Frozen conflicts and forever wars

The chaotic scenes now playing out as the Taliban take over Afghanistan have unsurprisingly drawn comparisons to the collapse of the South Vietnamese government in 1975. But there have been many similar instances, though most were a little slower: the end of Indonesian rule in East Timor (now Timor L’Este), the French withdrawal from Algeria, and the earlier Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The common feature in all these cases is the attempt by an external (sometimes neighbouring) power to impose and then sustain a government of its choosing, usually in the hope that it will ultimately secure the support of the majority of the population along with international acceptance. The usual outcome is a long period of relatively low-level conflict, during which it can be made to appear that a successful outcome is just around the corner. In some cases, actual fighting ceases and is replaced by a ‘frozen conflict’, in which life proceeds more or less normally most of the time, but without any final resolution.

Very occasionally, these attempts succeed (the US invasion of Grenada is one example, and I expect commenters can come up with more). But far more commonly, the external power eventually tires of the struggle and goes away. Alternatively, frozen conflicts can continue more or less indefinitely, as with Israel-Palestine.
If successful interventions are the exception rather than the rule, it’s natural to ask why they are so popular? Certainly, the military-industrial complex benefits from war and lobbies for it, but the same is true of any activity that involves spending a lot of public money. Then there are psychological biases which seem to favor both starting wars in the expectation of an easy win and persisting when the conflict drags on.

But learning takes place eventually. After taking part in centuries of bloody conflict, all around the world, Europeans seem mostly to have tired of war. And in the US, weariness with ‘forever wars’ seems finally to be eroding the belief that armies can solve complex problems in other countries

58 thoughts on “Frozen conflicts and forever wars

  1. Historical anecdote: the disastrous Afghan war of 1839-42, a classic example of JQ’s thesis, was opposed at the time by the now old Duke of Wellington, a reactionary imperialist but a great general. Cf. Robert Clive, who turned down George III’s offer to command British forces against the American revolutionaries.

    The divisions in Afghan society that make outside military interventions superficially attractive and ultimately doomed are now the Taliban’s problem: tribalism, warlords and a new urban middle class. As religious fanatics, the Taliban stand for national unity under shariah law, but you do wonder if they can do any better at making it stick than the first time around. They are obviously politically as well as militarily quite skilled, but their leaders are far less educated than those of the established theocracies of Iran and Saudi Arabia. I would not bet on Taliban rule lasting five years, unless it changes radically.

  2. Well as you seem to allude to, this type of behaviour has been happening for millenia across all continents – from the ancient Egyptians, Etruscans, Romans, Greeks, Parthians and across to the Mongols, Aztecs, Incas and so on. So the modern concept of the industrial-military complex is either very old or there is something innate at stake. My reading of history, limited as it is, seems to imply two rules for success: size of the combatants and proximity. So to take your example between Grenada and the USA, different sizes by several order of magnitude and the American supply lines were short. A little bit closer to the USA lies Cuba and the infamous Bay of Pigs in which the supply lines are short but Cuba was backed by the USSR. In which case the sizes were approximate. Sticking with Cuba, the American war against Spain (“you get me the photos and I’ll get you the war” attributed to Hearst) was successful for the Americans because of the supply lines being short for the USA but not for Spain.

    As to why they are popular? I am not sure that is the right question as historically the motivations for such invasions varied. From plunder and land conquest – the Roman republic rewarded its legionnaires with the land stolen from the locals, the Mongols and in the Middle Ages the ordinary fighting troops cared about loot which they were allowed to keep, the Aztecs cared about slaves and human sacrifices. Today it is as you say the industrial/military complex that drives the war machine. The American public is sold on the stop the latest ism or revenge. The Australian public is sold in that we need to do what the Americans want in order to protect Australia.

    Is there hope? Sweden under Charles XII led the great Swedish empire to it’s largest territorial expansion until he ran into the Russians (never invade Moscow in winter unless your name is Subatai) and in the process bankrupting Sweden. At that point, the Swedes stopped being expansionist through war. These days they just use Ikea.

  3. “Certainly, the military-industrial complex benefits from war and lobbies for it, but the same is true of any activity that involves spending a lot of public money.”

    My first thought upon reading this was that the military as a national institution, has several distinct advantages over other areas of government spending, at least in the US. Firstly, it is one of the only areas of government spending that aren’t branded as socialism by a good portion of that country. Secondly, it is not susceptible to privatisation, outsourcing and cost cutting as global military dominance has become a key part of their national identity. Thirdly, the view that “might is right” has never really gone away from an society, no matter how civilised on the surface.

