George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror ends in defeat

George W. Bush’s “Global War on Terror” is now ending in defeat, unless one regards Iraq, where Iran’s influence seems at least as great as that of the U.S.,[1] as “victory,” or one regards Afghanistan, where the Taliban is far from defeated,[2] as “victory.” The U.S. withdrawal from the latter will be complete and the “main British mission” will be out on July 4.[3]

“Ultimately, Taliban force of arms has prevailed, and the people of that country have been denied the chance to choose a better way of life,” Lord [Richard] Dannatt said. “Tragically, a descent into the chaos of civil war seems highly likely.”[4]

I opposed both wars from inception. I thought war in Afghanistan could only exacerbate the anger that led to the 9/11 attack and soon heard what had happened to previous imperial attempts to tame the country.[5] Iraq, I was sure, would be another Vietnam.

However one evaluates my initial understandings of these wars, it is clear that neither has ended well. A war motivated by a desire for retribution so great that it rationalized another war that has also ended ignominiously, is, in one way, ending as it should, in humiliation for the U.S., though I worry for the Afghan people, especially women, and I can’t imagine that the Iraqi people will be well-served by the substantial influence of a conservative theocratic regime.

The U.S., of course, remains deeply involved in a Middle East and North Africa quagmire,[6] largely due to its political capture by Israel. Notably, a direct war, now being fought as a proxy war in Yemen,[7] with Iran remains impossible to rule out.[8] There is absolutely no reason to believe the U.S. would prevail in such a war, any more than it has in any war of any size (I exclude Grenada and Panama) since the end of World War II (for which much credit is due the Soviet Union).

  1. [1]Julian Borger and Martin Chulov, “Iran general Qassem Suleimani killed in Baghdad drone strike ordered by Trump,” Guardian, January 3, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/03/baghdad-airport-iraq-attack-deaths-iran-us-tensions; International Crisis Group, “Averting the Middle East’s 1914 Moment,” August 1, 2019, https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/gulf-and-arabian-peninsula/iran/205-averting-middle-easts-1914-moment; Luke Harding, “Trump accuses Iran over storming of US embassy compound in Baghdad,” Guardian, December 31, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/31/us-embassy-stormed-in-baghdad; Louisa Loveluck et al., “Trump says Iranian military leader was killed by drone strike ‘to stop a war,’ warns Iran not to retaliate,” Washington Post, January 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/iran-strike-live-updates/2020/01/03/3779f55c-2e33-11ea-bcb3-ac6482c4a92f_story.html; David Nakamura, “In confrontation with Iran, Trump wrestles with the shadow of Obama, ‘the metric he has to beat,’” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-confrontation-with-iran-trump-wrestles-with-the-shadow-of-obama-the-metric-he-has-to-beat/2020/01/04/2bd11a80-2e49-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html; Missy Ryan et al., “How Trump decided to kill a top Iranian general,” Washington Post, January 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/how-trump-decided-to-kill-a-top-iranian-general/2020/01/03/77ce3cc4-2e62-11ea-bcd4-24597950008f_story.html; Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, “Protesters chanting ‘Death to America’ break into U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad,” Washington Post, December 31, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/iran-backed-militia-supporters-converge-on-us-embassy-in-baghdad-shouting-death-to-america/2019/12/31/93f050b2-2bb1-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html; Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, “Supporters of Iranian-backed militia end siege of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad,” Washington Post, January 1, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/supporters-of-iranian-backed-militia-start-withdrawing-from-besieged-us-embassy-in-baghdad-following-militia-orders/2020/01/01/8280cb34-2c9e-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html; Paul Waldman, “Trump’s rationales for the Soleimani killing are falling apart,” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/01/07/trumps-rationales-soleimani-killing-are-falling-apart/
  2. [2]Gordon Lubold and Yaroslav Trofimov, “Afghan Government Could Collapse Six Months After U.S. Withdrawal, New Intelligence Assessment Says,” Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/afghan-government-could-collapse-six-months-after-u-s-withdrawal-new-intelligence-assessment-says-11624466743?mod=article_inline
  3. [3]Danielle Sheridan, Ben Farmer, and Sami Yousafzai, “Taliban has won the war in Afghanistan, says Lord Dannatt as UK and US troops pull out,” Telegraph, July 1, 2021, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/07/01/taliban-has-prevailed-afghanistan-says-former-army-head-lord/
  4. [4]Richard Dannatt, quoted in Danielle Sheridan, Ben Farmer, and Sami Yousafzai, “Taliban has won the war in Afghanistan, says Lord Dannatt as UK and US troops pull out,” Telegraph, July 1, 2021, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/07/01/taliban-has-prevailed-afghanistan-says-former-army-head-lord/
  5. [5]See Akhilesh Pillalamarri, “Why Is Afghanistan the ‘Graveyard of Empires’?” Diplomat, June 30, 2017, https://thediplomat.com/2017/06/why-is-afghanistan-the-graveyard-of-empires/
  6. [6]International Crisis Group, “Averting the Middle East’s 1914 Moment,” August 1, 2019, https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/gulf-and-arabian-peninsula/iran/205-averting-middle-easts-1914-moment
  7. [7]Bruce Riedel, “Who are the Houthis, and why are we at war with them?” Brookings, December 18, 2017, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/markaz/2017/12/18/who-are-the-houthis-and-why-are-we-at-war-with-them/; Simon Tisdall, “Trump’s veto over Yemen is a scandalous abuse of presidential power,” Guardian, April 17, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/17/donald-trump-yemen-veto-war-saudi-arabia-scandalous-abuse
  8. [8]International Crisis Group, “Averting the Middle East’s 1914 Moment,” August 1, 2019, https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/gulf-and-arabian-peninsula/iran/205-averting-middle-easts-1914-moment

One thought on “George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror ends in defeat

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.