Two speeches by President Obama within a span of one week have shown how incredibly superficial arguments are being made by the US administration to continue the war in Afghanistan. The Obama administration does not even appear to be convinced of the necessity of the Afghan war. In his next speech in Oslo, Norway he presented the Obama’s doctrine of “just wars”. After more than eight years in Afghanistan, does the “Just war” doctrine really apply?
In his speech President Obama emphasized that we can’t have a world without wars and some wars including the Afghan war are just wars. There is no reason to disagree with his thesis but as we move along, we see this just war turning into, a futile war. President Obama does not like the comparison with the Vietnam War and it is true that Vietnam War was never a just war but the Vietnam War turned in to a futile war within no time also. In terms of futility, both wars are at par now. So the similarities are there.
There is no doubt that going after the people who perpetuated 9/11 was absolutely necessary. Some out and out pacifists might have alternate views on that but the broad consensus in the US was that diplomacy alone would not haul those people out of Afghanistan. The conduct of the war after its initial successes has certainly raised some questions. People are rightfully asking about the end game and about the justification of continuing the war in Afghanistan now.
President Obama tried to contextualize the issue by connecting it to Hitler and the 2nd world war. The war against Hitler certainly had an end game and an exit strategy. Once Germany was defeated, the US assumed a non-abrasive position and provided massive material help to the Germans in resurrecting the German economy and democracy.
After the military defeat of the fascists, a colossal reconstruction effort was launched to defeat the fascist ideology too. However, after the military victory in Afghanistan, no effort was made to defeat the ideology behind the 9/11 attacks. Apparently, the US approach from the very beginning till today is to maintain the military victory and continue to emphasis a military solution versus the solution that the US so enthusiastically promoted and economically supported after the 2nd world war in Europe.
The wars should really be like planned obsolescence. When you fail to plan an end, the goal clearly becomes an occupation for an undeterminable period. The US is in a state of War for the last eight years just because of a war in a country that offers nothing to the US and the US strategists fail to find a way to end it.
In the Old days foreign conquests were really get-rich-quick schemes of today. They were elaborated buccaneer raids organized by the states rather than a collection of criminals. You attack another country or an area, steal its wealth and if you planned to control the source of the wealth for a long period of time, you maintained the occupation.
The Arabs turned the get rich quick scheme in to an art form when they attacked neighbors to get their wealth but instead of showing their teeth as brazenly as the Alexanders of the old world did, the Arabs did that for spreading a religion. The Subcontinent was attacked several times by the people who wanted to get rich quick. Then some decided to stay and they did that in the name of spreading a religion and an ideology. The US has been doing this for sometime too. In the cold war days, it was to defend the peace, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and now to spread democracy in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, a rather incongruous joke at the two countries expense.
The reality is that resource wise; there is nothing in Afghanistan that can help the US materially. Some may argue about the Pipelines or some copper deposits but in reality none of that warrants an investment of billions of dollars and thousands of American and Afghan lives. The US has no material interest in Afghanistan; Afghanistan does not really offer anything. Then what is the justification of continuing the War in Afghanistan? President Obama in his speech at West Point, to his credit at least, stayed away from the usual Bush rhetoric of spreading democracy, he cut through the chase and invoked the Al Qaeda as the primary reason of the war.
Robert Wright at NYT articulated the Al Qaeda issue in a nuanced and intelligent evaluation.
“This calls into question our nearly obsessive focus on Al Qaeda — the deployment of whole armies to uproot the organization and to finally harpoon America’s white whale.”
Obama’s West Point speech set up the background for the Oslo speech. His invoking of Hitler to justify his continuing a war that fails to make sense after eight years was really a major political theatre where now Godwin’s law is the punch line.
The war against fascism that was fought against some industrially advanced countries with enormous military strength cannot be equal to fighting a shadowy organization that grew in the two most backwards countries, Sudan and Afghanistan. These two countries did not have the capability to develop rudimentary firearms, what to talk about the military arsenal that the Nazi Germany and the fascist Italy amassed.
How a shadowy organization could scare a country with the largest defense budget in the world? In fact, the US defense budget is larger than the next ten countries combined. What is there that makes the US so afraid that it has to spend billions of dollars in a country that economically for the most part, is still in the 19th century and yet the US cannot develop an end game or an exit strategy? There is no disagreement that Al Qaeda needs to be reined in and there is no denying that the Taliban, if allowed to stay on the loose, would become a menace to the neighboring countries. Dealing with both organizations is a worthy cause and has a wide support throughout the world.
Are maintaining enormous armies, spending billions of dollars, and staying in constant state of war the only strategies that the US can develop in dealing with these two organizations? Sure, the US can do better and still manage to contain and eliminate the two organizations.
The US will have to find some way to end this war and the last eight years of experiences have shown that the ever escalating armies and the changing military strategies have not had any impact on the ground situation in Afghanistan.
The way the winds are blowing in Washington, DC. Pakistani should be alert to not so subtle campaign to launch attacks on Quetta. President Obama would like to see some progress in Afghanistan before he starts campaigning for reelection and the July 2011 date is a part of his election strategy. He wants the Pentagon to show some progress in the war and limit the Pentagon options for further escalation in future. Without any measurable progress in Afghanistan, his chance to regain the White House in the next presidential elections would be in major jeopardy. His doctrine to escalate the war to end it, is not based on some winning strategy, it is desperation time in the White House.