Andrew J. Bacevich: We’ve got to figure out what our aims are in Afghanistan before we talk strategy





[Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor at Boston University, is the author of The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism.]

The "strategic" debate over Afghanistan is a diversion that serves chiefly to distract attention from the condition of strategic bankruptcy that President Obama inherited. The issues in Afghanistan do not qualify as strategic. They barely rise to the level of operational. To the extent that the war in Afghanistan can claim to have any purpose, that purpose derives from its relationship to the larger struggle variously called the global war on terror or World War IV or the Long War. To the extent that it ever made sense for U.S. forces to be fighting in Afghanistan, the rationale derived from the belief that Central Asia figured, however vaguely, as a campaign in that larger war.

When the Bush administration conceived that larger struggle, Bush and his immediate circle of advisers did articulate a strategy of sorts: Through the concerted use of American power, they intended to transform the Greater Middle East thereby eliminating the conditions that had given rise to 9/11 and preventing its recurrence. Except in the eyes of a remnant of neoconservatives, that effort has definitively failed. The result of that failure is a strategic void: Today, the United States doesn't have a meaningful plan to deal with the threat posed by violent jihadism. As a result, the remnants of World War IV--both Iraq and Afghanistan--are strategically meaningless. They form parts of a whole that events have rendered obsolete. This is the 800-pound elephant that Steve Biddle and other proponents of global counterinsurgency want us all to avoid noticing...


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