“America Wages War Like the World’s Biggest NGO”

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ISAF Photo / SSgt Bradley Lail

U.S. troops try to hide from Afghan dust near Kandahar as a helicopter lands nearby.

You don’t want your military described as an “NGO” — that stands for non-governmental organization, like the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders. It’s just one of the criticisms lobbed by Mark Steyn about how the nation is fighting, or not, in Afghanistan, in the latest issue of the conservative National Review. He argues that while the U.S. tends to be forward-leaning when it comes to getting into wars, it’s also forward-leaning when it comes to getting out. We simply don’t have the will to win, he says.

That’s true, as far as it goes, of course. Democratic governments who ask their civilians to sacrifice their offspring for never-ending wars – and their offsprings’ offsprings’ earnings to pay for it a generation or two down the road — shouldn’t be surprised. It’s part of the tapestry of American history. It’s just interesting when these arguments, long made on the left, start coming from the right as well.

Steyn, author of America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, takes a pretty apocalyptic view of the global scene. He fears Islamic fundamentalism could be coming soon to the United States. One place to turn back that tide, he believes, is Afghanistan. But he doesn’t like the apparent return-on-investment:

…the most lavishly funded armed forces on the planet, of a country that outspends China, Britain, France, Russia, and all second-rank powers combined and accounts single-handedly for over 40 percent of global military spending, can’t win any wars…Inbred goatherds with fertilizer…seem to grasp a central truth – that behind the nukes and the cruise missiles and the body armor, we don’t mean it. And they do.

He adds:

America wages war like the world’s biggest NGO – a do-gooding non-profit for which armed conflict is not the sharp end of a nation-state’s interest but an act of global stewardship. It’s war as the ultimate NPR fund drive: For a pledge of $12 billion, we’ll open a schoolhouse in Kandahar and a women’s-health clinic in Shah Joy and give everyone a copy of Three Cups of Tea. Six months after the last NATO soldier leaves, there will be no women at the women’s-health clinic and no schoolgirls at the schoolhouse. We came, we spent, we left no trace.

He frets that such an outcome will lead to the “very palpable evolution of America’s soldiery into yet another victim group. Victims of what? Of a political class and a broader national culture that knows how to start wars but not how to win them.”

That’s the real national-security scandal.


Going to war was a group effort for both Democrats and Republicans. Fighting war on terror is the least beneficial war of all. Anyone anywhere can be a terrorist. Blaming one party over the other in the devastating time of 9-11 is not only stupid but insulting. As the war began with Bush and the Democratic party it ended with Obama getting us out of Iraq and the republicans who held most of the seats in the senate at the time. Winning war on terrorism was near impossible. The point was to show terrorist that we would at all cost defend our country.

mr2b 1 Like

@ Don

 I'm sure the German citizens didn't enjoy, say the fire-bombing of Dresden, but we did it anyway.  The Pentagon should wage wars in manners beneficial to Americans.  But instead we seem to do what's worse.  We offend Islamists by staying in the Middle East for decades while we effectively wage wars like an NGO.  No one benefits--besides maybe the government officials and munitions dealers.

mikhailalterman 1 Like

What escapes Don_Bacon and many others is there is no desire by anyone in the US to fight in Afghanistan or anywhere else.  This isn't Vietnam.  We got some 38 armed conflicts on the planet where jihadists are waging war against non-Muslims.  They treat it as one war and they shift fighters accordingly.  We don't have a choice in sitting on the side lines.  What Steyn is focusing on is if we must get involved, and we must, then get involved like we mean it.  This is the jihadists we are facing:  Now we do something about it or we can keep declining slowly.

Don_Bacon 4 Like

People like Steyn, imbued with American Exceptionalism, have no empathy for people in other countries who dislike brutal US military attacks and occupations. Why don't they appreciate US efforts? these idiots ask. They don't get it. The truth escapes them.

"One day while I was in a bunker in Vietnam, a sniper round went over my head.  The person who fired that weapon was not a terrorist, a rebel, an extremist, or a so-called insurgent.  The Vietnamese individual who tried to kill me was a citizen of Vietnam, who did not want me in his country.  This truth escapes millions." --Mike Hastie, U.S. Army Medic, Vietnam 1970-71


@Don_Bacon Steyn argues against sending US forces all over the world.  If they don't want us, we shouldn't go.  If they wants us in, they should cough up some money or support.


@Don_Bacon How about I take my best guns, and run you out of my country?

Good for the goose, good for the gander...


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