The Afghanistan decision is disappointing. I agree with my friend Marc Lynch that it is hard to see how continued US occupation and assault will bring about a good outcome there. What is needed in Afghanistan is state-building, and that cannot be accomplished by an external power wielding military might, it must be constructed from within. Afghanistan is not Germany or Japan after WWII; it is closer to Iraq now, the obvious differences notwithstanding, where our efforts at state-building have yet to succeed and will most likely produce a reignition of civil war. More war in Afghanistan will most likely produce just that: more war in Afghanistan:
So the war launched as a prequel to Iraq now becomes its sequel, with little of substance learned in the interim. To double down in Afghanistan is to ignore the unmistakable lesson of Bush's thoroughly discredited "global war on terror": Sending U.S. troops to fight interminable wars in distant countries does more to inflame than to extinguish the resentments giving rise to violent anti-Western jihadism.
Mencius describes a situation that I have often related to Iraq. He is talking with the emperor of Ch'i, who has just invaded a neighboring country, Yen, but is now facing a possible counterattack by other countries. Mencius says to him:
Now the emperor of Yen tyrannized his people, so you attacked him. The people thought they were being rescued from fire and flood, so they welcomed you with baskets of food and jars of wine. How can you justify killing elders and taking young people captive, tearing down temples and stealing sacred vessels? The power of Ch'i was already feared throughout all beneath Heaven, and now you've doubled your territory without making your government Humane. No wonder all beneath Heaven is up in arms.
Hurry! Send out orders to release the old and young, to leave the sacred vessels where they are. Consult the people of Yen, appoint a new ruler, and then leave. There's still time to prevent this invasion. (2.11; 1B.11)
"Killing elders and taking young people captive," can be understood, in the current moment, as the civilian casualties and black jails the US is responsible for in Afghanistan. "Tearing down temples and stealing sacred vessels" can be understood as the cultural destruction that comes of occupation. These kinds of practices have facilitated inhumane government, which breeds its own destruction. Thus, Mencius offers clear advice: stop killing civilians, close the black jails, quit the cultural destruction, consult the people of Afghanistan, appoint a new ruler and leave....