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War in Afghanistan and Its Ethical Implications Essay

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Updated: Apr 15th, 2021

The war in Afghanistan is a generational war. The country has been in a state of conflict since the early eighties. The Mujahedeen gave way to the Taliban and war keeps on evolving. War is a very difficult subject to analyze from an ethical dimension (Wehr, 1998). In fact, the ethical implications of all conflicts are never easy to decipher (Bercovitch & Jackson, 2009). The goal of this paper is to demonstrate that the American Government did not appreciate the magnitude of the ethical implications of the war in regards to the state, world politics, world economy and the future of the world.

The terrorist attacks that took place on September 11, 2001 changed the global landscape on many fronts. The attacks on American soil made it clear to the world that no country was beyond the reach of terrorists. The US holds the pride of place among the nations of the world as a secure and prosperous nation. However, the terrorists were able to demonstrate that no one was safe from their attacks. The Bush administration responded by ordering airstrikes targeting Al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan. The US military set up camp in the country to help stabilize the Kabul government as a means of eliminating the threat of future terrorism. The policy makers in Bush’s administration saw that the only way of removing the threat of terrorism is by eliminating Al Qaeda and Taliban bases from Afghanistan and ensuring that they have nowhere to plan their activities (United States Institute of Peace, 2009). The military objectives of the invasion of Afghanistan were very clear. The unclear issues were the ethical implications of the American invasion.

Ethical Impacts on the Afghan State

The war on terror had several impacts on the state of Afghanistan. The central government in Kabul was not in control over large areas of the country. The arrival of the US gave the central government a major boost in the war. However, the Kabul government faced several ethical dilemmas.

First, the government appeared weak and ineffectual in the eyes of other countries in the region. The arrival of US troops made it clear that Kabul was unable to secure its territory. This compromised Kabul’s status in the region and led to the emergence of nationalist sentiments in the country.

Secondly, the invasion of the country by US troops made America appear as a bully and as a rogue nation. America did not wait for a UN resolution before going to Afghanistan (Wyk, 2010). Rather, the country sent its troops and formalized issues with the UN later. This robbed the UN of its authority.

Thirdly, the presence of US troops in Afghanistan reduced the power of Afghan government. The Americans started making decisions on behalf of the country and it started influencing government policy in the country. The main question here is whether this was ethically acceptable in the context of sovereignty.

Ethical Concerns on World Politics

The decision of the Bush administration to invade Afghanistan also led to great international debate on the responsibilities of UN member states. The UN did not support America’s invasion of Afghanistan. The issue came up for discussion in the UN after the fact. This has several ethical implications.

First, does a powerful country have the right to invade another country under the guise of national security? This question is playing out again as Russia exerts its influence in Ukraine. The message that many countries got from the invasion of Afghanistan by the US was that power is what counts and not mutual respect among nations.

The second ethical question that arose from the invasion of Afghanistan in regards to international politics was whether America was the world’s prefect. According the UN charter, all nations are equal (UN, 2012). In addition, the principles of international relations demand that all countries must respect each other as peers. The US invasion of Afghanistan was disrespectful to the international community. As a world leader, the US set a poor example and polarized the world (Gerzon, 2006). While the US has every right to defend itself, it also has a responsibility to give the correct example to other countries across the world

Ethical Concerns relating to the Economy

The economic cost to the war in Afghanistan was very high. The Afghan government may have benefitted economically because of the availability of foreign currency in the country. However, many other sectors suffered because it was impossible to grown the economy in state of war. At the same time, the war weakened the value of the Afghan currency (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse, & Miall, 2011). Its credit rating plummeted for the period of the war.

Apart from Afghanistan, the entire region also suffered economically because of the US invasion. Countries like Afghanistan and India felt the economic pressure from the war. These countries also had to spend more money on defense to monitor refugees and combatants fleeing from the war.

The war in Afghanistan also disrupted international trade and maritime safety. The war causes the cost of insurance premiums to soar. The result was that some countries ended up paying more for imported products and inputs. The ethical concern in this context is whether America knew what this war meant to the other countries. If it did, why did the country insist on going to Afghanistan without the support of the UN?

Ethical Implications on the Future of the World

The legacy of the Afghan invasion is beginning to play out. On one hand, Obama’s administration is showing more restraint when it comes to the deployment of American troops abroad. For instance, during the Libyan revolution, the US government only acted in accordance to a UN resolution (Wyk, 2010). This is a positive thing. However, Russia’s annexation of Crimea is very similar to the invasion of Afghanistan on the following ground. Russia knows that Ukraine cannot match its military might. Therefore, it is destabilizing the country in order to benefit from the backlash. Is this part of the legacy of the US to the world?


The US had good reasons to invade Afghanistan. Many countries were sympathetic to the course. However, the US acted arrogantly in blatant disregard to international law, mainly because not one else could do anything about it (Sutter, 2012). The failure of the US to act like a member of the community of nations made villain in Afghanistan rather that the victim. Other countries with similar military power will follow its example in the future. In this case, the US failed the world by failing to honor its ethical obligations and in the process, it made the world worse.


Bercovitch, J., & Jackson, R. D. (2009). Conflict Resolution in the Twenty-first Century: Principles, Methods, and Approaches. Michigan: University of Michigan.

Gerzon, M. (2006). Leading Through Conflict: How Successful Leaders Transform Differences Into Opportunities. Boston, MA: Havard Business Press.

Ramsbotham, O., Woodhouse, T., & Miall, H. (2011). Contemporary Conflict Resolution. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Sutter, R. G. (2012). Chinese Foreign Relations: Power and Policy since the Cold War. Plymouth: Rowman and Littlefield.

UN. (2012). Web.

United States Institute of Peace. (2009). Guiding Principles for Stabilization and Reconstruction. Washington DC: United States Institute of Peace.

Wehr, P. (1998). Conflict Mapping. Web.

Wyk, J.-A. v. (2010). The African Union Response to Climate Change and Climate Security. In D. A. Mwiturubani, & J.-A. v. Wyk (Eds.), Climate Change and Natural Resouces Conflicts in Africa. Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies.

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