On Afghanistan

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INTRODUCTION

 

The recent Mayweather-McGregor fight is a good analogy for the United States' ("US") war in Afghanistan.

 

Mayweather, despite being 11 years older than his opponent and slightly smaller was able to win in a TKO because: 1) he knew his own strengths and weaknesses; 2) knew his opponent's strengths and weaknesses; and 3) had a plan for using his strengths against his opponent's weaknesses. 

 

In the last 16 years of fighting in Afghanistan, the US has had none of those things.

 

Afghanistan is a classic "escalation of commitment" error (as they say in Business Schools)  or a "bus ride to Abilene"  (as they say in C&GSC).  We got involved in Afghanistan because SOMETHING had to be done about the 9-11 Attacks and bin Ladin and the Al Qaida Brain Trust were there under Taliban protection. 

 

There were more effective things that could have been done.  Then-President Bush alluded to them  during his speech after the attacks: 

 

"Americans are asking, 'How will we fight and win this war?''

We will direct every resource at our command--every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war--to the destruction and to the defeat of the global terror network.

Now, this war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in combat.

Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes visible on TV and covert operations secret even in success.

We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place until there is no refuge or no rest.

And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists." Speech before a Joint Session of Congress, September 20, 2001.

 

However, instead of a "Back Alley War" (such as the one Israel had successfully waged against Palestinian Terror Cells in Europe after the1972 Munich Olympic Massacre), we attempted to fight a more conventional war, likely as an attempt to mollify public opinion.

 

We needed to be seen as having done SOMETHING.

 

THE US IN AFGHANISTAN

 

For a variety of reasons, that SOMETHING (called OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM or "OEF," which also involved other places, like the Horn of Africa and the Philippines) was not all that effective in Afghanistan.  Many of the old CIA operatives and "Blackside" Special Operators had retired since their involvement, whatever that was, in Afghanistan in the 1980s (almost 20 years before).  While the Special Forces Operational Detachments A ("ODAs") that were involved in Afghanistan in 2001 did fine work, they did not really know the people they were working with and had less of an appreciation of what their capabilities and limitations were. 

 

Bin Ladin escaped from Tora Bora, in part because warfare in Afghanistan has more in common with the Táin Bó Cúailnge  than with the Bosnian and Kosovar Wars that Army Special Forces had recently been involved with.  Warfare in Afghanistan was tribal warfare and tribal warfare is not total war, it is not uncommon to leave an enemy a way out.

 

Bin Ladin's escape made us unable to quickly leave Afghanistan.  Afghanistan became, in effect, an operational-level Cavalry Screen, hopefully deceiving bin Ladin and the AQ hierarchy as to what our plans were, while forcing them to communicate, and allowing us to exploit those communications.

 

At first, the main effort was Civil Affairs ("CA") and Civil Military Operations ("CMO").  The place was, in essence, a "JCMOTF" ("Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force").  While it was the same "nation building" that George W. Bush had campaigned against, such things are a necessary (but not sufficient) part of Counter-insurgency ("COIN").

 

As the Iraq War heated up and more and more resources were taken away from Afghanistan and other parts of OEF after 2003, the fact it was not "sufficient" became more and more clear.  US casualties mounted as time went on.

 

In 2007 and 2008, GEN Petraeus and then-LTG McCrystal's efforts in Iraq began to pay off.  In the last year of the Bush Administration there was more and more talk that something now had to be done about the eroding situation in Afghanistan.  Furthering that discussion was then-Presidential Candidate Obama talking about emphasizing Afghanistan over Iraq.

 

Upon taking office, the Obama Administration increased the amount of troops available to then US Commander GEN McKiernan.  McKiernan was ultimately removed and then- LTG McCrystal designated as the new commander.

 

In 2009, Pres. Obama and GENs Petraeus and McCrystal engaged in a very public  discussion of force levels in Afghanistan, which resulted in an even larger number of troops being sent, although fewer than the Pentagon had wanted.  This was considered a victory for Pres. Obama, who was not a combat veteran and had never served. 

 

Following comments made by aides quoted in an article in Rolling Stone, published in 2010, GEN McCrystal retired and GEN Petraeus became the commander in Afghanistan.  According to noted COIN authority, LTC (R) John Nagl, Ph.D., early efforts in Afghanistan had some success.  However, it should be noted that GEN Petraeus ultimately changed the restrictive Rules of Engagement ("ROE") that GEN McCrystal had implemented.  It should also be noted that some of McCrystal's initiatives, such as "Government in a Box," were not successful.

 

After 2011, when bin Ladin was killed in a raid by Navy SEALS and when the US withdrew from Iraq, it became a question if we would accelerate the time line (set by President Obama) for US withdrawal from Afghanistan.  The amazing 2014 gains made by the Islamic State in Iraq lead to the US abandoning the timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan.

 

Recently, contrary to his campaign policy, President Trump has approved a troop increase in Afghanistan.  Dr. Nagl has suggested a COIN approach.

 

I am not sure any approach we take can succeed.  I am not sure there is an issue there we can address.               

 

That is because, unlike Floyd Mayweather, Jr.: 1) we do not understand our own strengths and weaknesses; 2) our opponent's strengths and weaknesses; or 3) have a plan for applying our strengths to our opponent's weaknesses.

 

WHYARE WE THERE?  

 

Some people say it is because of a gas pipeline that is supposed to be built there.  That is nonsense because: 1) after 16 years it still isn't built; and 2) fracking has made it less than profitable anyway.  Others say the issue is rare earth metals, which  actually are important, but known deposits exist in places which would be far easier to exploit, like the US, Canada, Brazil and Australia.

 

The real reason is less laudable.  It is a combination of inertia and fear. 

