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After Afghanistan

Some wars are lost in a matter of moments, others stretch on indefinitely. The defeat in Afghanistan crept up silently on the national consciousness and even though we are negotiating with the Taliban, the "D" word is hardly used by anyone.

According to Obama, in one of his interminable speeches which all run together and sound the same, there really isn't a war, just a mission, and the old mission is now becoming a new sort of mission, and the missions, all of them, whether in Afghanistan or Iraq, have been successful which is why we are wrapping them up, except that we aren't really. And that's about as clear as the message from the big white building with the neatly mowed lawn out front gets, except for the part about how its occupant singlehandedly parachuted into Pakistan, killed Bin Laden, and then stopped off for some curry and a humanitarian award.

Had McCain won in 2008, we would no doubt he hearing a lot about the "D" word and the quagmire in Afghanistan. But the "Q" word doesn't really get mentioned either. No war has been lost. Only a mission is ending. And missions, unlike wars, can be defined in so many creative ways that it's hard to know what to make of them. It's easy to tell when a war has been lost, but a mission can never be lost, only renamed. And renaming is what Obama did to the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. Those wars weren't lost; they're only hiding out in the history books under new names and identities.

Wars are usually remembered according to the proclivities of their historians. The history books tend to record the Republican presidents of the last hundred years as either losing wars or winning wars that weren't worth winning. Democrats however usually win every one.

The Korean War and the Vietnam War were not that far in perception at the time, but are worlds apart in the history books. Had John F. Kennedy lived to serve out two terms and then passed on the big chair to his brother, would the history books even record that the United States lost the Vietnam War? Or would it, like Afghanistan, have gone down as a story about a difficult temporary intervention that ended successfully under the leadership of a wise and caring president?

It is difficult to imagine the left's narrative of the last century with such a big and meaty chunk taken out of it. What would have become of Oliver Stone's career without the JFK assassination and the mythology of a cruel and senseless war in Vietnam? Or imagine the last decade if Biden and Gore had managed to talk Clinton into going after Saddam. As entertaining as such speculations might be, renaming missions and tampering with the history books does not alter the outcome of wars.

From the early days, the left had gloated that Afghanistan would become another Vietnam. And like the appointment in Samarra, in attempting to escape that Vietnamness, it repeated many of the follies of Vietnam and few of its triumphs, failing to press the advantage while expending thousands of lives based on abstract theories hatched by the bright boys in Washington and fraudulent books passed on by the wives of generals to their husbands.

We are now in the Afghanistanization stage, hanging around a country for no particular purpose, except that we aren't very good at departures and the men who made this mess still think that Karzai and his crew can make this work if we provide them with some more training and air support without being shot in the back.

And when we have finally left and Karzai's cobbled together government collapses, its ministers absconding to Paris and Pakistan with suitcases full of stolen aid dollars, what comes after the war?

The old conflict aimed at denying Al Qaeda one base of operations had been outdated a few years after it began. That was something that Bush instinctively understood and that his critics have only slowly become aware of. Al Qaeda is not a country or an ethnic group. It is a religious vanguard that was always meant to serve as the core of an international Islamist terrorist movement. That function had been fulfilled long before an old man watching porn in a covert compound with no authority over anyone except his many wives was finally put down the hard way.  

Al Qaeda, like the Communist Party, can rise anywhere. It rose in Iraq, in Somalia, in Mali, in Syria and in countless other places. Like Burger King, the franchise possibilities are endless and the brand name recognition is universal. And unlike Burger King, you don't even need to pay for the privilege of using the name. Set off a few bombs or kill a few foreigners and watch the money start rolling in from the fat sheiks of the oil-swollen Gulf who have never slit the throat of anything larger than a goat, but like having their own terror armies.

Obama, despite his third culture cred and his ability to carry around important books about world events while on vacation, has no clue what to do about any of that. Obama at War is really a dumber Bush at War, rehashing Bush era ideas and tactics with completely botched implementations. With Kabul in the rear-view mirror, all he has left is Bush's policy of targeted drone strikes on Al Qaeda terrorist leaders.

