Look at the map.
Now, Texas is a lot flatter than Afghanistan, but historically, the inhabitants of Texas – whether Tonkawa or Numu (Comanche) or Spanish or Mexican or Texian/Texican or Anglo – are just as ornery and prone to violence as any Afghani tribesman. Or city-dweller. Or Talibani or Communist or Libertarian. (Yes, there ARE Afghanis who love liberty in a way that American libertarians – or at least anarcho-capitalists) can agree with.)
How would Union forces moving in to occupied defeated Texas in 1865 have fared if Texans had resisted that occupation? Texas’ “real” military forces were scattered to the battle fronts far from home; but it had the Rangers, and the home guard and even some AmerInd allies (that had fought for the South). What if instead of cooperating with the federal forces, they had refused to surrender? I suspect that, 150 years later, there would still be a guerilla war as nasty as anything in the Balkans, Northern Ireland, or … Afghanistan and Mesopotamia.
But I digress. What have we apparently NOT learned in 20 years of occupation and war in the high mountains and deserts of Central Asia?
Some are old truisms that supposedly we learned half-a-century ago (or more):
- Never get into a land war in Asia. Korea, Southeast Asia, etc.
- You cannot GIVE liberty and freedom to people – you might HELP them gain their own freedom, but you can’t give it to them.
- Democracy is generally incompatible with liberty – not only do people want to exercise power over others (even at second hand), but majorities are the worst tyrannies.
- Freedom and liberty are universal values – democracy, honest government, and accountability of political, religious, and academic leaders/bosses are mouthed platitudes with no real substance.
- High-tech weaponry and battle management do NOT trump love of country, hatred of a common enemy, or sheer bull-headed stubbornness.
Some we should have learned in 20 years of blood, sweat, tears, and squandering of treasure:
- You cannot instill morality in people by force, but only by teaching and example. Especially not in wholesale lots.
- If you are going to destroy a culture and a society, the replacement must exist FIRST.
- You do not betray those people who put their trust in you – no matter how misguided that trust is – without suffering for it.
- Fanatics must be dealt with like rabid animals – you put them down, you don’t just put them in a prison to hone their skills and expand their networks.
- The enemy of my enemy is very seldom my friend, except for certain very limited definitions of friend.
- You know you are doing it wrong when you are supplying most of the weapons your enemies use against you: actual materials AND moral and psychological weapons.
- Revenge is NOT an adequate goal for a nation at war.
And some are lessons that were already well-understood (if ignored) at the time of Moses and Gaius Julius and William the Conquerer:
- Government is a parasite that eventually kills its host.
- War is the health of the state – even if it loses (provided it is not a catastrophic defeat).
- Islam is a death cult. (I am not saying that there are not peaceful and loving Muslims, but they are not representative of their religion as a whole – to doctrinaire Muslims, they are heretics.)
- The highlands of Central and South Asia are the graveyards of empires, starting with the Assyrians, Persians, and Macedonians, and continuing on to the Brits, the Russians, and now US.
- People are people, and blood is thicker than water: brothers will fight each other like dogs … until someone outside the family attacks one of them. Families in a community (or sept, or clan) will be bitter enemies … until outsiders attack the community. Towns and cities will be vicious rivals – until another country attacks.
These are just a few that come to mind. Americans are not unique in not learning the lessons of war, or even of stupidity. But we do seem to excel at repeating history again and again.
Oh, and one more lesson – one I don’t think the idiots in DC can learn. Back to that map: if DC could not win in 20 years in Afghanistan, how can they hope to win if Texas decides to stop being part of the team and quits?