 

We went to Afghanistan to do SOMETHING.  We stay there because the security situation collapsed in Iraq in 2014, not considering that our influence with the Government of Iraq ("GOI") also collapsed when we left in 2011 and that the security situation there had really started to improve in 2007-2008 largely because the Shia faction (which controlled the GOI) had won the civil war that was going on under our occupation.

 

No subsequent Administration wants to be accused of "losing Afghanistan" (even if we were not trying to own it in the first place).

 

WHO ARE WE FIGHTING?

 

You often hear that "Afghanistan is "the graveyard of empires." 

 

The reality is Afghanistan is a place where it is not worth the trouble to win.  The British were mauled on the Retreat from Kabul, but that was the culmination of a series of errors.  The USSR's efforts to prevail in Afghanistan came around the time the USSR collapsed, but that was more correlation and less causation. 

 

The Afghans (specifically the Pashtun) are not the "greatest soldiers in the world," but they are the greatest soldiers in Afghanistan, their native land, which they love and to whose challenging natural conditions they are inured.  A reasonable operating hypothesis is that fighting the Afghans is like fighting iron age warriors with modern weapons.  Achilles or Cú Chulainn with an AK or an Improvised Explosive Device ("IED") is not an inaccurate description of the Taliban.

 

This logically involves trade-offs, body armor is necessary due to the lethality of the small arms the Taliban use, but body armor makes it harder for US military personnel to maneuver in the mountains and sustain operational tempo and situational awareness.

 

AFGHANISTAN AS A WAR OF RELIGION

 

In Afghanistan, almost everyone is a Muslim.  Most are Sunni.  Among the Pashtun, local customs (called Pashtunwalli) were equated with being a good Muslim.  However, refugees from the Afghan Civil War and the Russians living in refugee camps in Pakistan were proselytized, by Deobandi Muslims from Pakistan and Wahabi Muslims from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ("KSA").  Many young men in the camps undertook funded religious training to become mullahs in order to support their families.  Some of them became the early Taliban (in Arabic, "The Students.")

 

In the 2008 Presidential campaign, Barrack Obama said (in another context):

 

"It's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

 

It is, however, also a good overview of Islamic militancy.

 

As National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster, famously told President Trump, in 1973 women walked the streets of Kabul in mini skirts.    I can recall being told the same thing about Dijbouti in the 1980s by people in the Intelligence Community who worked there then.  However, a religious revival has swept the Dar-al-Islam since about the time of the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

 

The things that replaced the Caliphate after 1923, Arab Monarchies, Arab Socialist Republics, "Enlightened" Monarchs like The Shah and Secular Republics like that of Turkey . . . have not gained popular legitimacy.  What DOES tend to have legitimacy is Islam.  (Interestingly, you see this in Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers [1965], a film favoring, and made with the cooperation of, an Arab Socialist Movement.)

 

Islam is, not surprisingly since it came up in conflict with and influenced by the Romaioi, Caesaropapist.  There is no natural separation of Mosque and State.  Islam provides both a system of belief and a legal system, called Sharia  ("The Way").

 

Under the Caliphate, Christians, Jews and other Peoples of the Book (such as Zoroastrians and often Buddhists) were allowed to govern their own communities under their own religious laws, for example, a Beth Dins applying Halakha in a Jewish community.  Since the end of the Caliphate in 1923, countries in the Dar-al-Islam, such as Afghanistan, have tended to be governed by a combination of the Napoleonic Code and Sharia.  In many of these countries (notably in Afghanistan) there has been consistent complaint about pervasive corruption in the legal system.

 

The Taliban first came to prominence in the mid 1990s by enforcing Sharia law against local warlords who abused the populace in the vicinity of Kandahar.  One common thing you hear about Afghanistan is that the Taliban run fair courts, that do not dispense justice only to those who can afford to pay a bribe.  Similar things were also said about the Islamic Courts Union that briefly came to power in southern and central Somalia in 2005-'06.

 

In some ways, the Global War on Terrorism is like the religious wars that followed the Reformation.  Things like The Twelve Articles of the German Peasants  are within the spirit (if certainly not the letter) of what groups like The Taliban and Al Shubab are seeking.  As was the case in the Lowlands of Scotland after the Reformation, the religious revival is cutting through old bonds of Clan or Tribe.  Thus, other Sunni Tribes than the Pashtun support the Taliban and Clans other than the Hawlye supported the Islamic Courts Union.

 

TOWARDS A RESOULTION 

 

Out of the violence of the 16th and 17th Century Religious Wars (which were savage, as the 1971 film, The Last Valley, graphically and accurately depicts) came "Cuius regio, eius religio" and ultimately the reason and tolerant skepticism of the Enlightenment.  Perhaps, as with leaders from the Islamic Courts Union joining the new Somali Government, that will happen here as well.

 

I served in OEF in the Horn of Africa in 2004.

 

While there I saw a picture that gave me a paradigm for understanding that war.  In the picture was a young American Army Officer, a Veterinarian, examining a cow with a crowd of 5 to 7 year old Somali girls (residents of the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, also known as the Somali National Regional State ["SNRS"]) watching the Vet like she were a combination of Hannah Montana and Katy Perry. 

 

The Vet had many roles, scientist, professional, Army Officer, citizen-soldier (she was a Reservist, as many Civil Affairs troops are), wife and person of faith.  In those little Somali girls' world, in their culture, one person could not fill all those roles.  In the Vet's culture, before 1648 or so, it also would have been fairly inconceivable for one person (especially a woman) to fill all those roles. 

