Endless War, Empty Goals

By David Glenn Cox

The headlines could be from 2003, 2004, 2006 or 2008, and nothing changes.


Search Iraq Blast Site” “US Base Attacked in Afghanistan” “US to

improve Afghan Training.” If this were World War Two, the Yalta

conference would have been two years ago and President Truman would be

planning to meet in San Francisco soon to establish the UN.


wheels and the machinations turn and yet nothing changes; the death

tolls grow and yet somehow the lines on the map never change. How will

we ever know when we’ve achieved victory? How long will it take before

we accept defeat, not so much a military defeat but a defeat

nonetheless? While we maintain military control over Iraq and

Afghanistan, politically we are no better off than the day the tanks

rolled in.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is contemptuously

referred to as the Mayor of Kabul since after almost eight years and

billions of dollars the Afghan army cannot guarantee safety on the

country’s highways outside the capital. A recent study done by the US

military in Afghanistan found the majority of weapons used by the

insurgents were originally issued by the US to the Afghan military.


Karzai recently kicked off his campaign for a second term as President

and perhaps his campaign slogan should be, “Four years of doing nothing

and I’m not half finished!” A recent poll showed Karzai at 33% of the

vote, but the Gucci revolutionary is not worried. “Nonetheless, the

conventional wisdom among foreign diplomats in Kabul is that in a

country of widespread illiteracy and deep-rooted tribal and ethnic

loyalties, the election will not be decided by the popularity of

individual candidates. Instead, it is believed, most voters will cast

their ballots for whoever they are told to vote for.”


here, democracy in action. In the last Afghan elections, voters chose

from the parties listed without listing the names of the candidates.

Not to worry, you just vote; we will fill the names in later. Yet we

point fingers at Iran and question their voting outcomes. Under the US

sponsored election in Iraq, the Unified Iraqi Alliance claimed 41% of

the vote. What a surprise, that was the political party most closely

allied with the US, and while 88% of Iraqis said they wanted the

Americans to leave as soon as possible, a majority voted for them to

stay. President Jalal Talabani was elected President and earns one

million US dollars per month. The Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and the

other 275 council members must scrape along on a mere $100,000 per


Maliki disagreed publicly with the administration in

2007 and was threatened with termination, but it wasn’t the Iraqi

administration he disagreed with; it was the American administration.

His call for termination came from that great champion of democracy,

Condoleezza Rice. Prior to the US Presidential election, one of the

great issues of the day was whether President Bush’s surge accounted

for the fall in violence. The surge coincided with the Iraqi awakening


To fully understand the Iraqi awakening movement, you

must first put on your Soprano’s hat and imagine that you are Tony.

Street gangs are fighting for territory and they are costing you

millions of dollars and killing your men. So you call a meeting in the

back of the meat market. “Youse guys are messing up our business, all

this killing and shootings has got to stop! Big Ahab, youse boys gonna

control downtown. Fat Osa, you get the West Side to the airport. Skinny

Jalal, you get the Eastside. And I’m gonna pay you all 100 G’s a month

for not shooting at me or at my boys.”

“But, Tony, what about the graft and crime and corruption?”

“That’s your problem. Youse guys run your part of town however youse guys see fit! I’m just here promoting democracy!”


it wasn’t the surge so much as the slush fund that quieted the guns. If

indeed we had bought peace it might have been noble, but we have merely

rented the peace. The spoils have been promised to one and all of the

awakening tribal leaders, when in fact there are not enough jobs to go

around. $679,655,334,049 is the cost in dollars; the deaths continue to

pile up, and the number of wounded now equal the population of a small

city. What have we gained? What have we accomplished? In a war that,

according to simple common knowledge, was an unnecessary war, a war of

choice and a war of aggrandizement.

Our goals in Afghanistan are

even cloudier and murkier. What are our goals in Afghanistan? By their

own admission democracy in Afghanistan has been as big a failure as

communism was under the Soviet puppet government. And yet we have

fallen into the same trap as the Soviets. They are shooting at us

because we are there and we won’t leave until they stop shooting at us.

The terrain and topography all favor the insurgents, and they don’t

have to win to conquer. They just have to stay. They have been there

since the beginning of time and until the last Afghan draws his or her

last breath, they will always be there.

We, on the other hand, we can’t stay and our dependence on high-tech weaponry bleeds gold.


who wishes to fight must first count the cost. When you engage in

actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men’s weapons will

grow dull and their ardor will be dampened. If you lay siege to a town,

you will exhaust your strength. Again, if the campaign is protracted,

the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain. Now, when

your weapons are dulled, your ardor dampened, your strength exhausted

and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take

advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to

avert the consequences that must ensue… In war, then, let your great

object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.”
-Sun Tzu, the Art of War

World War One 1914-1918

World War Two 1939- 1945

Korean War 1950- 1953

Vietnam War 1965 –1975

Afghanistan War 2001-?

Iraq War 2003-?


long is long enough? How much is treasure enough? How much is blood

enough? If you fight a war with goals that are illusionary, then you

are fighting with yourself and with phantoms that can come and go as

your mind wills it. We must first settle our mind before we can settle

the war.

(photo by truelovecj)

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.