Advertisement

Afghanistan, Escalation and the ‘Good War’

  • David Fitzgerald
  • David Ryan

Abstract

Unlike the ‘dumb’ war in Iraq, Afghanistan was portrayed throughout the 2008 election campaign as the ’good’ war, providing Obama a foil to demonstrate his toughness on foreign policy. Yet, despite the optimistic assumptions among Obama administration staffers, the ‘landscape’ spoke back, and it became quickly apparent that the US strategy was not working, prompting questions over US goals in Afghanistan. The lack of US knowledge of the Afghan terrain became evident throughout the autumn 2009 debate over escalation. Internal references and reports shaped the debate and, in the absence of knowledge of Afghanistan, analogies crept in, with civilian advisors fearful of another Vietnam, while many in the military invoked the ‘successful’ counterinsurgency in Iraq as a model that could be applied in Central Asia.

Keywords

Afghanistan AfPak al Qaeda counterinsurgency insurgency McChrystal Obama Robert Gates surge Taliban 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Barack Obama, Remarks at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, DC: ‘The War We Need to Win’, August 1, 2007. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=77040Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    David Sanger, Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and the Surprising Use of American Power (New York, Crown Publishers, 2012), 20.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    Bob Woodward, Obama’s Wars (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010), 77.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    The literature detailing the drift of the postinvasion years is extensive. See, for instance, Tim Bird and Alex Marshall, Afghanistan: How the West Lost its Way (Yale: Yale University Press, 2010;Google Scholar
  5. Seth G. Jones, In the Graveyard of Empires: America’s War in Afghanistan (New York: W.W. Norton, 2010);Google Scholar
  6. Ahmed Rashid, Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia (New York: Penguin, 2009).Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    Barack Obama, ‘Remarks by the President on a new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan’, The White House, March 27, 2009, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-President-on-a-New-Strategy-for-Afghanistan-and-Pakistan. Of course, Al Qaeda were now proliferating in other areas: see Chapter 2.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    For more on the contemporary debate on counterinsurgency, see Gian Gentile, Wrong Turn: America’s Deadly Embrace of Counterinsurgency (New York: New Press, 2013);Google Scholar
  9. Douglas Porch, Counterinsurgency: Exposing the Myths of the New Way of War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. David Ucko, The New Counterinsurgency Era: Transforming the US Military for Modern Wars (Georgetown: Georgetown University Press, 2009).Google Scholar
  11. 17.
    David Petraeus, ‘Striking a Balance: A New American Security’, Keynote Address, Center for a New American Security Conference, Washington, DC, June 11, 2009, available at .www.cnas.org/files/multimedia/documents/Petraeus_transcript_Complete.pdf.Google Scholar
  12. 18.
    Andrew M. Exum, Nathaniel C. Fick, Ahmed A. Humayun, and David Kilcullen, Triage: The Next Twelve Months in Afghanistan and Pakistan (Washington, DC: Center for a New American Security, 2009), 7.Google Scholar
  13. 20.
    Stanley McChrystal, My Share of the Task: A Memoir (New York: Penguin, 2013), 295.Google Scholar
  14. 22.
    Stanley McChrystal to Robert M. Gates, ‘Commander’s Initial Assessment’ (Kabul, Afghanistan: Headquarters, NATO International Security Assistance Force, Afghanistan), August 30, 2009, sec. 1–1, available at http://www.media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/documents/Assessment_Redacted_092109.pdfGoogle Scholar
  15. 23.
    Jason Burke, The 9/11 Wars (London: Allen Lane, 2011), 448.Google Scholar
  16. 30.
    Michael T. Flynn, Matt Pottinger, Paul D. Bachelor, ‘Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan’, Washington DC: Center for a New American Security 2009, 4, 7. http://www.cnas.org/files/documents/publications/Afghanlntel_Flynn_Jan2010_code507_voices.pdf.Google Scholar
  17. 32.
    Robert Gates, Duty: Memoirs of Secretary at War (London: WH Allen, 2014), 336.Google Scholar
  18. 33.
    Vali Nasr, The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat (London: Scribe, 2013), 22–23.Google Scholar
  19. 37.
    Emile Simpson, War from the Ground Up: Twenty-First Century Combat as Politics (London: Hurst, 2012), 98–99.Google Scholar
  20. 38.
    Carter Malkasian, War Comes to Garmser: Thirty Years of Conflict on the Afghan Frontier (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).Google Scholar
  21. 40.
    On the ‘lessons of history’ and the dilemmas they pose for policy-makers, see Yueng Foong Khong, Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu and the Vietnam Decisions of 1965 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993);Google Scholar
  22. Ernest R. May, ‘Lessons’ of the Past: the Use and Misuse of History in American Foreign Policy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975);Google Scholar
  23. Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May, Thinking in Time: the Uses of History for Decision-Makers (New York: Free Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  24. 41.
    McChrystal, My Share of the Task, 351; Stanley Karnow, Vietnam: A History (New York: Viking Press, 1983).Google Scholar
  25. 42.
    Lewis Sorley, A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999).Google Scholar
  26. For more on Sorley’s thesis and its influence on the US military, see David Fitzgerald, Learning to Forget: US Army Counterinsurgency Doctrine from Vietnam to Iraq (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 43.
    John A. Nagl, ‘A ‘Better War’ in Afghanistan’, prepared statement before the Committee on Foreign Relations, US Senate, 111th Congress, 1st Session, September 16, 2009.Google Scholar
  28. 44.
    Marvin Kalb, ‘The Other War Haunting Obama’, The New York Times, October 8, 2011. See also Marvin Kalb and Deborah Kalb, Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2011), 241–306.Google Scholar
  29. 45.
    Gordon M. Goldstein, Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam (New York: Times Books, 2008).Google Scholar
  30. 48.
    Karl Eikenberry, cable to Hillary Clinton, subject: ‘COIN Strategy, Civilian Concerns’, November 6, 2009, 1, available at http://www.documents.nytimes.com/eikenberry-s-memos-on-the-strategy-in-afghanistan.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Fitzgerald and David Ryan 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Fitzgerald
    • 1
  • David Ryan
    • 1
  1. 1.University College CorkIreland

Personalised recommendations