  4. Post War Germany and Japan come to mind as semi successful nation building. Building not from scratch however. I think the success was the result of blowing to hell and gone their industry and cities.
    The killing 20 to 30 percent of the men of fighting age. Here is Noah Smith’s take on Japan: https://mail.yahoo.com/d/folders/1/messages/AKlXXOhFfPzSYRmwDgDikE0Cyi8?guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAB4fIlXbwPLgLmW-Kdn6hKCpJ9BMgoKFuQi5nZVCN3MuWE8jU10RNtZLunmnQy7V0zpAep7lBVERbWodg7mcSumkb15ADhpLKGaXEe8zALs4dDCJddXfp3nSYXEF40l6prR0wM7qDgsu4WnEdjey-lh2WQD-j0EkPbkPkNhU9Psb
    I don’t think the US and Nato were up to killing 20 or 30 percent of the men and there was famously little to bomb to hell.

  5. Our host spoke of historical precedences. Brought to mind reading of a Muslim far traveler and historian of the Middle Ages (?). Ibn K… who wrote of how folks in the cities became soft and decadent and then taken over by the “hard” peoples of the out back. The hard people then became soft and then again were overcome by the hard peoples. I am also thinking of the fate of the Crusader Kingdoms of Palestine.

  6. Dilbert Dogbert: The effect of war bloodletting on support for fascism is heightened by selection. Enthusiastic young Nazis like Gunter Grass competed to get into the U-boats. Wikipedia: “the U-boat fleet suffered extremely heavy casualties, losing 793 U-boats and about 28,000 submariners (a 75% casualty rate, the highest of all German forces during the war).” I don’t have the figures for the Waffen SS or Luftwaffe, but it´s likely that a similar effect held true. Maybe also for the imperialist Japanese Army officer corps and the Spanish Falange. Franco’s personal dictatorship after the Civil War ended was prudent and unadventurous. in striking contrast to Hitler and Mussolini.

  7. All of this suggests some basic rules of thumb;

    (1) Never fight a hot war unless your very existence is imminently threatened.
    (2) If you are forced to fight under rule one, fight TOTAL kinetic war, conventional or unconventional.
    (3) Don’t use nukes, chemical warfare or biological warfare.

    Or to put it more simply, don’t invade any other nation’s territory and don’t bomb them. If they invade your territory, kill or expel every last one of them with few if any rules of war except for rule three above. Allow an escape from your territory but such that requires them to leave much of their equipment behind.

    Gee, the above is exactly what the Taliban did and exactly what the US did not do. The standard outcome followed.

  8. IMHO it’s that people just don’t like change, they like things to continue on as they always have done. We know how things were and have worked out how to cope and survive under those conditions, to have to drop all that and face new challenges, with all its inherent unknowns, seems like a threat to our very existence.

    Change is a risk and risk management has become a tool to preserve us from change.

    Nations invade other nations to maintain the status quo.

  9. It might be just a case of being right for the wrong reasons (seems to happen a bit) but it took me and my kind (ordinary people ) about 20 seconds 20 years ago to compare this to the (American) Vietnam war.

    Maybe it would have been different if Pakistan didnt support the Taliban .It will be interesting to see how medieval the Taliban will get on its people and whether they will sponsor much terrorism abroad .Maybe (hopefully) not so much this time, there are a few reasons not to. No one in Kabul wants them .I think the US has only not been at war for something like 20 years in its entire history. They have 6 or 700 overseas military facilities. Still ,its a big country and there are lots of decent Americans there too.

  10. Say what you will (and should!) about Trump, but at least he broke rhetorically — and startlingly so — with umpteen decades of American foreign interventionism. Even a stopped clock, I guess. (Of course his instinctive nativism, one of the few things about him that seem to reflect genuine conviction, had many other downsides)

  11. “at least?”

    well that’s small step (on melting ice) to “oh ,well he wasn’t so bad” to ” well actually pretty good if you count profit numbers” and how about “cleansing gubmint of all those non-god-fearing-competence-is -in-the-way-floozies-faggots-and ,and,and,and-shiddbrick.

    downsides?downsides?

    shiddabrick.

    Scotland is having a hard look (and they are good at that) at the money flow concerning something to do with golf.
    he really shouldn’t have touched their golf.

  12. JQ – “If successful interventions are the exception rather than the rule, it’s natural to ask why they are so popular?”

    They aren’t popular, not even the “successful” ones. If it were so there’d be no worries about full, free, unbiased, and independent reporting of them. “Popular” aint propaganda.

    – “But learning takes place eventually.”

    No chance of that where “what the public doesn’t know won’t hurt it.”

    International “interventions”/invasions these days see only a tiny segment of the population involved with war making, and only a tiny segment of those get anywhere near knowing comprehensively what is going on and why, but as in all other times they lie. There is “no war but the class war”, and the elite learnt that ages ago.

    Free West Papua.

  13. This should put an end to the “responsibility to protect” doctrine. The abandonment of Afghanistan just shows how “responsibility to protect” is just an excuse to intervene and destabilise other countries.

