The year is coming to an end, and we’re still in Afghanistan, where we’ve had no business being after chasing the Taliban from power. As I’ve argued repeatedly for the last six years, the West’s mistake wasn’t going into Afghanistan or Iraq to remove their murderous, hostile regimes, but staying after accomplishing the mission.
After the end of major combat operations in May 2003, or at the latest after Dec. 13, 2003, when Saddam Hussein was pulled from his spider-hole, the Western Coalition had no business in Iraq. After December 2001, when the interim presidency was conferred on Hamad Karzai, or at the latest after Dec. 7, 2004, when Karzai was elected president, the Western Coalition, including Canada, had no business in Afghanistan.
By crushing two evil, aggressive tyrannies, the armed forces did everything they can usefully and reliably do. Soldiers can’t build nations. At most, they can clear the way for people to build their own. Some seize the opportunity and do; others don’t. They may replace one hostile, aggressive ruler with another even more hostile and aggressive, as Germany replaced the Kaiser and the Hohenzollern dynasty after the First World War with Adolf Hitler and the Nazis — in which case the military may have to return and crush the hostile regime again.