A large percent of the population of Afghanistan currently faces an epic humanitarian crisis. Our campaign in Afghanistan is both not helping these people and is hindering efforts to aid them.
Our continued “destabilization” bombing is now entirely superfluous, even counterproductive.
Do not mistake my concern for pacifism. The United States has the right to protect itself and, for defensive purposes, killing, though regrettable, is unavoidable. But this unfortunate truth does not make the most destructive strategy the best.
Despite the false solemnity shown to us by our leaders as they do “what must be done,” there are other, better ways to achieve our goals. We are, in effect, trying to depose an illegitimate fundamentalist theocracy by punishing its people.
The Northern Alliance has recently captured Mazar-e-Sharif, but despite this apparent success in “destabilizing” the Taliban, we are still no closer to achieving our goals. We are bombing the Taliban without fully committing, straddling the line between war and police action, much like the “limited war” in Vietnam.
This indecisiveness alienates the rest of the world by needlessly killing Afghans, both directly and through the impending humanitarian crisis.
The Taliban and their sympathizers know this, and that’s why they’ve closed and looted humanitarian programs throughout Afghanistan. If they can hold out until physically removed, and if the United States reacts by intensifying the bombing, then as many as 7.5 million Afghans will die from the humanitarian crisis in motion long before Oct. 7.
We have allowed the terrorists to draw us into war; now we cannot let them kill millions of Afghan Muslims in our name. Soon, thousands of students in Islamic religious schools and millions of people throughout the world will blame the United States for the deaths in Afghanistan, which though initially not of our making, is now unavoidably our responsibility.
Out of both moral duty and self-interest, we cannot maintain our present course anymore. We should only take a more involved military and political role in Afghanistan if at the same time we also work to avert the looming catastrophe.
So far, we have not done that. The death of Abdul Haq, our failed “humanitarian aid” campaign which Doctors Without Borders has said does more harm than good, and the recent special forces debacle reported by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker all point to a failure of our mission in Afghanistan.
It is often said that the Vietnam War proved that America does not have the stomach to fight a drawn-out war. This is entirely untrue. On the contrary, Vietnam demonstrated the enormous American thirst for blood; despite the protests and the casualties, support for the Vietnam War never wavered, culminating in Nixon’s 1972 reelection.
Vietnam showed that while Americans were intolerant of incompetence, they were willing to carry out virtually any war for virtually any amount of time, and this remains true today.
This incompetence, though, is present again in Afghanistan. The same lack of clear goals, the same indecisiveness, and the same unrealistic planning all exist in Afghanistan.
Our leaders have been unable to elucidate our military and political goals while simultaneously trying to plan the most meticulous strikes. You can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs, and you can’t plan how the eggs are going to crack.
Gingerly treading the line between war and intervention is getting people killed and wasting precious time and international support. We must clearly outline our objectives and stop at nothing to accomplish those objectives.
But we must also resist the urge to plan every aspect of the battle beforehand; we can only succeed by creating conditions favorable to our success, both short-term and long-term, and that requires far more involvement in Afghanistan — supporting local factions, humanitarian organizations and the populace as a whole.
Above all, we must stop killing and allowing catastrophe in the name of indecisiveness. We have the means, the moral obligation and selfish need to protect the Afghan people.
Max Kennerly is a junior in Ezra Stiles College.