    But rather than intervene militarily, why not discharge this “responsibility” by taking in Afghan refugees? If Israel can commit (at its founding) to taking any refugee from anywhere in the world (as long as they are Jewish), why can’t the US, Canada, Australia, UK and Europe that collectively have far greater resource and capacity to absorb refugees than tiny Israel did (at its founding)?

  14. @may, in my neck of the woods (i.e. academic ethics), a word like “downsides” is just a mark that something is bad, not of how bad it is. We might likewise say “what Hitler did was morally wrong”, even though that would — understandably — come across as quite the understatement in polite company.

    I suspect we’re probably pretty similar in how bad we think the relevant downsides are in the Trump case!

  15. The West should make no more interventions. These actions have been a litany of grotesque, humiliating and immensely expensive failures, for everyone, Westerner and non-Westerner alike. The West should keep its nose out of everyone else’s business and look to repairing itself. There is plenty to do.

  16. “Enthusiastic young Nazis like Gunter Grass competed to get into the U-boats. ”
    Please provide evidence for this (slanderous) statement.

  17. There is a pretty good chance that the worst Prof I ever had became that way in no small part due to his exposure to Afghanistan. And he wasn’t even there as a soldier or particular long. That was almost a decade ago. Tenured, he’s a gift that keeps on giving now.

    Also got to know a less speculative second round case – a young horrible narcissist. His condition was almost certainly caused by his father´s PTSD and depression after being stationed in Afghanistan – also already a decade ago.

    German Afghanistan occupation costs are estimated at some 2 billion a year. Maybe someone has done a cost calculation that did reflect the psychological damage to the directly exposed soldiers. Doubtful anyone did a calculation about how damaging the second round effects are. This can still go on for a long time. To a non-trivial extent, we still struggle with the second and third generation effects of world war two.

    Even relatively small Exposure to such useless wars of choice is a cancer that does significant long term damage to the societies of the occupier, not just the occupied nation.

  18. Skip this if potential to trigger is high. Lifeline – 13 11 14

    Since 9/11, effects of Afghanistan war have changed from prior wars. A standout for me is emergent (benifit) deficit of “modern medical advances that have allowed service members to survive these and other physical traumas and return to the frontlines in multiple deployments.”.

    “HIGH SUICIDE RATES AMONG UNITED STATES SERVICE MEMBERS AND VETERANS OF THE POST-9/11 WARS

    “Suicide rates among active military personnel and veterans of the post-9/11 wars are reaching new peaks. This report uses governmental data, secondary literature, and interviews to document a suicide epidemic that is emerging among post-9/11 fighters as part of a broader mental health crisis. 

    “The study finds that at least four times as many active duty personnel and war veterans of post-9/11 conflicts have died of suicide than in combat, as an estimated 30,177 have died by suicide as compared with the 7,057 killed in post-9/11 war operations. The report notes that the increasing rates of suicide for both veterans and active duty personnel are outpacing those of the general population – an alarming shift, as suicide rates among service members have historically been lower than suicide rates among the general population. 

    “The report finds that these high suicide rates are caused by multiple factors, including risks inherent to fighting in any war such as high exposure to trauma, stress, military culture and training, continued access to guns, and the difficulty of reintegrating into civilian life. But the study finds that there are factors unique to the post-9/11 era, including a huge increase in exposure to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), an attendant rise in traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), and modern medical advances that have allowed service members to survive these and other physical traumas and return to the frontlines in multiple deployments. The combination of multiple traumatic exposures, chronic pain, and lasting physical wounds is linked to suicidal behaviors. 

    “Additionally, the sheer length of the war has kept service members in the fight longer, providing more opportunities for traumatic exposure, and fueling a growing disapproval and ignorance among the public that has only enhanced veterans’ difficulty finding belonging and self-worth as they reintegrate in society.”
    https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/papers/2021/Suicides

    Click to access Suitt_Suicides_Costs%20of%20War_June%2021%202021.pdf

  19. Kien Choong, to do as you suggest would be to acknowledge, even indirectly, that a measure of accountability is needed. Even a humanitarian based response is avoided; even the suggestion of one lest a response be sought.

    This isn’t how our government and media work, captured and in thrall to big business and big egos as they are. They work by spin and “messaging”. They seek to seem to appear humanitarian whilst avoiding real world actions that deal with issues they seek to seem humanitarian about, without giving away their rather in-(anti?) humanitarian games. So, they blither and wring their hands for the poor Afghanis, but no actual aid will be forthcoming, because the appearance of humanitarianism is directed to a local audience in need of reassurance, rather than to do with focussed help regarding any real world problem.

    Politicians will blither and nothing will be done, because the blither itself is meant to be of comfort to voters, often complicit local verifiers of criminal regimes not people in far off places suffering through our intransigence.

