The US military’s Afghanistan operation is going so well, the US military wants to stop telling you about it.
According to the AP:
Amid a battlefield stalemate in Afghanistan, the U.S. military has stopped releasing information often cited to measure progress in America’s longest war…
The move fits a trend of less information being released about the war in recent years…
A government watchdog agency that monitors the U.S. war effort, now in its 18th year, said in a report to Congress on Wednesday that the U.S. military command in Kabul is no longer producing “district control data,” which shows the number of Afghan districts — and the percentage of their population — controlled by the government compared to the Taliban.
The last time the command released this information, in January, it showed that Afghan government control was stagnant or slipping.
In other words, the US’s 2-trillion-dollar effort there is going nowhere. So they’re going to stop telling you about it.
This shouldn’t be surprising, of course. Government legitimacy in general relies to a large extent on deception and on withholding information about the true cost, incompetence, and destruction of government programs and government policies.Governments hate releasing data on employee salaries, audits, spending, and metrics. Unless, of course, those metrics make the government look good.
Coming up with that make-us-look-good metric is often easy to do because it’s easy for government agencies to track data on “how much stuff bought for x number of people” or “how many jobs created for Y number of government employees.” Then, all they have to do is exclude any data about how many people weren’t hired in the private sector because of government regulations and government taxes. They never mention the “stuff” that millions didn’t get because of higher taxes. Governments naturally don’t even try to collect that sort of data.
A similar phenomenon is seen in foreign policy. We hear all about how the government killed a dictator (i.e., Saddam Hussein or Moamar Qaddafi) while conveniently leaving out the fact these “humanitarian” missions just created power vacuums which paved the way for the rise of terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda.
When it comes to government programs, it’s all benefits, and no costs.
So who can be surprised the Pentagon now wants to hide the fact the Afghanistan War is accomplishing nothing. After all, this might make it easier to point out the Pentagon is hugely over-funded. Moreover, the Pentagon has no idea what it even does with its money, since, as Reuters reported in 2016:
The Defense Department’s Inspector General, in a June report, said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year. Yet the Army lacked receipts and invoices to support those numbers or simply made them up.
Disclosure of the Army’s manipulation of numbers is the latest example of the severe accounting problems plaguing the Defense Department for decades.
Unfortunately, it’s fairly easy for military organizations to get away with this sort of fraud and data manipulation because they can always claim “national security” demands it. Many voters — often including those who fancy themselves proponents of “limited government” are happy to play along and declare the taxpayers have no right to second-guess the “experts.”
The idea is the taxpaying public is too stupid or too ignorant to have anything other than worthless opinions when it comes to military and foreign affairs beyond the borders of the United States. Modern Americans have typically caved to this bullying tactic. Writing in the 1990s, however, at the end of the Cold War, Samuel Francis noted that such an attitude is incompatible with a free society :
The self-sufficiency, the civic independence, of the citizens of a republic, the idea that the citizens should support themselves economically, should be able to defend themselves,educate themselves, and discipline themselves, is closely connected to the idea of public virtue…A self governing people is simply too busy, as a rule, with the concerns of self-government to take much interest in other peoples’ business…A self-governing people generally abhors secrecy in government and rightly distrusts it. The only way, then, in which those intent upon…the expansion of their power over other peoples, can succeed is by diminishing the degree of self-government in their own society. They must persuade the self-governing people that there is too much self-government going around, that the people themselves simply are not smart enough or well-informed enough to deserve much say in such complicated matters as foreign policy…We hear it…every time an American President intones that “politics stop at the water’s edge.” Of course, politics do not stop at the water’s edge unless we as a people are willing to surrender a vast amount of control over what the government does in military, foreign, economic, and intelligence affairs.
Meanwhile, the government insists that the taxpayers have no right to privacy themselves. It’s the taxpayers who need to be monitored, it seems. And Donald Trump apparently agrees. The Washington Post reported yesterday:
The Trump administration has signaled in recent weeks that it may seek the permanent renewal of a surveillance law that has, among other things, enabled the National Security Agency to gather and analyze Americans’ phone records as part of terrorism investigations, according to five U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
So, while the military is cutting back on letting the public see
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