War is a tricky thing. Unless one side wins with overwhelming force, the defeated must be reintegrated into society with some sort of dignity intact. Unless this occurs, a conflict may go underground, subterranean, until something reinvigorates the battle. That’s why generals talk about “mission creep” and inclusion. For example, the humiliation of the German people after World War I, and the exorbitant reparations, inevitably contributed to World War II. That’s why a non-inclusive Shiite government in Iraq led to the rise of Isis.
When wars reinforce long-standing splits in society, the process can become even more intractable. In fact, the complete withdrawal of American troops in Iraq may not have been so foolhardy after all. Only by getting out completely could we ensure our removal from the splits in that country; schisms started centuries ago will last centuries into the future.
Today, the New York Times reported about increased American involvement in reinforcing Afghan troops against the Taliban. Supposedly limited to force protection and counter-terrorism operations, the residual American army has started to actively fight against the Taliban again. The Taliban have been making steady gains in the territory under their control and are on the verge of taking over a provincial capital in the country.
Afghanistan has become famous as the place where empires go to die. And we will not be able to stand there as spectators as the Taliban increases its control. We have been trapped in the quicksand of war, and we need someone to help us escape.