This post was inspired by this one at Outside the Beltway. I’m sure this is a topic that will be debated with some heat for the rest of my life. What were our objectives in Afghanistan? I think they were
- Punish and/or destroy the people who were responsible for our being attacked on September 11, 2001.
- Establish a government there willing and able to prevent those people or similar from setting up shop in the country again and which would be allied with us.
- Be able to withdraw from the country within a fairly short timeframe, leaving the government we’d set up able to stand on its own.
It was obvious to me from the very first that those objectives could not be achieved. Oh, the first objective could be achieved but it could have been achieved on the afternoon of September 12, 2001 with ICBMs. We didn’t need to invade. We didn’t need to spend 20 years there. As soon as we put “boots on the ground”, as the saying goes, we accepted certain obligations which led inexorably to the other two objectives.
Here’s my follow-up question: what are the ethical obligations of an American general ordered to accomplish those objectives?