 

The GWOT is somewhat like the religious wars of the 16th and 17th Centuries.  It is a bloody, expensive mess that may be horrible enough to make Cuius regio, eius religio conceivable in the Dar-al-Islam.  Some people, even well informed people, say Islam needs a Reformation.  Actually, Islam has had several (defined as a return to the text of a religious faith and a wiping away of externalities), starting before the Christian one: Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar's comfortable Mosarab world being rocked by Reformed Almoravid Berbers trying to take control of al-Andaulus in the late 11th Century.  However, Islam has not yet had an Enlightenment, in part because it has never had a religious war like The Thirty Years War, which ended with wolves wandering the streets of Paris.

 

Thinking in those terms, the United States has never been more than a collaterally damaged by-stander in a civil war about the future of Islam, which is the world's fastest growing religion.  Our presence or absence (as in Somalia where elements of the ICU ultimately joined the newly restored national government) is not going to make a great difference.           

 

 

 

 

Comments

Shane Laing Added Sep 7, 2017 - 5:07pm
Why are we there?  The fact that opium poppy production goes into more than 90% of heroin worldwide may have something to do with it. Destroy the poppies heroin, production goes down. I know from colleagues who completed tours in Afganistan they were trying to encourage farmers to grow corn, wheat etc but were told by the farmers that the terrorists come down from the mountains and threaten to kill their families if they don't grow poppies what choice do they have.
John G Added Sep 7, 2017 - 8:11pm
the terrorists come down from the mountains and threaten to kill their families if they don't grow poppies
LOLz. The CIA and the JSOC don't come down from the mountains.
 
John G Added Sep 7, 2017 - 8:15pm
The US went into Afghanistan primarily to build the TAPI pipeline and reestablish the opium /heroin trade.
The future geostrategy is to Balkanise the region, breaking up Pakistan and parts of Iran. And to keep the Chinese from meaningful land sea access in Pakistan.
All the Bin Laden stories are nonsense.
Whoever they killed in Pakistan recently wasn't OBL.
Shane Laing Added Sep 7, 2017 - 9:09pm
The CIA and JSOC, must admit I thought that was funny.
John G Added Sep 7, 2017 - 10:02pm
If you think anyone but government/military can run the sort of logistics for the heroin trade into and out of Afghanistan, I've got a nice bridge over Sydney Harbour going cheap just for you.
Saint George Added Sep 8, 2017 - 4:09am
LOLz. The CIA and the JSOC don't come down from the mountains.
 
LOLz. For whom do you shill, skidmark-g? Russia? Palestinian terror groups? Do tell.
 
Curious minds want to know.
John G Added Sep 8, 2017 - 4:23am
Not for the human organ traffickers that you do Corey.
Saint George Added Sep 8, 2017 - 4:39am
Skidmark-john-g (named for "Toilet G" on the Ground Floor of the brothel where his mother birthed the miscreant [father unknown]) trolls this site because he is a shill for Russia and Palestinian terror organizations that commit, or enable, atrocities against innocent people.
 
Who is your ideological compliance officer, skid-mark-g? Do tell.
 
Curious minds want to know.
Bill Kamps Added Sep 8, 2017 - 6:53am
Whatever the reason we are there, whether it is to support the opium trade, or for their minerals, or to keep the MIC making bullets, none of the reasons are good a reason to be spending the money we spend and sending soldiers to die there.
 
The government obviously cant tell us why were are there, none of their explanations make any sense, and it cant tell us what "victory" looks like so we can reasonably expect to leave some day.
 
We should just demand we leave.
John Minehan Added Sep 8, 2017 - 7:04am
"The future geostrategy is to Balkanise the region, breaking up Pakistan and parts of Iran. And to keep the Chinese from meaningful land sea access in Pakistan."
 
The PRC is NOT landlocked.
 
Further, the PRC has a naval Base in Djibouti (as the US has a base, as does France, on the Red Sea.  even before that, the PRC was part of the international effort against the Somali pirates.
 
Beyond that, One Belt/One Road goes beyond what you are talking about. 
John Minehan Added Sep 8, 2017 - 8:07am
This is interesting on Iraq.
 
Back in 2009, I talked to an old friend, a member of Petraeus's Brain Trust, who said the situation in Iraq was well in hand.  I asked him, if we went to Anbar province at that moment and found people who had a dispute over title to land or a herd of goats, would they take it to a government court for adjudication or to a Sharia Court that had come in with AQM?
 
He said if I knew to ask that question, I already knew the answer. 
John Minehan Added Sep 8, 2017 - 8:09am
In 2014, we saw what that answer was.
John Minehan Added Sep 8, 2017 - 9:18am
I wonder if the Human Terrain Teams ("HTTs") or the Subject Matter Experts on Afghanistan GEN (R) McCrystal was assembling to deal with Afghanistan ever came to fruition?
 
Our problem with these kinds of wars, is that we have always fought 16 one year wars instead of one 16 year war. 
John Minehan Added Sep 8, 2017 - 9:29am
Another problem we have is not knowing HOW to build another nation.  CA and CMO projects are usually too "Top Down," as with CPA trying to turn then power on in Iraq when there were other problems that were more serious for more people.
Bill Kamps Added Sep 8, 2017 - 11:36am
John, we are not really fighting a war, in the normal sense.  That is because there is really no way to describe what winning is.  Therefore all we can really do is try to kill a bunch of the other side, while minimizing our  casualties.  That is not fighting a war, that is just  prolonging a stalemate.
 
We claim we aren't there for nation building, and yet that appears to be why we are there.  We appear to want to build a nation that we  can then control.  However, we dont understand the people that live there, and they are just as likely to sympathize with the "enemy" as with us. 
 
In a land locked country, halfway around the world, this makes the logistics almost impossible.  The Russians couldnt  deal with the  situation and their logistics were far easier than ours.
John Minehan Added Sep 8, 2017 - 1:18pm
Nation building is a necessary (but insufficient) part of Low Intensity Conflict/Small wars in general and Counter Insurgency ("COIN") in particular.
 
