Following the withdrawal of Afghanistan and the death of Al-Qaeda’s new leader – Ayman al-Zawahiri, the public was starting to lose interest in Middle East affairs. Unfortunately, organizations like Hamas were not losing interest. The U.S. and Israel both underestimated what Hamas was capable of.
On RealTime with Bill Maher, Maher recently cautioned Israel not to react the way the U.S. did after 9/11. Maher was hardly the only one. This opinion has a mounting following across media and the world. This is implying the war in Afghanistan should never have happened. This opinion had gained a considerable following even before the attacks in Israel. But rarely mentioned is the opinion that the war in Afghanistan could have been conducted in a different fashion. CNN and Council on Foreign Relations both report the Taliban did in fact propose a surrender in December 2001. Then President Bush missed the opportunity to end the war and establish peace in Afghanistan at that time.
One cannot eliminate the Taliban without eliminating the Taliban’s resources. Opium and heroin trade is a key funder of the Taliban. The fight to legalize marijuana has spread throughout the United States. It is no longer a pipe fantasy. If legal restrictions on opiates were also loosened, it may become less valuable on the black market which may further reduce funding for the Taliban.
Furthermore, the U.S. continues to do business with Saudi Arabia. There is mounting evidence the Saudi government had ties to 9/11. Even if the government was not directly involved, there are wealthy individual Saudis that may contribute to the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Hamas or other terrorist organizations. At the time of the initial invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. had even closer ties to the Saudis.
Yet another unfortunate decision that hindered the war effort in Afghanistan was the decision to close the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. A number of detainees who were in U.S. custody rejoined Al- Qaeda or the Taliban. The disaster that was Afghanistan teaches us more than ever that either you go in full force (which includes shutting down your opponent’s resources. It also means not releasing your opponent so they can attack you again) or you do not go in at all. There are experts that know this, and have known all along. There are some that have known this, and have known all along.
While President Biden has vowed to stand with Israel and sent carriers to them, the U.S. is not technically engaged in combat, at least not yet. Someday, America will directly engage in another war in the Middle East. It will not necessarily be fought well, but it may seem fast and successful when compared to Iraq and Afghanistan which were conducted extremely incompetently. The commander and chief (whoever he or she is at that time) will hopefully avoid the mishaps of his/her predecessors.
The President at that time will appear ingenious and receive all the credit he or she deserves …and more. However, there is a significant danger that the commander and chief could create a false link to the success of that war and something else.
A Republican could potentially create a false link to the success of the war to religious views. A progressive may create a false link to something like an increase in social engineering i.e. “This war went so well because we have a president with a high SAT score.” Perhaps the phrase “post hoc ergo propter hoc” or “false link” will apply here.
Originally, one may have believed President Biden would be the one to conduct a “proper war,” as he is a centrist and entered office with considerably more experience than many of his predecessors. President Biden vowed to treat Saudi Arabia as a pariah, a promise he has yet to deliver. While he did successfully eliminate Ayman al-Zawahiri, and is doing a reasonably good job dealing with Putin, Afghanistan did not reflect Biden’s experience and skill. Biden has already made a number of pro-Israeli statements and U.S. aircraft carriers are now Israel bound. It is yet to be seen how far President Biden will actually allow U.S. intervention and to what extent. Will Biden be the one to conduct a “competent war”?
Someday there will be a “good” war that will be competent, efficient and successful. There is no such thing as a good war, but compared to Afghanistan and Iraq, it will seem like a cakewalk. It will be the cakewalk Afghanistan and Iraq could have been. Hopefully the commander and chief at that time will be a centrist who will not be able to attribute the success to religious fundamentalism or extremist views. Hopefully we can avoid a “post hoc ergo propter hoc.”