Small Wars Journal

How Did Afghanistan Become a War Without End?

How Did Afghanistan Become a War Without End? By Robert Cassidy – Modern War Institute

The war in Afghanistan hit the seventeen-year mark for the United States and its partners this month. Soldiers in the US-led coalition have been fighting and killing and dying for almost eight years longer than the Soviets occupied Afghanistan. The reasons for this protracted stalemate are manifold, but the momentum that would bring the war in Afghanistan to an end remains elusive in large part because the coalition has until now been unable to link the grammar of war to the political object it seeks. For the logic of strategy to work, ends should drive means, not the other way around. The value of the political object, or the worth of the ends sought, determines how long and what costs the United States should be willing to pay. In Afghanistan, if those political goals are articulated clearly, their worth should relate directly to the will of the US polity to persevere in the war to a successful end…

Read on.


Bill C.

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 11:51am

"Since war is not an act of senseless passion but is controlled by its political object, the value of this object must determine the sacrifices to be made for it in magnitude and also in duration. Once the expenditure of effort exceeds the value of the political object, the object must be renounced and peace must follow."

– Carl von Clausewitz

For the U.S./the West, the political object -- since at least the end of the Old Cold War -- has been to transform outlying states and societies more along modern western political, economic, social and value lines.

a.  First, from 1993:

"Throughout the Cold War, we contained a global threat to market democracies; now we should seek to enlarge their reach, particularly in places of special significance to us.

The successor to a doctrine of containment must be a strategy of enlargement -- enlargement of the world's free community of market democracies."

b.  Next, from 2003:

Today America and our friends and allies must commit ourselves to a long-term transformation in another part of the world: the Middle East.

Of late, however (and, indeed, as per requirements of Clausewitz's "cost/benefit" analysis/test above?):

a.  The political object -- identified at my "a" above -- this would seem to have been renounced?

"This cannot mean a return to the failed policies of the past. The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over."     And, therefore,  

b.  "Peace" must (soon?) follow?