7 October 2018   Leave a comment

Today marks the beginning of the 18th year US troops have been in Afghanistan.  The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 when the government of Afghanistan refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, the architect of the 11 September 2001 attack on the US.  The Afghan government was quickly overthrown, and a viable government has yet to be established.  Indeed, by most accounts, the Taliban control more territory now than it did in October 2001.  The Watson Institute at Brown University calculates that the total economic costs of the various military operations in the “War on Terror” since 11 September 2001 is about $5.6 trillion.   The cost to US soldiers is unbelievably high:

” First, and most important, is the cost borne by the 2,350 U.S. troops who died, the 20,092 who suffered injuries, and their families who have to live with the consequences.

“Improvements in battlefield medicine meant that more than 90 percent of soldiers wounded in Afghanistan survived. That’s better than the Vietnam War’s 86.5 percent track record. Unfortunately, that also means these veterans and their families now must live with the effects of permanent and grave damage. More than 320,000 soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq have traumatic brain injury that causes disorientation and confusion. Of those, 8,237 suffered severe or invasive brain injury. In addition, 1,645 soldiers lost all or part of a limb. More than 138,000 have post-traumatic stress disorder. They experience flashbacks, hypervigilance, and difficulty sleeping.

“On average, 20 veterans commit suicide each day according to a 2016 VA study.​ The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America found that 47 percent of its members knew of someone who had attempted suicide after returning from active duty. The group considers veteran suicide to be its number one issue. 

“The cost of veterans’ medical and disability payments over the next 40 years will be more than $1 trillion. That’s according to Linda Bilmes, a senior lecturer in public finance at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. “The cost of caring for war veterans typically peaks 30 to 40 years or more after a conflict,” Bilmes said.

John Dale Grover and Jerrod A. Laber offer this assessment of the US activities in Afghanistan over the last 17 years:

“Afghanistan is particularly pernicious in this regard, because the strategy is open-ended. The Trump administration will not put a timeline on when U.S. forces will come home, but the goals of the intervention are unachievable. In 17 years, we have been unable to build an Afghan government that is capable of providing for its own security. There is no reason to believe that will change.

“So, what we have essentially created is a situation where a war can rage on without end, with no enduring progress, and no one cares enough to stop it. That’s a bad spot for a liberal democracy to be in.”

John Mearsheimer is one of the premier American realists.  I often disagree with his analyses of world politics, but I truly admire his rigor, discipline, and his ability to provide solid evidence for every proposition he advances.  He has written a new book which is excerpted in the most recent issue of The National Interest in which he takes strong issue with the idea that liberal states should advance their values abroad.  [The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities]

“My argument, stated briefly, is that nationalism and realism almost always trump liberalism. Our world has been shaped in good part by those two powerful isms, not by liberalism. Consider that five hundred years ago the political universe was remarkably heterogeneous; it included city­-states, duchies, empires, principalities, and assorted other political forms. That world has given way to a globe populated almost exclusively by nation­ states. Although many factors caused this great transformation, two of the main driving forces behind the modern state system were nationalism and balance-­of-­power politics.”

It is also true that nationalism and balance of power politics brought us World Wars I and II.  There really has to be a better way. 

Turkish officials are claiming that Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul.  Turkish officials claim to have evidence, but Embassy grounds are the sovereign territory of the Embassy state, so Turkish officials do not have the right to investigate what happens within the Embassy.  The Atlantic has reported on Khashoggi’s disappearance: “On Saturday, Reuters and others reported that Khashoggi had been murdered inside, and some reports added that his dismembered corpse had been smuggled out in multiple parcels. The Saudis say he left the consulate freely.”  If these allegations are true, the incident will pose a serious problem for the US since Khashoggi was also a journalist for The Washington Post.  The Trump Administration has been a staunch supporter of the Saudi regime, despite evidence that the Saudis have committed war crimes in Yemen

Jamal Khashoggi

Posted October 7, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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