Sorry, but this editorial begs an essential question.

What mission?

The “mission” has never been defined.

And why is that? Because the “mission” cannot be defined.

It is truly preposterous to talk of remaking an ancient society of about 30 million people who mostly live hardscrabble lives in the mountains and deserts.

Afghanistan is only barely a country with traditionally no real central government, no roads, and few of any other modernity.

It is a collection of tribes, many of them living as people lived centuries ago. Even its borders are not fixed, the arbitrary Durand Line serving as an imposed border with Pakistan.

Just consider how long it takes for serious economic development to occur, economic development being the only path to modern democratic society.

Even China – the economic miracle of our age – which had much infrastructure, a cohesive society, and great human capital has taken more than thirty years of growth to arrive where it is.

And great parts of China are still poor and backward, especially in the West.

Or consider how long it takes to change one important human habit, say smoking. Only after decades of effort are we changing this once everyday-accepted habit.

Yet the newspaper editorial rooms, following the well-paid flaks at the Pentagon, speak blithely of immense changes in what is a gigantic country.

The United States never went into Afghanistan to advance its people. If it had wanted that, it could have dropped dollar bills instead of bombs.

What the United States wanted was vengeance, and also, I believe, that football-atmosphere feeling of, “Well, after all we are the greatest, and these poor turban-heads can’t stop us from doing as we please.”

The U.S. garnered UN support in the wake of 9/11 by exploiting sympathy, calling in debts, threats, and promises to get the votes to make the “mission” look international.

Just consider the NATO commitment, apart from Tony Blair’s abused Britain loyally carrying America’s gear. If it were such an important mission, of world significance, then you would not see 750 troops here and 2000 there, many of them under heavy restrictions about fighting. No, you would see the response of WWII. NATO counries cannot say it in public, but they do not believe in America’s “mission.” The size and very nature of their efforts speak eloquently for anyone listening.

It has been a fool’s mission from the beginning, and it remains a fool’s mission.

In the end, the Taleban, who are best described as a large segment of the country and not the phony term “insurgents’ must be part of any government. Karzai recognizes that. So what are you wasting lives and treasure over?

The great irony, of course, is that the Taleban need not have been our enemies. They are not pleasant or modern people, but their views are often no different to those of the Northern Alliance America has effectively put in their place, and the truth is their views are no more backward than those in many third-world countries, including India where savageries like bride-burning continue.

The Taleban did not cause 9/11. Saudis and some others, working abroad, quite possibly in a CIA black operation which backfired, did. They were not even the original ones to grant Osama bin Laden refuge, America’s Northern Alliance did.

And the Taleban still agreed after 9/11 to extradite bin Laden if only a bit of evidence were provided, the normal working procedure for extraditions all over the world. But the United States refused, and, to this day, it is interesting that bin Laden has never been included on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

For some reason unbelievable resources have been put into defeating what cannot be defeated. The fight against the Taleban has been subsumed under that great and hazy thing called the War on Terror, which really is an absurd extension of Israel’s views of how you live in the Middle East. Insanity, pure and simple.

So, even accepting your doubtful assumptions, the solution is to attack all of these places?

The war on terror is derived from Israel’s view of living in the Middle East. Israel sits, armed to teeth, with an armed forces and security establishment monstrously out of proportion to its size, and it has attacked every neighbor that it has, some more than once. It threatens every country within a thousand miles that demonstrates any independence of view, and it has used every dirty trick in the book to assault its perceived foes.

Nothing has been a more complete failure than Israel’s way of living with its neighbors.

It is a garrison state, constantly suffering from paranoia, reminding me much of the way people in Virginia in 1700s reacted to the circumstances of slavery, sleeping with guns and knives under their pillows and regularly being driven to excesses by fears of slave revolts.

It is not a model or an ideology to serve as anything of an example.

Indeed, a great deal of the discontent felt in Muslim countries relates to the great suppurating wound of Palestine/Israel, a natural human reaction to the great injustices and to the one-sidedness and injustice of American policy.

Solving a fundamental problem like that would go a great way towards reestablishing healthy relations with the world’s billion Muslims, but still, after decades of talk, we see no honest effort to do so. Instead we spend countless billions fighting phantoms.