Small Wars Journal

In Afghanistan, No Deal Is Better Than a Bad Deal

In Afghanistan, No Deal Is Better Than a Bad Deal by Clifford D. May – Washington Times

Two years ago this month, Zalmay Khalilzad, the distinguished diplomat who has served as America’s ambassador to both Iraq and Afghanistan, praised President Trump for adopting “a realistic position regarding peace talks” with the Taliban, “moving away from President Barack Obama’s pursuit of reconciliation regardless of the deteriorating military situation.”

A year later, Mr. Khalilzad was appointed U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation. Since then, he has adopted an unrealistic position regarding peace talks with the Taliban, moving toward President Obama’s pursuit of reconciliation regardless of the deteriorating military situation.

If I’m wrong about this, I’ll be pleased to eat my words. But the evidence is compelling.

Afghanistan is often called America’s longest war. It would be more accurate to say that Afghanistan is the longest battle in the very long war being waged against America and the West by a motley crew of Islamic supremacist groups and regimes…

Read on.


From our article above:

"Afghanistan is often called America’s longest war. It would be more accurate to say that Afghanistan is the longest battle in the very long war being waged against America and the West by a motley crew of Islamic supremacist groups and regimes."

Perhaps we are looking at these "battles" and these "wars" in the wrong way.

And perhaps were are, accordingly, looking at the wrong folks when determining who is "waging" these such battles and wars -- yesterday in the Old Cold War -- and again today in the Post-Cold War.   

In this regard, let us consider that it has been the "transformative"-driven great powers who are responsible for these such "revolutionary" battles and wars.

(Herein Kilcullen noting that, in the face of same, it has been the populations who are "simply strategically reactive, as in resistance warfare ... " See Kilcullen's "Counterinsurgency Redux")

From this perspective of course (it has been the "revolutionary" great powers who have been responsible for these battles and these wars), let us look:

First, at the Soviet/the communist version of these such "transformative" battles and wars:

"The overt attack on Afghan social values was presented, by the resistance forces, as an attack on Islamic values. This was also seen as an attack on the honor of women. The initiatives introduced by PDPA (the Afghan communist party) -- to impose literacy on women and girls -- inevitably raised questions as to the potential role of women outside the the home. This provoked defensive actions from men, concerned with protecting the honor of women with their families, and to also ensure that traditional roles of women within the domestic sphere continued to be performed. It also generated fears that the important roles of women, as the primary vehicles for passing traditional and Islamic values from one generation to another, would be undermined if they were exposed to external and, particularly, non-Islamic values. This enabled the exiled radical Islamic parties to claim leadership of the resistance and to also declare a jihad."

(Item in parenthesis above in mine.)

(Note that in the Soviet/communist version of these such "transformative" battles and wars, the U.S./the West intervened on the side of the Afghans.)

And next let us look at the more-recent case of the U.S./the West's such "transformative" battles and wars; "revolutionary" battles and wars which, from the information provided by Dr. John Mearsheimer below, would seem to suggest that the U.S./the West is responsible:


Trying to build a liberal international order invariably leads to wars against minor powers that aim to turn those targets into liberal democracies. There are significant limits on how much social engineering of this sort great powers can attempt in a bipolar or multipolar system, mainly because they must focus on competing with each other for power and influence. Spreading liberal democracy is of secondary, if not tertiary, importance; indeed, at times liberal states will seek to prop up authoritarian governments if they are aligned against rival great powers, as the United States did repeatedly during the Cold War.

In unipolarity, however, the sole pole is free to go on crusades to make the world more democratic, simply because there are no rival great powers to worry about. Thus, it is unsurprising that the United States has fought seven wars in the years since the Cold War ended and has been at war for two out of every three years over that period.  Such wars, however, regularly fail to achieve their objective.

The U.S. effort to use military force to bring about democracy has been focused primarily on the Greater Middle East, where it has led to one failure after another.  U.S. military forces invaded Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) with the intention of turning them into liberal democracies. The occupying forces not only failed to achieve that goal, but they also ended up precipitating bloody wars that did enormous damage to political and social life in those two countries. The main reason for this dismal record is that large-scale social engineering in any society is difficult, but it is especially daunting in a foreign country whose political leadership has just been toppled from power. The target state will be in turmoil; the invading forces will be dealing with an alien culture that might even be hostile to liberal democracy; and most importantly, nationalist sentiment is sure to increase sharply and generate an insurgency against the occupier, as the United States discovered in Afghanistan and Iraq."

(Note that, in the U.S./Western version of these "transformative" battles and war, it has been the Russians, in this case, who are thought to have: 

a.  Returned the favor and 

b.  Intervened, this time, on the side of the Taliban. 

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:

By getting the "who is waging these battles and wars" information correct, this would seem to be crucial to our understanding much larger question, which of course would seem to be:

a.  Why not only did BOTH of these great "revolutionary" powers lose their respective "transformative" "battles" in Afghanistan but

b.  Why did they also lose the much larger "transformative" "war" that they had waged (a) across the entire world globe and (b) in their own home countries as well?   

(In this regard, and in this case from the U.S/Western perspective only, you may wish to read the full Dr. John Mearsheimer article that I have referenced and linked above.)