The only other foreign policy idea that the Obama crew brought to the table, aside from ending the support for the dictators, which ushered in the Arab Spring and the Islamization of the region, was to avoid ground wars and focus on limited drone strikes and intelligence operations.

This approach has been rebranded as the smarter and smaller war. A true conflict for the 21st with Muslim grad students in Yemen chatting on XBox Live with Muslim teenagers in Jersey City to convince them to make and carry liquid explosives on board a plane in tiny shampoo bottles while overhead a drone piloted by a formerly unemployed middle-aged professional skier with a degree in drone piloting from Kansas State hunts for them silently in their clan territories. It's the world of a William Gibson novel, except it's also our world now.

The targeted strike approach was largely borrowed from the Israeli playbook. Like Israel, the United States is in a tangled conflict that won't end any time soon. And like Israel, it's relying on saving some lives and weakening the terrorist infrastructure by taking out a few leaders here and there. Israel's targeted strikes on Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders never ended the conflict, but aborted more than a few terrorist plots by killing the bomb-makers and planners who were making them happen.

The actual conflict did not end. Neither did the attacks. Rather than shooting soldiers, Israel was shooting officers, because shooting soldiers required extended ground engagements and occupations that had become politically untenable. The United States has embraced the same strategy for the same reasons using technology that came out of Israel. But it hasn't given much thought to what comes after that.

The failure of the targeted strikes and arrests of terrorist leaders led Israel to pursue a physical separation through barriers and fences. The terrorists compensated for that with rockets and shelling. That led Israel to develop the Iron Dome, a defensive anti-rocket system. The suicide bomber, once ubiquitous, became a rarity, but the attacks have grown more powerful as the terrorists used the territory that they gained through Israeli withdrawals to deploy heavier long-range weapons that can reach major cities.

If the United States follows this same pattern of withdrawal and fortification, then by 2028, there might be an actual Fortress America guarded by anti-missile systems against Pakistani, Iranian and Egyptian nukes. And that scenario, as troubled as it sounds, is probably one of the better ones.

Israel withdrew from physical territories opening the way for a Hamas takeover of Gaza. Obama withdrew from geopolitical territories, announcing in Cairo that the United States would no longer support the undemocratic dictators of the Muslim world unless they had oil. Hamas, or its Egyptian parent organization, took over Egypt. Across the region, Islamist regimes rose and American allies fell. The Islamist winners of democratic elections turned into dictators leaving the United States in the awkward position of supporting new dictators while being jeered and denounced by the Arab Street.

What's the next step? It doesn't appear that there is one. Geniuses like Brennan only thought as far ahead as draining Muslim anger by rewarding political Islamists while using drone warfare to decimate violent Islamists. Not only is this distinction mostly imaginary, but the rise of political Islamists has made for more Al Qaeda takeovers and more work for the drones in North Africa.

The plan has failed and the second term is underway. It is very doubtful that Obama, whose big plan for Afghanistan was to copy the Bush plan for Iraq that he denounced in the Senate, has a backup plan. Brennan certainly does not. Secretary of State John Kerry is spending a lot of time talking about Global Warming while waiting a week for a callback from Russia. It's hard to think of a worse bunch of people in whose hands to put the fate of the nation and the world.

Both Bush and Obama largely missed the point of September 11, which is that it matters less how many training camps Al Qaeda has in some desert where there are more drugs and RPGs than people, but how many operatives they have in the United States. The terrorist attacks carried out by Al Qaeda in America all required that their operatives either be in the United States or have permission to enter it. The truly dangerous training camps aren't in Mali or in Afghanistan; they are in Jersey City and Minneapolis. The easiest way to stop the next Al Qaeda terrorist attack is to end immigration from the Muslim world.

That is not a position that any presidential candidate, Republican or Democrat, is likely to run on any time soon. Instead anyone who wants the job is salivating at the prospect of pinning Green Cards to anyone with a university degree. Articulating it is taboo even in Israel. And yet after Afghanistan, the United States might find that it has no choice but to build that southern border fence and to slash immigration from the more explosive parts of the world. That revelation may not come tomorrow, but it likely will come.

In Israel, it was Rabin who stated that Gaza had to be taken out of Tel Aviv and who began the construction of the West Bank security barrier because he realized that terrorism would destroy the peace process. An American Rabin may well be a liberal who is forced to come to the realization that the only way to avoid constant conflicts with the Muslim world is to begin cutting off the flow of Muslim immigrants to America.

Such a realization, if it ever comes, is still a long way off. For now the drone war remains a clumsy fallback position. As long as there are no major terrorist attacks, the limited drone strikes are enough to satisfy most Americans. But when one of the Al Qaeda franchises begins poring over blueprints of a major American landmark and another September 11 follows, then the question that has been held in abeyance after Afghanistan will suddenly reappear. What do we do now?


  1. I think the answer to your question "what do we do now?" can be found by looking a layer below the superficial actions of drone strikes.

    The important question is this: what is the underlying philosophy that's driving these actions? At the core of that philosophy, which exists in the minds of both Dems and Repubs, is altruism, sacrifice, duty. The US and its allies will continue to sacrifice themselves to their enemies, even while denying that's what they're doing. Obama takes it a step further: the outright destruction that comes from nihilism. He is being aided in his quest by hoards of egalitarians who don't understand or even care that they are headed off a cliff.

    If the enemies of the US strike a larger blow, mark my words that the perpetrators will not be punished; they will be rewarded.

  2. Anonymous21/2/13

    " watch the money start rolling in from the fat sheiks of the oil-swollen Gulf who ...like having their own terror armies. " "The easiest way to stop the next Al Qaeda terrorist attack is to end immigration from the Muslim world."

    The french have also their problems with Qatar who preys on Mali rich natural resources, oil, gas, uranium...And beside Qatar "having their own terror armies" in Mali to drive off the french, Qatar is also funding many housing, madrassas & mosques in France. And Qatar is thru Al Qaida calling for terror attacks in France in light of the Mali affair.

    Consequently, "to end immigration from the Muslim world." is one aspect. But since the tragedy of 9/11 was 'economic Jihad' as the target were The world trade center, the Twin Towers... The west should also retaliate accordingly with economic sanctions, credible military threats and red lines against "the fat sheiks of the oil-swollen Gulf" vicious plans of 'economic Jihad' & 'immigration from the Muslim world' that bring with it Sharia Despotism & Islam Darkness expansion.

    On the other hand, tackled must be the issue of those westerners that bark 'muliticulturalism' & 'tolerance', they must be portrayed as the western Islamo-Dhimmicrats tyrants, they are the Islam partners in crimes. As those two democratic values are obviously obsolete in the face of those westerners wickedness & Islam ruthlessness.

    Joseph E Givatayim, Israel .

  3. Anonymous21/2/13

    Yeh , and ten years from now the Military will start crying that they "won" ALL the battles, and were "stabed in the back" by the "hippies" "news media" and "anti-war zelots" . You know the same crap they have been spouting about Veitnam for twentyfive years. Maybe this time they will just blame the jews.

  4. Anonymous21/2/13

    When did the lie that Islam is a religion of peace and the misbelief that Islamists were sincere and trustworthy begin?

    A business deal is one thing, but stationing our valuable human resources in these hell-holes is another.

    Even the Peace Corps has stopped feeding young white American girls to the rapists and murderers of Islamic countries.


  5. Conservative Language Institute of America21/2/13

    Instead of kicking ass in Afghanistan and immediately getting out, we're forever “building democracy” everywhere.

    Instead of keeping hostile cultures out of the US, we're importing more carriers of them daily.

