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February 07, 2009

New Tomdispatch


Whistling Past the Afghan Graveyard
Where Empires Go to Die

By Tom Engelhardt

It is now a commonplace -- as a lead article in the New York Times's Week in Review pointed out recently -- that Afghanistan is "the graveyard of empires." Given Barack Obama's call for a greater focus on the Afghan War ("we took our eye off the ball when we invaded Iraq..."), and given indications that a "surge" of U.S. troops is about to get underway there, Afghanistan's dangers have been much in the news lately. Some of the writing on this subject, including recent essays by Juan Cole at, Robert Dreyfuss at the Nation, and John Robertson at the War in Context website, has been incisive on just how the new administration's policy initiatives might transform Afghanistan and the increasingly unhinged Pakistani tribal borderlands into "Obama's War."

In other words, "the graveyard" has been getting its due. Far less attention has been paid to the "empire" part of the equation. And there's a good reason for that -- at least in Washington. Despite escalating worries about the deteriorating situation, no one in our nation's capital is ready to believe that Afghanistan could actually be the "graveyard" for the American role as the dominant hegemon on this planet.

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at February 7, 2009 09:04 AM

Good ol' Afghanistan.

Still the tar baby of geopolitics for more than a hundred years.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at February 7, 2009 10:00 AM

Well, do the math. The US military has to continue its rampage in Afghanistan, pissing off 1.3 billion world Muslims, to prevent that country of 32 million people from being a future staging area for another nineteen guys with box-cutters. Or, we need an army of 30,000 troops to get the guy in the cave. Both reasons are used by the deep thinkers that run things.

Posted by: Don Bacon at February 7, 2009 10:52 AM