Matthew Hoh, a mid-level Foreign Service officer in Afghanistan with combat experience in Iraq as a Marine captain, has resigned in protest
of the Afghan war. In his resignation letter
, he argues that the U.S. is perpetuating a "35-year old civil war" that it has little chance of winning.
Hoh's reasoning -- that there is no feasible way to pacify Afghanistan
and that the American presence only worsens the situation -- echoes the
arguments that anti-war pundits have made for years. But Hoh, no
armchair general, gives those fears unprecedented credence. His
resignation stands as a warning to the White House and Pentagon that
public and official support for the Afghan war could disintegrate
without tangible victories.
- Why I Resigned Matthew Hoh writes
in his resignation letter, "I have lost understanding of and confidence
in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in
Afghanistan. [...] To put simply: I fail to see the value or the worth
in continued U.S. casualties or expenditures of resources in support of
the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year old civil war." He
adds, "The United States military presence in Afghanistan greatly
to the legitimacy and strategic message of the Pashtun [Taliban]
insurgency. [...] Success and victory, whatever they may be, will be
realized not in years, after billions more spent, but in decades and
generations. The United States does not enjoy a national treasury for
such success and victory." Hoh assesses the American war as just
another chapter in a long decline:
If the History of Afghanistan is one
great stage play, the United States is no more than a supporting actor,
among several previously, in a tragedy that not only pits tribes,
valleys, clans, villages and families against one another, but, from at
least the end of King Zahir Shah's reign [in 1973], has violently and
savagely pitted the urban, secular, educated and modern of Afghanistan
against the rural, religious, illiterate and traditional.
U.S. Leaders Paying Close Attention Spencer Ackerman notes
that Hoh's criticisms are being heard in high-level conversations
about the war. "The concern about the U.S. presence fueling the
insurgency -- not for what the U.S. does, but merely for the fact of its
existence -- was raised by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in January,
but it has not yet seemed to penetrate most discourse about the war.
[...] And indeed, [General Stanley] McChrystal has tacitly paid respect
the critique, saying in his much-derided London address
that jobs programs could do much to deprive the Taliban of foot
soldiers who fight because their lack of economic alternatives
accelerate their antipathy to the U.S. presence," writes Ackerman, a
prominent liberal foreign affairs blogger. "But if Hoh is right, then
it's simply too late for that strategy, as
the mere presence of the U.S. military will have reached the 'tipping
point' that Gates warned about in January."
- When Did We Elect President Hoh? James Joyner,
a former military officer, wonders how much
credence we should give Hoh's opinion. "Hoh's story is interesting.
One gathers that he was an outstanding
Marine officer and was a rising star as an FSO. Then again, he'd been
on the job less than a year. Now, granted, that's enough time
to win a Nobel Peace Prize. But, c'mon, is it really worth this high
level of attention that he disagrees with national policy? His
experience is, after all, entirely tactical -- and at the lower end of
tactical at that."
- Hoh's Fox News Fan Joyner jokes that Hoh would be invited on the Colbert Report to discuss his resignation, but none other than Fox News star Glenn Beck has taken note of Hoh's story. Beck tweeted a link to an article about Hoh, writing, "WHEN WILL THE PRESS REPORT THIS?" Could Hoh join Beck in the Fox News studio?
What About Our Duty to Afghans? Liberal blogger Taylor Marsh dissents, writing of Hoh's criticisms, "I absolutely agree. But as it now stands, the Afghan women are worse off today than they were when the Taliban reigned. We cannot leave it at that or Afghanistan will be more than a corrupt mess; it will revert to a failed state, because no country can stabilize with the women
of that country being gang raped, reduced as property and held under
lock and key," she writes. "We uncorked these forces. On all that's
moral we cannot turn our backs.
The hardest part is that it's not about more U.S. troops, even as we
cannot think about withdrawing. Karma is a bitch and she's looking for
retribution closure mercy."
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