    Instead of enacting a uniform immigration policy for what could then have been only external groups, we've surrendered our liberty to Homeland Security which menaces everyone both internal and external.

    These policies simply cannot continue without some form of destruction coming upon us.

  6. Anonymous21/2/13

    Stopping the flow of Islamic immigration, even if it happens, will be too late.

    What one has to consider now is how to reverse the tide. A possible way is to create a schism between the West and the Muslim world. We are, whether we realise it or not, doing this.None of this Abrahamaic RoP BS.


  7. Anonymous21/2/13

    The West Bank security barrier should have been built long before it was. It would have saved hundreds of Jewish lives - and so would have been an active anti-terror policy designed to kill terrorists and more importantly, bring down the Arafat regime..

  8. Anonymous21/2/13

    As in Britain, which is already a lost territory, I'm afraid your words will fall on stony ground. But keep writing them; who knows? One day someone may emerge from the younger generation who understands - and has leadership qualities that may turn the tide. It will be a different world by then of course, but out of the chaos of failed civilisations, others have emerged, It is the story of flawed humanity. Islamic barbarism is sporadic and luckily has inherent failure characteristics. Trouble is, like many other insidious viruses, it lies doggo, seething, and waits for the weakness of the Infidels to become sufficiently manifest, then reactivates. Currently it has piggy-backed on the latest resurgence of modified Marxism and reached the White House; Europe is already a goner.

    It has to get much worse before it can get better. History seems to show Marxism (which Marx didn't invent by the way - it is the crystallisation of envy - one of the seven deady sins) and Islamism always overreach their own ambitions; free societies will, as ever, emerge from the scorched earth left by self destructive idiocies. You and I have shared some of the good times and freedoms, sad that we'll die in one of the darker eras - but we had our fun, not sure our children will have similar opportunities.

    It's worth reading Alexander Boot's latest post on Marxism, Daniel; it dovetails nicely with your excellent, seminal essay:


    Thanks once again for your thoughts.
    Frank P

  9. With the election and re-election of B. Hussein the whole thing has turned into a cosmic joke. Who is fighting whom? For what purpose? What is real and what is just for show? Whose side is he on?

  10. You can't 'fix' the Dark Ages by leaving them in the Dark Ages and then complaining they're not enlightened and liberal and tolerant and allowing gay marriages and free weed. They're in the Dark Ages and this is what the Dark Ages looks like. You can't bring them styrofoam wrapped fast food and hope they all turn into Chicago community organizers.

  11. To TL Winslow above

    This is a ridiculous plan that will bankrupt the US by assuring that 70 or so million people will go on welfare and only people who support this state of affairs will be elected. When idiots have zillions of babies they can't themselves support but the taxpayers have to what you wind up with is Idiocracy.

  12. America has won wars, WW II and the Civial War, when we clearly identified the enemy, stated why we declared war against that enemy, and fought to utterly eradicate every trace of that enemy including the evil ideas that enemy held.

    Until we publicly identify Islam as an evil ideology, declare war against all of Islam including our so-called 'allies' Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and flatten every Islamic country which does not surrender immediately and rid itself of malicious slavery imposed on its people by Islam, we will continue to lose both the 'propaganda war' and the real fighting in which we are engaged.

    Too risky? What we are doing now, wasting trillions and the lives of American military personnel on pathetic 'police actions' is simply a drawn out guaranteed loss, prolonged only by the (fortunate) relative incompetence of Islamics and the wealth accumulated by previous generations in this country.

    Islam will never stop until the West is destroyed or Islam itself is wiped off the face of the earth. Anyone who believs otherwise is simply fooling themselves as Neville Chamberlain did in dealing with Hitler.

    War with Islam is inevitable because, just like Naziism, Communism, Fascism, and all other forms of organized slavery and murder, Islamics hate and fear freedom and individual rights.

    The only question is how many people will be sacrificed to the 'peace at any price' crowd before the war is fought.

