|But as the daily news from Afghanistan shows,
in reality the war has been a drastic failure. Legions of undefeated
Taliban and al Qaeda soldiers have renewed their jihad. Flush
with money, recruits, and weapons--guns, rockets, and explosives--they
are fighting to regain power. In recent months they have mounted
a string of suicide bombings and rocket attacks against American
and NATO forces; more U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan in
the last 18 months than did during the peak of the war.
Taliban forces have effectively besieged several provinces in
southern Afghanistan. Local officials estimate that in some provinces
the “number of Taliban . . . is several times more than
that of the police and Afghan National Army.” Taliban fighters
are said to amble through villages fearlessly, brandishing their
Kalashnikovs and collecting zakat (an Islamic tithe) from peasants.
With astounding boldness, they have assassinated clerics and
judges deemed too friendly to the new government, and fired rockets
at a school for using “un-Islamic” books.
How is it that four years after the war began—and in the
face of America’s unsurpassed military strength—Taliban
and al Qaeda fighters are once again threatening American interests?
Victory in Afghanistan demanded two things. We had to destroy
the Taliban and we had to ensure that a non-threatening, non-Islamic-warrior-breeding
regime take its place. Apparently we did not think we had a moral
right to do either. Our military was ordered to pursue Taliban
fighters only if it simultaneously showed “compassion” to
the Afghans. The U.S. military dropped bombs on Afghanistan—but
instead of ruthlessly pounding key targets, it was ordered to
gingerly avoid hitting holy shrines and mosques (known to be
Taliban hideouts) and to shower the country with food packages.
The U.S. deployed ground forces—but instead of focusing
exclusively on capturing or killing the enemy, they were also
diverted to a host of “reconstruction” projects.
The result is that the enemy was not destroyed and crushed in
spirit, but merely scattered and left with the moral fortitude
to regroup and launch a brazen comeback.
Even with its hands tied, however, the U.S. military succeeded
in toppling the Taliban regime—but Washington subverted
that achievement, too. A new Afghan government would be a nonthreat
to America’s interests if it were based on a secular constitution
that respects individual rights. The Bush administration, however,
declared that we had no right to “impose our beliefs” on
the Afghans—and instead endorsed their desire for another
regime founded on Islamic law. Already this avowedly Islamic
regime has jailed an Afghan magazine editor for “blasphemy”;
and recently, Abdul Rahman, an Afghan convert to Christianity,
faced a death sentence for apostasy.
The new Afghan regime cannot be counted on to oppose the resurgence
of Islamic totalitarianism. Ideologically, it has nothing to
say in opposition to the doctrines of the Taliban (two members
of the Taliban leadership are in the new government). It is only
a matter of time before Afghanistan is once again a haven for
The failure in Afghanistan is a result of Washington’s
foreign policy. Despite lip service to the goal of protecting
America’s safety, the “war on terror” has been
waged in compliance with the prevailing moral premise that self-interest
is evil and self-sacrifice a virtue. Instead of trouncing the
enemy for the sake of protecting American lives, our leaders
have sacrificed our self-defense for service to the whims of
Afghans.The half-hearted war in Afghanistan failed to smash the
Taliban and al Qaeda. It failed to render their ideology—Islamic
totalitarianism—a lost cause. Instead, at best it demonstrated
Washington’s reluctance to fight ruthlessly to defend Americans.
How better to stoke the enthusiasm of jihadists? America cannot
win this or any war by embracing selflessness as a virtue. Ultimately,
it cannot survive unless Washington abandons its self-sacrificial
foreign policy in favor of one that proudly places America’s
interests as its exclusive moral concern.
Elan Journo is a fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute.