Who are we fighting and what are we fighting for?

Matthew Hoh, a Marine veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, was rising quickly through our Foreign Service ranks, serving as a Senior Civilian Representative for America in Zabul Province, Afghanistan.  Hoh had a bright government career ahead of him until he quit because the Afghan war is bullshit.

The Washington Post has posted Hoh’s resignation letter — which has earned the attention of the Oval Office.  Generally, resignation letters from members of the foreign service don’t reach eyeballs in the executive branch because, feh, who cares about such low officials?  But Hoh’s letter is a clear, concise, and cogent summary of the situation America presently faces in Afghanistan. You should read the whole thing (especially since I can’t quote from it because, just now, I found out Adobe Reader is missing the text selection tool; and I haven’t the time to troubleshoot it).

Having led men into battle before, Hoh’s concern is whether or not the injuries and loss of lives suffered by soldiers is for a cause that’s worth it.  In Hoh’s estimation, Afghanistan is no longer a battle worth a soldier’s life.  He implies that if the history of Afghanistan was a play, then America’s part would be merely a supporting role — not of importance.  Right now, America isn’t fighting terrorism in Afghanistan — rather, we’re involved in Afghanistan’s 35 year old civil war.  In fact, our very presence gives militias a reason to assemble as Afghans in some Pashtun provinces will fight against all invaders, be they domestic or otherwise, since anyone not from the province is perceived to be part of a “continued and sustained assault, going back centuries, on Pashtun land, culture, traditions, and religion.”  We’re not fighting al-Qa’ida in Afghanistan.  Instead, we’re fighting “the Pashtun insurgency, which is composed of multiple, seemingly infinite, local groups.”

Furthermore, Hoh argues, if the government attempts to justify our war in Afghanistan by claiming we’re fighting terrorists, then why aren’t we invading other countries like Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen?  Hell, Hoh also points out that terrorists have done some planning in Western Europe — why not invade those countries?

Who are we fighting?  What kind of war are we fighting?  And why?

These are basic questions.  If the government and the military cannot answer athem is clearly as Hoh has stated the fundamental problems with the Afghanistan war, then the war becomes a money hole that could sink the American economy.  Worse, soldiers are dying for no good reason.

In short, if these basic questions cannot be answered, then President Obama needs to deny General McChrystal’s request for more troops and bring all the other troops home.

Would that be embarrassing?  Yes, but what’s worse is not admitting when a mistake has been made.  Yes, some will complain — rightly — that we’ve abandoned Afghanistan for a second time.  Yes, this is cruel.  Yes, we made a mistake by going back there.  But just because we made a mistake doesn’t mean we should perpetuate it.

3 Responses to “Who are we fighting and what are we fighting for?”

  1. Chief says:

    Scott Ritter had a piece in TruthDig
    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20091029_mcchrystal_doesnt_get_it_does_obama/
    that is a coherent cry for common-sense.

    I posted about it here http://libertystreet.wordpress.com/2009/11/01/when-you-are/ yesterday and also previously at Liberty Street.

  2. tas says:

    The root of the problem may be America’s kneejerk response of violence. After 9/11, most Americans wanted to bomb the shit out of something and Afghanistan was the closest target to thus who committed the tragedies in NYC and DC. But two big questions needed to be asked before going to war in Afghanistan: How long would we stay there?; and Would fighting Afghanistan help us stem Muslim extremists in the long run? This bleeds into other questions, like will waging war in Afghanistan make us safer?; Will committing to Afghanistan be a strategic mistake if our military is needed elsewhere?

    Perhaps one of the most important questions to ask if if Americans have the stomach for a long war. This means we must ask whether or not it’s worth one soldier dying for the cause they are fighting for — if not, most Americans will sense it and turn against the war. For example, Vietnam.

    Then, of course, we have to ask whether a war is worth expending the budget over fighting. The answer to this query runs in conjunction to the answers for all the other questions I’ve posted.

    And perhaps these are loaded questions since, well, I thought of them and also think that the answers are all negative. Personally though, I think they are basic logically and strategic questions about when to goto war. If President Obama can’t answer simple questions about the conflict but commits more troops to the war anyway, I’ll have a lot of trouble voting for him again come November 2012. For a president who was elected into office on a platform of change, here’s his opportunity to make good on that promise.

  3. opit says:

    Funny. I distinctly recall a call to a ‘Just War’ – an oxymoron akin to ‘justified murder of strangers because they’re different’ – and an undertaking to support Israel…before any Inauguration. For that observation most were ignored : rather like Iraq.
    Kucinich and Ron Paul couldn’t get any traction. How many even knew Ralph Nader got 6% of the votes ?
    Fact is Obama may have made pretty noises…but the torture of civil rights of people worldwide continues in the expansion of Bagram AFB’s cages.
    I really wish I could find an article again with maps illustrating U.S. bases in the Middle East…guarding a route for a pipeline of Iraqi oil to Israel.

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