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Andrew Bacevich: Rule Number One in Warfare: Know Your Enemy
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It’s now more than 17 years later, years in which American commanding generals in Afghanistan repeatedly hailed the U.S. military’s “progress” there and regularly applauded the way we had finally “turned a corner” in the Afghan War — only to find more Taliban fighters armed with RPGs around that very corner. Finally, in the 18th year of the war, an American general — to be specific, Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — has come to a somewhat different conclusion. This, mind you, at a moment when the Taliban has taken control of more territory than at any time since they were forced from power by the U.S. invasion of 2001. His assessment also comes in the face of the worst casualties (“unsustainable”) for the American-backed Afghan security forces in memory (more than 28,000 deaths since 2015, according to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani). In response, Dunford has offered the shocking news that — get a grip on yourself here — the Taliban “are not losing right now, I think that is fair to say…” Hmm… give America’s top general credit for finally offering up the bad news, even if a few years late, with only a modestly optimistic spin on it. Believe me, in the twenty-first-century annals of the U.S. military, that passes for realism of the first order.

Today, however, TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich, author of the new book Twilight of the American Century, offers us a timely reminder of another American commander who, 14 long years ago, sensed that the country’s war on terror was not going well and was unlikely to end in any imaginable future — and just why that might be. As it happens, that very general has just been nominated by the Trump administration as the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia. And what a moment to head for Riyadh! After all, only last week the CIA leaked to the Washington Post its conclusion that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, that land’s (dys)functional ruler, had personally ordered the brutal murder of one of that paper’s contributing columnists. On the subject, President Trump continues to shuffle his feet awkwardly. Stay tuned. The war on terror may just be revving up.

  • Our Man in Riyadh
    Abizaid of Arabia
    Andrew J. Bacevich • November 27, 2018 • 2,000 Words
(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
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  1. JLK says:

    What is our real strategic interest in being there?

    • Replies: @peterAUS
    , @MarkU
  2. Anyone below the rank of general making such observations would effectively torpedo his career. It’s long past time to cut and run from this quagmire that bleeds us of blood and treasure. Let the Chi-Comms sort them out.

  3. peterAUS says:

    What is our real strategic interest in being there?


    Becoming boring.


    And, of course, making money for some people.

    • Replies: @JLK
  4. anonymous[340] • Disclaimer says:

    Is it a rule that anything published by TomDispatch since the 2016 Presidential election must give a pass to the White House politicians nominally in charge of the Washington Empire from 1/20/09 to 1/20/17?

    Equally annoying: Mr. Engelhardt wrapping each kiss to Team Red in his own, adding nothing but Progressive(tm) snark and creating parallel comment threads.

  5. JLK says:

    I read the book a long time ago. “Controlling Central Asia” doesn’t seem a compelling enough reason for the blood and treasure expended.

  6. MarkU says:

    “What is our real strategic interest in being there?”

    Someone else has already told you about the “Grand chessboard” angle. There is also the pipeline war aspect and the need for the CIA to get their black op drug money from elsewhere after their cocaine racket was rumbled. Probably there are other motives too, it is naive to believe in a singular motive for anything in politics.

  7. “The war on terror may just be revving up.”


    Excuse my levity — but that last line struck me as very funny.

  8. Renoman says:

    Are you fellas blind, you are there for the smack and to be close to Russia when the big war starts. In short FOR the MONEY!

    • Replies: @AWM
  9. Stogumber says:

    Mr. Engelhardt is undecided if he shuns “the Empire” in general, or if he wants to return to the “good Empire” when the Democrats governed. This runs like a thread through his comments. But perhaps he simply needs to serve two different parts of his public.
    In any case it damages whatever message he has about Foreign Policy.

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