Nation building?

It is dismaying is to see brilliant career military men such as GEN Petraeus and GEN McChrystal sign on to the misuse of our military for the futile purpose of “nation building.” To build a nation, there needs to be some coherence, something that binds all who are to live in that nation together. Such cohesion does not appear to come even close to existing in Afghanistan.

I am old school: my understanding has always been that our armed forces had a single great purpose: to fight and kill the enemy. Anything that did not support this overarching purpose should not be done by the military. Somewhere along the way, from World War II to today, “nation building” was added to the mission statement. And every single time it’s been attempted, we have failed.

Oh, say many on the Right*: look what we’ve done with Iraq. What a “success” that’s been. Yes, we rid the world of a despicable tyrant, Saddam Hussein. But if by “success” we mean a true liberal democracy, let me just say it’s not apparent that they are just another democracy like, say, Sweden or France. The level of terrorist violence continues apace; there remain deep-seated ethnic and tribal tensions. And Iraq, at least in its Arab sections, remains implacably anti-Semitic, just like all of its neighbors. That’s not a good sign for any democracy.

Afghanistan is a more primitive version of Iraq, hostile soil indeed for nation-planting. Given the tribal, ethnic, and linguistic stew that is Afghanistan, it has never had any form of government that was in control over the entire “country.” It likely never will in our lifetimes. Should we have crushed the Taliban after 9/11? Yes, it was right and proper. And we did it with minimal use of our military.

Now we have shifted gears, going soft and squishy, wanting to win their hearts and minds. I can’t argue with the generals who do counter-insurgency for a living, but I have questions: To what end are we in Afghanistan? Is it to make the place safe for drug lords? Does any sane person believe that Afghanistan will have a liberal democracy that lasts after we depart?

Our mission there should be confined to killing as many jihadis as we can find, and making it so expensive for the locals that they turn on the Taliban and related Islamists.

*Including me. I was in full support of President Bush when he took us to war in March 2003. No longer.


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