The Afghanistan Rant Adam Weinstein Was Meant to Write

You should really drop what you’re doing and read Adam Weinstein’s latest on Afghanistan.

Both major political parties in America have perpetuated the fiction that American ingenuity emanating from think tanks and Capitol offices and executive office buildings could grasp the nature of The Afghan and shift it away from some posited tribal primitive perversion into a new, benign, America-loving norm. (I bought into this illusion as well.) It made for good sound bites. It made for good myths we could tell ourselves when filing into voting booths and civics classrooms: We are good, and we can win if we pick the best leaders and empower them to do good abroad.

This quote jumped out at me:

“We cannot lose Afghanistan,” Barack Obama said in 2008.

No Barack, YOU can’t afford to lose it for the sake of your legacy.

When the rest of us pushed back against the notion that Afghanistan must receive special inoculation against terrorist camps while a quarter of the planet remains viable, proponents returned like clockwork to presidential politics: “No president of the United States can afford to have another terrorist attack emanate from Afghanistan.” Well, sucks to be president of the United States. You work for us, not the other way around.

I never bought into the illusion that America has some inherent ability to do that which other states can’t (on the contrary, I tended toward the opposite conclusion) but I did buy into the notion that “counterinsurgency” could effect political transformation. I debated the proper techniques–down to the smallest tactical detail–for effecting this change in Iraq and Afghanistan. I realize now that it was all so much heated argument about the correct method to tighten the assembly screws of the deck chairs on the Titanic.

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