Part of the problem ( as you suggest) is that we try to build nations on our template.  In Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority ("CPA") tried vainly to get the power turned back on when there were a lot of other issues, that would have been easier to solve, that were really vexing most people.  There is a tendency 9of course not universal) to want to do projects that yield a photo op, rather than lower key things that have a broader pay-off.
 
CA projects need to have a "targeting process" like the FM 6-20-10 process for lethal fires and jamming.  FM 3-24 alludes to that, but does not spell it out the last I read it.
Dino Manalis Added Sep 8, 2017 - 2:59pm
Afghanistan and Pakistan remain cradles of terrorist activity, we should have a base there, Karzai asked for one, while Afghan and Pakistani troops ought to deploy along their border with U.S. drones overhead to stop the Taliban from crossing, they may have tunnels within the mountains.  Pakistan has to allow us to chase them in Waziristan, too, for military victory to be strategically possible.
John G Added Sep 8, 2017 - 4:14pm
Minehan. Clearly I didn't say China is landlocked. Strawman argument is the best you can do?
Your problem is your military mindset. You have no ethics, no morality and no humanity.
America will destroy humanity because people like you will do the bidding of the insane ruling class for pieces of silver.
John Minehan Added Sep 8, 2017 - 5:23pm
"Afghanistan and Pakistan remain cradles of terrorist activity, we should have a base there, Karzai asked for one, while Afghan and Pakistani troops ought to deploy along their border with U.S. drones overhead to stop the Taliban from crossing, they may have tunnels within the mountains.  Pakistan has to allow us to chase them in Waziristan, too, for military victory to be strategically possible."
 
The Taliban gave bin Ladin sanctuary, but I think at this point Jihad is more a state of mind than a place.  IS made the world safe for disaffected loners to act out since 2014 and I think that is the movement's future.
 
The Taliban will almost certainly have its place in Afghanistan's future, no less than members of the Islamic Courts Union  now are part of the new Somali government and no less than Vietnam being led for a long time by people who were part of ho's inner circle.  
John Minehan Added Sep 8, 2017 - 5:25pm
"Because the US is a war state and a war people. It is perpetually at war, in multiple theaters simultaneously. And, as is increasingly becoming clear to some white people, through its militarized "police force" and the rampant paramilitaries it pays, it is at war against its own people, of which the continuing murders of black people in cold blood and the state-sponsored terrorism against Native Americans in Standing Rock are mere recent examples.
"Trump" is irrelevant to this inexorability."
 
Yeah.
 
But by the same token, this is getting us nowhere.  What's the point?  
George N Romey Added Sep 8, 2017 - 10:20pm
As long as the young of the poor are sent to fight no one will give a damn.  Send a few senators' sons and see what happens.
John Minehan Added Sep 8, 2017 - 10:26pm
Well, Gen (Ret.) Kelly's son was killed there, when his father was a Flag Officer and that is where Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire in the line of duty.  Still, it continues . . . .
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 9, 2017 - 12:52pm
Shane
 
THAT'S IT. Business has to go on....
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 9, 2017 - 12:55pm
John
 
Nation building
 
....is accepted for and by the people who LIVE THERE. Everything else can not be commented politely.
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 9, 2017 - 12:57pm
Ranjeet
 
Right on.
Katharine Otto Added Sep 9, 2017 - 12:58pm
John,
Violence begets more violence.  The US is masterful at self-sabotage and self-delusion.  We have no right to be in Afghanistan.  Look at our own version of "state-building," including the "state" of our own society, to see why we those who don't hate and fear us are laughing at us.
John Minehan Added Sep 9, 2017 - 2:01pm
"Violence begets more violence."
That is one of the things (there are many) that make Low Intensity Conflict ("LIC")/Small Wars/ COIN so difficult.
 
Dead civilians are "collateral damage" to the Operations Research/Statistical Analysis ("ORSA") guy trying to figure out what is going on, but, unless he figures out the set: "collateral damage" = the set: "local people's dead and maimed family and friends," he never will figure it out.
 
On the other hand, if the Rules of Engagement ("ROE") are incredibly strict, you will take more casualties, which means: 1) you demonstrate exploitable weaknesses to the locals (think in terms of the ending of the 1975 film, The Man Who Would Be King);  and 2) your own troops may become hostile  . . . and even brutal . . . to the locals in reprisals.
 
Ideally (this did not happen in Iraq in 2003), you get control and either there is no violence or it fails, diminishing the insurgents in the eyes of the locals.  (We had some success with that in the Horn and the US had a lot of success with that in Bosnia and Kosovo).
 
I'm not sure,  "We have no right to be in Afghanistan," means anything. 
 
The Taliban sheltered bin Ladin and he planned a series of attacks on the US, executed under the aegis of AQ in Afghanistan.  Further, groups in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance and others, asked us to intervene.  Under International Law, we have every right to be there. 
 
This is especially true where AQ is fairly analogous to "Pirates," whom International Law affords few rights.  compounding all of this is the fact that the Taliban Government was recognized by relatively few other entities making Afghanistan "ungoverned space" which has few protections diplomatically, as US History attests.
 
On the other hand, being there does nothing for us and does far less for the Afghans.
 
The best result might be the Taliban coming to power with other factions and forming an Islamic government acceptable to their own people and giving non-state actors, of any kind, a wide berth.
 
That won't happen unless we leave, so we should.             
John Minehan Added Sep 9, 2017 - 2:35pm
"John
 
Nation building
 
....is accepted for and by the people who LIVE THERE. Everything else can not be commented politely."
 
