Tom Ricks issued a challenge on ForeignPolicy: Why We Lost the War in Afghanistan in 500 Words or Less. This is my response:
Not the political We. Not the military We. The human We.
The lie is a lens. A device through which we see the world as we wish it to be. The lie creates emotional distance. It allows us to commit any manner of funhouse horrors without having to look at them.
But nothing can wash away the lie.
We can bench-race the countless failures that fed our loss in Afghanistan. The truth is, we were doomed to fail from the onset. We lost because we went to Afghanistan with a lie in our hearts.
We refused to look at our intentions with true eyes. We refused to say what it was that we wanted . . .
No matter how many schools we built. No matter how many wells we dug. No matter how many babies we kissed, we could never wash away that lie.
Man is not, by his nature, evil.
He is capable of evil, though. He is capable of the atrocity and absurdity that are War, and it is the Lie that makes this possible.
This is Righteous. This is free. This is Just.
This is the Lie.
We did not go to Afghanistan for Justice. We did not go to build schools, feed the homeless, vaccinate children, or spread democracy. We did not go for Women’s Rights.
We went for Retribution.
Rather than target the object of our rage, without apology, without quarter, we side-stepped our way into a disaster. We set conditions . . . and we drew flies. It wasn’t long before the maggots were suckling at the wound.
And we wasted lives, and limbs, and billions.
The echoes of this War will reverberate no matter how much anyone tries to change the conversation. This hangover will last, and our failures will fill volumes for a thousand years.
The hindsight of human history will remember every lie we ever told.