Why does the world always seem to fight conflicts against intangible or vague concepts?
It is a question that has been on my mind more so than usual in recent days. If you have not been paying attention, the Washington Post published “The Afghan Papers” Monday. A series of previously classified memos and interviews with stakeholders in the conflict. They reveal that, contrary to public comments, those running America’s longest war have been lost from the start.
George W. Bush’s first Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, wrote in private memo’s that he had no idea who the bad guys were, while saying in public that the nation that had not been pacified since Alexander the Great was “secure”. General Douglas Lute, who served into the succeeding Obama administration, said in 2015 that the military did not “have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking” and questioned what they were even trying to do there.
Now we are in the period of President Trump. The current administration has engaged in a back-and-forth with the Taliban to hammer out some sort of peace agreement while reports have surfaced that planners have prepared for a withdrawal in the event of a sudden order from the top.
The reality is, there will never be peace, the fighting will go on, and no one will truly exit.
The commander in chief’s good instincts to leave have been smothered like a bug under a loafer.
We now are in a world where the global war on terrorism has replaced the war on drugs as the vaguely defined, never ending en vogue stream of bloodshed of the day. We now have what the hippies of the Vietnam era were always afraid of, a forever war that the public does not care about, is good for big business and politicians lack the courage to confront the true causes of.
How often have you heard some elected official say that armed forces just must stay in Afghanistan and go on misadventures in other countries in order to prevent them from becoming “bases” for international terrorism? I have seen a similar comment uttered by everyone from Barack Obama to Ted Cruz to Joe Biden to Lindsey Graham to every Tom, Dick and Harry, too.
The problem is, terrorism is a thought, and thoughts can happen anywhere.
The 19 hijackers in 2001 mostly came from Saudi Arabia and that country’s government is a major propagator of the Wahhabist form of Islam followed by most of the globe’s Islamic extremist militants. It has inspired those within Daesh today and large portions of money flow from that country to those who do not hesitate to enslave innocents and execute journalists.
Where is the action to not let Saudi Arabia be a base for terrorism? Where are the western politicians who think we need to occupy that country and turn it into a prosperous democracy?
They don’t exist.
If the Taliban had oil wealth and paid lip service to U.S. interests, they would probably still be in charge and Mullah Omar would have gotten to speak to the United Nations.
Those not tied to the armed forces seem to have turned the page on the troubled region as well. A poll from Rasmussen Reports last year found that 42 per cent of those sampled did not know America was still at war in the country. To be fair, about half of that were not sure, but this is a cause of why people who weren’t born in 2001 are now dying in Central Asian poppy fields.
How can a conflict end if the public is not engaged enough to demand it? Abolishment of conscription and a vapid media landscape that prioritizes escapism over information and education have certainly contributed to this, but the general public needs to demand better.
Do you like living in a world that spends trillions on machines to make booms and kablooies while ignoring the needs of those not deployed away from their domestic society and soldiers once they come home broken, battered and bitter? Is it ideal to give increased power to the authorities to try to end thoughts that can occur in anyone anywhere?
I don’t think it is. But that is the world we live in now. The conflict will continue, and, maybe, if we are lucky, it will wind down in a half-century and those in charge will come to their senses.
If not, we have no one to blame but ourselves.