The bottom line is clear: Our vital interests in Afghanistan are limited and military victory is not the key to achieving them. On the contrary, waging a lengthy counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan may well do more to aid Taliban recruiting than to dismantle the group, help spread conflict further into Pakistan, unify radical groups that might otherwise be quarreling amongst themselves, threaten the long-term health of the U.S. economy, and prevent the U.S. government from turning its full attention to other pressing problems. -- Afghanistan Study Group

Monday, December 29, 2014

Required reading for Monday, December 29, 2014

James Fallows, in The Atlantic, discusses the relationship between the American military and American polity. It's a lengthy piece, that covers many important issues and makes many important points. It defies summary, but here's a key pull quote:

If I were writing [a history of the temper of our times], I would call it Chickenhawk Nation, based on the derisive term for those eager to go to war, as long as someone else is going. It would be the story of a country willing to do anything for its military except take it seriously. As a result, what happens to all institutions that escape serious external scrutiny and engagement has happened  to our military. Outsiders treat it both too reverently and too cavalierly, as if regarding its members as heroes makes up for committing them to unending, unwinnable missions and denying them anything like the political mindshare we give to other major public undertakings, from medical care to public education to environmental rules. The tone and level of public debate on those issues is hardly encouraging. But for democracies, messy debates are less damaging in the long run than letting important functions run on autopilot, as our military essentially does now. A chickenhawk nation is more likely to keep going to war, and to keep losing, than one that wrestles with long-term questions of effectiveness.

We support our troops, even revere them. But the utter, unalloyed failure of the 13 year, $1.5 trillion intervention in Iraq is forgotten. We keep shoveling in money and sending other people's children off to distant lands we know nothing about, only to fail, again and again. And we don't question any of this. Read it.

Also, David Wood in the Puffington Host (which I don't link to on my other blog because it is a wretched hive of quackery and and woo, but this isn't about health and they're credible on other issues). The NATO mission utterly failed to create a functioning logistical infrastructure for the Afghan National Army. Excerpt:

Out in the field, trucks and armored vehicles and weapons broke down or wore out and there were no spare parts, or mechanics, to fix them. Neither was there a process for turning in broken gear, so commanders would simply order new ones and leave the old broken stuff rusting out back. When the IG's gumshoes went to check out the problem they found units with 150 to 200 percent more vehicles than they were authorized because so many were broken. . . .

Some 200,000 weapons were missing from the central depot, according to an investigation by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction.

And so on. Very depressing.