Against Escalation


The British journalist Johann Hari recently wrote a scathing critique of the fallacies underpinning official propaganda in support of continuing NATO military engagement in Afghanistan. As Hari notes, there are less than one hundred al-Qaeda fighters still left in that country. The Taliban is considered even by American intelligence services as primarily a localized anti-occupation force with no intentions of attacking the United States. Women’s rights and other freedoms have not been advanced under the corrupt Karzai government. And with every civilian casualty, NATO forces supply additional grist for the radical Islamist propaganda mill and new recruits for the jihadis.

Then why in the world is President Obama reportedly preparing to deepen the American commitment to that hopeless war by sending an additional 34,000 troops to Afghanistan?

Prolonging open-ended warfare in Afghanistan will likely do little to suppress the Taliban-led insurgency, and in the long run will probably make Americans less safe by further stoking Muslim anger toward the United States. The “surge” didn’t work in Iraq, and it’s not going to work in Afghanistan either.

While the deficit obsessed teabaggy right probably won’t make a peep about this, the kind of commitment that President Obama is looking for is going to cost us big time. Administration officials estimate that the kind of increased commitment to the war that they seek will cost the country about $1 trillion over the next ten years. That’s a trillion dollars that could more usefully and morally be spent on redressing our country’s hideous socioeconomic inequalities and creating new forms of clean energy – and there would probably be plenty of money left over to help develop countries in the Muslim world instead of bombing and occupying them.

Andrew Bacevich is entirely correct when he says that “if the United States today has a saving mission, it is to save itself.” In a time when the social fabric of our own country is fraying at the seams, we shouldn’t be looking abroad for monsters to destroy. The scariest, most dangerous monsters are much closer to home.

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