The Graveyard of Empires: There Is No Way To “Win” In Afghanistan

31 July 2010

By Jacob G. Hornberger

They don’t call Afghanistan the graveyard of empires for nothing. Just ask Great Britain and Russia. It seems that the U.S. Empire, however, is bound and determined to prove that it’s the exception to that adage.

No matter how bad things get for the Empire, U.S. officials become more and more determined to stay the course and let the chips fall where they may, including the possibility of economic and financial bankruptcy for the United States. Governmental pride and military pride are at stake, after all. How could U.S. officials hold their heads up high around the world if the U.S. Empire exited Afghanistan without having established it as a firm, loyal, stable member of the Empire?

What to do in Afghanistan? On the one hand, U.S. officials know that the only way for a foreign occupier to succeed is to brutally conquer the populace. When resistance to an occupation surfaces, a brutal occupier sends out the message: Dare to resist us and prepare yourself to pay an enormously high price in terms of targeted killings, indiscriminate killings, arbitrary round-ups, long-term incarcerations, assassinations, bombings, torture, abuse, and even extra-judicial executions. On the other hand, submit to our conquest and our control, and you, your friends, and relatives will live to see another day.

Sometimes the brutality works. People simply lack the will or ability to resist or they figure that the price of resistance is just not worth it. They submit to the conqueror and go along with the conquest. Their governing regime becomes a loyal, dedicated member of the Empire, ready to do the Empire’s bidding when called upon.

But other times the brutality does not work. The invasion of Afghanistan provides a good example. The more the occupation brutality has increased — the more people who have been killed and maimed — the greater the resistance to the occupation has grown. The Empire kills 10 Afghanis today, and tomorrow 100 new people are recruited into the ranks of the insurgency.

The U.S. Empire is discovering what the British and the Soviet empires discovered — that while some Afghanis will inevitably cooperate with a foreign occupying force, a certain percentage of them remain committed to doing their best to uphold their long national tradition of making their country the graveyard of empires.

U.S. Empire officials are torn. On the one hand, they want to win the hearts and minds of the Afghani people, causing them to love and embrace the U.S. occupation of their country. “We’re good people, we’re here to help you, to guide you, to nurture you,” beseech U.S. officials. “Just submit and we can all get along.” And so, the occupiers lighten up on the brutality in the hopes of winning over the populace to their occupation.

But some insurgents keep fighting, which produces an ever-increasing death toll on U.S. soldiers, who in turn declare to their superiors, “Stop tying our hands! Let us lash out against this foe that is killing and maiming us!”

But unleashing the brutality to protect the troops leads to more deaths of brides, children, old people, and other innocents, thereby once again swelling the ranks of the insurgents.

In other words, there is no way to “win” in Afghanistan. The more people they kill, the worse it becomes. The more people they don’t kill, the worse it becomes.

There is but one solution to all this: Get out, now. Sure, governmental pride and military pride will be hurt, but so what? Why should we care that some federal politicians and bureaucrats won’t be able to hold their heads up high around the world? That just might be a good thing.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.




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