Of all the things I'm certain of at this moment, one of the most certain is that America can accomplish nothing in its military campaigns in Afghanistan. Afghanistan, like a number of other countries in the Near and Far East, is not really a nation at all, but a loose federation of tribal or regional precincts. These regional divisions are hundreds of years old. These places have no history of representative government, are usually fiercely independent, and have a familiarity with, and willingness to engage in, constant warfare. It's virtually a way of life in the "tribal areas" of Northeast Afghanistan and Northwest Pakistan. In order to maintain the kind of ordered society in which a central rule of law prevails, in which "terrorism" or "feuds" are not constantly being waged in broad daylight, there has to be a strong central government. Afghanistan and Pakistan, by all accounts, are not federalized nations as we define them in the West. They are nations in name only.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Afghanistan - Quagmire
A strong invasive military force, equipped with sophisticated firepower, can easily overcome small bands of guerrillas, but this is only half the story. When America prevailed in Europe during the Second World War, the vacuum left by the defeat of Germany, was quickly filled by the Soviet Union in the East, and by reinstatements of democratic regimes in the West.
Try to imagine what will happen when America finally leaves Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. My guess is that none of these puppet regimes are likely to survive more than a few weeks, before wholesale violence and open civil war erupts. The history of the Middle East tells us that hard-line dictatorships (or rigid monarchies) are the only effective means of central control in these countries. