Small Wars Journal

More Today by Max Boot

At Commentary - No Time for Defeatism in Afghanistan by Max Boot. ... in areas where we are applying substantial combat power, we are making progress on the ground. This is no time for defeatism. Cited articles: Coalition Forces Routing Taliban in Key Afghan Region by Carlotta Gall and op-ed Dr. Greg and Afghanistan by Nicholas Kristof - both in the New York Times. Not cited was today's NYT editorial Afghanistan Today.


carl (not verified)

Sat, 10/23/2010 - 11:38am


If "...the objective of nation building has been a subordinate task constructed by the American military to achieve the president's higher goals.", I take it that it has become, for better or worse, a national objective. By this action, have we incurred a obligation to the people of Afghanistan to keep the Taliban from coming back and taking over the country; since we have in effect told them that is what we will do? A lot of them have based their actions on the "subordinate task constructed".

Can we prevent AQ from using Afghanistan as a base if the Taliban were to take the place over?

What, in your opinion, would a wise strategy look like, not what precepts it would follow, but what actions would it entail?

And, I understand that you think we are losing in Afghanistan, but is it irrevocably lost?

gian p gentile (not verified)

Sat, 10/23/2010 - 8:34am

Our political objectives given to us (the US military) for Afghanistan are to disrupt, disable, and defeat Al Queda to prevent it from using Afghanistan as a base to conduct further attacks against the United States.

Building Afghanistan into a stable nation-state is not one of the President's political objectives. Instead the objective of nation building has been a subordinate task constructed by the American military to achieve the president's higher goals.

Strategy should determine the most cost efficient means to achieve policy ends. In that sense, Carl, from the angle of strategy toward Afghanistan we are certainly not doing strategy right and if Sun Tzu was right when he said tactics without strategy is the "noise before defeat" then yes we are losing. But we are losing not because we still dont get Coin, or because we havent achieved "whole of government" yet, or because we still need a few more brigades of troops, or we still need a few better generals, or we dont have enough time to make the tactics work. No we are losing because just as in Vietnam we are failing at strategy.


Anonymous (not verified)

Sat, 10/23/2010 - 2:37am

Boot is who he is, and I think Peter pretty much tagged it. Blow hard Mr. Boot, you may even get to interview Gen Petraeus and then you'll be able to write a book as popular as the Obama Wars. As a self proclaimed expert on Small Wars you probably shouldn't confuse tactical success in one area with gaining overall momentum. When I see set backs for the insurgents in great than 50% of the country, then I'll start feeling a little more optimistic, until we'll just keep fighting (of course that doesn't include Max)


Sat, 10/23/2010 - 1:35am

Boot and people like him can be likened to a scrawny twerp who starts a barfight by yelling a racial epithet, then incites it through a loudspeaker from a safely locked room. He pushes his pseudo-intellectual ideology with religious vigor from his armchair while others are the ones being killed and mangled because of the political standoff this country's two parties have locked themselves in over this war due to completely unrealistic points of view like his. The charges of cowardice that he throws about with the word "defeatism" aren't the real cowardice. The real cowardice is exhibited by those that play ideological and political games with others' lives, and both sides of this argument are guilty as charged. The people who have wrapped themselves in the flag as the intellectual guardians of America's strategic interests have no clue what they are talking about and are bleeding us to death strategically and financially. People like Boot are like Reagan to Gorbachev (at least in the popular telling of the end of the Cold War), only supposedly Boot is "on our side." Max, look up from your book, stop selling your small wars bs, and try to open your mind and wrap it around what you're pushing at the grand strategic level. Take that a few steps down the road and see where that leads us.


Fri, 10/22/2010 - 11:21pm

If "losing" means inability to achieve our objective, and our objective is to install a stable self-sustaining western-style centralized government in Afghanistan, the war may well be irrevocably lost. Instead of looking for a better way to achieve that objective, we might want to think about choosing a more realistic objective.

carl (not verified)

Fri, 10/22/2010 - 9:25pm


Your comment begs the question: do you consider Afghanistan to be irrevocably lost?

gian p gentile (not verified)

Fri, 10/22/2010 - 8:40pm

Max's cockeyed optimism toward the promise of success in Afghanistan reads very much like Walt Rostow's unwavering optimism toward success in Vietnam, even after the war was lost.