Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I don't understands hawks

With the U.S. leaving Afghanistan, I expect that more and more hawks will start claiming that the U.S. has "lost" the war there. What I don't get is why so many pro-war commentators define "victory" in a way that makes it virtually impossible for the U.S. to ever be said to "win" any military conflict.

I mean, when the U.S. initiates a conflict, can't it define the goal to be whatever it wants? If I were in favor of these wars, why wouldn't I want to define the goals to be as simple and straightforward as possible, thus setting up a string of military victories?

Afghanistan is a perfect example of a conflict that the U.S. could have easily declared itself victorious at a bunch of different points if it had just been more precise about its goals. No one seems to remember anymore, but originally America's real beef was not with the Taliban. It was with al Qaeda. The Taliban only became the bad guy because it was sheltering Osama Bin Laden. The U.S. gave the Taliban an ultimatum: hand over Bin Laden or else. The Taliban dithered and so the U.S. and its allies invaded, knocked the Taliban out of control of the 2/3 of Afghanistan it had ruled over while chasing Bin Laden and his al Qaeda gang underground and mostly out of Afghanistan into neighboring Pakistan.

If the goal was to punish the Taliban for harboring al Qaeda, you could say the war was "won" the moment that it lost its hold on the last bit of Afghanistan in late 2001.

If the goal was the chose al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, then the war was largely "won" when Bin Laden et. al. fled to Pakistan.

If the goal was to kill Bin Laden, then the war was "won" when he was killed in 2011.

There have been multiple chances to declare victory in this conflict. You would think that the pro-war people would like to have a victory and would choose one of them. Instead, they love war so much, any disengagement from war must, by definition, mean it is a "loss." But because everything must end at some point, by that logic every war will eventually be "lost." So why would anyone ever want to take their war-mongering advice if war as they define it is always unwinnable?