Matthew Hoh, a former Marine captain, followed his combat tours in Iraq with a Foreign Service post as the top civilian in Afghanistan's desolate Zabul province. After a year, he resigned, saying the American mission was doomed and that misguided American efforts were a boon to the forces we seek to quell. Today, the Washington Post published his four-page resignation letter, a forceful argument against America's rationale for war and involvement in Afghanistan. "I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," he writes. "To put simply: I fail to see the value or the worth in continued US casualties or expenditures or resources in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year old civil war." Hoh writes:
If the History of Afghanistan is one great stage play, the United States is no more than a supporting actor, among several previously, in a tragedy that not only pits tribes, valleys, clans, villages and families against one another, but, from at least the end of King Zahir Shah's reign [in 1973], has violently and savagely pitted the urban, secular, educated and modern of Afghanistan against the rural, religious, illiterate and traditional. [...]
Success and victory, whatever they may be, will be realized not in years, after billions more spent, but in decades and generations. The United States does not enjoy a national treasury for such success and victory.
The letter, perhaps as powerful as the resignation itself, is a deeply insightful piece of opinion writing that would be the envy of any anti-war newspaper columnist and may, indeed, become a touchstone of their thinking. Afghan War experts and commentators of all stripes and ideologies have had no choice but to confront Hoh's resignation, both for the argument Hoh makes and for the symbolic importance of his resignation.Whether his pessimism on the American mission will spread or be countered, there is little doubt of its significance. Full letter below.