What the hell is going on?
On Thursday, April 19, 2012, the Los Angeles Times published photos of US soldiers posing with body parts of Afghans that they had killed. War may be hell, but sometimes it is also an expression of pure stupidity.
A long time ago, on October 7, 2001, the US began dropping bombs on Afghanistan. Those aggressions were a response to the 9/11 attacks that had been masterminded by a condemnable horde of terrorists who were holed up in the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan. As such, Operation Enduring Freedom, as the military campaign was originally titled by President George W. Bush, proceeded under a legitimate—if not altogether trouble-free—mantle of moral authority.
As of 2001, the US was clearly the aggrieved party. The terrorists had struck first, and Operation Enduring Freedom could be characterized as a measured and appropriate response to an unwarranted act of atrocious aggression.
That was then. In the long years since the US launched Operation Enduring Freedom, endless miscues have transformed the mission in Afghanistan from unprecedented early success into America’s longest and, increasingly, messiest war. In the weeks following the launch of Enduring Freedom, the US bombing campaign seemed to be making a mockery of the ancient truism that Afghanistan was the Graveyard of Empires. Where previous would-be conquerors, from Alexander the Great all the way to the Soviet Union, had gotten bogged down in interminable, unwinnable struggles, Operation Enduring Freedom swept the Taliban and al Qaeda out of their mountain strongholds like so much dust before a broom.
The initial bombing campaign ended in a matter of weeks as the US succeeded in securing control over all strategic cities and territories within Afghanistan. Further, this military lightning strike enabled the US to install a new government, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan that was headed by a democratically-elected leader, Hamid Karzai.
By 2004, it appeared as though the US mission in Afghanistan had been all but accomplished. Except for a bit of mopping up, it seemed as though the US was poised to transfer control of Afghanistan to its newly-elected leader. In practically every respect, Operation Enduring Freedom could be characterized as monumental success.
Then, foolishly, the Bush Administration shifted its focus to Iraq. Don’t get me wrong, Saddam Hussein was a deplorable human being, however, if we employ that criteria as a justification for deposing world leaders, then the US would be obliged to topple practically every government on the planet. I wonder if Dubya was acquainted with the old adage, “People in glass houses…”
Anyway, as the US shifted its focus to Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan went from “under control” to “unwinnable quagmire.” In the end, Operation Enduring Freedom succeeded in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
What a waste.
Once having lost the opportunity to secure a lasting peace in Afghanistan, the US military effort has become bogged down in the Graveyard of Empires. At best—and in spite of occasional military surges—the endless US mission could be characterized as an exercise in treading water. At worst, the US military has succumbed to a collective case of post-traumatic stress disorder. In recent months, the US has gone from the PR disaster of burning Qurans, to Sergeant Robert Bales’ mass murder of Afghanistan civilians, to yesterday’s news of troops mugging for cameras with their gruesome trophies.
The only explanation is that, after long ago having lost its moral compass, the US mission in Afghanistan has completely lost its grip on reality. In short, the US war in Afghanistan has gone insane. This, I believe, is why it is becoming increasingly difficult to convince ourselves—much less the Afghans—that the US mission in Afghanistan is capable of achieving any worthwhile goals.
Apart from ravaging our troops and the Afghan people with intensifying cases of PTSD, what are we accomplishing in Afghanistan? Further, what can we hope to accomplish when every step that we take carries us further into our collective insanity. An insane process cannot produce a rational outcome. The only solution is to end the insanity.
The war in Afghanistan must end. And the sooner, the better.