    To even translate rhetoric to action would lead to a backlash, local voters would likely yell, spurred on by tabloid media and politics, that “our” money is wasted on foreign unworthies rather than meritorious locals (like Clive Palmer through tax cuts).

    Politics is not about problem solving in the meaningful sense, but about appearances.

    Smokescreens and alibis for events obscured can absorb millions of other wise productive dollars, but the same money, spent wisely, would ease much suffering.

    ROBOdebt is a local version and this also involves victim blaming as a cop out.

    Off shore, the Afghanis have likewise been portrayed as losers running from manly conflict and thus not requiring of moral let alone financial or ordinance support, But this is a criminal misrepresentation of what is going in a culture much different to ours, the peasants have no more capacity to fight back than the unemployed.

  20. 2032 will Afghanistan’s population be 66m peoplle? With two thirds below 30 years old?

    2012 popn – 33m
    Fertility rate – 6.62
    Median Age – 16.6
    Poverty -36% (now?)
    Literacy – 28%
    Avg hh income – $1,750 – wonkish
    (LA Times article)

    To have paid a comensurate 2012 income to say 20m Afghani’s:
    $1,750 per yr x 20m = $35,000,000,000
    $700bn over 20yrs. 

    BBC article below says: “… total military expenditure in Afghanistan (from October 2001 until September 2019) had reached $778bn.”

    Funded with $78Bn spare + Germany, NATO, Australia etc.

    A bargin.
    And a lost opportunity.
    *

    “Runaway population growth often fuels youth-driven uprisings

    JULY 22, 2012 12 AM PT

    “At 18, he found employment of another kind.

    ““My life got better,” he said, “when I joined the Taliban.”

    “He and his fellow militants ambushed foreign supply trucks or military vehicles, then divvied up the food, blankets and other spoils.

    ““All of the work I was doing made my heart happy,” said Wahid, 26, sitting cross-legged on the concrete floor of Pul-e-Charkhi Prison on the outskirts of Kabul, the capital. “I don’t know how to use tools. I’m not very skilled. So for us, whatever we reaped from attacks, we would keep. It was enough for us to live on.”

    “Afghanistan is a stark example. Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the population has swelled from 23 million to 33 million. Nearly three-fourths of Afghans are under 30. The median age is 16.6, compared with 37 in the United States.”


    In Afghanistan, site of America’s longest war, family planning is not likely to be on the nation’s agenda after U.S. and NATO forces depart. The country has a birthrate of nearly seven children per woman, one of the highest in the world.

    Continued rapid population growth will add to Afghanistan’s chaos, said political demographer Richard Cincotta, who advises the U.S. defense and intelligence establishments.

    “I don’t see any relief,” he said. “It’s too hard to employ this many people and too easy to recruit them into violence.

    “Two decades from now,” he added, “the population will be nearly double.”

    https://www.latimes.com/world/population/la-fg-population-matters2-20120724-html-htmlstory.html
    *

    “Afghanistan: What has the conflict cost the US and its allies?

    “Between 2010 to 2012, when the US for a time had more than 100,000 soldiers in the country, the cost of the war grew to almost $100bn a year, according to US government figures.

    “As the US military shifted its focus away from offensive operations and concentrated more on training up Afghan forces, costs fell sharply.

    “By 2018 annual expenditure was around $45bn, a senior Pentagon official told the US Congress that year.

    “According to the US Department of Defense, the total military expenditure in Afghanistan (from October 2001 until September 2019) had reached $778bn.

    “In addition, the US state department – along with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and other government agencies – spent $44bn on reconstruction projects.

    “That brings the total cost – based on official data – to $822bn between 2001 and 2019, but it doesn’t include any spending in Pakistan, which the US uses as a base for Afghan-related operations.

    “According to a Brown University study in 2019, which has looked at war spending in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, the US hadspent around $978bn (their estimate also includes money allocated for the 2020 fiscal year).”
    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-47391821

  21. The USA, UK and Australia currently going to Afghanistan to “save people” are like an arsonist setting an apartment block on fire and then turning up to “save people”. Functionally, the actions are the same. The Western nations set Afghanistan on fire, destroyed stuff and killed people for 20 years. The only significant thing they added to Afghanistan was lots and lots of weapons.

    Half the warlords the West supported were totally corrupt. The other half were probably in league with the Taliban all along. The weapon funneling must have been huge.

    https://covertactionmagazine.com/2021/08/10/afghan-tragedy-still-relevant-today-as-it-was-analyzed-15-years-ago/

    Parts of this article are spot on. Other parts are completely wrong because it was written on August 10 and the Afghani government, army and entire country fell in five days. That kind of fall cannot happen without total corruption and large numbers not just going over to the other side but already being secretly on the other side for a considerable time-span. There was clearly a whole underground Taliban apparatus already in place right through Afghanistan and reaching right up into the upper echelons of the military, police and government. And the US and allies had no idea. The most colossal intelligence failure of all time.

