1. It’s Afghanistan.
2. The Taliban had no involvement with 9/11. Toppling that government because of 9/11 was one of the first examples of the blurring of distinctions among 9/11 conspirators, jihadists generally, jihadist sympathizers, terrorists generally, Islamists, Muslims, Arabs, and anyone the Bush Administration happens not to like.
3. It’s Afghanistan.
4. It was an act of war. War is generally a bad idea. It is a negative sum game, and there is an absolute guarantee that innocent people will be killed. When the primary grievance was the loss of innocent lives on 9/11, a response that costs more innocent lives calls into question the moral basis of that response.
5. The Guantánamo Bay detainment camp.
6. The Taliban Government of Afghanistan, however repellent it might have seemed to various observers, was the legitimate government of Afghanistan, and was recognized as such by the U.S. The United States therefore undertook to topple a sovereign government whose transgression was harboring a fugitive, a fugitive who, it should be noted, had never set foot in the U.S., nor ever been indicted for the 9/11 attacks (although there are prior U.S. indictments dating back to 1998). In any event, it is not clear that the Taliban could have delivered bin Laden even if they so desired, and sans extradition treaties, it’s not entirely clear what the legal basis would have been for doing so.
7. The “no land wars in Asia” thing.
8. There is every reason to believe that the invasion of Afghanistan was a result that was not only expected by bin Laden and company, but one that was actively desired. The occupation of Afghanistan played a major role in breaking the Soviet Union, and the possibility of doing the same to the U.S. cannot have been discounted by the planners of 9/11. The idea that the invasion caught al-Qaeda by surprise is preposterous, and any comment along the lines of “We could have caught him in Tora Bora,” should be followed with something like “if only the Fuhrer had listened to me,” or “if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids and their stupid dog.”
9. There is a children’s game in Afghanistan where a group of young boys tie up one of the group, push him down in the dirt, and then kick more dirt on him until he manages to spit on one of the other boys, who then gets tied up etc. You have trouble spitting if you are either angry or afraid.
10. The United States supplied a substantial amount of ordinance to the Afghani mujahadeen during the Soviet Occupation. An unknown, but probably substantial amount of this ordinance still exists, ready for use in IEDs.
11. It’s Afghanistan!
12. War is an action between sovereign states. A military response to terrorism itself validates terrorism, by conveying the status of sovereignty to terrorists, magnifying their perceived importance in their own eyes and those of their followers. Bin Laden is now perceived by some more as a head-of-state-in-exile than a criminal.
13. Helicopters crash more frequently in mountainous territory.
14. The creation of a large number of refugees, who then fled to Pakistan, running the risk of destabilizing a country with a large Islamist population and nuclear weapons.
15. A military response to terrorism makes it much more difficult, even impossible, to later invoke the criminal justice system. This further undercuts the rule of law, which is another terrorist objective.
16. The story goes that some Afghani mountain tribesmen pass the winter months with a bar of steel and a file. By the time spring comes, they have made a rifle.
17. Opium production in Afghanistan was nearly eliminated in 2001; in 2006 it was estimated at nearly 6000 metric tons. However one feels about drug laws, the illegal drug trade is a source of violence and corruption wherever it exists.
18. The Taliban was the product of a generation traumatized by the warfare of the 1970s and 1980s. Upon taking power, their first actions were extreme, but there are arguments that they had begun to moderate by the late 1990s, owing to the inevitable practical compromises that come with actually having to rule. The latest foreign occupation has traumatized a new generation, and we can expect the same aftermath and blowback if, as seems likely, they eventually return to power.
19. Whether or not the invasion of Afghanistan was primarily based on racism and militarism, it certainly gave aid and comfort to racists and militarists in the United States and elsewhere.
20. It’s AFGHANISTAN!