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Moyers: Obama's Bad Gamble on Afghanistan -- 100,000 Soldiers Used as Chips for a Bet the US Can't Win

We are losing lives for no purpose. The perpetuation of this unnecessary war exacerbates the problems in the Islamic world.

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That out of that collision, on the battlefield, would come decision, would come victory. And that soldiers could claim purposefulness for their profession by saying to both the political leadership and to the American people, "This is what we can do. We can, in certain situations, solve very difficult problems by giving you military victory."

Well, here in the year 2010, nobody in the officer corps believes in military victory. And in that sense, the officer corps has, I think, unwittingly really forfeited its claim to providing a unique and important service to American society. I mean, why, if indeed the purpose of the exercise in Afghanistan is to, I mean, to put it crudely, drag this country into the modern world, why put a four-star general in charge of that? Why not—why not put a successful mayor of a big city? Why not put a legion of social reformers? Because the war in Afghanistan is not a war as the American military traditionally conceives of war.

BILL MOYERS: Well, President Obama was in Afghanistan not too long ago, as you know. And he attempted to state the purpose of our war there to our troops.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Our broad mission is clear. We are going to disrupt and dismantle, defeat and destroy al Qaeda and its extremist allies. That is our mission. And to accomplish that goal, our objectives here in Afghanistan are also clear. We're going to deny al Qaeda safe haven. We're going to reverse the Taliban's momentum. We're going to strengthen the capacity of Afghan security forces and the Afghan government so that they can begin taking responsibility and gain confidence of the Afghan people.

BILL MOYERS: That sounds to me like a traditional, classical military assignment, to find the enemy and defeat him.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, but there's also then the reference to sort of building the capacity of the Afghan government. And that's where, of course, the president, he'd just come from this meeting with President Karzai. Basically, as we understand from press reports, the president sort of administered a tongue-lashing to Karzai to tell him to get his act together. Which then was followed by Karzai issuing his own tongue-lashing, calling into question whether or not he actually was committed to supporting the United States in its efforts in Afghanistan. And again, this kind of does bring us back, in a way, to Vietnam, where we found ourselves harnessed to allies, partners that turned out to be either incompetent or corrupt. Or simply did not share our understanding of what needed to be done for that country.

BILL MOYERS: What does it say to you as a soldier that our political leaders, time and again, send men and women to fight for, on behalf of corrupt guys like Karzai?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, we don't learn from history. And there is this persistent, and I think almost inexplicable belief that the use of military force in some godforsaken country on the far side of the planet will not only yield some kind of purposeful result, but by extension, will produce significant benefits for the United States. I mean, one of the obvious things about the Afghanistan war that is so striking and yet so frequently overlooked is that we're now in the ninth year of this war.

It is the longest war in American history. And it is a war for which there is no end in sight. And to my mind, it is a war that is utterly devoid of strategic purpose. And the fact that that gets so little attention from our political leaders, from the press or from our fellow citizens, I think is simply appalling, especially when you consider the amount of money we're spending over there and the lives that are being lost whether American or Afghan.

 
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