If a nation decides to get involved with COIN, it has signed up for "Nation Building."  Which is why it should not sign up for COIN if there are any other alternatives. 
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 9, 2017 - 3:54pm
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 9, 2017 - 3:58pm
BTW: BRICS is an alternative. That makes nation building outside of the hegemon USA. Maybe. But history shows: One hegemon (empire) stays for a while, then it gets buried by history. That planet is billions of years old and he will still exist when we little selfish ants are gone.
John G Added Sep 9, 2017 - 5:03pm
I'm not sure,  "We have no right to be in Afghanistan," means anything. 
 
The Taliban sheltered bin Ladin and he planned a series of attacks on the US, executed under the aegis of AQ in Afghanistan.  Further, groups in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance and others, asked us to intervene.  Under International Law, we have every right to be there. 
As I said earlier, no ethics, no morals and no humanity. And no truth.
The US invasion was never legal and the occupation is an ongoing crime.
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 9, 2017 - 5:09pm
Was there any US intervention legal in the last 5 years ? Oh sure. Because the biggest power doesn't care about "legal". The school bully doesn't ask the weaker ones if it's ok to smack a guy.
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 9, 2017 - 5:09pm
hmm....sorry, 70 years. Typo.
John Minehan Added Sep 9, 2017 - 6:26pm
"The US invasion was never legal and the occupation is an ongoing crime."
 
The first part of your comment is factually wrong, as set forth above. 
 
Further, the invasion was sanctioned both by NATO and the UN and NATO (and other US allies, including Australia) are in Afghanistan as well as the US. The ISAF/Resolute Support Mission presence is authorized by a sovereign government, which has been subject to subsequent elections monitored by international bodies. 
 
As to the second point, being "legal" says nothing about morality.
 
Neither "legal" nor "morality" say anything about what is most effective.
 
A continuing US presence in Afghanistan does neither the US nor Afghanistan any good.  The Resolute Support Mission might (or might not) be a different case. 
John Minehan Added Sep 9, 2017 - 6:29pm
"Was there any US intervention legal in the last 70 years ? Oh sure. Because the biggest power doesn't care about "legal". The school bully doesn't ask the weaker ones if it's ok to smack a guy."
 
I think you are conflating "legal," "moral" and "effective."
 
Those are quite different things. 
John Minehan Added Sep 9, 2017 - 6:39pm
"BTW: BRICS is an alternative. That makes nation building outside of the hegemon USA. Maybe. But history shows: One hegemon (empire) stays for a while, then it gets buried by history. That planet is billions of years old and he will still exist when we little selfish ants are gone." 
 
I think at least some of them are the next dominant power.
 
Could work out better, the PRC particularly (in prior incarnations) was a hegemonic global power in a non-"global" world and may handle the role better.  (On the other hand, talk to Koreans and Vietnamese about how they were then.)
 
"One Belt/One Road" has some potential to re-shuffle the deck. 
 
On the other hand,  Chinese history tends to be a cycle of very emphatic booms and busts (possibly a function of population pressures they have had since the 1st Millennium BCE). 
 
The safest bet is to say the PRC will dominate the early 21st Century, either as a global hegemon or as the biggest basket case in world history. 
John G Added Sep 9, 2017 - 7:10pm
Nope. The UN resolution made no mention of invasion or occupation. The Taliban were prepared to hand over OBL when the US met the legal conditions that any country is obliged to follow.
What NATO says is irrelevant as it is a belligerent.
Getting an invitation from your puppet/hostage government wouldn't stand up in any court.
Your very military sophistry won't work.
US exceptionalism is just racism.
John Minehan Added Sep 9, 2017 - 7:24pm
"Getting an invitation from your puppet/hostage government wouldn't stand up in any court."
 
With any luck, you are neither a lawyer nor a diplomat.
 
the UN Resolution (actually, there are several) does not mention an "occupation" because there isn't one. 
John G Added Sep 9, 2017 - 7:58pm
Poor attempt at sophistry. Of course there is an occupation.
I wouldn't expect any morality or ethics from the military.
Nor any independent thought.
John Minehan Added Sep 9, 2017 - 10:14pm
"Was there any US intervention legal in the last 5 years ? Oh sure. Because the biggest power doesn't care about 'legal.' The school bully doesn't ask the weaker ones if it's ok to smack a guy."
 
Great powers tend to be very concerned with such things.
 
Of course it is legal, however, various great powers have had a disproportionate impact on the development of formal and customary international law. 
 
The obvious counter argument is the Nuremburg Trials, "I was just following orders" is no defense.  (Which is a very big part of US Military Law/ Uniform Code of Military Justice ["UCMJ," a Soldier is ONLY bound to obey LAWFUL orders and is BOUND to prevent unlawful orders from being obeyed and/or reporting the same).
 
On the other hand, as some legal scholars contend, Nuremburg, to at least some extent, substituted the victor's law for that of the vanquished, after the fact. 
 
With the Reich, no one thinks that was inappropriate, but it sets a potentially dangerous precedent.    
John G Added Sep 10, 2017 - 12:14am
ONLY bound to obey LAWFUL orders and is BOUND to prevent unlawful orders from being obeyed and/or reporting the same).
Tell that to Chelsea Manning.
Or Pat Tillman's family.
John Minehan Added Sep 10, 2017 - 12:56am
"Or Pat Tillman's family."
 
Someone didn't like the guidance from on high on Tillman.  DoD did an investigation, sua sponte, so someone let that one out of the bag, as they should have.
 
"Manning."
 
REALLY different case. 
 
If the BDE S-2 and the BDE S-2 Sergeant were doing what they needed to do, Manning would never have deployed. 
 
Who brings a suicidal, depressive Soldier to a Combat Zone; who lets a suicidal, depressive Soldier (or anyone else) bring a Thumb drive into a SCIF?
 
