The Obama administration's raison d'etre for the Afghan occupation -- the purported dismantling of Al Qaeda and elimination of breeding-ground conditions for transnational militants -- is as self-defeating as it is abstruse, an assessment proven out by this past weekend's terror strike in Portland at the hands of a Somali-born operative who tried to blow up a Christmas tree lighting ceremony (and, although mentionable, said attack's FBI inducement is a polemic for another day).
Even more chilling and vague is the neoconservative camp's broader aspirations for perpetual war based on euphemisms such as "taking the fight to the terrorists" and "keeping them on the run".
The Neocon's logic, also employed to justify the Iraqi excursion, is that U.S. offensives in Islamic nations will strike fear into the hearts of freedom-hating Muslims wherever they may find sanctuary the world over, while the notion these forays might have an antipodal effect, creating more terrorists than they vanquish, is an incomprehensible absurdity to devout patriots, and nonsense that would only be espoused by liberals who hate America.
Matthew Hoh, former marine captain and foreign officer, laid out in a recent Intelligence Squared debate why Obama's Afghanistan strategy defies commonsense:
[Al Qaeda] is a collection of individuals. It's not a formal military organization that we can defeat with conventional forces. And think about it. Look back at the last 10 years of their attacks. Their most recent attack, a lady who took two parcel bombs and FedExed them from Yemen. Look at the attacks of the last three years in this country in the sense that they're done by individuals, small cells, it's a decentralized organization that will not be affected by the presence of brigade combat teams occupying Southern Afghanistan. So nine years ago 19 men hijacked four airplanes. We're now in Afghanistan 109 months later with 100,000 troops spending over $100 billion a year.
Plus, many terrorism experts have claimed most of the 9/11 planning took place in Hamburg and not Afghanistan; thus, it's fair to wonder why the U.S. is not conducting night raids in Germany.
Meanwhile, out of ignorance, Islamophobia or both, right-wing hawks portray the "war on terror" as a cultural clash between Western Judeo-Christian and Islamic civilizations, while generating a level of fear that makes proactive aggression seem rational: let's kill the lunatic Muslims before they ruin Christmas.
If anyone doubts this, just ask New Orleans Governor Bobby Jindal, a Christian fundamentalist and an emerging great Republican hope, whose ideas on national security should make every U.S. citizen "Praise Jesus" that Jindal has denied harboring Presidential ambitions (or so he claims).
Jindal endorsed the "take it to them" national security stratagem, stating it clearly on Meet The Press and other news shows, while showing a distaste for empathizing with our "sworn enemies" -- them Muslims.
Jindal assaulted Obama for acknowledging America's past sins when abroad and has had it with the President's political correctness. He said we do not need to understand our enemy, we do not need to understand what motivates them, and we do not need to understand social justice (his words). Jindal claims "they" hate our way of life (and apparently baby Jesus). He stressed how the war against terror is a fundamental clash of cultures with an enemy who disagrees with our freedoms.
It seems Jindal has done all the due diligence necessary, postulating how "they" hate our freedom -- a shallow dictum he finds so definitive it bars further psychoanalysis. And so Jindal rants:
Our current therapeutic approach to national security is dangerous. I'm just not interested in empathizing with the grievances of our sworn enemies. Let's figure out where they're vulnerable and destroy them.
The truth is, it is Jindal's approach, mentality and contempt prior to investigation that is dangerous, not to mention downright stupid. Even if one were to suspend disbelief and pretend the war in Afghanistan is a just cause I think General Petraeus would beg to differ with respect to understanding the adversary. Even with his Ivy League education, seems Jindal neglected to read Sun Tzu.
During an interview with the mentally unbalanced Christian leader Pat Robertson -- an act in itself that should disqualify Jindal from higher office in the minds of voters -- at least sane voters, that is -- for the slightest chance he might share Robertson's view that 9/11 was God's punishment for America's fondness of homosexuals. Jindal mentioned that hope is not a sound homeland security strategy, but neither is repressing gays and praying to the Good Lord not to strike us down again.
I know it sounds crazy, but perhaps actually listening to the reasons why "they" hate us, straight from "their" mouths might be useful. As Glenn Greenwald points out:
We hear the same exact thing over and over and over from accused terrorists -- that they are attempting to carry out plots in retaliation for past and ongoing American violence against Muslim civilians and to deter such future acts. Here we find one of the great mysteries in American political culture: that the U.S. government dispatches its military all over the world -- invading, occupying, and bombing multiple Muslim countries -- torturing them, imprisoning them without charges, shooting them up at checkpoints, sending remote-controlled drones to explode their homes, and imposing sanctions that starve hundreds of thousands of children to death . Americans are then baffled when some Muslims -- an amazingly small percentage -- harbor anger and vengeance toward them and want to return the violence. And here we also find the greatest myth in American political discourse: that engaging in all of that military aggression somehow constitutes Staying Safe and Combating Terrorism -- rather than doing more than any single other cause to provoke, sustain and fuel Terrorism.
America's preemptive war doctrine, predilection to occupy Muslim countries, our penchant to base national security on a literal interpretation of the Bible and general cultural insensitivity has not worked out so well thus far in our "war against Islam", a project sorely in need of rebranding.
However, we cannot naïvely think people like Osama bin Laden are going to undergo a change of heart because Americans suddenly care about his feelings. Awaiting a cultural transformation resulting in a more tolerant America in the age of Fox news isn't a prudent approach either.
What is prudent is withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. The U.S. will fail to protect its homeland against a virtual terrorist organization spread out across one hundred countries by bogging down most of our military in one. More importantly, by continuing to tie up our military might in Central Asia, the U.S. will lack the resources during Christmas to scramble jets in order to ensure Santa's safety.