Osama bin Laden said the US didn’t have staying power. Boy, we sure proved him wrong! From Daniel Lanson at daniellanson.substack.com:
Bret Stephens thinks that U.S. forces should stay in Afghanistan indefinitely to spite Bin Laden’s ghost:
But what was the American interest in staying in Afghanistan beyond the fall of the Taliban? It wasn’t, centrally, to kill Osama bin Laden, who was just one in a succession of terrorist masterminds. It was to prove Bin Laden wrong about America’s long-term commitments, especially overseas.
Like any other justification for waging war to achieve intangible goals, Stephens’ argument is deeply flawed. Because a fanatic on the other side of the world made a claim about our “staying power,” we have to stay to “prove him wrong” even though he has been dead for years and has already been proven wrong. This is the opposite of sound and rational foreign policy. It is a foreign policy motivated by spite. While there might be some visceral satisfaction in trying to “prove him wrong,” this is not a legitimate reason to keep troops in harm’s way in a foreign country for years on end. No one should be asked to risk his life to demonstrate American resolve for the sake of vexing a dead man.
The truth is that the U.S. has shown tremendous staying power in Afghanistan despite having no vital interests at stake there. The U.S. has wasted twenty years and trillions of dollars and lost thousands of lives in an unwinnable war. A less determined, more easily discouraged, much more rational government would have given up 18 years ago. The U.S. has already demonstrated a thousand times over that it does not give up easily, but so what? That determination long ago calcified into deranged stubbornness. The refusal to give up has become denial. Haunted by jihadist talking points, hawks would have us continue to bleed resources and risk lives in useless imperial policing without end.