My guest today is Matthew Hoh, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy. A former Marine who served on US Embassy teams in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Hoh was the highest ranking official to explicitly resign because of US policy in Afghanistan. Welcome to OpEdNews, Matthew. Everyone's abuzz regarding Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's resignation. What do you make of it?
Hello, Joan. Getting past the name calling and the personal attacks on Hagel by anonymous officials in the White House, which is often the case when the White House has something to hide, I think what this ultimately will be about is that Chuck Hagel did not want to go along with the re-escalation of the war in Afghanistan, which is the most unpopular war in American history, or the involvement of American forces in the Iraqi and Syrian civil wars that will not work.
I haven't spoken to Chuck Hagel directly in the last two years, during his time as Secretary of Defense, but I have known him for five years now, and his views of the wars prior to his appointment as Secretary of Defense were that they were reckless and counter-productive. So, it wasn't a surprise to me that he is leaving the Administration, particularly in light of the emphasis on the wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan; wars that will prove counter-productive and morally and politically disastrous. I expect, in time, that Hagel's resignation will be seen as an act of personal integrity in regards to disagreement with perpetual war.
Before we delve into Hagel's positions on the subject, I'd like to go back your comment about the war in Afghanistan being the most unpopular war in American history. Is that really true? Is your statement based on a single CNN poll? I'll tell you why I'm asking. I was around during the Vietnam War, and that felt very different to me: there were numerous well-attended rallies and demonstrations, a lot of media coverage. The anti-war movement was energetic and very visible. This just doesn't have the same feel. Am I misremembering or way off-base here?
Here is the Gallup poll information. Here is data from Pew. The BBC has the most recent poll I could find. And here is a Washington Post article comparing polling data on previous wars, leading to the classification of our war in Afghanistan as America's most unpopular war.
It makes sense why the White House kept silent its decision to re-escalate the war in Afghanistan until after our mid-term elections. What doesn't make sense is our congressional leaders silence on it.
So, help me understand, please. Admittedly, I haven't been following this closely. But I thought that we were actually winding down. Now, we're escalating. Why? How did this come about? And why is Congress holding its collective tongue on this? There are many mysteries to unravel.
This weekend, The New York Times revealed that several weeks ago, President Obama signed a secret order to re-introduce American troops in Afghanistan back into an active combat role. Over the last couple of years, American troops have withdrawn from direct combat with the Afghan insurgents, focusing on training Afghan Army and Afghan Police forces (which should not be viewed as an inclusive national force as Pashtuns in the south and east of the country are very much under-represented in the Afghan Security forces and over-represented in the insurgency hence the nature of the war in Afghanistan as a civil war and one that has long needed a political solution and reconciliation).
For what I believe to be primarily domestic political reasons, President Obama has ordered American troops to once again kill and be killed in an Afghan Civil War that dates back to the 1970s. President Obama has bowed to hysterical pressure from hawkish Republicans and Democrats over the violence in Iraq and Syria. To protect himself from criticism that he is prematurely (after over 13 years!) ending the war in Afghanistan, and to prove that he is as tough as his critics, President Obama has committed American troops to combat, once again, in Afghanistan.
This move by President Obama also belies the notion that America's war in Afghanistan, so publicly embraced by Presidential Candidate Obama in 2008, has been successful in militarily defeating the Taliban as a path to peace and stability in that part of the world. Rather, we have seen that America's escalation of the Afghan War in 2009 has only produced greater violence, more corruption and a larger insurgency with no end in sight to the war or to the suffering of the Afghan people.
As for the silence of members of Congress, the words craven and corrupt come to mind. Members of Congress are terrified to speak their minds on the war, afraid of being accused of not supporting the troops, not being tough or not being patriotic. Additionally, with a $1 trillion a year national and homeland security Leviathan, members of Congress are ensconced in a cocoon like cycle of war-policy chasing war-money and war-money chasing war-policy. So, members of Congress see no political, policy or financial advantage in questioning the war, even if they believe the war to be wrong, misguided or failing.
And essentially, the fact that this war is exceedingly unpopular makes absolutely no difference, in terms of form or substance, in terms of derailing this juggernaut? Where does that leave the American public? And what does this portend in terms of a state of perpetual war? This is very very bad.