Actually, Afghanistan Is A War Of Choice

Michael Steele's comments on Afghanistan remind me of my favorite definition of a gaffe: "saying the truth in the worst way possible." To wit, Stee

Michael Steele's comments on Afghanistan remind me of my favorite definition of a gaffe: "saying the truth in the worst way possible."

To wit, Steele said that Afghanistan is a war of Obama's choosing, and that everyone who's occupied Afghanistan has come to grief over it. Now one can quibble a bit over the details of who came to grief and who didn't, but basically he's right. Afghanistan went badly for the Russians and the British, most recently. There's a reason Afghanistan is called the "graveyard of Empires" and if the US isn't careful it'll be the graveyard of the US empire.

Likewise, yes, this is a war of choice for Obama. He could have done his review, said, "Hey, there are almost no al-Q'aeda fighters in Afghanistan anymore, so we won, let's go home." He could have said, "Fighting in Afghanistan is seriously destabilizing Pakistan, which is far more important than Afghanistan, so let's go home." He could have said, "Yes, if we leave, some al-Q'aeda camps might spring up but we can always bomb them and anyway there are plenty of failed states where al-Q'aeda can set up camps and we can't occupy all of them."

The point is that continuing in Afghanistan was a choice. Obama could have chosen otherwise. Not being in Afghanistan will not create an existential threat to the US.

So yeah, Steele was right. Of course, being the RNC chairman, Steele isn't allowed to say things that make sense and contradict Republican warmongering.

Now here's a truth that Steele didn't tell. Obama has to stay in Afghanistan because war spending is one of the only reliable forms of stimulus he has. The economy is in bad shape, and it needs that stimulus. Since he can't get a new large stimulus through Congress that means he MUST keep the Afghan war going if he doesn't want an economic disaster, which would then lead to an electoral disaster.

This is the sad truth of America: the only acceptable form of Keynesian spending is military Keynesianism. Instead of hiring tens of thousands of teachers, building a high speed rail network across the country, refitting every building to be energy efficient and doing a massive solar and wind build-out to reduce dependence on oil, well, the US would rather turn Afghans and Pakistanis into a fine red mist.

That fine red mist is what's keeping the American economy from going under entirely. And so, even if it's the wrong thing to do, even if it's the graveyard of America's Empire, the war will continue.

About Ian Welsh

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