Suddenly, American popular opinion is turning against the war in Afghanistan. And the catalyst is the conservative columnist, George Will, who shook up the establishment by writing in his nationally syndicated column that U.S. “forces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small potent special force units, concentrating on the porous 1500 mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters.”
That change may provide an American “success”, whatever that might mean, but at least it is a start toward disengagement in Afghanistan, an end to the American occupation, an end to the futile attempt to create a democratic and effective central government that Afghanistan has never had in its entire history.
George Will tells us that the Afghan government is corrupt, inept and predatory, the nominated Vice President is a drug trafficker, and that the people yearn for restoration of the warlords. In the current election, charges of ballot stuffing and fraud come from all sides.
U.S. forces are being increased to 68,000 bringing the coalition total to 110,000, a deceptive figure that does not include the 100,000 civilian contractors who do the logistical work for the troops. George Will writes that “Afghanistan would need hundreds of thousands of coalition troops, perhaps for a decade or more. That is inconceivable.”
President Obama insists that this is a war of necessity, to protect the U.S. homeland from another criminal attack like the tragedy of September 11 that killed about 3000 Americans. Yet those 19 criminals were armed only with box cutters and credit cards, learned to fly at U.S. airfields. None of the 19 were Afghan, 15 were Saudis. Osama bin Laden, if he is still alive, is hiding somewhere in Pakistan. The Al Qaeda organization is diminished to a criminal conspiracy without a base in Afghanistan.
It is hard to see how taking sides in the Afghan civil war by sending an American army would prevent a similar criminal act by 19 other criminals. Yes, we can defend ourselves by smart police work, by protecting our places of entry and our installations all over the world – and we have done so.
The war in Afghanistan is a waste of lives and money. Pulling out of Afghanistan will not damage U.S. power and prestige around the world any more than did our departure from Vietnam. And the enemy in Vietnam had potent allies: the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, bristling with powerful armies and nuclear weapons. The Taliban and Al Qaeda are rebels with rifles and roadside bombs, without significant allies, hardly an existential threat to the United States.
Where are the sensible Americans who agitated for ending the Vietnam and Iraq Wars? Are they intimidated by the so-called war on terror that commits our country to intervene on behalf of dictatorial governments challenged by revolutionaries?
George Will is not intimidated. His conservative analysis says that America will be safer if we pull our troops out of Afghanistan. Thank you, George Will. You are half right, but your recommendation for offshore bombardment with the inevitable killing of civilians is hardly the way to capture the hearts and minds of the Afghans. But at least you are heading in the right direction.