New Year’s Resolution: End America’s Quagmire Wars, by William J. Astore

As New Year’s Resolutions go, this one ranks right up there with obese people resolving to eat less and exercise more, and alcoholics to go on the wagon. Unfortunately, resolutions of the obese and the alcoholics (not mutually exclusive groups) have a better chance of coming to fruition than the resolution in the title. From William J. Astore at

Here’s a New Year’s resolution: How about ending America’s quagmire wars?

There are many reasons why Afghanistan, Iraq, and similar countries will always be quagmires for the U.S. military. US troops have difficulty identifying friend from foe, and indeed “friendly” troops and police sometimes turn on their US counterparts. US troops will always be a foreign presence, heavily armed and invasive, often (mis)guided by incomplete or misleading intelligence. Almost inevitably, they are seen as backing corrupt and kleptocratic governments, whether in Kabul or Baghdad. At the same time, US bombing and search and destroy missions kill innocents even as they generate refugees – and new enemies. Under such violent and tumultuous conditions, you can forget about winning hearts and minds or creating lasting political stability.

Facing this no-win scenario, savvy US leaders would pull troops out immediately, but of course pulling out is never an option. Whether it’s Bush or Obama or Trump, the preferred “solution” to unwinnable quagmires is to “surge” (more troops, more airpower, more “advisers,” more weaponry) or to dither with tactics. Old theories are trotted out, such as pacification and counterinsurgency and nation-building, dressed up with new terms and acronyms such as asymmetrical warfare, the gray zone, MOOTW (military operations other than war), and VEOs, or violent extremist organizations, known to most people as terrorists.

The mentality among America’s generals is that the war must go on. There must be a can-do way to defeat VEOs in the gray zone using asymmetrical warfare while engaged in MOOTW. Thus B-52s, those venerable strategic bombers from the early Cold War era, are now being used in Afghanistan to “asymmetrically” destroy drug laboratories associated with Taliban funding, yet another instance of the US military swinging a sledgehammer to kill a gnat.

After 16 years, if you’re calling in B-52s to flatten small drug labs, this is not a sign of impending victory. It’s a sign of desperation – a sign of a totally bankrupt strategy.

To continue reading: New Year’s Resolution: End America’s Quagmire Wars


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