It’s a strange coincidence that has my 40th birthday coincide with this strange weekend of the NATO summit and planned large protests against it. It’s not so much feeling old as a realization of how much I’ve changed. There was a time when I would have been a participant with the protesters, maybe not all in with some of the fringier, anarchist elements, but there to protest against war, any war, with all the counterculture people.
And if the G8 summit were still happening at the same time, I might have still been right there with them, holding a big-ass sign that says “Austerity Sucks.” But I just can’t get on board with demanding a withdrawal from Afghanistan. I appreciate things there are not great, but they were worse in the 90s when civil war raged and the Taliban was running amok and managed to occupy about 80% of the country before essentially exhausting their ability to move forward. The fact is, in this case Western intervention ushered in several years of peace after 22 years of civil war. Not only do I not “oppose the war in Afghanistan” I’m not even sure that’s the right way to look at the situation. Certainly I consider “The United States has been at war in Afghanistan since late 2011” to be a demonstrably false statement. The Afghan War began in 1979 and ended with the US/NATO intervention. Very Bad Things have happened since then, I’m certainly not denying that. But to view Afghanistan as the same type of situation as the Iraq war is to see the world through the lenses of ideology rather than facts.
I opposed the Iraq war as much as anybody. The United States invaded another country with little or no provocation, for dubious reasons, using false claims about weapons of mass destruction to scare people into perceiving a threat. The Afghan intervention was simply nothing like that at all.
It’s kind of a pity, from my point of view, because there are other things being protested here that I’m largely on board with: economic inequality, foreclosures and evictions, exclusionist immigration policies, Canadian tar sands mining and oil pipelines. I’m inclined to agree with the protesters on most of these things. And it would be sort of fun to be able to go out there and protest. But a lot has happened in the past 20 years, and the shadow of Bosnia and Rwanda reminds me that sometimes the West doing nothing results in more violent death than acting would. I believe the Afghan intervention has been one of these cases.