  22. Planet America reported the dollar cost of the Afghan war at $ 2 trillion – $300 million per day for 20 years .With a further $ 2 trillion in veterans entitlements to come you have to wonder what good could have been done with that if spent elsewhere. — $300 million per day for 40 years. It must be disappointing to see the Taliban riding into Kabul on your vehicles holding your guns.

  23. The collapse of US-occupied Afghanistan and its puppet government is a complete collapse of American intelligence and military credibility. Their incompetence knows no bounds. I used to think they would attempt to hold the first island chain against China (leaving aside whether that attempt would be advisable or not). It is clear now from their own war game tests and from the Afghanistan debacle that their incompetence is near absolute and they could never help Taiwan hold.

    Bye, bye Taiwan. The Americans will abandon you. They will have to do this or else suffer a major conventional strategic loss, including much of their Pacific fleet. That risk is not worth it. Japan will almost certainly rapidly build a nuclear weapon capability once Taiwan falls. In terms of defensive realism it would be necessary to do so. Again this is not to say such a development would be advisable or beneficial in global safety terms. It’s simply to say it is very likely to happen.

  24. sunshine, I used Ikon”s $3.2m.
    @ 10:35 AM

    . ..” To have paid a comensurate 2012 income to say 20m Afghani’s:
    $1,750 per yr x 20m = $35,000,000,000
    $700bn over 20yrs. 

    “BBC article below says: “… total military expenditure in Afghanistan (from October 2001 until September 2019) had reached $778bn.”

    “Funded with $78Bn spare + Germany, NATO, Australia etc.

    “A bargin.
    And a lost opportunity.”

    https://johnquiggin.com/2021/08/16/frozen-conflicts-and-forever-wars/#comment-244988

  25. Rory Stewart, former UK Secretary of State for International Development (who resigned on 24 July 2019, when Boris Johnson became PM), a British academic, diplomat, explorer, author, soldier and politician (2010 – 2019), who is a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs where he teaches politics and international relations, provides clarity to a hugely complex issue on the Afghan situation:

  26. Rory Stewart did well in his two minutes. Unavoidably, a huge amount of history and context had to be left out in two minutes. Why are we “in” other countries? Historically and today it mostly has been because of colonialism, imperialism, neo-imperialism and geo-strategic reasons. In other words, for almost the entire time, since 1492 at least, it has been in the narrow self-interest or elite self-interest of the Western nations to do these things. It has almost never been in even their own cross-class enlightened self-interest or (even less commonly) in broad or global self-interest. WW2 is about the only intervention that might be construed as in global majority interest by the allies for the allies.

    Every other time, scarcely without exception, interventions have been for elite Western capitalist self-interests. Realpolitik and machtpolitik considerations of geo-strategic concern might provide some justification in some other circumstances. Even liberal democracies (so-called) cannot back down to certain machtpolitik and geo-strategic pressures. Appeasement and unilateral retreats and disarmaments would hand, indeed do hand, the parts of the world or now the world to outright totalitarianism of one form or another. But most of the time, war is a racket.

    “War Is a Racket. I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service…. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for the Bankers.” – Retired Gen. Smedley D. Butler, Memoirs.

    The West would now do best geostrategically and economically, to stay out of other countries almost altogether: meaning stay outside of NATO and other long-standing Western alliance nations with closely aligned geostrategic interests, where the legitimate and popular government calls for help through the alliance. To do otherwise invites disaster, humiliation and geostrategic self-damage every time. Not to mention the enormous harm we do other nations time and time again.

    For over 500 years, the West has been mostly the bad guys. It’s about time we became self-honest and stopped giving other peoples so many valid reasons to hate us and to want to destroy us. We are not all-powerful. We cannot fix the world. It is self-defeating and self-destructive hubris to believe so. Every time we try, we wreck a bit more.

  27. may says @ 12:25 PM
    “lest we bloody forget”

    2011. Jeff Sparrow on Greg Sheridan flip flop warmonger.

    …”Instead, you have a bully pulpit from which you can agitate for a particular policy – and, then, when everything you say turns out to be nonsense, you can tip-toe away without even the pretence of a mea culpa.

    It’s no wonder that Australians are cynical about their media.

    Sheridan writes today:
    “No matter what we do, we cannot win in Afghanistan while Pakistan helps the Pashtun-based Taliban in the south. We have known that for a long time.”

    Sorry? He’s known for a long time that the war was unwinnable? Um … should he not have, perhaps, shared that particular insight with his readers – like, say, back in 2010?

    In June of that year, three Australian soldiers were killed in action. And how did Sheridan respond then?

    ‘If we want to win in Afghanistan,’ he wrote, ‘we are going to be there for many years to come, in substantial numbers.’

