to draw from such an abbreviated version of American and allied morasses and military defeats at the hands of nationalist militants, left and right, is that suppressing people’s movements has historically proven difficult indeed. Most of the insurgencies of the long Cold War era were led by vaguely Marxist or, at least, leftist groups. In this century, however, similar insurgencies are led by right-wing Islamist groups. Either way the results have generally been the same. The insurgents, not the governments the U.S. imposed and/or backed, are almost invariably seen by local populations as the more popular, legitimate fighting forces. 

Marxism (and its Soviet communist variant) ran its course in local societies as the Cold War wound to its conclusion, but such movements were never truly defeated by the U.S. military and its brutal right-wing proxies, even in the Americas (as in Nicaragua in the 1980s). Islamist theocracy is undoubtedly abhorrent, but it, too, must run its course and (hopefully) sooner or later be defeated by forces within the societies where it’s now conducting its terror wars. Just as in Vietnam, the U.S. military occupation of Afghanistan in this century has only served as an accelerant for what might be thought of as political and military arson.

After a Trump ‘Peace’ Deal

Predictions are tricky when it comes to war, but here’s a safe enough bet: in the wake of any Trump administration “peace” deal with the Taliban, like the South Vietnamese government of the Nixon era, a corrupt, scarcely legitimate U.S.-backed Afghan government and its badly battered security forces will, sooner or later, find themselves back at war. And they will be fighting an ever more confident Taliban. The Kabul-based regime could perhaps hold onto the biggest cities (except possibly Kandahar) and significant parts of the country’s north and west where there are Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara minority enclaves long opposed to the Islamist insurgents. The Taliban would then dominate much of the south and east, leaving Afghanistan divided and still violent indeed until, perhaps, like the South Vietnamese government, the one in Kabul collapsed.

Still, it’s unlikely the Taliban will ever again risk harboring large numbers of transnational terrorists or stand by as a bin Laden-style attack is planned in Afghanistan’s mountains or valleys. After all, its goals have always been Afghan-centric, not global. What’s more, it appears that its negotiators have tacitly promised not to protect or ally with al-Qaeda or its newer offshoot, the Islamic State branch in Afghanistan (which, in any case, is anything but a prospective ally of theirs).

Delta Force GIs disguised as Afghan civilians, while they searched for bin Laden in November 2001. (Wikimedia Commons)

Delta Force GIs disguised as Afghan civilians, while they searched for bin Laden in November 2001. (Wikimedia Commons)

Of course, transnational terrorists have never needed Afghanistan to hatch attacks on the West. Much of the planning and logistics for the actual 9/11 attacks occurred in Germany and even in the United States itself. In addition, partially thanks to America’s never-ending war on terror, there are increasing numbers of ungoverned spaces and tumultuous regions in dozens of countries in a band stretching from West Africa to Central Asia. Should the U.S. military really station tens of thousands of troops in all those locales? Of course not. Among other things, leaving aside the expense of it to the American taxpayer, U.S. soldiers would only inflame local passions and empower local terror outfits.

So here we are knowing there is little the U.S. can do to change the ultimate outcome in Afghanistan. The only question of consequence is: Could Donald Trump be the 21stcentury’s Richard Nixon? Could he do what no one in his position over the last 18 years has had the political courage to do and end — his phrase — a stupid war that has come to seem eternal? If “only Nixon could go to China,” is it possible that only Trump can extract the U.S. military from Afghanistan? God help us, but that seems conceivable.

Brookings’ Michael O’Hanlon: Sees repeat of Vietnam-style exit from Afghanistan. (DoD/D. Myles Cullen)

Now, some in the foreign policy establishment will balk at any eventual Trumpian peace agreement. Army General Mark Milley, the president’s nominee for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for instance, recently bucked his boss during confirmation hearings. He told senators that withdrawing from Afghanistan “too soon,” according to The New York Times, would be a strategic mistake.” Likewise, Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, a typical Washington foreign policy pundit, has already complained that the current U.S. peace talks with the Taliban in Doha will only lead to a Vietnam-style denouement where U.S. negotiators use a negotiated agreement as a fig leaf to save face, declaring “victory,” while essentially accepting future defeat. And, in this case, O’Hanlon is probably right on the mark, even if wrong to reject such an approach.

Count on this: the end of the American military mission in Afghanistan will be unfulfilling and likely tragic. Still — and here’s where O’Hanlon and his ilk couldn’t be more off the mark — like Vietnam before it, the Afghan war should never have been fought for these last almost 18 years, never could have been won, never will be won, and should be ended in some fashion, even a Trumpian one, as soon as possible.

Danny Sjursen, a TomDispatch regular, is a retired U.S. Army major and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir of the Iraq War, Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge.” He lives in Lawrence, Kansas. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet and check out his podcast Fortress on a Hill,” co-hosted with fellow vet Chris ‘Henri’ Henriksen.

