Afghanistan is a classic proxy war


October, 2009 ▪ Interviewed by Viktor Kaspruk

Andrew J. Bacevich is Professor of International Relations and History at Boston University. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, he received his PhD in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University. Before joining the faculty of Boston University, he taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins.

Bacevich is the author of Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War (2010). His previous books include The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (2008); The Long War: A New History of US National Security Policy since World War II (2007) (editor); The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (2005); and American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U. S. Diplomacy (2002). His essays and reviews have appeared in a variety of scholarly and general interest publications including The Wilson Quarterly, The National Interest, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Nation, and The New Republic. His op-eds have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Boston Globe, and Los Angeles Times, among other newspapers.

In 2004, Dr. Bacevich was a Berlin Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. He has also held fellowships at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and the Council on Foreign Relations.

1. Professor Bacevich, into your latest articles Afghanistan – the proxy war you write, that «Afghanistan is a classic proxy war, with the main protagonists here in the United States». When can this war be over? And what could be its implications for the U.S.?

If the United States pursues the strategy proposed by General McChrystal, the war will continue for many years. Even then the outcome will be doubtful.

2. You has proposed grand strategy for the conflict formerly called the war on terror: let’s approach the war on terror as if it were another Cold War. Please, tell about her in more details.

The Bush administration’s concept of a global war on terror assumed that the United States possessed power sufficient to transform the Greater Middle East, thereby eliminating the conditions giving rise to violent anti-American jihadism. That effort has failed. We need a new approach. The essence of the new approach should be to erect barriers that protect the United States and its allies from the jihadist threat. The Cold War strategy of containment provides a rough analogue for how to proceed.

3. One can view the larger conflict as a Cold War, and still believe it is essential to prevail in theater combat in Afghanistan?

I do not believe that Afghanistan qualifies as a vital national security interest of the United States. There is no requirement for the United States to pacify Afghanistan. The effort to do so is likely to bankrupt the United States.

4. Cold War frame works better if only United States would get out of Afghanistan and Iraq?

Ending those two wars is a prerequisite for a sound strategy.

5. Whether can United States departure will encourage the Muslim world to see the terrorists that has defeated its great superpower?

The United States should not be guided by what others think or say. It should act consistent with its own interests.

6. «Containment» of militant Islam is not a bad metaphor for what may be needed, but today the Islamists are conquer Africa. And Hugo Chavez opened them doors to Latin America. And what could be next?

It is absurd to think that the United States should view Chavez as a serious adversary. How many aircraft carriers does he have? How many armored divisions?

7. You argue that «the soviet bloc collapsed because life in the west is sweeter», and the radical portion of the muslim world is at war with the West sees only evil US-style democracy. Why it so?

I argued that the Soviet bloc collapsed because the inadequacies of Marxism-Leninism made the system untenable. The same will prove true of violent Islamic radicalism. It won’t work. It will collapse of its own accord.

8. Do you believe in what democracy could be imposed Islamic world by force?


9. Is the West’s chances to win the war on terrorism?

Winning is not the question.


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