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-05-25/sparrow—brett-wood-and-sheridan/2730786

  28. Pr Q said:

    If Labor wins in 2022, it will be because of the incompetence of the Morrison Government in responding to the pandemic and because of any positive appeal.

    ScoMo LNP deserves a brick for slow vaccine roll-out. But it deserves boquets for infection control and macroeconomic management. The phrase “incompetence of the Morrison Government in responding to the pandemic” is doing alot of work, although not the kind a non-partisan scholar should pay for. As Pr Q concedes, the ScoMo LNP did a good job with macro-economic management.

    The evidence shows that ScoMo LNP also did a good job with infection control, at least until Delta hit these shores. Even the WaPo, not notably a friend of conservative governments, in not-that-distant Mar 2021, singled out ScoMo’s LNP for praise in “responding to the pandemic”:

    Last week, Anthony S. Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, singled out Australia’s response to the covid-19 pandemic as an example of success. “They really do get the cases almost to nothing,” he said. “We’ve never had that in the United States.”

    Indeed, local transmission in Australia is limited to the occasional, isolated case. There are just 43 people in hospital. With 909 total deaths since the pandemic began, the rate of death per 100,000 in Australia stands at 3.6, compared with 163 in the United States and 188 in Britain.

    Of course when Minister Hunt moved to protect the quarantine system by placing travel bans on Indian residemts who had been in Delta redzone attemptimg to return to Australia he was immediately condemned as “racist”. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

    More generally, the liberal media-academia complex is not trusted by half the tax-paying population for systematicly misleading the public on a variety of ideologically contested issues. Maybe its time to restore public trust by avoiding partisan biases?

  29. If the military intelligence were caught unawares by the Taliban reclaiming Afghanistan perhaps military intelligence should advise against further foreign incursions.

    We’ve wasted valuable lives in Afghanistan based on a lack of intelligence.

  30. Rory Stewart, former UK Secretary of State for International Development (who resigned on 24 July 2019, when Boris Johnson became PM), a British academic, diplomat, explorer, author, soldier and politician (2010 – 2019), who is a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs where he teaches politics and international relations, provides clarity to a hugely complex issue on the Afghan situation:

    Some key questions left unanswered:
    Why did deaths of US personnel in Taliban attacks cease? was this something that only happened after US withdrawal was announced?
    If the US had announced that US personnel would after all be remaining, cancelling the withdrawal, would the Taliban have resumed attacking and killing US personnel?

  31. I am not fond of the USA foreign policy in general but was considering saying that at least their intervention in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina was definitely the right thing to do. Unfortunately even that intervention is of dubious value. They/NATO/Europe stopped the Bosnia from arming itself and vouched protection to its populations only to later deliver it to the enemy for slaughter (wherever they were in control). Finally, when the country was starting to recover, they came up with a ‘solution’ that has left the country ‘frozen’ and paralized, now for almost 30 years.

    As for Bosnia’s neighbours (one even part of the EU), they’re still continuing with their politics that aim at changing borders and gainging territory (despire the ICC’s findings agains them).

  32. J-D: – “Why did deaths of US personnel in Taliban attacks cease? was this something that only happened after US withdrawal was announced?

    The data indicates US military deaths in Afghanistan have continued occurring, but have been relatively low since 2015. Some of those deaths appear to be from accidents – not hostile action.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_casualties_in_the_War_in_Afghanistan

    In Jan 2020, two US service members were killed in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan, with two other service members wounded, as part of an operation with NATO’s Resolute Support mission. The Taliban took responsibility for the attack, the Associated Press reported.

    On 29 February 2020, the US signed an agreement with the Taliban to withdraw troops in 14 months if the Taliban upheld the terms of the agreement.
    https://www.history.com/topics/21st-century/afghanistan-war

    Both Trump and Biden were eager to withdraw US troops, and the Taliban knew it, biding their time.

    Biden delayed the May 1 withdrawal date that he inherited. But ultimately his administration pushed ahead with a plan to withdraw by Aug. 31, despite obvious signs that the Taliban wasn’t complying with the agreement and had a stated goal to create an “Islamic government” in Afghanistan after the U.S. left, even if it meant it had to “continue our war to achieve our goal.”

    https://www.factcheck.org/2021/08/timeline-of-u-s-withdrawal-from-afghanistan/

    Now that the Taliban are entrenched in Afghanistan, and al Qaeda are protected by the Taliban, will al Qaeda begin launching attacks on the US and coalition partner interests, including domestic locations? Time will tell…

  33. Both Trump and Biden were eager to withdraw US troops, and the Taliban knew it, biding their time.

    If the Taliban were biding their time in expectation of US withdrawal, doesn’t that make it reasonable to conclude that a cancellation of the US withdrawal would have been followed by an upsurge in Taliban attacks and in US fatalities? Doesn’t that make it a flaw in Rory Stewart’s analysis that he wasn’t considering this?

