When did America’s “forever war” begin? Several years ago I put up a Twitter poll – highly scientific, of course – asking that question. 11 September 2001 was a popular answer. But there were others.
There was 1947, when the Cold War started; 1941, when the US intervened in the Second World War and built the largest military state known to history; and 1898, to which the country’s overseas empire is conventionally dated, including its brutal counterinsurgency in the Philippines. In another poll, 1492 – the year the New World was discovered – did well. Every American war since, after all, has been suffused by parallels to “Indian war”. It was not for nothing that, moments after special forces killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, the leader of Seal Team Six radioed back his quarry’s code name, a one-time native foe: “For God and country – Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo.”
When something ends is rarely obvious either. On 14 April, Joe Biden announced that the US’s troop presence in Afghanistan will finally drop to zero on 11 September – 20 years to the day since Bin Laden’s agents attacked the World Trade Center. “It is time to end the forever war,” Biden said.
It was understandable that the growing American peace party was jubilant in response. Stephen Wertheim, a policy intellectual at the Quincy Institute in Washington DC, suggested that Biden was not just giving up Afghanistan. He also foreswore “extravagant ends” that are unrelated to US security, marking a “historic break from the logic” of forever war. And there is no doubt that anti-war forces scored a significant victory in pressuring Biden to take the step he did. The standard-bearers for this view in Congress, the Democratic representative Ro Khanna and Senator Bernie Sanders, rightly called Biden’s decision “courageous” – at least because he “overrode the military brass” who are theoretically his subordinates.
Read the full article in The New Statesman.