Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Never-Ending War

Phila explains, at long last, why we fight:

[L]ike most American officials, [US Defense Secretary] Gates seems to have a secret decoder ring that tells him what [Al Qaeda's] utterances really mean. They couldn't want us to occupy Afghanistan, obviously, so we'd better spend whatever it takes to stay there indefinitely...even if our alleged inability to afford a humane healthcare system kills more Americans annually than Osama bin Laden manages in his wettest dreams. The alternative would be to hand a "victory" to Al-Qaeda, and only a really terrible person would consider doing that.

Having AQ around certainly makes governance easier. All you need to do is explain what they want, and not only are you justified in doing the opposite (which coincidentally happens to be what you already intended), but you can also preemptively paint your opponents as people who want to feed the Mujahideen turtle soup with a gold spoon. Nice work if you can get it.
Indeed so. There are valid reasons to consider AQ to be a dangerous threat, but it does not follow that occupying foreign nations, whether Iraq or Afghanistan or any other, is a promising solution.

If one of the measures of success in Afghanistan is, as Gates recently said -- repeating a bit of wisdom that is by no means unique but widely avowed among US policymakers -- "denying Al Qaeda and their allies a sanctuary [and] preventing another 9/11," it follows that this war will never end because it can never succeed. There is no nation-state on earth, and possibly no jurisdiction of any size, that has been, or foreseeably will be, rid of militants eager and able to execute ideologically-driven, deadly, destructive schemes.

The 9/11 attack required a modicum of flight training, a few box-cutters, the cold resolve to die for a cause, and just enough imagination to assemble these pieces together. The 1995 attack in Oklahoma City assembled a different array of pieces, but called for nothing more sophisticated. Countless others have died in even simpler schemes -- this, this, this, and this, to cite only a few of the more recent and more infamous.

Do such plots here in the USA indicate that one or another foreign force should be occupying this country? Should our policymakers be grounding more of their views and plans in confident readings of the thoughts of extant Tim McVeighs and Seung-Hui Chos? Most Americans would answer no, as I would, but it's not clear where this conclusion can be found in the too-common logic of Secretary Gates.

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