  34. It does JD. Biden has said that the alternative to withdrawal was an escalation of violence against the Taliban, with resultant fatalities.

  35. J-D: – “If the Taliban were biding their time in expectation of US withdrawal, doesn’t that make it reasonable to conclude that a cancellation of the US withdrawal would have been followed by an upsurge in Taliban attacks and in US fatalities?

    I’d suggest, J-D, your question is now hypothetical – we will never know.

    Rory Stewart (from about time interval 1:06): “It’s difficult to get the figures, but as far as one can tell, no US serviceman has been killed in Afghanistan for 18 months. No British serviceman for longer than that. This has not been a costly mission since 2014. This was the easiest thing to continue to do for the Afghan people. To do this, to basically hand them over to the Taliban and then say, it’s your fault, you’re all a bunch of cowards, when we pulled out and weren’t prepared to accept a tiny presence. We have 10 times the number of people in South Korea in the US military for 70 years. Do we think taking them out is going to be smart? Nothing is going to happen if you suddenly take them out? This idea that because you haven’t sorted everything in 20 years means you have to just walk away. What are we going to do? Okay, we haven’t sort North and South Korea in 70 years – take the troops out? I mean, it’s insanity.

    I think Rory Stewart puts forward a good argument. I think we (i.e. the Coalition partners) have abrogated our responsibility for protecting and helping the Afghan people improve their lot – we’ve thrown them back to the wolves.

    I think the question now is whether an embolden al Qaeda, under the Taliban’s protection, (and other terrorist groups around the world) will launch attacks on us – softer targets – on our home territories? Time will tell…

  36. I’d suggest, J-D, your question is now hypothetical – we will never know. … I think Rory Stewart puts forward a good argument.

    I made my earlier comment after listening to the audio clip of Rory Stewart. It adds nothing to the argument for you to type out a transcript.

    Judging a choice in advance, it is seldom or never possible to know what outcomes will follow from each possible option, but it is still essential to make an estimate. Should I go left or should I go right? I have to choose, and the only sensible way to do so is on the basis of estimates of the consequences of going left and going right, even though those can’t be certain in advance. The only sensible way for the US to decide whether to withdraw from Afghanistan was on the basis of estimates of the consequences of withdrawing and the consequences of remaining, at a point in time when both were uncertain.

    Judging a choice in retrospect, the consequences of the option not selected can never be known with the same definiteness as the consequences of the option selected. Did I choose correctly when I went left? I may never find out what would have happened if I had gone right instead. Still, it makes no sense to say that the merits of my choice are completely impossible to assess in retrospect, and it also makes no sense to try to assess it on the basis solely of the known consequences of the choice made, with no attempt to estimate the likely consequences of a different choice. To say that I made the wrong decision in going left means nothing at all unless it means that I would have done better in going right, and therefore entails some estimate of the likely consequences of going right. For Rory Stewart to say that the US made the wrong decision in withdrawing would be utterly meaningless if he were not suggesting that better results would have followed from not withdrawing. In fact, he is suggesting just that, and he is arriving at that estimate partly by observing that no US personnel were killed in the stretch of time before withdrawal and implicitly using that observation as the basis for a conclusion that US personnel would have continued safe from Taliban attacks if they had not been withdrawn. But the observation is not an adequate basis to justify that conclusion; and it makes no sense to describe his argument as a good one while refusing to acknowledge what his argument actually is.

    It is necessary to trace out his argument one step at a time, without jumping over steps or taking two at a time, in order to identify the flaw, and it’s easy not to do this, but the result is muddle.

  37. J-D, I’d suggest history shows appeasing tyrants, despots, terrorizers and death-cultists usually doesn’t end well. “Peace in our time” usually is short-lived. Time will tell how the Taliban appeasement will end…

    J-D, do you think it’s acceptable for the Afghan people to be left at the mercy of Taliban ‘rule’?

  38. “NATO transitioned control to Afghan forces in June 2013, and Obama announced a new timeline for troop withdrawal in 2014, which included 9,800 U.S. soldiers remaining in Afghanistan to continue training local forces.” – history.com/topics/21st-century/afghanistan-war

    GM: “J-D, do you think it’s acceptable for the Afghan people to be left at the mercy of Taliban ‘rule’?”

    And is it acceptable when prevention of that came at such low cost to the invaders during the last seven years! Rory Stewart said ,”This has not been a costly mission since 2014.” SEVEN YEARS.

    I mean, the PNACer neocons were nuts to begin with and still don’t get it (just listen to sadly undead HoWARd this past week, and to Wolfowitz on the Switzer shill’s ABC radio program), yet although still in its early days a program for a new Afghanistan had come to cost relatively little.

    Clearly the Taliban hadn’t so much held off from attacking any invaders due to a two-and-a-half-year-on-again-off-again USA&stooges mooted future pull-out so much as that for the past seven years the Taliban were inhibited from doing so by the invaders’ strengthening and provisioning of the Afghan forces and civil society.

