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Old 01-05-2020, 01:53 PM
Fir na tine is offline
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Why are we still in Afghanistan and Iraq?


My grand-daughter posed that question to me the other day. She's aware of the initial reason to invade Afghanistan after 9/11. She's aware of the unilateral decision by Bush 43 to invade Iraq. What's she's finding hard to understand is why we haven't left. What is it that we hope to further accomplish? The ethnic and religious feuds have continued unabated for a thousand years and we are powerless to stop them. The recent revelations about the continuous positive propaganda by our government in spite of their own knowledge we weren't making a difference (similar to The Pentagon Papers), prompted her interest.

I don't have any good answers to give her. What reasons can we provide for the continual occupation of these countries and the never ending death toll among American troops and contractors?
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Old 01-05-2020, 03:33 PM
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No one wanted to listen to President Eisenhower's 1961 warning about the increasing power of the "Military Industrial Complex". JFK tried to take some steps to reign it in and paid for this action with his life. No one since has dared to question its power and influence. WW 2 ended 75 years ago and we still have troops in Europe and Japan. The Korean War ended in 1953, but the US still has troops there 67 years later. US forces have been in the Middle East fighting for 18 years with no end in sight. Today the military of the United States is deployed in more than 150 countries around the world, with approximately 170,000 of its active-duty personnel serving outside the United States and its territories. President Trump has made some noise about "bringing the troops home", but has not really made any concrete steps in that direction. If he cares about his health, he will not seriously change anything about the current Military Industrial Complex. Far too many rich and powerful families are making way too much money for them to allow any significant changes to the status quo.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milita...strial_complex
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Old 01-05-2020, 03:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Mangosteen View Post
No one wanted to listen to President Eisenhower's 1961 warning about the increasing power of the "Military Industrial Complex".
'The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous.' -- George Orwell, 1984.
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Old 01-05-2020, 03:53 PM
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JFK tried to take some steps to reign it in and paid for this action with his life.[/url]
You need to read up on the history of the Vietnam conflict.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietna...961%E2%80%9363

And the Bay of Pigs (Cuba):
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_of_Pigs_Invasion
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Old 01-05-2020, 04:07 PM
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For Afghanistan, the US has run into the same problem that everyone else has had: the government is too weak to gain legitimacy and implement security. So far, successive presidents have decided that they do not want to totally withdraw US troops until there are better assurances that Al Qaeda, and more recently ISIS, will not come back and use the country as a base for overseas attacks. However, the number of US troops has come down a lot. There were 100,000 in 2010 and thereabouts, now we are below 12,000 or so. Casualties have also dropped significantly in recent years, which some don’t recognize.

Iraq is more complicated. Obama dramatically drew down US presence in the early years of his presidency, from roughly 180,000 in 2007 to nearly none in 2012. But when ISIS exploded onto the scene in 2014, troops came back in to train and advise Iraqis and others to fight ISIS. Until the recent unpleasantness, the US had around 5,000 troops there. Obama and Trump (until very recently) has those troops there for the counter-ISIS mission, with the support of the Iraqi government.
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Old 01-05-2020, 04:19 PM
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In part it's to fight against clear threats, such as ISIS and al-Qaida remnants in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region. And in part is that it's very hard to give up on a goal like "nation building". Even if it's not working, you at least, in your own mind, get credit for trying. When you give up, things are likely to get worse, at least in the short run, and even if they only stay the same level of bad, it is now "your fault".

It's possible that there's an element of "we must not give the impression that we give in to terrorists". A justification and motivation for terrorist attacks on US interests in the region is US interests in the region. Pulling out militarily can be seen as a victory for the terrorists and mean more risks for US economic and political interests, even though the "infidel troops on our soil" justification is gone.
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Old 01-05-2020, 04:32 PM
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Who has any idea what MidEast "victory" would look like from a US viewpoint?

Spoiler: If you don't know where you're going, you'll probably end up somewhere else.

As suggested, the military-industrial complex knows exactly where we're going: to endless war.

Better not end the wars. Think of all the poor unemployed troops and arms-makers!

When we haven't enough enemies, we construct more. It's good business.
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Old 01-05-2020, 04:40 PM
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Better not end the wars. Think of all the poor unemployed troops and arms-makers!
Not to mention the casket factories.
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Old 01-05-2020, 06:06 PM
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You need to read up on the history of the Vietnam conflict.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietna...961%E2%80%9363

And the Bay of Pigs (Cuba):
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_of_Pigs_Invasion
I'll tell you what. I will read books on the Kennedy assassination and his ideas about Vietnam and Cuba and you can get your information about these subjects from Wiki. And don't tell me what I should read up on. I've read several books on this subject from all sides and have come up with my own conclusions. I suggest you do the same.
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Old 01-05-2020, 06:22 PM
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I haven't talked with our generals but, as I understand it, these would be the basic concepts:

1) The best defense is a good offense. Either we can try to fight bad guys on American soil or go over to where they are and fight them there. In terms of public safety, the latter is much better.
2) The US has a vested interest in international commerce. Our military was, after all, initially formed to fight pirates in Tripoli, because they were attacking our trading ships.
3) You broke it, you bought it. If you execute a man, because he was a criminal, and he leaves behind a innocent little baby then either you walk away and hope the baby doesn't starve before someone finds it, or you do your duty to ensure that it is being taken care of. Only one of those options is decent.

Last edited by Sage Rat; 01-05-2020 at 06:23 PM.
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Old 01-05-2020, 06:35 PM
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It's simple. We didn't lose. If we had lost, we could have left. But we didn't, so we had to stay. We lost in Viet Nam, so we left. We lost in 1812, so we left. Sadly, we went back and haven't lost there again, so we still have troops there too. When America goes to war, we stay until we lose.
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Old 01-05-2020, 06:38 PM
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I haven't talked with our generals but, as I understand it, these would be the basic concepts:

1) The best defense is a good offense. Either we can try to fight bad guys on American soil or go over to where they are and fight them there. In terms of public safety, the latter is much better.
2) The US has a vested interest in international commerce. Our military was, after all, initially formed to fight pirates in Tripoli, because they were attacking our trading ships.
3) You broke it, you bought it. If you execute a man, because he was a criminal, and he leaves behind a innocent little baby then either you walk away and hope the baby doesn't starve before someone finds it, or you do your duty to ensure that it is being taken care of. Only one of those options is decent.
1) I would argue that the best and most cost-effective defence is a believable threat of retaliation, or at least the impression that an attack would be too costly.

2) Surely the Massachusetts militia formed to fight the British in the 1770s was the forerunner of the US military.

3)The problem comes when the innocent baby grows up and sets out to avenge his father.

Last edited by bob++; 01-05-2020 at 06:39 PM.
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Old 01-05-2020, 07:09 PM
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1) I would argue
We have to assume that people wouldn't intentionally do something that they thought was going to be useless and/or a failure. A GQ answer would necessarily be one of "good" reasons since the question is, "What are the (presumably positive) reasons for doing this strange thing?"

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2) Surely the Massachusetts militia formed to fight the British in the 1770s was the forerunner of the US military
I agree. (Emphasis added.)

Last edited by Sage Rat; 01-05-2020 at 07:11 PM.
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Old 01-05-2020, 07:11 PM
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Old 01-06-2020, 09:35 AM
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Very interesting related article, well worth the time to read
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Old 01-06-2020, 12:20 PM
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My grand-daughter posed that question to me the other day. ... What is it that we hope to further accomplish? The ethnic and religious feuds have continued unabated for a thousand years and we are powerless to stop them. The recent revelations about the continuous positive propaganda by our government in spite of their own knowledge we weren't making a difference (similar to The Pentagon Papers), prompted her interest.
You and your grand-daughter are making the mistake of believing that our government acts rationally. It's a government. It's a big bureaucracy. It never acts rationally.

There are too many people with a vested interest in endless war. First, in the government itself you have countless career bureaucrats and diplomats and admirals and generals and the like. Then you have lobbyists for companies that profit off war, and various experts at newspapers, think tanks, and such who have made their career sucking up to the military, and so forth. All of these influential people were chosen for having a pro-government and pro-military bias.

So while technically the President of the United States could choose to end any war at any time and bring home all the American troops in a particular place, doing so provokes the anger of "the blob", i.e. of the huge mass of highly paid, highly influential careerists who were selected to advance and defend the military-industrial complex. Here's a good article that discusses how they tilt the "conversation" in a pro-war, pro-military direction.

Last edited by ITR champion; 01-06-2020 at 12:21 PM.
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Old 01-06-2020, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Mangosteen View Post
I'll tell you what. I will read books on the Kennedy assassination and his ideas about Vietnam and Cuba and you can get your information about these subjects from Wiki. And don't tell me what I should read up on. I've read several books on this subject from all sides and have come up with my own conclusions. I suggest you do the same.
We're in Great Debates now. Let's not make it personal.
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Old 01-06-2020, 08:40 PM
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2) Surely the Massachusetts militia formed to fight the British in the 1770s was the forerunner of the US military.
The Founders had a horror of standing armies, since they were historically used as tools of oppression by the monarchy in Europe. Militias, quick to form and disband, were by far favored. This led to huge problems during the Revolutionary War because neither Congress nor the states wanted to establish a national army that was so clearly needed.

That stayed true after the U.S. became a country. The problem was globalism. As soon as Americans got out into the world they fell prey to more powerful forces that had no compunctions about creating armies. And navies. Congress created a navy in 1801. The Marines already existed. The combination was seen as necessary both against the Barbary States and later against the British.

West Point followed, in the interestingly named Military Peace Establishment Act of 1802, but it was a minor appendage to the navy and mostly responsible for training engineers.

You can argue that anything and everything that involved arms was a forerunner to the military, but the prejudice against an army except in times of war remained huge until after WWII. The U.S. Army was always a global laughingstock until then.
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Old 01-06-2020, 10:51 PM
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So while technically the President of the United States could choose to end any war at any time and bring home all the American troops in a particular place, doing so provokes the anger of "the blob", i.e. of the huge mass of highly paid, highly influential careerists who were selected to advance and defend the military-industrial complex.
Yes, a president could do that. If at all wise, they would order troops to head home immediately, leaving much gear behind, just before leaving office - when it's too late for The Blob to stage a pre-emptive hit. That ex-prez should probably hide out, too, maybe in Beijing. But they'll die soon anyway. The Blob is not kind.

Quote:
Here's a good article that discusses how they tilt the "conversation" in a pro-war, pro-military direction.
From the article: "The blob is neither liberal nor conservative, it is simply invested in maintaining the American empire in its current form." The "current form" includes spending more on "national security" than the rest of the world combined. Keep the cash flowing! Who cares if much military hardware is unfit for service? Don't bother to repair those old planes, ships, and APCs - buy more! Buy more missiles and artillery that will never be fired in anger. Buy more systems that don't work. It's only business.

The Founders were right to fear standing armies. "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State..." was their ideal. So much for that.
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Old 01-08-2020, 03:35 AM
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Well obviously without the stabilizing influence of the US military, the whole area would devolve into a chaotic quagmire of partisan violence and constant low-level insurrection.
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Old 01-08-2020, 03:54 AM
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(alternatively : "the bombings will continue until peace improves !")
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Old 01-08-2020, 10:32 AM
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Well obviously without the stabilizing influence of the US military, the whole area would devolve into a chaotic quagmire of partisan violence and constant low-level insurrection.
With a chance of genocide.
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Old 01-08-2020, 11:00 AM
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Right after we invaded Iraq, I asked a military officer friend how we were going to extract ourselves when it was over. He looked at me like I was crazy and assured me we would never leave. Now that we have strong bases all around the Middle East, why would we just give them up? Have we ever give up a single base anywhere in the world?
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Old 01-08-2020, 03:29 PM
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Right after we invaded Iraq, I asked a military officer friend how we were going to extract ourselves when it was over. He looked at me like I was crazy and assured me we would never leave. Now that we have strong bases all around the Middle East, why would we just give them up? Have we ever give up a single base anywhere in the world?
Yes. If I remember correctly, we finally left Spain or Italy or somewhere in mainland Europe about a decade ago, confident that WWII was really really finally no-kidding, all done with.