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21 comments for “Trump, Afghanistan & the Messy Endings to US Wars

  1. Bart Hansen
    August 1, 2019 at 18:51

    Ward Just wrote a Viet Nam novel called “American Romantic” in which a State Department diplomat agreed to meet a North Viet Nam officer in the jungle. Paraphrasing, the officer told the diplomat – Throw everything you have at us, your big bombs, but eventually you will leave and we will still be there.

    It is happening all over again in Afghanistan.

  2. pat
    August 1, 2019 at 15:58

    could not read the article for all of the five year old attitude and cognitive distortions of a true narcissist-you need therapy sir!

    • anon
      August 1, 2019 at 22:10

      I am sure that, if you had an argument, you would have given that instead of unsubstantiable jeering.
      Interesting and unsurprising that you chose psychomythology as your weapon.

      • August 2, 2019 at 13:44

        For a former US Army major, Danny Sjursen seems fairly well clued up on the problems that the Empire brings to the world. I would suggest the writer needs to do some proper research on 9/11, but then he is far from being the only one with this particular blindspot. Otherwise a mature and sensible piece.

  3. ricardo2000
    August 1, 2019 at 13:18

    I’ve never been a fan of the ‘Brutal Thug’ theory of foreign policy or leadership. It’s this kind of contemptible idiocy that has brought us Bolsanaro, Duterte, BoJO, and Trump along with an endless list of arrogant military thugs. For example, it wasn’t Nixon who went to China; it was Pierre Elliot Trudeau who opened the door there, and in Cuba. As for peace in Vietnam, any US President or leader could have had it by merely saying ‘Stop’, but they more worried about appearing ‘weak’ than cruel or stupid. ANY reading of Vietnamese history would have revealed their enduring desire for independence, especially from the Chinese (so much for the ‘Domino Theory’). Imagine if the Vietnam War hadn’t been fought, and the Vietnamese were even an arms-length ally of NATO.
    Nixon’s policy was to appease his own bigots and zealots in the Republican Party, not any consideration of the hell visited upon the Vietnamese people or US troops. Please remember Nixon bombed the hell out of the NVA in 1972 during their first attempt to reunite Vietnam. The NVA wasn’t bombed in 75 only because the Republican Party was too weak politically to insist on murder. There never was any rational purpose to the Vietnam War; greed, grotesque bigotry, and self-serving political gain were the only motivating factors.
    It took 6 years to defeat the Nazis, a far more technologically advanced economy, led by more ruthless, cruel bigots than Afghanistan will ever possess. Germany had nearly the entire European continent, a first class industrial economy, a university system that produced Einstein and world-class chemists, and a highly trained, supremely well equipped military with the best general officer staff of the war. The Nazis employed more slaves than the total population of Afghanistan. And yet they went through tremendous pain during the Allied blockade.
    Afghanistan will never have these necessary assets. They don’t even possess a unified political and military command. Their politicians are corrupt, religious bigots. They have no public allies, no economy outside of drugs and corruption. They can’t produce anything more complex than a fertilizer bomb, and then only if the ingredients are supplied by the West.

    After 911 NATO’s warriors had the most advanced weaponry ever seen, total air supremacy, and the whole world to call on for supplies and troops.

    So if the NATO didn’t defeat the Taliban it isn’t for the lack of every political and military advantage.

    It’s because NATO’s political and military leadership is stupid.

    So stupid they forgot to demand the unconditional surrender of the enemy with all weapons. SO stupid they forgot to curtail the Afghan economy, or cutoff their sanctuaries and supplies by forming honest alliances with surrounding countries. So stupid that when the Taliban offered surrender, NATO decided to ignore the offer.

    NATO’s soldiers are nothing more than junior sales associates for Boeing, GM, Colt, Remington, and Armalite. Our soldiers are ill with PTSD because they had to confront the lies justifying the ‘tactics’ and ‘strategy’ of the WOT in the eyes of the Afghans whose lives they destroyed. As with most wars, the only way to win is to not fight the war in the first place.

    The soldiers sent to Afghanistan didn’t fight to avenge 911, or to bring human rights and the light of western civilization to the Afghans, or to make the world safe from terrorism. NATO accomplished nothing lasting because NATO’s soldiers fought and destroyed, killed and died, for stupid.

    The author, and every other military fantasist, should go to Athens and stare at the Parthenon. Will they weep as I did, or sneer because ‘proper authority’ wasn’t given ‘correct orders’? What would the Parthenon look like if Turkish assholes hadn’t piled a huge explosives dump inside; and a Venetian asshole hadn’t fired an artillery shell blowing it all to hell; and a British asshole hadn’t plundered the ruins and called it rightful ownership?
    Will these feeble, ignorant, authoritarians ever wonder what the Mediterranean, or the World, would look like if it weren’t for earthquakes, volcanoes, and assholes with weapons?

