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Not going for the win

The Taliban Tried To Surrender And The U.S. Rebuffed Them. Now Here We Are.

Did you know that shortly after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, the Taliban tried to surrender?

For centuries in Afghanistan, when a rival force had come to power, the defeated one would put down their weapons and be integrated into the new power structure — obviously with much less power, or none at all. That’s how you do with neighbors you have to continue to live with. This isn’t a football game, where the teams go to different cities when it’s over. That may be hard for us to remember, because the U.S. hasn’t fought a protracted war on its own soil since the Civil War.

So when the Taliban came to surrender, the U.S. turned them down repeatedly, in a series of arrogant blunders spelled out in Anand Gopal’s investigative treatment of the Afghanistan war, “No Good Men Among the Living.”

Only full annihilation was enough for the Bush administration. They wanted more terrorists in body bags. The problem was that the Taliban had stopped fighting, having either fled to Pakistan or melted back into civilian life. Al Qaeda, for its part, was down to a handful of members.

So how do you kill terrorists if there aren’t any?
     — Ryan Grim

So I have my own personal spin on this one.

After 9-11, I shared many Americans' response, "Why do they hate us?" I began studying Islam and regional tribal politics. I wanted to understand. I was appalled at what I found. Everything wrong with American foreign policy had spilled out there. It was easy to identify Afghanistan as the key area, I'm not surprised that many others came to the same conclusion, it's pretty obvious when you look closely. So even before America announced it was invading Afghanistan, I was telling people that was going to happen. I was pretty proud, it was my first in-depth international analysis.

Yes, I know it was not an approved libertarian solution. I also knew then (as now) there weren't any good solutions. Just some that were less bad.

As the years passed, it was equally obvious that something had failed. I thought I had overlooked something.

If  this is true, I did overlook the American leadership's desire for vengeance and public spectacle.

That means I was mostly right in my first international analysis. I thought I had goofed for more than a decade.

Time to look closer I think.
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