Reprinted from Antiwar
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 from Bagram 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 Syria: our 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."