 
John G Added Sep 10, 2017 - 3:21am
Pathetic. You think you're above the law. You're just a bunch of standover merchants.
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Sep 10, 2017 - 1:54pm
John
 
I'm not conflicting anything. By saying legal I mean according to the UN charta. Therefore it was and is not legal. I don't even talk about morals or ethnics.
 
Further, the invasion was sanctioned both by NATO and the UN and NATO (and other US allies, including Australia) are in Afghanistan as well as the US.
 
When your boss gives you the orders do you refuse ? Mostly not, right ? That's the case with the US and the rest. You should know that ;-)
 
BTW: These organisations are headed by the US, no matter what. As are World Bank, IMF and other mafia groups.
Katharine Otto Added Sep 10, 2017 - 4:11pm
John,
 
Presuming we are at war in Afghanistan, and the US Congress did not declare war, then our participation is illegal, no matter what the UN or other quasi-legal bodies claim.
 
Despite all the back-and-forths regarding technicalities, you seem to be saying the war in Afghanistan is just plain stupid, so we should get out. Osama bin Laden is dead.  What's the latest excuse for our stupidity?  "Duhhhh . . . well, we're all hooked on opium."  "Duhhhh . . . we're all too smart to communicate with each other, so we can't agree on anything, including what not to do."
John Minehan Added Sep 10, 2017 - 4:22pm
"When your boss gives you the orders do you refuse ? Mostly not, right ? That's the case with the US and the rest. You should know that ;-)"
 
There are moments when the conversation goes like this:
 
LTC: "Do this LT."
 
LT:  "Yes, sir, I will . . , but what I will do immediately after is call The Fraud, Waste & Abuse Hotline, since that is misappropriation."
 
LTC:  "Are you threatening me, LT?"
 
LT:  "No, sir.  It would be a threat if I weren't really going to call the Hotline."
 
Sometimes, things don't go exactly how they say they should in the Basic Course. 
John Minehan Added Sep 10, 2017 - 4:43pm
"Presuming we are at war in Afghanistan, and the US Congress did not declare war, then our participation is illegal, no matter what the UN or other quasi-legal bodies claim."
 
Well, there was:
 
"The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), Pub. L. rel="nofollow">107-40, codified at 115 Stat. 224 and passed as rel="nofollow">S.J.Res. 23 by the United States Congress on September 14, 2001, authorizes the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the attacks on September 11, 2001 and any 'associated forces.' The authorization granted the President the authority to use all 'necessary and appropriate force' against those whom he determined 'planned, authorized, committed or aided' the September 11th attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups."
 
I think you can make the argument that it is overbroad, but there is no template for a declaration of war in the Constitution.  AUMF is somewhat analogous to the authorization by Congress of Pres. Jefferson using force against the Tripolitanian Pirates in the 1st Barbary War.
 
However, Afghanistan is a colossal waste of effort.
John G Added Sep 10, 2017 - 5:09pm
It's crime against humanity. 
Who cares about your 'effort'?
John Minehan Added Sep 10, 2017 - 5:22pm
There is a great novel by James Jones, called From Here To Eternity,  in which one of the main characters , 1SG Milton Warden, says that his brother, a Catholic Priest, told him the only real sin is wasted effort.  I've been thinking about that line for years . . . and it seems to be a very valid insight.   
John G Added Sep 10, 2017 - 9:15pm
Yeah, so much easier than thinking about all the people you've killed and maimed for 30 pieces of silver.
Katharine Otto Added Sep 10, 2017 - 10:30pm
John,
 
If the only sin is wasted effort, I'm a terrible sinner. What about all those things that don't work?  I could claim that going to medical school and residency was wasted effort (and money) since the "health care industry" prevented me from doing the things I was trained to do.  Is playing tennis wasted effort?  What do you have to show for it when you're done?
 
We all know the US government can rationalize anything it wants to do, so laws are irrelevant.  If we were still following the Constitution, we would still be using gold and silver currency and the Fed would not exist.  
 
John G Added Sep 10, 2017 - 10:49pm
KO The constitution as far as I am aware does not define money as being (only) gold and/or silver. Nor does it preclude a central payments system for banks that I know of.
If gold and/or silver were the only money, you'd still be in the dark ages.
Saint George Added Sep 10, 2017 - 10:58pm
If gold and/or silver were the only money, you'd still be in the dark ages.
 
Right, sort of like Zimbabwe is in the dark ages because it uses only gold and silver as money . . . oh, wait, Zimbabwe uses only worthless paper and ink.
 
Never mind.
John G Added Sep 10, 2017 - 11:20pm
Godwins Law - economic collary
"As an online economic discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Zimbabwe or the Weimar Republic approaches one."

There are good posts that explain the situation, if you want to know more about Zimbabwe or Weimar.

Otherwise, I'm afraid you just lost the debate.
Saint George Added Sep 11, 2017 - 2:01am
Otherwise, I'm afraid you just lost the debate.
 
Oh, there was never any debate, you useless turd.
 
And we want YOU to explain Zimbabwe, not some other shill at some other pro-terror site. LOLzZZ! You're such a fraud. I gotta ask you: 
 
Whom did you fuck to get your current job of trolling this site? You're an embarrassment even to the pro-terror, pro-decapitation cult to which you belong.
John G Added Sep 11, 2017 - 2:34am
some other shill at some other pro-terror site.
Good god you are pathetic.
Saint George Added Sep 11, 2017 - 2:49am
I think I hear an echo, skid-mark-g. Are you yelling from down deep in a dark, dank, Turkish toilet? 
 
From down there, could you, please, EXPLAIN ZIMBABWE? C'mon. Give it a try, you phony. Do tell.
 
