By bringing the United States’ pointless military campaign in Afghanistan to a close, U.S. President Joe Biden has delivered on his desire to end the “forever wars.” But as Steven Cook pointed out in Foreign Policy last week, the phrase “ending forever wars” offers little guidance for how the United States should now approach key national security issues. To do that, the country needs to draw the right lessons from disappointments of the past 20-plus years and identify the principles and goals that should guide foreign- and national security policy from this point forward.
The past two decades are also a reminder of the problems that ensue when military power is used for the wrong purposes. The United States’ vast military establishment is still very effective at protecting the U.S. homeland and deterring large-scale aggression in areas where the United States has clear strategic interests. It is not very good at running other countries and remaking them in its image. The U.S. Defense Department’s refusal to acknowledge this was part of the problem, but most of the blame lies with politicians who gave them this impossible job. Social engineering in foreign countries is exceptionally difficult—no great power has ever been very good at it—and military force is a blunt instrument that is unsuitable for such a subtle and inherently political task. Läs artikel