    • August 1, 2019 at 23:31

      The U.S. has two major military weaknesses: [i] it’s leaders have been dumb as fence posts when it comes to choosing what wars to fight: and [ii] instead of sound military leadership, it’s had political cowards willing to sacrifice thousands of lives rather than execute a basic military maneuver like sounding the retreat.

      — 2 cents worth from a Viet Nam War vet, who learned that when you find yourself part of an invading force fighting patriots, it’s time to run a reality check on your worldview.

  4. August 1, 2019 at 11:35

    The problem from where I sit is that the US Elites are suffering from too much inbreeding. As the nations leaders are more and more resembling the leadership of Rome in it`s dying years. How else to account for so much tresure poured into a military and such dismal results. I don`t believe that US soldiers are any worse or for that matter any better than any other soldiers on earth but I do think that the leadership of that military is dismal indeed. How else to account for the collapse of what was once an infrastructure that was the envy of the world. The failed school system being denied the money it needs to survive by the Oligarchs? The terrible mess that is the health care system. The dysfunctional houses of the Congress and the Senate. It all is looks like a house of cards waiting for a stiff breeze. is there any wonder that they can`t win a war? And against third world peasants armed with AK 47s and fertilizer bombs. You would think that the vaunted American Military (” The finest fighting force the world has ever seen”) would be embarrassed to fight such foes.

  5. August 1, 2019 at 11:14

    If we have a close look at all the US-wars after 1945 the USA lost ALL of them if you compare the pre-war-goals and what really was achieved after the mess!

    Even the biggest military hardware doesn’t help in a war with no defined frontlines.
    They dropped on Pyong-Yang (capital of North-Korea) more bombs as on Germany in total from 1940 to 45!
    A town primarily made out of wooden houses with paper windows.
    But they had to go anyway.

    And in Vietnam they deepley underestimated the oposite leaders, between them General Vo Nguyen Giap, maybe the greates General ever in war history: He defeated under his guidence the than threee biggest armies: Japan, French and the USA!
    With solders extremly young and with nothing more in their hand as a Kalashnikow!

    The US-Generals should have knowns that man!

  6. JohnDoe
    August 1, 2019 at 09:41

    No. It’s not an unwinnable war and it never was. If Afghanistan is still a mess it is because this is the goal. The chaos will go on as long as there are some resources to extract from the country, from the taxpayer funded war machine and from the donations to reconstruct the country from the rest of the world. Probably the western military presence will last as long as the UN mission in Congo.

    • August 1, 2019 at 23:36

      @ “No. It’s not an unwinnable war and it never was.”

      Oh? How might it be won, sir?

      • David G Horsman (really)
        August 2, 2019 at 12:24

        It pains me to say this sir but I believe winning is now defined as bombing all the infrastructure and leaving them to reconstruct.

        Nullification essentially.

  7. Vivian O'Blivion
    August 1, 2019 at 07:42

    One time IRA commanders didn’t enter the Westminster parliament. It is Sinn Féin policy not to take up Westminster seats once elected. In any case, IRA men (think Bobby Sands) were elected as MPs before the GFA was signed. While Sinn Féin MPs do not draw on a Westminster stipend, they do draw expenses to maintain a relatively modest flat in London as a base of operation for conducting business, which seems reasonable and saves MI5 from bugging multiple hotel rooms.
    What I think the author is driving at is former IRA commander for Derry, Martin McGuinness becoming Deputy First Minister in the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly.

  8. T.J
    August 1, 2019 at 05:10

    The author is factually incorrect when he states that one time IRA commanders elected as MPs entered parliament at Westminster. Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, have a policy of abstention and have never taken up their seats in Westminster. It is one of their core policies, for which they are regularly criticized, most recently in relation to Brexit. Many believe that had they done so, they could have exerted some influence in relation to Brexit. So far they have resisted any such temptation.

    • Vivian O'Blivion
      August 1, 2019 at 13:22

      What do think of Sinn Féin’s position regards taking up their Westminster seats? Up ’till now I had been pretty agnostic about it. Now I believe that they have been vindicated in their policy. Pull up a chair, get the popcorn in and watch the whole UK edifice crash (not before time).
      Time is fast approaching for the SNP to follow suit. If a second IndyRef is deemed unacceptable by the charlatan Johnson, the SNP should withdraw from Westminster and prepare for independence by deed not words.

  9. Jeff Harrison
    July 31, 2019 at 17:39

    The US doesn’t know when to stop for one simple reason. The Beltway elites are hell bent on global hegemony and have no intention of stopping until either we attain global hegemony or until the power to send other people out to die in some misbegotten war is taken away from them. The good thing about Thump is not that he will get us out of Afghanistan, which he may or may not do but that he will have pissed off enough of the rest of the world that the rest of the world will take the power of the US dollar away from us. And he will force the rest of the world to find someplace else besides the US for multilateral interaction. Sanctioning the Foreign Minister of Iran is the height of stupidity and will not stop the world from working with Iran. They just won’t work with it here.

