by Patrick Cockburn
President Obama is likely to announce in the coming days that he will withdraw all US combat troops from Iraq by August 2010. Many of these soldiers will end up in Afghanistan where the Taliban is getting stronger and the US-backed government weaker by the day. How much has the US learnt from its debacle in Iraq?
One lesson not learnt in Washington is that it is a bad idea to become involved in a war in any so-called “failed state”. This patronising term suggests that if a state has failed, foreign intervention is justified and will face limited resistance. But the greatest US foreign policy disasters over the last generation have all been in places where organised government had largely collapsed.
There was Lebanon in 1983, when 242 US marines were blown up in Beirut, Somalia 10 years later, and Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The lesson, which applies to nowhere more than Afghanistan, is that societies with weak state structures devise lethally effective ways of defending themselves.
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