After 18 years of war, thousands of lives lost, and hundreds of billions of dollars squandered, the United States accomplished precisely nothing. […]
In fact, all this recent juicy hoopla is missing the big picture. We can palaver about peace terms, residual forces, the implications for the upcoming Afghan elections, et cetera, as long as we want, but the cold, hard reality is that the United States lost the war in Afghanistan. All we are debating—whether in talks with the Taliban or in op-ed pages back home—is the size and shape of the fig leaf designed to conceal a major strategic failure, after 18 years of war, thousands of lives lost, and hundreds of billions of dollars squandered.
To be clear, the Afghan debacle is not, strictly speaking, a military defeat. The Taliban never vanquished the U.S. military in a large-scale clash of arms, or caused its forces there to collapse. Instead, it is a defeat in the Clausewitzian sense—18 years of war and “nation building” did not produce the political aims that U.S. leaders (both Republicans and Democrats) had set for themselves. The reason is fairly simple: Afghanistan’s fate was never going to be determined by foreigners coming from 7,000 miles away.
As some of us have been pointing out for years, the conditions for a successful counterinsurgency and nation-building campaign were almost entirely lacking in Afghanistan. The country is isolated, poor, mountainous, and divided into many different ethnonational groups. It has no tradition of democracy, a long history of local autonomy, and a deep antipathy to foreign interference. […]
No country should expect to win all of its wars, no matter how strong it appears to be and how virtuous or well intended its aims. But at the very least, a great nation should try to learn from its missteps and do what it can to avoid them in the future. An obvious corollary: Don’t take foreign policy advice from people who have been loudly and repeatedly wrong. In this respect, John Bolton’s departure from the White House might be seen as a step in the right direction. Läs artikel