Afghanistan



Remembering America’s Unnecessary Wars

Published May 28th, 2011 by tcarpenter

My colleague Doug Bandow has a terrific article on the Huffington Post website that is especially appropriate for Memorial Day.  He makes a compelling case that contrary to the platitudes that we will hear this weekend about how “freedom is not free,” and that we owe our freedoms to those who died in America’s wars, the truth is much more troubling.  The reality is that many of this country’s wars–and nearly all of them since the end of World War II–have had little or nothing to do with defending the freedom of the American people.  Instead, the motives ranged from misplaced humanitarianism (e.g., the Balkan wars and Libya), to insane attempts to impose enlightment and democracy on pre-industrial societies (e.g., Afghanistan), to cynical attempts to project U.S. power for dubious, if not sleazy, motives (e.g., Vietnam and Iraq.)

Doug argues that all too often the political elite in the United States has used American soldiers as nothing more than “gambit pawns” in a global strategic chess match.  He’s right.  And the best tribute we could give on this Memorial Day to those who have lost their lives in such conflicts (including two good friends of mine in the Vietnam War) is to make sure that our troops are never again sent into harm’s way for frivolous reasons. 

Our Tax Dollars: Supporting Child Rape in Afghanistan

Published September 2nd, 2010 by tcarpenter

I’ve long argued that the mission in Afghanistan has morphed from a limited, focused effort to damage al-Qaeda into a foolish and expensive–in both blood and treasure–nation-building crusade.  But there is now evidence that we are spending billions of tax dollars and risking the lives of our soldiers to protect the biggest concentration of pedophiles in the world.  Please read this article and then tell me if you think the war in Afghanistan is worth it.

Afghanistan: Obama’s Vietnam?

Published November 29th, 2009 by tcarpenter

President Obama will address the American people on Tuesday night regarding Afghanistan.  Reports have leaked out over the past week that he will announce that he is sending additional troops into that quagmire.  The only question seems to be whether he will send 30,000, 40,000 or some number in between.  That is, frankly, not a very important issue.  And for all of his talk about “off ramps” for the United States if the Afghan government does not meet certain policy targets or “benchmarks,” the reality is that he is escalating our commitment.  Since Obama has repeatedly asserted that the war in Afghanistan is a war of necessity, not a war of choice, his talk of off ramps is largely a bluff–and the Afghans probably know it.

I am in the process of co-writing a book that includes a chapter on America’s disastrous war in Vietnam.  I’m the first to acknowledge the hazards of equating one historical event with a development in a different setting and time period.   In fact, the tendency of U.S. leaders to view every conflict in the world over the last 60 years through the prism of the failure to stem Nazi aggression in the 1930s has been a major cause of policy disasters like Vietnam and Iraq.  And I don’t want to imply that what Obama is doing is exactly the same as the foolish strategy that the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations adopted in Southeast Asia during the 1960s.  But there are a couple of very disturbing similiarities.  In both cases, U.S. leaders opted to try to rescue a failing war by sending in more troops.  And in both cases, Washington found itself desperately searching for a “credible” leader who could serve as an effective partner in the war effort.  The United States never found such a leader in Vietnam.  From the first client, Ngo Dinh Diem, to the last leader of South Vietnam, Nguyen Van Thieu, American policymakers were frustrated by a parade of repressive, corrupt, and ineffectual political figures.  Now, doesn’t that sound more than a little like the problem the Bush and Obama administrations have encountered with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his government?

That fact alone suggests that our Afghanistan mission is not likely to turn out well.

Instead of escalating, Obama should move to rapidly draw-down our forces and narrow the mission to one of trying to harrass Al Qaeda and keep it off balance.  My colleague, Malou Innocent, and I published a Cato Institute White Paper, “Escaping the Graveyard of Empires,” describing how to achieve that goal without pursuing the futile objective of nation-building in Afghanistan.