The war in Afghanistan was never winnable and it’s hubristic to suggest it was

A book reviewed in The Sunday Times today suggests that the United States and its allies, including Britain, could have won the war in Afghanistan. This is a delusion, as history teaches us.

The ghost of General MacArthur still haunts us. He wanted to win another unwinnable war (in Korea) by blasting the Chinese into submission with nuclear weapons. The learning from that misadventure was swiftly forgotten and soon the GIs were off on another mission they couldn’t win in Vietnam. Even deadlier. But heigh ho let’s try again. A continuing mess in Iraq and the return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan were to follow.

In seventy years have they learned nothing ? The problem was that whilst massive power and conventional weaponry worked in Europe in 1940-1945 for the allied forces that is the only theatre in which that worked. The war in the Far East was much more difficult and the island hopping (MacArthur again) was deadly and much more problematic. It took the obscenity of the Atomic bomb to win that one.

The wars of the second half of the twentieth century , and beyond, have not leant themselves to American strengths – bombing of civilians and tank and infantry battles. The enemy has had the good sense to stay flexible and flee to the jungle or the hills and regroup as necessary. You can’t defeat an enemy who won’t come out and fight.

The war in Afghanistan was never winnable and it’s hubristic to suggest it was. We should never have been there in the first place and never have stayed as long as we did. Where have all the soldiers gone – gone to graveyards every one…? 🌺 🌺

One thought on “The war in Afghanistan was never winnable and it’s hubristic to suggest it was

  1. Having read that piece in The Times I can see the point David Kilcullen and Greg Mills are making in their book and I largely agree with its premise but not the conclusions.
    The mistakes the Americans and British made were exactly those made in Vietnam. That is to fail to understand the people they had to deal with. In Vietnam, it was a long war of independence firstly against the French Colonialists and later a corrupt regime sponsored by the west. In Afghanistan, it is Pashtun nationalism that has existed for centuries. The modern Taliban see themselves as the defenders of their faith against the onslaught of the infidel. The Russians began it. Western powers simply tried to end it using 9/11 as an excuse. The American people demanded retribution. Bush & Co satisfied the blood lust.
    America has a simplified view of people and countries they don’t understand. They regard them as enemies when they refuse to submit to American military power. ‘With us or against us’ in the Bush doctrine.
    It’s a bit like the schoolyard bully who terrorises the smallest boy in the class who refuses to submit to his will.
    In both cases Vietnam and Afghanistan had the US negotiated a treaty withdrawal with the people they were fighting the result would have been largely the same as the manifestation of defeat we see today. However, they should never have been there in the first place. Never ever.
    I wonder if Biden feels that as he negotiates with Putin over Ukraine. A country historically ethnically and culturally part of mother Russia.
    It was a failure of statecraft but much more than that it’s an illustration of the malevolence of American culture.
    The difference had the politicians of the day negotiated a withdrawal and were not obsessed about installing a puppet leader so much blood and treasure could have been saved.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s