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Ash writes: "The United States had every imaginable opportunity to know better than to attempt to occupy Afghanistan."

Taliban fighters pose for the press at the desk of deposed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. (image: AP)
Taliban fighters pose for the press at the desk of deposed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. (image: AP)

Never Say the Occupation of Afghanistan Was a Mistake

By Marc Ash, Reader Supported News

16 August 21


n conversation as the Vietnam war drew to a close in 1975, an American Colonel, Harry G. Summers Jr., addressed his counterpart Colonel Nguyen Dôn Tu, saying, “You know you never defeated us on the battlefield.” Tu famously replied, “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.”

The United States had every imaginable opportunity to know better than to attempt to occupy Afghanistan. The attacks of September 11th, 2001, created a profound impetus for the United States to act decisively to defend the country. However, invading and occupying Afghanistan was a clear and obvious strategic blunder to anyone who wanted to know.

The Taliban did not defeat American forces on the field of battle any more effectively than the North Vietnamese Army or their Viet Cong allies did. The result was, as we now understand, the same.

American perceptions of war and peace are still largely predicated on the two great European wars of the 20th century. How wars begin, how wars are fought, how wars end are all questions we answer based on those lessons and frameworks.

The wars the United States fights today are fundamentally different on every level. Americans understand Europeans and Europeans understand Americans. Those understandings were the basis for how the conflicts would be fought and how peace would be achieved.

No such understanding exists with cultures like Vietnam and Afghanistan. Germany could surrender with the certainty that the war was over and they could rebuild. To ancient civilizations like Vietnam and Afghanistan, life under foreign occupation is a life they will never accept, no matter what degree of horror and brutality they are subjected to. They will fight on regardless, even if they have to form supply lines with bicycle convoys.

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, their entire administration, and all of their enablers were told in no uncertain terms, if you occupy Afghanistan you will become enmired and exhausted and you will go home in humiliation. That point was indelibly underscored by the Soviet Afghanistan debacle that had ended little more than a decade earlier. And then we did the exact same thing. Breathtaking.

It was no mistake: they knew full well, without any doubt, that this day would come. Invading and occupying foreign nations does not work. This is literally covered in the 5th century BC Chinese military classic, The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. Ill-conceived wars lead nations to ruin.

The time to leave Afghanistan was after the al-Qaeda camps were destroyed. The origins of the 9/11 attacks were not in Afghanistan anyway, they were in Saudi Arabia. That is however a subject for another discussion.

On a humanitarian basis the impact on Americans, however difficult or deeply felt, is dwarfed by the catastrophic effects of our military assaults on their lands. We little comprehend, or rarely try to.

The rationale that the lives of Afghan women and girls will be far worse under Taliban rule, a purely subjective Western perspective, even if true is no justification for continuing the military occupation of a foreign land.

Yes, Joe Biden is right: time to go from this place we never should have been.

Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, and is now founder and Editor of Reader Supported News.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner
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