Fool’s Errand

Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan
© 2017 Scott Horton
318 pages

Incredible as it sounds, it is nearly possible for a child conceived in the first week of the US invasion of Afghanistan to have come of age and deploy there himself. He’s out there now, a sixteen  or seventeen- year old waiting for the day when he can fight in his father’s war. The Afghanistan war is an odd one — the United States’ longest war, yes,  but one of its least-cared about:  not popular yet not  protested.  Americans just don’t seem to care about the trillions of dollars burned under the shadow of the Hindu Kush mountains, the thousands of American soldiers killed, or the hundreds of thousands of Afghan civilians killed in attempts to destroy the nebulous enemy.  Fool’s Errand is a case not just against the war, but against apathy.  This war was badly conceived, badly executed, and maintained as a litany of errors, one feeding the fire that the initial invasion intended to squelch. The United States will leave Afghanistan eventually, and the area will collapse into civil war eventually. The only question is how many more lives will be ruined and how many more enemies DC will create in its belabored efforts to fight a hangover by hailing the hair of the dog.

They hate us for our freedoms,  the president said as  American troops marched into Afghanistan, and the wound of 9/11 was still too raw for anyone to question the claim.   9/11 was barbaric and unconscionable and to posit that it was done as a reaction to DCs own policy in the middle east would have seemed like an insult to the innocent slain – even though bin laden and al-Queda’s hatred for the American troops parked in Arab countries, used as bases to constantly bomb Arab citizens, was well documented. Even as the United States moved toward Afghanistan with an objective of overthrowing  the Taliban that had given bin Laden shelter,  the war was not inevitable:  the rulers of Afghanistan then were willing to give bin Laden up,   given to a US ally, but the administration in its heated desire for revenge had no interest in doing anything deliberately.  Instead, American men and material were thrown into the same grave that claimed the armies of Alexander, the Brits, and the Russians.  Homo sapiens is a misnomer.

From there the misery continues: having destroyed the old order, as disagreeable as it was, DC fumbled repeatedly in attempts to create a new one.  It created an effective civil war in the country in its use of one pliable-but-despised tribe to do the governing, and through the breakdown of social order rose the criminal chaos that the Taliban had largely arrested by imposing its own illiberal order.  Oddly, people object to being invaded and bombed, and a relatively small number of scattered al-Queda fighters grew into a native resistance — and the more bombs that fell, the more lives destroyed in an attempt to get the bad guys, the more enraged and distressed men picked up guns and started fighting.  Money gone to train Afghanis to defend their “country” disappeared with the trained troops, who had little real interest in fighting their neighbor insurgents.  The chaos spread across the region as DC tried to intervene in other regimes, and the “war on terror” became a sustained nightmare of bombs for those on the ground, creating new lifetimes of American enemies in the middle east. Osama bin Laden, hiding comfortably, could bask behind his own MISSION ACCMPLISHED banner:  he wanted to draw the Americans into an unwinnable war, and they drove straight into the minefield. (And he’s not the only enemy DC effectively helped:  the Islamic Republic of Iran was once surrounded by armed Sunni states; now those rivals are ruined and Iran has much more influence over the region, to the despair of DC’s partners in crime, the House of Saud.)

Depressing and infuriating, Fool’s Errand tells a full story. There’s the military history of the invasion and growing insurgency, followed by futile attempts to squelch it,  but Horton also dips into the politics of the region and of DC, showing how  the anti-war aims of Obama were frustrated by inertia and the fact that the DC establishment —  the bureaucrats, the lobbyists, and the defense and intelligence contractors who are guaranteed work —  has no interest in bowing to history just yet. They’ll keep sending other people’s children to die and burning other people’s money.

The author’s podcast, featuring over four thousand interviews with foreign policy analysts, dating to 2003.

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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17 Responses to Fool’s Errand

  1. Mudpuddle says:

    truly an exercise in stupidity… homo asinalis, indeed…

  2. CyberKitten says:

    Really, don't get me started on that idiocy… really, I mean it…… I'm still fuming how we got suckered into the Afghan thing and then followed it on with the even more idiotic adventure in Iraq. Sheesh… Don't we EVER learn?

  3. Stephen says:

    Judging by DC's growing involvement in Syria…nope!

  4. Stephen says:

    Well, at least there's Wodehouse, eh?

  5. Mudpuddle says:

    yes, thank goodness!

  6. CyberKitten says:

    Oh, I think that *everyone's* involved in Syria. I see that Israel has just lost a jet over there… and the Turks, of course, taking the opportunity to hit the Kurds in the north – backed by the Americans as the best fighters against IS and Co….. What a complete and utter mess that country is. I'm betting this is going to rumble on for *decades* yet. But at least it gives me the opportunity to read up about it properly actually during the conflict so there is that…! [shakes head and walks away muttering]

  7. James says:

    The word Orwellian comes to mind as permanent war was one hallmark of 1984. What a waste!

  8. R.T. says:

    Most interesting post and comments. So many nations over the centuries have ventured into Afghanistan. Nothing changes. Still arguments exist pro and con for U.S. actions this century. Facile and thoughtful arguments conflict in my own mind. The outcome remains a mystery.

  9. R.T. says:

    Question for everyone…..What’s up with Fred at his blog, Fred’s Place? He’s been silent for too long. I’m concerned.

  10. Stephen says:

    Especially given how quickly DC can pretend old enemies are allies, or the reverse. It aided and abetted Hussein for a decade, then bombed and starved his people for a decade. Different branches of DC back different factions in Syria…it's madness.

  11. Stephen says:

    It is unusual..I haven't seen any comments of his on other blogs, either. Whatever it is, I hope it's temporary…we all go under the weather or get otherwise disrupted, though.

  12. Mudpuddle says:

    he's got the type of blog in which he has to approve comments… i sent him one but he hasn't answered it yet… not to be alarmist, but i tried to look up the obits on a Tucson newspaper but couldn't find anything…

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