My, how times have changed. Remember way back in 2004, when John Kerry denounced the Bush administration for short-changing the Afghan war by diverting men, resources, and attention to Iraq and he was denounced as unpatriotic? Now, on the eighth anniversary of the Afghanistan war, major media proclaim it as fact, and the conservatives don't even rouse themselves to respond (Dick Cheney apparently hasn't seen his shadow, so it's six more weeks before he resurfaces).
So, we fucked up, we took our eye off the ball, we got distracted. President Obama made that point to his advantage during his election campaign, and now he's cursed with getting what he wanted: the Presidency and the Afghan war redux, complete with a general saying publicly, "Gimme more troops or else." So, as the White House engages in deliberate debate on the matter--a debate which ostentatiously excludes the prospect of getting the hell out of there--some questions:
1. Is it sane, reasonable or prudent to pretend that, after six years of ignoring this struggle, we can just pick it up where we left off? Can we seriously act as if history in the area stopped and waited for us to re-engage? Has the passage of time been more favorable to this project, or less so?
2. We are told by war supporters that the Taliban's return to power in Afghanistan would destabilize nuclear Pakistan. That would obviously be a bad thing, since nuclear Pakistan is not all that stable already. But, hasn't Pakistan funded and supported the Afghan Taliban all along, as a protection of their "back door", so the country could devote all its military resources to the "front door", the border with nuclear India? Would a Talibanized Afghanistan draw Pakistani Taliban across the border, where the power is, or energize them to ramp up their insurgency against the Pakistani government (which funded their cross-border brothers, but not them)?
2a. Hasn't al-Qaeda achieved all it could have dreamed of--suckering the United States into two protracted, expensive land wars in the Middle East and Asia while al-Qaeda itself morphed and decamped to Somalia and other hospitable climes?
3. I've just been reading a somewhat politicized but useful history of the country in question, Afghanistan: The Untold Story. It's clear that the country has seen all this before: not just foreign invasions (neatly repelled all the way back to Alexander the Great), but attempts at modernization, education for women, democratization, spreading literacy (as recently as the 1920s). Is it possible the intractability of these problems, their resistance to our favored solutions, is not the fault of the Afghan people? In the same way that America's favored journey in the world was at least strongly influenced by our geography (protected by two oceans, a large agricultural heartland drained by a commerce-friendly river), is it possible that Afghanistan's tortured history is at least somewhat dictated by its geography (most crucially, finding itself forever at the borders of competing empires)?
4. Will, therefore, Obama's war turn out to be an even more spectacular historic mistake than Bush's war? Will it be seen as the final step in the American empire's exit stage right as the Chinese empire enters stage left?