Shades of Vietnam. The Washington Post is publishing a series of articles which detail what should be an earth-shattering story:
A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.
How bad was it?
“Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,” Bob Crowley, an Army colonel who served as a senior counterinsurgency adviser to U.S. military commanders in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers. “Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone.”
This most telling quotation in the piece is probably this:
“We don’t invade poor countries to make them rich,” James Dobbins, a former senior U.S. diplomat who served as a special envoy to Afghanistan under Bush and Obama, told government interviewers. “We don’t invade authoritarian countries to make them democratic. We invade violent countries to make them peaceful and we clearly failed in Afghanistan.”
None of the key points, e.g. that we didn’t know enough about Afghanistan when we invaded, failed to tailor the post-invasion plan to Afghanistan’s circumstances, that we were able to occupy the country but not to pacify it, are a surprise to me, and that DoD, State, etc. officials have been lying for 18 years, is a surprise to me.
It’s not just that we have learned nothing. It’s that, as long as the same incentives remain in place, the same mistakes will be made.