Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Scorecard on U.S. Interventionism

Since 9/11, the United States has flailed away and attacked or invaded at least seven Muslim countries. (I say "at least" because, in contravention of the U.S. Constitution, American presidents now run secret overseas conflicts, including the latest drone wars, without public knowledge or the consent of their representatives in Congress.) Since U.S. (non-Muslim) military presence or intervention in Muslim countries was the original motivator for the 9/11 attacks, doubling down on a failed policy seemed a poor bet among many expert analysts, even during the period of hysteria after the attacks on the Pentagon and Twin Towers.

Of course, the U.S. government has never wanted to focus public attention on its own irresponsible conduct before 9/11, so politicians and government bureaucrats have always told the public that the terrorists attack us because of our "freedom" or because they are poor and jobless--neither of which stands up to objective analysis. Yet the American public, content to only cursorily examine the problem, is content to see it as an "us" versus "them" or "good" versus "bad" phenomenon, never wanting to believe that their government had been part of the original problem. In a democracy, that would then implicate public negligence in correcting the root of the disease: allowing the American governmental elite to conduct profligate and unneeded U.S. meddling into the affairs of Islamic countries.

So because we can't tread on this sensitive ground, how about just looking at the counterproductive results since 9/11 of escalated U.S. interventionism--more of the same that motivated the anti-U.S. Islamist terrorist attacks in the first place. The obvious place to start is Afghanistan. Instead of just blasting the central al Qaeda group, the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, in Afghanistan and Pakistan and calling it a day, the United States decided it was going to pacify (and democratize) Afghanistan with a nation-building occupation. Never mind that the British failed to do this three times and the Soviets once very recently and that the last successful occupation of untamed and xenophobic Afghanistan was accomplished centuries before Christ by Cyrus the Great of Persia. But somehow, American politicians thought, the U.S. experience would be different. Not really.

Most of U.S. troops have now been withdrawn from Afghanistan, and the Afghan Taliban have just conducted multiple attacks on the capital of Kabul and have made inroads in the north--not a traditional Taliban area of strength. After more than a decade of fighting--costing more than 2,300 American lives, many more Afghan lives, and at least hundreds of billions of dollars--the United States lost the war and Afghanistan's future still looks bleak. The U.S. war in Afghanistan also destabilized the neighboring nuclear-armed state of Pakistan--perhaps the most dangerous country in the world--leading to the rise of the Pakistani Taliban and that group's attacking U.S. targets, including an attempted bombing of Times Square in New York.

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