We have just observed the 14th
anniversary of “Operation Enduring Freedom,” otherwise known as the war
in Afghanistan. It is the longest war in US history, a conflict that never even
came close to achieving its stated goal of stabilizing the area and eradicating
the Taliban. The US-backed central government in Kabul today has no more control
of the country than it did when first established, and the Taliban is on
the march, retaking city after city and inching toward the capital with
the inevitability of high tide at the beach. And while the pretext for this
costly adventure — the capture of Osama bin Laden — has long since been rendered
moot, his heirs and legatees not only persist, but they prosper — with our help.
For a long time that help arrived by indirection: the jihadists prospered in
reaction to our intervention. As we lurched around Afghanistan, and then Iraq,
kicking down doors, slaughtering civilians, and setting up torture chambers
to Abu Ghraib, we
created the conditions for a global insurgency that had once been relatively
localized. The classic theory of “blowback” operated with relentless predictability.
But then something else occurred: the so-called “Arab Spring.” You’ll recall
that the War Party, in selling the invasion of Iraq to the American public,
promised that our intervention would provoke a wave of sympathy throughout the
Muslim world, and the Middle East would witness the arising of a movement demanding
their version of “democracy” on a regional scale. President George W.
Bush made a speech declaring that the US was leading a “global democratic revolution”
that would incite a “fire in
the mind” of the populace and soon put an end to the Bad Guys.
Well, yes, a “fire in the mind” of the Middle Eastern peoples was indeed set
to burning — except that the flames, once they reached a certain temperature,
seared our hands. For it wasn’t liberal democracy that the crowds gathering
in the streets were demanding: it was a return to Islam. If democracy means
majority rule, then this outcome was entirely foreseeable. We had swept away
the secular despot Saddam Hussein, and planted the seeds of regime-change in
busy little seminars on the virtues of democracy had spawned a generation
of “activists” intent on tearing down governmental structures and unleashing
the Arab “street.”