I have to admit, reading about Afghanistan depresses me. As far as Bush Administration-initiated wars in the Middle East go, it was reasonably justified in terms of drawing a line from the Taliban to the terrorists who did 9/11. But that doesn’t mean it was smart, or that a few retaliatory bombings and then getting out wouldn’t have been the better plan, as now we essentially have to do what the Soviet Union and the British (twice!) among others tried and failed to do: build the Afghani state. We’re kidding ourselves if we think that the task there is anything other than this. Sure, generals can phrase it in terms of having to stop the terrorists in Afghanistan, but that task boils down to creating an Afghani state strong enough to deal with them, which means actually building an Afghani state, which is like creating a perpetual motion machine or any other theoretical thing that’s never existed. It’s just not going to ever, ever, ever happen. We’ve done sixteen years of trying with little to show for it, and that’s nothing compared to the centuries during which foreign cultures tried to impose a modern state structure onto Afghanistan and failed. For better or worse, it’s a feudal, agrarian, clannish territory with no real centralized authority, has been for ages, and it takes the arrogance of a bloated empire (or several) to think that they have the solution for this. Which, of course, we don’t.

I just don’t see a way this ends that doesn’t make the fall of Saigon look like a love fest. It was understandable if cowardly for Obama to just kick the can to the next guy, who’s obviously just going to escalate more and sink us even deeper into the quicksand. But it’s not going to change the facts.

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