Travel time is a component of war. If I want to hit you, giving you 12 hours of advance warning that I'm going to come do it is a big negative on the surprise quotient. If it's more like 15-30 minutes then getting people back from lunch, everything powered on, etc. is harder to swing.

The more bases we have, the more likely it is that we'll have a short hop to go slap someone in a hurry.

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Old 01-09-2020, 12:57 AM
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Right after we invaded Iraq, I asked a military officer friend how we were going to extract ourselves when it was over. He looked at me like I was crazy and assured me we would never leave. Now that we have strong bases all around the Middle East, why would we just give them up? Have we ever give up a single base anywhere in the world?
I can think of a few bases nearby in Northern California that have been abandoned. I guess we Left Coasters are not hostile enough to justify maintaining base exchanges for our occupying forces.

A USMC light colonel I trained with in rock-climbing and back-country rescue in 1977-78, before Perestroika etc, had a great plan to overthrow Communism. The Commie boot depended on tight control of communications. Samizdat was only a safety valve. Col. Jim's plan: airdrop zillions of solar-powered CB radios across Red Eurasia. A loose flow of commo would surely undermine the regimes without us bothering to bomb.

Has anyone a plan to undermine Islamic states? Ayatollah Khomeni took the Shah's Iran with audio cassettes. Can the effect be replicated now, but opposite? How to convince Muslims their overlords must go? Ah, but if militant mullahs are ousted, will the US foster self-determination, or just go with the usual installation of thugs?

OP: Why is the US still in the MidEast? Because it's there.
  #26  
Old 01-09-2020, 01:08 AM
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I can think of a few bases nearby in Northern California that have been abandoned. I guess we Left Coasters are not hostile enough to justify maintaining base exchanges for our occupying forces.

A USMC light colonel I trained with in rock-climbing and back-country rescue in 1977-78, before Perestroika etc, had a great plan to overthrow Communism. The Commie boot depended on tight control of communications. Samizdat was only a safety valve. Col. Jim's plan: airdrop zillions of solar-powered CB radios across Red Eurasia. A loose flow of commo would surely undermine the regimes without us bothering to bomb.

Has anyone a plan to undermine Islamic states? Ayatollah Khomeni took the Shah's Iran with audio cassettes. Can the effect be replicated now, but opposite? How to convince Muslims their overlords must go? Ah, but if militant mullahs are ousted, will the US foster self-determination, or just go with the usual installation of thugs?

OP: Why is the US still in the MidEast? Because it's there.
During W's time, the US actually tried to distribute communications equipment to people in Cuba, all they managed to do was get an elderly American arrested: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Gross

The invasion of Iraq pretty much killed the aspiration for democracy in the Muslim world. Democracy became a code word for US imperialism and the Muslim world intellectuals who had been advocating it for years were instantly discredited.

I'm in Kabul right now and I was here in 2002 when the US started talking about invading Iraq. I was watching BBC with a colleague back when W was first floating the idea of invading Iraq and I turned to him and said, "whelp, we've lost this war."
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Old 01-09-2020, 07:45 AM
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The invasion of Iraq pretty much killed the aspiration for democracy in the Muslim world. Democracy became a code word for US imperialism and the Muslim world intellectuals who had been advocating it for years were instantly discredited.
This is incorrect.

Ayatollah Sistani, and the century-old Shi'ite constitutional tradition for which he stands, was in no way "discredited" by the American savagery. Quite the opposite. He doubled down on it in the aftermath of the invasion, and has ever since defended it against any and all foreign scheming - in 2003, famously, against the Americans...