Curious minds want to know.
John G Added Sep 11, 2017 - 3:00am
You brought up Zimbabwe for some unknowable reason. It has nothing to do with gold or silver.
You foul mouthed little racist.
John G Added Sep 11, 2017 - 3:01am
"As an online economic discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Zimbabwe or the Weimar Republic approaches one."
Saint George Added Sep 11, 2017 - 3:12am
You brought up Zimbabwe for some unknowable reason.
 
The reason isn't "unknowable" had you conferred with the other, earlier skid-mark-john-g before taking over his position here as "Chief Turd and Shill." You guys have to communicate better.
 
I brought up Zimbabwe for the same reason the other illiterate John-g used to bring up Japan ("Explain Japan!").
 
You claimed that a country using gold and silver as circulating currency would be in the dark ages . . . suggesting that paper and ink brings economic progress. Yet Zimbabwe has circulated nothing but paper and ink and is in the dark ages with raging hyperinflation. From reports, Zimbabwe paper currency is OK for wiping one's butt but not that good for burning since even fire doesn't like it.
 
So if MMT is a correct model, you have to explain why printing money failed there.
John G Added Sep 11, 2017 - 3:47am
I don't have to do anything of the sort. I've given you a link to an academic paper on Zimbabwe numerous times.
And you still can't explain Japan.
225% 'debt' to gdp ratio. JCB bond issues always oversubscribed at close to zero interest rate.
Can't happen under your model.
John G Added Sep 11, 2017 - 3:52am
And btw Corey, Zimbabwe uses US$ and SA Rand now.
This has nothing to do with MMT.
The USA has an MMT monetary system. The UK too. Japan, yep. Canada, indeed. Australia yeah mate. NZ , cher bro.
Saint George Added Sep 11, 2017 - 5:01am
I've given you a link to an academic paper on Zimbabwe numerous times.
 
I want you to explain it in your wonderful words.
 
As for Japan, skiddy, I've already answered the other, illiterate skid-mark-g's exhortation many times. Look it up on earlier posts.
 
And btw Corey, 
 
Who's Corey?
 
Zimbabwe uses US$ and SA Rand now.
 
For a good reason: their own people will no longer accept their own native currency. You can thank government printing presses for that.
 
[BEGIN EXCERPT[
Zimbabwe, From Disaster To Disaster
 
"In 2008, Zimbabwe suffered the second most severe case of hyperinflation in modern history. Its annual inflation reached 89.7 sextillion (1023) %. Prices were doubling each day, making the currency almost worthless. The government was forced to scrap the local Zim dollar when Zimbabweans simply refused to use it. Subsequently, the government implemented a multicurrency system based on foreign currencies. But, the U.S. dollar became the coin of the realm. Indeed, even the government accounts became denominated in U.S. dollars in 2009. As a result of this spontaneous dollarization, along with the installation of a new national unity government, the economy rebounded and international trust in Zimbabwe began to be restored."
 
[That was in 2009. But . . .]
 
"When President Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF, regained control in 2013, economic instability ensued and government spending surged along with public debt (see chart below). With the central bank’s inability to finance the government (read: print Zim dollars), Zimbabwe resorted to monetary trickery and mischief.
 
In conventional terms, the value of 1 USD is uniform throughout the world; however, Zimbabwe has pulled every trick in the book in an attempt to disprove that truth. For example, what the Zimbabwean government terms a U.S. “dollar” -- a New Zim Dollar (NZD) -- is in reality only worth 50% of a real dollar anywhere else in the world. So, how is this mischief possible?
 
The answer lies in the government’s creation of the NZD (read: a phony dollar). It has four major components: physical U.S. dollars, bond notes, electronic real time gross settlements (RTGS), and Treasury bills (T-bills). Apart from physical USD, the additional three components have acted to massively increase the money supply in Zimbabwe, broadly measured.
 
The most recent attempt by the government to increase liquidity (the money supply, measured broadly) was the introduction of bond notes in November 2016 (see accompanying chart). 
 
Although bond coins existed on a small scale since December 2014, the introduction of bond notes was significant. These notes were “backed” by a $200m facility from the African Import Export Bank (Afreximbank) -- a bank that some allege is unusually close to the Zimbabwean government. Among other things, it has still failed to publish official documents regarding the bond note facility. The uncertainty surrounding these bond notes has resulted in a black market for dollars, where the bond notes normally trade at discounts ranging from 5-15%. Not surprisingly, banks have attempted to remove these notes from their books, with bank officials reportedly engaging in black market deals for large cash sums at over 20% discounts!
 
As for what the bonds might eventually be worth, it is prudent to assume that they will be defaulted on. In that case, and taking other African sovereign defaults as a guide, one is left to conclude that the bonds in default would fetch 5-18¢ on the dollar. So, bond notes, which are products of Zimbabwe’s monetary mischief, are in a death spiral that will witness further significant declines in value. In that event, discounts on other elements of the NZD would also realize massive discounts. The NZD would become worthless, and with that, inflation would raise its ugly head.   
 
Zimbabwe has once again engaged in a fraud on the public, creating a monetary mess and hardship."
[END EXCERPT]
 
This has nothing to do with MMT.
 
Sure does. You're just in the usual denial that all cult members experience when reality disproves their belief in magic and fantasy.
 
The USA has an MMT monetary system.
 
I hear that often. But only from MMT cult members. No one else believes it. I've also heard often that plane
Saint George Added Sep 11, 2017 - 5:02am
The USA has an MMT monetary system.
 
I hear that often. But only from MMT cult members. No one else believes it. I've also heard often that planet earth was invaded by Xenu long ago and that humans have "body thetans" (putative invisible demons) attached to them causing all kinds of psychological problems. But I've only heard that from members of another cult.
 
