Thoughts on economics and liberty

19 people attacked USA on 9/11. USA has killed 20,000 Afghans. Is this not enough?

Supratim is aggrieved that I've called USA's bluff and have explicitly said that it has over-reached its mandate of DEFENSIVE WAR.

19 terrorists attacked US on 9/11 and killed 2,977 innocent people. But now, in the meanwhile, around 20,000 Afghans have been killed.

Were all these 20,000 Afghans involved in the attacks?


War is ONLY justified on defensive grounds.

I've detailed the grounds on which the state can take human life in a separate blog post today.

Supratim has suggested that some Taliban think the US is a Great Satan.

Well, that's not news! Millions of people think so (and some on good gorunds), and if US doesn't focus on defending human liberty but keeps attacking innocents, there could soon be millions more.

Supratim, just because someone has a bad opinion of USA is NOT license to invade and shoot (including with drones). That is NOT sufficient ground for DEFENSIVE war.

The goals and objects of a war must be defined at its outset. In this case the war was a DEFENSIVE WAR against an ORGANISATION (NOT nation) Al Qaeda.

Al Quaeda has long been degraded into a run-of-the-mill terrorist outfit. Is leader, who masterminded the attacks is long dead. He was made ineffective even before he died.

There is therefore NOT ONE REASON for USA to stay on in Afghanistan.

Supratim has asked: "First, is it your position then that the US must withdraw its troops without killing these enemies, return to the US and instead wait for them to attack the US again, before returning to Af?"

My response: YES.

When we fund our government for defence, we mean DEFENCE. Not offence. The Pentagon is a DEFENCE department, not offence department.

War should primarily be fought on our borders.

Today the USA has drones. The moment the Taliban (presumably these people are "violent, nihilistic and radical") come to the US border to attack Americans, American can launch a mini-drone against them. Poof! Over.


The destruction of all Taliban soldiers is not a defensive action but offensive. It is an act of war. Taliban are, at least in their view, FULLY justified in attacking US soldiers on their soil.

There is SIMPLY NO COHERENT REASON for USA to stay on in Afghanistan. If it wants to stay, it must stay as a policeman, as part of a UN team. But then ALL violent action must be assessed by the judiciary. Obama can't keep pressing buttons on drone attacks like a WarCraft game-crazed teenager.

The idea of TAKING ENDLESS NUMBER OF HUMAN LIVES, without any limit on purpose/ justification, is not war. It is PURE EVIL.

The US risks being seen as an evil monster if it doesn't strictly limit its VIOLENCE against mankind.

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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11 thoughts on “19 people attacked USA on 9/11. USA has killed 20,000 Afghans. Is this not enough?
  1. Vishal Kumar Singh

    I don’t buy this argument of border. Let us Taliban is having access to a nuclear weapon which it says it will use against US. Why should an offensive action not be launched ?

  2. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Thanks. I am all for defence. The strongest votary of defence. But I’m all against killing even ONE human being outside of the URGENT need of defence, without due judicial process.

    Armed force must be used in war to deliver a quick and firm blow. Then must be withdrawn.

    It is a lame excuse to kill more and more people in Afghanistan on the ground that the Taliban are killing American soldiers. What do they expect anyone to do if they occupy their land for years on end? Of course Taliban/ Afghans will kill American soldiers located INSIDE Afghanistan.

    The question is: are the Taliban prepared to go all the way to attack US inside the USA?

    The nuclear weapon argument is extremely theoretical. The Afghans can’t even organise a drinking water tap, leave alone a university or nuclear lab. Leave them alone to do whatever they want. That’s not our business till they actually become a direct threat.

    The US is not a global policeman, and if it wants to be one, it must follow a STRICT judicial process before killing anyone.


  3. Shailesh

    Sanjeev – u seem to be unclear on whether USA govt is doing wrong to its citizens or doing wrong to outsiders (taliban/afghan/international communicty, etc.)

    In my view, its doing wrong to its citizens – expending too much money, time and reputation on a war without sufficient benefit and inviting ‘badwill’. However, its their internal matter and many aggrieved US citizens are trying to change this.

    Vis-a-vis outsiders, unfortunately, there are no credible, widely accepted and enforceable rules of international conduct. The numerous international institutions (UN, International criminal court, IMF, etc.) are not effective/independent and, to an extent, the law of the jungle still prevails.

    eg: US goes to war with every1 or does anything whenever it expects an overall net benefit. India doesn’t go to war with Pakistan since it doesn’t expect an overall net benefit (even if it feels it is being regularly attacked).

    I think US has been doing some wrong to Afghanistan (and we can all have different reasonable views on that) and, being the most powerful animal in the jungle, it has always been doing a lot of wrongs.

    I totally disagree with your views on US conduct (regarding Assange, drones, afghan war) and it’s no big deal. However, your claims that your views are extremely scientific, obvious and beyond doubt are strange to say the least.

  4. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Shailesh

    I have a tendency to ask questions from first principles. That means everything must fit. I’ve elaborated on many of these issues in DOF. This is merely an implication from these basic principles.

    I would be happier (indeed would welcome) if you can prove to me which principle is wrong, and therefore which deduction is incorrect. General disagreements don’t really add any value. Please pick one – anything (since you disagree very broadly) and work backwards from first principles of the role of the state.


  5. Shailesh

    Sanjeev – some other commenters have extensively and meaningfully discussed and agreed/disagreed with your positions on these issues. I don’t have value to add on these issues. So, let’s agree to disagree on where US is right and where it’s wrong.

    I was just arguing that different rules apply to domestic and international conduct.

    eg: You somewhere indicated that US should have judicial approval /follow due process before taking any Taliban life. I think judicial approval / due process applies only to taking internal lives. Externally, there are no credible set rules or process that is followed since there is no ‘world government’ or effective ‘international court’….citizens live under autocratic/democratic governments but countries live in a libertarian world! Good or bad – Its a jungle out there!

  6. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Shailesh, no other commentator has even remotely addressed ANY issue (of those you raise) from first principles. Supratim kept repeating his “feelings” about Assange/ US, but failed to prove ANYTHING. I did not, unfortunately, learn much from that discussion. I can only learn if someone offers a coherent argument. If you wish, please provide your own detailed views – from first principles – and I’ll have a look. I’m keen to learn but will rebut anything that doesn’t hark back to the defence of life and liberty – and the rule of law.

    RE: domestic and international conduct.

    To me there is no difference between the two. It would be like saying there must be a real Obama and a false Obama. A Jekyl and Hyde. We are one person. We are humans ABOVE ALL. All of us. We must have one standard of accountability for all. Let me address this issue separately.


  7. Shailesh

    Sorry, I’d love to present a detailed view but I mostly agree with Supratim on these issues and he has argued better than I can. So, you will find my arguments also incoherent.

    yes, we should judge every1 by the same standards but that doesn’t mean Obama will follow the same ‘process’ for killing someone in US and killing someone in Afghanistan. Atleast the procedure, if not the rules, is different.

  8. Sanjeev Sabhlok


    It is pointless citing failed arguments. ALL of Supratim’s arguments failed. They were inconsistent. They were emotion-driven, driven by wishful thinking. So if you have anything to rebut the principles that underpin my arguments, please do so. Holding on to false beliefs just because you like it, doesn’t make those belief right.

    Btw, here’s the detailed response to your rather strange argument about “inside/outside” borders: