American forces invaded Afghanistan more than nine years ago, and we still donâ€™t know whom weâ€™re fighting. Itâ€™s hard to know who did the better job of playing us for fools a few weeks ago - the Afghan who passed himself off as the â€?moderateâ€? Taliban leader, who was rewarded with American cash for his performance, or Hamid Karzai. All we can know at this point is that 150,000 U.S. and allied troops along with an equal number of civilian contractors are propping up a narco state in Kabul flush with cash from the opium trade and U.S taxpayers.
Naturally, the four-stars in the Pentagon are in no hurry to deliver the bad news; the expensive and open-ended program of nation-building through counterinsurgency is irrelevant to the goal of disrupting, dismantling and defeating what little remains of al Qaeda living in the splendid isolation of northwestern Pakistanâ€¦.
No one in Washington is worried. Americans have short memories. The roads to Kabul and Baghdad were always paved with good intentions. Portrayed uncritically in the media as the means to win the hearts and minds of Muslim Arabs and Afghans through â€?good works,â€? the false promise of nation-building through counterinsurgency made it hard for American politicians of both parties to defund the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Timelines for the emergence of a new, utopian republic on Iraqi soil were constructed with similar precision, only for us to watch as a succession of four-star Army generals replaced Iraqâ€™s secular, power-hungry Sunni Muslim Arab rulers with Iranian-allied Shiite Arab Islamists. Far from establishing a U.S.-friendly Iraqi government in Baghdad, as revealed in several of the confidential State Department cables made public by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, counterinsurgency in Iraq turned out to be an expensive â€?Trojan horseâ€? for nation-building, one that installed Iranâ€™s allies in powerâ€¦.
Fortunately, conditions are changing. When it comes down to a choice of spending trillions of American tax dollars to economically transform and police hostile Muslim societies with dysfunctional cultures or funding Medicare and Medicaid, entitlements will win, and the interventions will endâ€¦.
Itâ€™s too soon to tell, but reductions in defense spending may demonstrate that itâ€™s far less expensive to protect the United States from Islamist terrorism as well as the criminality flooding in from Mexico and Latin America by controlling our borders and immigration. We must, however, stop wasting American blood and treasure on misguided military interventions designed to drag Muslim Arabs and Afghans through the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution in the space of a few years, at gunpoint. They will have to do these things themselves.
For the time being, no one will say these things. Itâ€™s easier to go, in Winston Churchillâ€™s words, â€?from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasmâ€? and nurture the money flow to Washington.
Retired Col. Douglas Macgregor, a decorated combat veteran, is executive vice president of Burke-Macgregor Group. His newest book, â€?Warriorâ€™s Rage,â€? was published by Naval Institute Press.
[MACGREGOR: Afghan report 2010: Deluding ourselves from one failure to another by Douglas Macgregor, Washington Times, December 30, 2010.]
I seem to recall that one of the reasons the Founding Fathers aspired to a system of limited government was in order to limit such folly.
Macgregorâ€™s is the sort of brilliant polemic that I find a joy to read, regardless of my disagreements with him. For instance, he thinks we were fools to attack Afghanistan after 9/11. I say that a nation that will permit itself to be attacked the way we were on 9/11 without striking back, would be a laughingstock â€?round the world, and be inviting more such attacks. The governmentâ€™s mistakes since have involved the thoughtless squandering of blood and treasure abroad of the sort Macgregor cites, the exploitation of the good will and heroism of so many of our finest young men, and the refusal to protect the American people at home, but not in fighting back.
One claim he made shocked me: â€?With the lionâ€™s share of Iraqâ€™s southern oil fields in Chinese handsâ€¦â€?
Google censorship note: The worldâ€™s biggest search engine has refused to list the original publication of Douglas Macgregorâ€™s op-ed in the conservative Washington Times in its â€?Newsâ€? section, but does list a reprint of it on a blog of the reliably liberal Dallas Morning News.
(A tip â€?o the hat to Diana West.)