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.