Small Wars Journal

Ending the 'Long War'

Ending the 'Long War' by Joseph J. Collins - The Hill

For those of us who were in the Pentagon when it was attacked, the weeks around the 9/11 anniversary are always a blue period. The costs of the attack that took the lives of 3,000 people in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., have been compounded by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with nearly 7,000 U.S. dead, 53,000 U.S. wounded, 1,400 allied dead, and over 200,000 dead indigenous civilians and soldiers in those two countries.  

For many in the Armed Forces, the 17 years of the “Long War” have become an abiding focus of their lives. For our soldiers, it is now possible to die on your 13th deployment to a combat zone. We must adapt our policies to ensure that this doesn’t become a Forever War.

Progress in the war in some ways is trending downward. Al Qaeda is stronger than ever, especially on the Arabian Peninsula and throughout Africa. ISIS has lost its caliphate in Iraq and Syria but hangs on in a few countries, including Afghanistan. Iraq teeters, and the war in Syria continues. Europe and Turkey choke on refugees from these contingencies.  

Iran won our war in Iraq. It has reinforced its role as a regional troublemaker. To date, our new strategy in Afghanistan has gone poorly. Our episodic involvement with Saudi Arabia in Yemen has produced a nightmare of casualties, famine and another opportunity for Iran to spread its influence.

There are, however, bright spots in the Long War…

Read on.


Could COL Collins' understanding re: -- and thus depiction of -- the "Long War;" could these be wrong?

Herein, to suggest that to properly understand, and thus to properly depict, the "Long War;" to do this one may need to all the way back to the time of President Woodrow Wilson?

In this regard, consider the following:

First, from Henry Kissinger:

"What conferred a dramatic quality on the X article was the way Kennan combined it with the historic American dream of the ultimate conversion of the adversary. Victory would come not on the battlefield nor even by diplomacy but by the implosion of the Soviet system."…

Next, from a recent book entitled: "Why Wilson Matters: The Origin of American Liberal Internationalism and Its Crisis by Tony Smith: 

"The liberal internationalist tradition is credited with America's greatest triumphs as a world power—and also its biggest failures. Beginning in the 1940s, imbued with the spirit of Woodrow Wilson’s efforts at the League of Nations to "make the world safe for democracy," the United States steered a course in world affairs that would eventually win the Cold War. Yet in the 1990s, Wilsonianism turned imperialist, contributing directly to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the continued failures of American foreign policy."


a.  A "forever war" to be sure (see Kissinger's "American dream of the ultimate conversion of the adversary" in my first provided item above) but:

b.  One which does not begin with 9/11?

(Herein to note that --  in my second provided item above -- the author thereof, Tony Smith, does not suggest that even the "imperial" phase of this "Long War" beings with 9/11.  Rather, he suggests that this such "imperial"  phase of the "Long War" begins in the 1990's and, dare I say, with Clinton's "Engagement and Enlargement?")  

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:

Thus to see 9/11 from a proper "cause and effect" perspective; this being:

a.  The cause of the "Long War" is "America's dream of the ultimate conversion of the adversary;" which takes on an "imperial" aspect in the 1990?  Reacting to these such matters:

b.  Various state and non-state actors -- thus accosted by the U.S./the West -- begin to find ways to "fight back?"