The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Candid views from the troops.

January 4, 2011

I just finished reading Dominic Tierney’s new book How We Fight: Crusades, Quagmires and the American Way of War. As the title suggests, he presents the standard American exceptionalism argument about why and how the US begins wars — that both the public and elites hold deeply entrenched beliefs of America’s “benign power” to transform the world. But, these same wars often end when the public and elites turn against these “crusades” after those we are there “to help” fail to appreciate the self-evident benefits of American military support and liberal values and institutions.

It’s hard to say when the US will end the war in Afghanistan given that there is still a tenuous elite consensus backing it. But a majority of Americans want out and reporting like the clip shown below from the Pech Valley — in which mid-level commanders and soldiers now openly question whether or not the US presence is making things worse in their area of operation — directly challenges the pro-war narrative and will almost certainly weaken elite cohesion. (It’s also striking to see a battalion commander state that the American presence helps the enemy.) Apparently, the Afghans are failing to appreciate the “self-evident benefits” of the American presence.

+ posts

Jon Western has spent the last fifteen years teaching IR in liberal arts colleges at Mount Holyoke College and the Five Colleges in western Massachusetts. He has an eclectic range of intellectual interests but often writes on international security, U.S. foreign policy, military intervention, and human rights. He occasionally shares his thoughts about professional life in liberal arts colleges. In his spare time he coaches middle school soccer, mentors the local high school robotics team, skis, and sails.