It’s Not a Judgment Call that Disdains Professionals

August 12, 2007

How a ‘Good War’ in Afghanistan Went Bad

A year after the Taliban fell to an American-led coalition, a group of NATO ambassadors landed in Kabul, Afghanistan, to survey what appeared to be a triumph — a fresh start for a country ripped apart by years of war with the Soviets and brutal repression by religious extremists.

With a senior American diplomat, R. Nicholas Burns, leading the way, they thundered around the country in Black Hawk helicopters, with little fear for their safety. They strolled quiet streets in Kandahar and sipped tea with tribal leaders. At a briefing from the United States Central Command, they were told that the Taliban were now a “spent force.”

“Some of us were saying, ‘Not so fast,’ ” Mr. Burns, now the under secretary of state for political affairs, recalled. “A number of us assumed that the Taliban was too enmeshed in Afghan society to just disappear as a political and military force.”

They assumed, we assumed–everyone runs around like schoolchildren, making assumptions and failing to ask the professionals. There were lifelong students of Middle East policy available to query about consequences. No one bothered. Hubris ruled the day.

Decisions were made by partisans who had little or no experience. Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, David Addington and Donald Rumsfeld all had axes to grind, little or no experience and typical ‘insider complacency’ while betting on the spread.

The cost in lives, credibility, money and failed international politics is ten times that of Vietnam.

* For more in-depth articles from Jim on Iraq War, check out

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