    Rory Stewart again: “This was the easiest thing to continue to do for the Afghan people.”

    Instead, the USA&stooges packed up and snuck off in the middle of the night. In short order Afghanistan is now set up to drop from USA&stooges’ consciousness and news coverage with new neocon spin reinventing Afghan recent history where necessary in order to prepare for the next Biden war soon to follow.

    J-D: “(1) Some key questions left unanswered: Why did deaths of US personnel in Taliban attacks cease? was this something that only happened after US withdrawal was announced?

    (2) It is necessary to trace out his argument one step at a time, without jumping over steps or taking two at a time, in order to identify the flaw, and it’s easy not to do this, but the result is muddle.”

    1 Apparently not. Deaths/costs were already decreasing for five years before the on again off again, not eighteen months, but two and a half years of shilly-shallying around a Trump dump. Staying on base more, and/or only carefully mounting reduced operations from behind and above increasingly stronger and better equipped and trained Afghan ground, air, and civil forces would be sufficient explanation.

    2 Rather than Rory Stewart presenting his case what you heard from him was a two minute sound bite! Fine, ask a question, but ask it of Rory Stewart (he is on twitter) rather than “jumping over steps or taking two at a time , in order to identify the flaw” in a rush to a conclusion for but one possible line of reasoning based on the necessarily limited evidence able to be presented by RS and GM earlier. A book from Stewart would be most interesting… I hope he maintains his rage and produces one.

  39. J-D, I’d suggest history shows appeasing tyrants, despots, terrorizers and death-cultists usually doesn’t end well. “Peace in our time” usually is short-lived. Time will tell how the Taliban appeasement will end…

    J-D, do you think it’s acceptable for the Afghan people to be left at the mercy of Taliban ‘rule’?

    In previous comments, we were discussing what Rory Stewart said in the clip you posted. Now you are changing to a different line of discussion. That’s fine, but whatever the merits of the points you’re advancing now, they don’t eliminate the flaws in Rory Stewart’s line of argument.

    You ask me a question about what I think is acceptable. I can tell you that I expect the Taliban to do many terrible things to many people in Afghanistan, causing grievous suffering for years. When I think about that, I don’t think ‘Oh, that’s okay’; does that answer your question about what I think is acceptable?

    Now that I’ve made an attempt to answer your question, I’ve got a question for you: do you think it would be a good thing for Australia to intervene militarily in Afghanistan to protect people from the Taliban? Why or why not?

  40. Just cribbing points from the Wikipedia article (which still seems to be in present tense):

    “Opposition to the War in Afghanistan (2001–2021) stems from numerous factors, including the view that the United States invasion of Afghanistan was illegal under international law and constituted an unjustified aggression, the view that the continued military presence constitutes a foreign military occupation, the view that the war does little to prevent terrorism but increases its likelihood, and views on the involvement of geo-political and corporate interests. Also giving rise to opposition to the war are civilian casualties, the cost to taxpayers, and the length of the war to date.”

    “Opponents of the war have long claimed that the attack on Afghanistan was illegal under international law, constituted unjustified aggression and would lead to the deaths of many civilians through the bombing campaign and by preventing humanitarian aid workers from bringing food into the country. By one estimate, around 5,000 Afghan civilians had been killed within just the first three months of the U.S. invasion.”

    “Opposition also stems from the view that the US-led military forces are taking sides in an ongoing civil war in Afghanistan between its ethnic groups, backing minority Tajiks and Uzbeks against the Pashtun majority of Afghanistan.”

    “International public opinion is largely opposed to the war in Afghanistan. Polls around the world – including a 47-nation global survey in 2007, a 24-nation survey in 2008, both a 25-nation survey and a 13-nation survey in 2009, and a 22-nation survey in 2010 – have repeatedly shown considerable opposition to the presence of US and NATO military troops in Afghanistan.”

    End Quotes.

    There’s a lot more in the Wikipedia article showing how counterproductive the U.S. led invasion and occupation were.

    Finally, from “Afghanistan: No More the Good War” – By John J. Mearsheimer , NEWSWEEK in 2009.

    “The Obama administration spent the fall desperately trying to find a solution. But no
    policy can stave off defeat in Afghanistan. Even with more troops and better tactics, the
    U.S. military cannot decisively defeat the Taliban, because it is a shadowy guerrilla force
    that can always melt away and come back to fight another day. The local population will
    not side with Karzai or the United States much longer, because they know Karzai is a
    loser and NATO—unlike the Taliban—will eventually leave.”

    “The war in Afghanistan has done little to make Americans safer at home, and prolonging it won’t either. It’s been a bad war from the start and will be to the bitter end.”

    And that’s from Mearsheimer, a hawk, albeit an “Offensive Realism” hawk.

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