  10. John
    July 31, 2019 at 16:25

    Too soon to quit Afghanistan? Pray tell General what will be accomplished by keeping troops and even more contractors “on the ground”? It may be too soon for the amour propre of generals and politicians, but for me it is already several years too late.

  11. Sam F
    July 31, 2019 at 16:24

    Excellent and timely article and analysis by Mr. Sjursen.

    Afghanistan is the trap made by the US Brzezinskiites to provide the USSR its own Vietnam, into which the Bushites walked in one of history’s greatest comedies. The nation that Britain had to invade twice to defend India against a Russia with no interest or presence there. It was always the perfect buffer between empires, as no one had any interest in it, and no opponent could successfully colonize it. But the warmongers could never leave it alone, as tyrant demagogues must have a foreign monster to demand domestic power as fake defenders.

    Woodward’s The War Within details the logic of the Afghan “surge” under Obama/Clinton, a fascinating insight. The NSC and JCS pushed evermore war and refused to provide a reasonable goal, a rationale for force as the means, a plan that would counter the steady failure of their efforts, or even an exit plan. SecState Hillary invariably approved whatever the boys with the medals wanted; Obama demanded the above plans, was stonewalled, and slowly capitulated; VP Biden insisted and was not invited to further meetings. So the 2400-strong Nat. Sec. Council NSC simply surrounded an administration of fools and took over due to the failure of the administration to have any means of controlling or even replacing them. The idea of Clinton or Biden as Pres is absurd to any informed person of good will, and the Dems will never produce a better candidate because they are owned by the same oligarchy as the Reps.

    • vinnieoh
      August 1, 2019 at 00:37

      Yes, reading about The Great Game provides many insights, especially the British propensity for intrigue and skullduggery. And now we have a new Great Game of a new century where the US tries to turn back the tide of an integrated Eurasia. The Chinese are there and we’re half a world away, and soon could be so broke that we won’t be able to buy any more “friends.”

      As for Afghanistan’s purported mineral wealth: unless the US creates a breakaway “protectorate” to open a heavy transportation corridor, there is no way to get heavy machinery and equipment in (of US and associated origin) and metals or ore out. And there is a wildcard that Mr. Sjursen did not even mention, the Ballochis of the southern mountains, who have disdain for just about every faction as just about every faction seems to abandon them and their interest. It would be cheaper in the long run to concede the whole mess to China and just purchase the refined metals from them. We shall see I suppose just how desperate our hegemons are to stay on top. I’ve long suspected that all the anti-government activity in Iran’s southeast province is laying the groundwork for such a breakaway “protectorate.”

      • Sam F
        August 1, 2019 at 12:52

        Interesting contrast of hegemony as imperialism vs. fear of foreign imperialism, greed vs. fear of a greedy other.
        Certainly the US could buy any Afghan minerals for far less via China, even if military hegemony had no cost.
        So US imperialism in AfPak derives from Israel/Iran goals, not Russia, as in Syria/Iraq/Iran/Lebanon et al.

        The US plunges into just the “foreign entanglements” against which its founders warned.
        They did not foresee that our institutions would become controlled by rising economic concentrations.
        Jefferson expected “the blood of tyrant” to water “the tree of democracy” in every generation.
        But none foresaw the takeover of all tools of democracy, even the press, even revolution, by oligarchy.

    • Bob Van Noy
      August 1, 2019 at 09:20

      Nice Sam F. and vinnieoh, between the two of you you have described America’s bumbling with the absurd geopolitics involved in Empire. The American People have never embraced or approved of the idea of Empire; there was never the possibility of winning anything in Afghanistan. We can only grasp the total failure by openly studying what happened and trying to adjust so that it cannot happen again.

      Danny Sjursen you have given us a glimpse of the Real side of Empire and that is the life and death sacrifice by real people on the ground, paying the actual price of Empire. The heartbreaking aspect always is, that the political class never seems to get the lesson or pay the price. Then, of course, there are the Afghan People, how to apologize to them…?

      • Sam F
        August 1, 2019 at 13:09

        Yes, trying to prevent recurrences requires studying why “the political class never seems to get the lesson or pay the price.” Foreign policy blunders of the US serve the rich tyrants where others pay the price. So long as we cannot prevent MIC/WallSt/zionist campaign bribes and opportunism, the foreign policy lessons they do learn are to exploit everyone else. It appears that the US apology to its victims will be in the form of impoverishment of its future citizens by economic isolation. The US seems to be at last accidentally forming an Alliance for Progress that necessarily excludes the US.

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