Clown Arguments

Just read a James Traub piece on Foreign that’s worth linking to.  Takeaway:

…all costs are relative. And against the uncertain benefits of maintaining a very large military presence in Afghanistan over the next three to four years are the very large costs of staying in such large numbers. The $100 billion a year or so in resources may be the least of it.

And this is why the argument about whether our strategy in Afghanistan (i.e., counterinsurgency) is working is often an empty distraction that treats the cost of the war as peripheral to the war’s objective.  The presumption is that the one and only cost worth talking about is the cost of “another 9/11.”  Meanwhile, 5,786 US servicemembers have died in US wars since 2001.  Some additional number of US civilian contractors have also died.  But even now, nine years after the start of the war, nobody weighs their deaths against the (roughly) 2,740 Americans killed on 9/11, as if their deaths are qualitatively different. It’s the equivalent of the pedophile priest lecturing that gays will burn in hell.  It’s a bear riding a unicycle.  It’s a silly, circus clown argument made by people who are not interested in taking this seriously.  At the heart of it, it’s an argument about pride:

We’ll let more Americans get killed in the follow-on hostilities than in the initial attack because this isn’t about Americans getting killed.  It’s about Americans getting killed by surprise. They got us good and we can’t stand letting them get away with it, so fuck the cost.  It is American foreign policy written on the kindergarten playground.

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