Cult members have lots of fantasies that only they believe are true.
John G Added Sep 11, 2017 - 6:04pm
MMT is the study of the modern monetary system as practised in sovereign states as per the USA, UK, Japan etc etc.
That's what it is. 
You're just a nutter with a chip on his shoulder.
Saint George Added Sep 11, 2017 - 6:34pm
Cult members have lots of fantasies that only they believe are true.
John Minehan Added Sep 12, 2017 - 2:06pm
Article 51 of the UN Charter does not bar military force by individual nations or collective security arrangements against an aggressor:
 
 







Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.
 







 
John Minehan Added Sep 12, 2017 - 2:18pm
The US Constitution does not bar a central bank.  
 
Madison, the father of the Constitution, opposed the First Bank of the United States while serving in Washington's Cabinet, but the Second Bank of the US was formed in his administration.  
 
Marshall's letters in reply to critics of his decision in McCoulloch v, Maryland (1819) indicated that the "necessary and proper clause" meant the USG has the power to do those things "necessary and proper" to allow it to perform its Enumerated Powers, such as chartering a Central Bank.  Unlike the Articles, the USG under the Constitution is not strictly limited to its Enumerated Powers.
 
"Coining Money" did not specifically mean only Gold and Silver and the USG issued paper money on several occasions before the Fed was chartered in 1913, including the Civil War.  States (and even towns and businesses) issued paper money in the 19th Century.
 
Like all paper money, it has the value people give it.  Like all money, really.  There seems to be a more consistent and prevailing view that gold and silver have real value, though.    
 
 
John Minehan Added Sep 12, 2017 - 2:22pm
Because money is based on people's confidence in it, neither MMT nor a strict Austrian model of economics is absolutely convincing. 
 
States can blow up their economies by deflating their currency . . . but that happened with specie as well ("debasing the currency" the currency used to require reducing the gold content by using more base metal). 
John G Added Sep 12, 2017 - 5:13pm
Article 51 of the UN Charter does not bar military force by individual nations or collective security arrangements against an aggressor:
Which is not relevant to Afghanistan. You're trying to defend your war of aggression. The ultimate war crime.
John G Added Sep 12, 2017 - 5:16pm
Because money is based on people's confidence in it, neither MMT nor a strict Austrian model of economics is absolutely convincing. 
Until you understand (even) a little about MMT you can make no worthwhile judgement.
Because money is based on people's confidence
A meaningless platitude. State currencies are driven by taxation.
John Minehan Added Sep 12, 2017 - 7:08pm
"State currencies are driven by taxation."
 
According to MMT, a somewhat fringe view.
John G Added Sep 12, 2017 - 7:21pm
As I said, you don't have the foggiest notion of what MMT is.
Saint George Added Sep 13, 2017 - 3:15am


As I said, you don't have the foggiest notion of what MMT is.


 
 
As many of have said, you haven't the slightest inkling of economics.
John Minehan Added Sep 13, 2017 - 11:13am
John, you have based your whole view of Macroeconomics (a somewhat dubious undertaking, at least, before the rise of data analytics) on the balance sheet writ very large.
 
Balance Sheets balance, which is why they are not a very useful analytic tool.  If you want something that will give you insight, look to a Cash Flow Statement (or what they call in Commonwealth Countries, a" P&L").
 
As MBAs say, "Cash is good; the Balance Sheet is crap; and 'There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.'" 
 
 
John G Added Sep 14, 2017 - 3:15am
MBAs don't do macro. You have a lot of opinions about MMT for someone who knows nothing whatsoever about it.
It's the government's job to run the macroeconomy. You'd think macro would be something they'd want to know about.
A currency issuing government has no P&L.
John G Added Sep 14, 2017 - 3:26am
John Minehan Added Sep 14, 2017 - 4:14pm
"A currency issuing government has no P&L."
 
Nothing without a P&L is fully solvent, although it would be impossible to tell in any kind of useful or diagnostic way.
 
John G Added Sep 15, 2017 - 12:15am
How could a government that issues the currency be insolvent?
How does the issuer of the currency make a 'profit' or a loss?
Slogans aren't working for you.
Saint George Added Sep 15, 2017 - 2:53am
"Profit" and "Loss" are terms that only make sense on the private market, where real economic resources called "INPUTS" are tallied against other real economic resources called "OUTPUTS." If the outputs are greater than the inputs, then a "profit" is defined; if not, then a "loss" is defined. The actual loss is in the opportunity cost: the alternative uses that the inputs could have been used for that are now lost.
 
Government agencies are all bureaucracies that exist off the private market, and since they have access (in principle, though not always as a matter of political expediency) to as much tax revenue as they want to maintain themselves — or to expand — it doesn't make sense to speak of "profit" or "loss" for governmental agencies and their functions. Government bureaucracies are not comparing the value of their resource OUTPUTS against the value of their resource INPUTS; if they did, most of them would have to be dissolved. Government bureaucracies measure their success or failure by whether or not they achieve a specific political agenda. The agenda may or may not have the public's enthusiasm behind it, but its success isn't measured by the private market's double-entry bookkeeping tool of "profit" vs. "loss."
 
Infinitely better than anthropologist David Graeber's screed against basic economic theory is economic Ludwig von Mises's slim little monograph on the nature of bureaucracy, which includes a typology of the different kinds of bureaucracy. A unique study with important insights regarding government, as well as a branch of economic theory today known as "the theory if the firm," which investigates the organizational structure of business.
 
For the downloadable PDF of "Bureaucracy", click here:
 
Bureaucracy
 
For a downloadable audio book version, click here:
 
Bureaucracy Audio Book
John G Added Sep 15, 2017 - 6:11pm
New Rule – Saint George and John G are no longer allowed to communicate to each other.  Any specific addressing of the other or quote of the other’s words on this site will result in suspension. 
Saint George Added Sep 15, 2017 - 11:51pm
Correlative to New Rule — Whiners should leave or mature.