Conservative Opposition to Afghan War Mounting



First it was Tony Blankley, comparing Obama’s dilemma in Afghanistan to LBJ’s in Vietnam, calling both wars unwinnable and suggesting that Obama take a path different from LBJ and pull out while we’re behind. Now George Will believes it’s time to withdraw ground forces from Afghanistan, while maintaining limited drone strikes and the like.

On rightwing radio, I have heard Michael Savage and several others recently asking, Why are we still in Afghanistan? Is it to make the world safe for opium? What’s going on?

Ironically, many rightwing doves on Afghanistan are still hawks on Iraq. Meanwhile, many on the left believe withdrawal from Iraq should happen soon but think Afghanistan is the good war that must be maintained.

This is a very interesting realignment taking place. The war party is being fractured. It is no longer a binary issue, if it ever was. As Obama’s occupation of Afghanistan increases in size and scope, and, perhaps for partisan reasons, this project’s supporters and opponents begin to shift around, we can see the U.S. warfare state’s vulnerability in a new way.

It would be nice to see the realignment continue, where some generally favor more foreign intervention and others favor less. It would be all the better if this corresponded to general views toward government power, as in Japan, where the party calling for lower taxes and freer markets has recently won a groundbreaking election against those favoring a continued presence in Afghanistan, as well as big-government solutions for the economy.

Update: I see that Randy Holcombe‘s analysis of Japan complicated my own. Although some say the DPJ is more pro-free market and anti-centralism than the Democrats they defeated, they appear to be a mixed bag at best in the domestic arena.

Update 2: Mark Levin, writing at National Review, disapproves of George Will’s call for withdrawal. Levin, author of Liberty and Tyranny, should learn that war has always been, as James Madison suggested, the most dreadful threat to liberty. To see how war has always been the enemy of liberty and the engine of tyranny, reading Bob Higgs is a good starting point.

In particular, Levin believes that withdrawing from Afghanistan after the Soviet invaders were ousted led to 9/11. Well, the first thing to recognize is that the U.S. did not intervene in response to Soviet aggression; rather, U.S. intervention was undertaken with the purpose of inciting Soviet aggression. Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski revealed, with apparent pride, in 1998:

According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

It was U.S. intervention in the first place that helped to aggravate that conflict, bring an invading totalitarian army into Afghanistan, and bolster the fundamentalist Islamist “freedom-fighters” who eventually developed into the Taliban and al Qaeda. Had the U.S. never intervened in Afghanistan in the first place, the nation may have never come under the grips of the Taliban regime and 9/11 would have likely never happened. But this was one of the few Cold-War “successes”—the overstretch hurt the Soviet system, demonstrating that the “containment” strategy had been flawed all along. If we should learn anything from what happened back then, it is that intervening in Afghanistan causes blowback and invading and occupying it can bring down your empire.

Levin also opines, “As for nation-building, there are times to be for it and times to be against it. The Marshall Plan was all about nation-building, but not in the abstract.” For a critical look at the grossly overrated Marshall Plan, see James Payne.

If conservatives truly want to champion liberty and oppose tyranny, they must oppose war and empire. On such issues, they should follow the lead of George Will over Mark Levin or, better yet, read The American Conservative, which was at the forefront of opposing neoconservative warmongering since before the Iraq war, and which has continued its coverage of Afghanistan by recently publishing a great article by the heroic Andrew Bacevich.

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