There's a sense of sorrow and foreboding from here as the U.S. on Friday surpassed the Soviet Union in the longevity of each country's war in Afghanistan.
That sorrow and foreboding has nothing to do with winning or losing that war, winning or losing the hearts and minds of the Afghan people or whether we kill Taliban leaders or not.
No, Afghanistan represents the U.S. commitment to engage in endless war everywhere in the world (and it seems we the people have no effective means to stop). That's the reality most Americans have yet to come to grips with. Afghanistan is just the overt point of our war on terrorism but hardly the only place our forces (mostly clandestine and little reported) are operating. For terrorism and terrorists are the new enemy (replacing Communism and Communists) that we must fight everywhere to the death.
With the end of the cold war and the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 the reason for our militarism (containing the Communist menace all over the world) abruptly ended. There no longer existed any legitimate threat anywhere in the world that could challenge the U.S.
But instead of drawing down our military establishment of a huge standing army (which we had previously done at the conclusion of a war prior to W.W. II and then the onset of the cold war) and bases world wide (supposedly to counter the Soviet threat) we continued to maintain our enormous military and bases all over the world.
Then a decade later came the event that our political leaders and their consorts in the military/industrial complex had been looking for to justify our continued militarism and that was 9/11.
Instantaneously al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and Islamic inspired fanaticism became the new face of the enemy.
It didn't matter that the new enemy had commandeered a few commercial airplanes and used them as missiles by flying them into two commercial buildings and the Pentagon or this new enemy had nothing more than conventional hand held weapons, no standing armies, navies or an air force, inhabited and controlled no country and its peoples where it could mobilize them and that could possibly be considered a viable threat. The reality was they represented no imperial threat to the U.S. or any of its allies. It didn't matter.
Terrorists and terrorism could be found anywhere and if they weren't where we wanted them to be we could (and did) contrive their presence.
The Iraq of Saddam Hussein at the time of our invasion in March 2003 had no weapons of mass destruction, had no connection to al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden, had no Islamic jihadist terrorists in the country and it posed no imminent threat to any of its neighbors much less the U.S. or any of its allies. Whatever threat Saddam possessed ended in the first Gulf war in 1991.
But the Bush mob of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz et al and their neo conservative protagonists contrived the idea that Saddam was a threat who possessed WMD and was harboring terrorists that were behind 9/11 which all became the pretext to invade and occupy Iraq and bring about regime change.
As to Afghanistan, the initial reason for invading the country in October 2001 was to go after the terrorists that perpetrated the events of 9/11 and in particular Osama bin Laden. Of course when that proved too elusive the focus shifted and Iraq miraculously morphed into being the primary threat and new target of our wrath.
Though Iraq seems pacified (though hardly reconciled politically) we still retain 50,000 troops there as well as our largest embassy anywhere in the world. It seems obvious we will be in Iraq indefinitely particularly with our nemesis Iran just across the border.
But the main point in all these conflicts is our need to justify our militarism in the face of terrorism. As was said earlier the U.S. needs enemies (whether real or contrived). With enemies we can justify the use of any type of retribution i.e. indefinite detention of suspects, suspension of habeas corpus, extraordinary rendition, warrant less wiretapping and surveillance and of course our resort to torture.
Now if there are suspected terrorists located even in countries we're not at war with i.e. Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, even Iran or anywhere else in the world, the Pentagon pays private contractor mercenaries (along with the CIA) to conduct special operations, missile strikes and drone attacks in those countries with impunity. We're at war with terrorism and besides who is going to stop us?
Terrorism which has existed from time immemorial can never be eradicated, yet today it provides the perfect rationale by our militarists to wage endless war (even though it would never be described in those terms). Endless war feeds the insatiable appetite of the military/industrial complex and the jobs it provides in 44 states of the U.S. (making most defense appropriations close to being invulnerable to cutting politically).