Quote:
The fatwa asserted that the United States had no legitimate role to play in determining Iraq's new political makeup—an announcement that made international headlines and exerted a profound effect on Iraqi public opinion. Yet almost no observer has pointed out what was most remarkable about the fatwa—namely, that despite its having been issued by a powerful religious leader who has devoted his life to the study of Islamic law, it was a flawlessly secular proclamation that clearly and concisely established "the people" as the final arbiters of Iraq's political system.
... And, notably, against his fellow Iranians as well:

Quote:
Sistani's concept of welayat-e faqih [...] implicitly rejects Khomeini's conception of absolutist rule of the supreme jurist as an official member of the state, running the day-to-day political affairs of his community. The authority of the marja', therefore, lies in the defense of Islam and the Muslim community, not in absolute power over all state affairs as manifested in its authoritarian form in Iran.
For a frail octogenarian quietist, he has been remarkably active in his attempts to steer Iraq towards real, authentic democracy:

Quote:
Since the summer of 2003, Sistani has consistently advocated the institutionalization of elections and formation of political parties. Perhaps Sistani's most significant contribution is his call for political participation and active citizenship in building a vibrant democratic polity. [...] Sistani has also been a primary advocate of accountability of government and the formation of legitimacy based on the ideals of popular sovereignty as a way to challenge [American] insular plans for a top-down form of democratization of Iraq. He has also issued a number of fatwas demanding that the faithful vote and requiring women to participate in elections even without the consent of their husbands.
Far from "discrediting" him in the eyes of his Iraqi hosts and his co-religionists abroad, this has made him wildly popular.

Last edited by Steken; 01-09-2020 at 07:46 AM.
  #28  
Old 01-09-2020, 08:09 AM
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As stated above , to help the defense contractors.
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Old 01-09-2020, 12:33 PM
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The ideal would be to turn the Middle East into a region like Western Europe, where the local populations have no desire to upset world order. Our stated aim is for our military to provide a period of security to allow these conditions to develop and then let the local governments maintain the status quo.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence that the local populations are moving towards a desire to maintain world order. Most local populations seem to be revisionist in one form or another and favor the use to extreme means to achieve the changes they want.

So we have a lesser unofficial goal of getting stable local governments established which are capable to maintaining themselves while keeping their populations from expressing their revisionist desires; in other words, we want dictatorships.

The problem (putting aside the human rights issues) is that most of the local regimes find that they can more easily maintain their own power by making deals with the local extremists. They agree to ignore the activities of the extremists as long as the extremists agree to direct their efforts outside the country and not undermine the regime.

Our military offers an alternative; we can suppress the extremists. This means the regime feels less pressure to make deals with the extremists. And realistically, it means the regimes become obligated to the United States for the military support they need to maintain themselves.
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Old 01-09-2020, 03:53 PM
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They have quit quite a number of bases in England; some have been repurposed and some are just decaying quietly.
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Old 01-10-2020, 05:09 PM
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Afghanistan is an old country, a proud country, a country which has settled it own problems for centuries in its own ways, e.g. with the governmental system called Loya Jirga. There was a broad consensus among Afghanis that they wanted liberalization, not the Taliban.

Had the U.S. opted to strengthen pro-Afghan anti-Taiban sentiment, and help create a government of, by and for the Afghan people, then Afghanistan might have been a success story. The U.S. would have needed only a token force, to keep Afghani forces trained to fight Taliban resurgence.

Instead U.S. "nation-building" endeavours (and lack thereof) failed in many ways. For starters, contracts were awarded to connected people, often U.S. or Kuwaiti companies and NOT Afghanis. American arrogance meant that Afghan cultural values played homage to America values. Instead of nurturing a pro-Afghan politician, Hollywashingwood imposed an election: Other Americans applauded the purple fingers, but I cringed.

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For Afghanistan, the US has run into the same problem that everyone else has had: the government is too weak to gain legitimacy and implement security.
Is there evidence that Afghanistan must always suffer civil war? Aren't many of their problems due to invasions from other countries?
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Old 01-10-2020, 05:16 PM
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Right after we invaded Iraq, I asked a military officer friend how we were going to extract ourselves when it was over. He looked at me like I was crazy and assured me we would never leave. Now that we have strong bases all around the Middle East, why would we just give them up? Have we ever give up a single base anywhere in the world?
Trump left a base intact for Russia when he bailed on the Kurds. There's video of Russians giddy over Trump's gift.
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Old 01-11-2020, 04:58 PM
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Have we ever give up a single base anywhere in the world?
Clark afb and subic Bay Navy base in phillipines
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Old 01-11-2020, 06:10 PM
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So the Iraqi Prime Minister has told the Americans to start making plans for the withdrawal of its troops.* The Americans have ignored him.

I wonder: Let's say the Prime Minister (whether it's Abdul Mahdi or his replacement, whoever that'll be) takes things one step further, and signs the bill – already passed in the Iraqi Parliament – calling for American withdrawal, and the Americans continue to ignore him even then, wouldn't that be a violation of the U.N. General Assembly's Res. 3314, which under Article 3 condemns...

Quote:
The use of armed forces of one State which are within the territory of another State with the agreement of the receiving State, in contravention of the conditions provided for in the agreement or any extension of their presence in such territory beyond the termination of the agreement.
… As an unlawful "act of aggression"?

(Not that I'd make a real-life difference – if the Americans want to stay, they'll ignore all rules and regulations and stay anyway – but, ah, just for the record.)

*) While also, maybe just maybe, secretly asking them to stick around. It's complicated.
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Old 01-12-2020, 12:02 AM
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Not that I'd make a real-life difference – if the Americans want to stay, they'll ignore all rules and regulations and stay anyway – but, ah, just for the record.
Well, technically it won't be breaking the rules. Because one of the rules say that the United States has the right to veto any UN resolutions it doesn't like.

Last edited by Little Nemo; 01-12-2020 at 12:02 AM.
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Old 01-12-2020, 07:38 AM
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True that.

The Rome Statute of the I.C.C. also condemns sticking around after being asked to leave as an "act of aggression," but then the U.S. aren't signatories to that one.

Also, the Americans have now resorted to straight-up blackmailing the Iraqis, warning that if they keep pushing for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, they'll "shut down Iraq's access to the country's central bank account held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, a move that could jolt Iraq's already shaky economy." So much for respecting the country's sovereignty, the will of its duly elected representatives, its democratic processes and all that good stuff.
  #37  
Old 01-12-2020, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Fir na tine View Post
My grand-daughter posed that question to me the other day. She's aware of the initial reason to invade Afghanistan after 9/11. She's aware of the unilateral decision by Bush 43 to invade Iraq. What's she's finding hard to understand is why we haven't left. What is it that we hope to further accomplish? The ethnic and religious feuds have continued unabated for a thousand years and we are powerless to stop them. The recent revelations about the continuous positive propaganda by our government in spite of their own knowledge we weren't making a difference (similar to The Pentagon Papers), prompted her interest.

I don't have any good answers to give her. What reasons can we provide for the continual occupation of these countries and the never ending death toll among American troops and contractors?
Follow the money.

https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes...085739050.html

Most people are unaware of the fact that the US was in negotiations with the Taliban over an oil pipeline (Unocal) before 9/11.

Sorry, but the US is in Afghanistan because we consider it to be in our geopolitical and economic interests to be there, and to use our power to control resources. Iraq is more complicated because there's the Israeli factor and our long-running feud with Iran (which itself circles back to Iraq). But the bottom line is the same: the government concludes it's in our interests to be there and to impose America's will on others.

People in these countries we occupy aren't stupid. Most of them probably know we're not there to liberate them but there to extract their resources for our own national interests. Additionally, we sometimes use these countries as quasi-democratic/privatization/"free"market political and economic laboratories. We've tried to sell this to the locals by offering the promises of market economies in return, but the reality is that more often than not, we fuck it up because we have little understanding of how these societies function, what's important to them, and what they want. We focus on what we want first and try to figure out the rest on the fly -- you can see the results.

Last edited by asahi; 01-12-2020 at 08:39 AM.
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