Monday 2 Mar 2020
People think there is always a pearl of hidden wisdom in the world’s grand politics, there is no place for mistake or absurdity, all the steps are well-studied, and every decision drives to an end.
However, some decisions are illogical, some policies are applied without adequate studies, and many analyses and theories bear fabricated wisdom.
I write this as the US war in Afghanistan comes to an end after 18 years. The war started in 2001 against the Taliban regime and ended in 2019 with the return of Taliban. In 2001 Taliban was a large terrorist movement and in 2019 it is a political force that participates in peacemaking.
Why, then, was the war waged? Why was money wasted and blood spilt? Why were all those speeches and statements made?
Contemplating the longest war in US history, one reaches the conclusion that “logic” is taking up a smaller space by the day. President Donald Trump said, “We spend $50 billion on the war in Afghanistan every year. Now we are negotiating with them to return to what was before 18 years ago.”
The US Defense Department estimated the war cost around $45 billion in 2018 and Trump estimated it at $50 billion a year, which translates to $990 billion in the past 18 years. This number is close to the estimate of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
But other think tanks estimated the war cost close to $1 trillion, and Brown University, in the US, raised the number to more than the double. The BBC site cites Neta Crawford, co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University, saying the War Project team on the cost of war on Afghanistan estimate is more than $2 trillion. The cost of the US wars — in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq since 2001 — exceeded $5 trillion.
These numbers don’t include the future costs of the war veterans’ medical care. Linda Blimes, of Harvard University, approximates the cost of the medical services of war at more than $1 trillion during the next 40 years.
The cost of the war on Afghanistan exceeds that of the Vietnam War. According to a number of researchers, the Afghanistan war is the second costliest war in history after World War II. Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel prize in economics, concluded in a Harvard University study that the Iraq war cost exceeded $4 trillion, excluding future medical services. Trump estimated the Iraq war cost at more than $6 trillion.
If we relied on President Trump’s figures on the Iraq war and the Brown University on the Afghanistan war, the cost of the two wars reaches $8 trillion.
Mohamed Said El-Sahaf, the most famous Iraqi information minister, told me when I met him in Abu Dhabi years ago: “We offered America to take oil at the rate of $10 a barrel, but Bush Jr refused and insisted on war and toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime.” In my opinion, if America had made such a deal it would have saved trillions of dollars spent on war along with trillions of dollars spent on oil.
The blood spilt in these wars is far more costly than all these trillions. In the Afghanistan war, the American side lost 2,000 lives and 20,000 were wounded. Afghanistan lost more than 100,000 lives. US social studies centres talk said more than 330,000 veterans, who served in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, suffered from wounds in the head that caused mental disorders. According to the BBC, the National Center for PTSD, the US Department of Veterans Affairs, 20 war veterans attempt to commit suicides every day.
Many Americans understand President Trump’s statement “I inherited a total mess… the “Endless Wars” of unlimited spending and death.” The question now is where is the logic in all this? Where is Washington’s interest in spending trillions of dollars and burying those killed?
Many speak about the “immorality” of war; the countries that were destroyed, the blood that was spilt, the mother of all bombs and the drones. But the reply to all this is that the war in itself is an “immoral idea”. As long as the victor’s objectives have been achieved, talks about the morality of war won’t go beyond the margins of history.
But the dilemma here isn’t as such. The dilemma is the “illogicality of war” in spite of the “immorality of war”. It’s blood wasted futilely. Absurd wars ended where they started. After long years of money and blood, Taliban returned to what it has been before the war. Therefore, there is no objective and no end. No logic in the 18 years of war and no vision. Some will say the objective was destroying Afghanistan. That’s true, but it was originally destroyed. Therefore, the objective was toppling the regime, but the regime has returned once again and was recognised as legitimate and is being negotiated with.
What nobody thought of or nobody dared to think of is that it might be a conspiracy against America as much as it is a conspiracy against Afghanistan; exhausting America through destroying Afghanistan. President Trump dared to make this probability likely.
The rise of “illogicality” in international relations is the biggest source of threat to world peace. Some will try to act as if they are being wise by using hindsight and pretending false ingenuity. However, all this won’t deny the big rise of the political role of stupidity.
Originally published in Al-AhramOnline