  13. Anonymous21/2/13

    We won WWII and the Civil War because we were fighting actual armies and could smash their industrial capacity. You can't keep every AK47 out of the hands of every goatherder and you can't occupy half the world indefinitely. We'll be more broke than the USSR was by the time we wise up.

  14. Anonymous

    You're right. You can't disarm the globe. But you can take the war to those who buy the AK-47s for the terrorists who use them.

    And yes, we may go broke (although I doubt it will ever be as bad as Russia), but the bankruptcy will come from grotesquely out of control federal entitlement programs, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and from state and local deficit spending, not from the defense budget which, although relatively large in recent years, is a small percentage of the federal budget.

  15. Where from here? Iran. It's where America should have gone in the first place. There, however, does exist an intellectual class that hates the Islamists. Take it and ban the koran and islamic schools there, obviously muslim immigration halts are crucial, and America will earn the love of a people and have another victory under its belt. Forget to ban islam, and better it would be that they never went there at all, because it will return with a vengeance, and the entire army stationed there won't change a thing.

  16. I agree, keep Muslimes outta the USA.
    Put it in the Constittution, make it a law, Ban Islam completely.
    If Poland can do it , we can too.

  17. Over at The Objective Standard Brook & Epstein argue this quagmire form of warfareis the result of enshrining Just War Theory to the exclusion of our own self-preservation.


    Rather than fight a war to make ourselves better off, we have to pretend we are fighting to make Afghans better off. To that end, we can't break too much stuff, we must always decide the child-molesting women-killing barbarians are just an innocent bystander in the conflict between "the radicals" and our generous offer of a better life.

    Afghanistan should have been vaporized on Sept 12. A rogue ICBM or ten should have also landed in Pakistan, Iran, and Riyadh. We are better than them and we deserve to live while they chose to die.

    A country that will not defend its people deserves no loyalty. In fact, loyalty to such a government is giving aid and comfort to tyranny.

  18. Anonymous21/2/13

    That will never happen as long as our First Amendment remains in tact Paladin. Still, there are ways around it--limit immigration from Muslim nations and strictly forbid and crack down hard on illegal Muslim practices in the US and not try to incorporate them into either civil or criminal law.

    Make new immigrants renounce Islamic terrorism just as over a century ago new immigrants had to renounce certain things such as bigamy and anarchism.

    Those are doable.


  19. Anonymous21/2/13

    Regarding Israel--it's in a slightly different boat than the US. I still don't know if its leaders or citizens regard Gaza as a part of Israel worth recapturing, commonwealth or protectorate.

    The US isn't in such a position though that could potentially happen with Mexico:(

    Re Gaza--I think it's worth fighting for, not only for the security of Israelis but the sheer potential beauty of the land. I've seen videos of Gaza Beach and the waves are amazing. Yeah, it's polluted but the potential is incredible.

    Besides, what nation/city/community gives up waterfront land? It's insane.


  20. Anonymous22/2/13

    In your belief that cutting immigration will happen one day, I think you are putting a lot more trust in politicians (Republican or Democrat) than I would. The idea that terror attacks one day will compel the US to halt immigration is based on the belief that terrorists will overcome the tolerance limit of the US. However, that is not likely to happen - at least not before infinite, possibly irreparable, damage has been done. What will more likely happen, instead, is that, as Islamic immigration increases into the US, the number of Muslims citizens (and consequently, voters) will outnumber the Jews (and other minority religions as well). At this point, politicians desperate for the Muslim vote to win the elections will force the US to start supporting the terrorists over Israel. By the time the US abandons a true ally like Israel, it will also already have abandoned other countries hit by Islamic terror like India, or large parts of Africa, or Serbia, or Russia, or maybe even good portions of Europe to the Islamists. By the time the US wakes up to the true threat of Islamic terrorism, the US will have lost all its credibility and will have few allies anywhere on earth. It will, at best, have to settle for securing its borders, leaving the rest of the world to Islam.


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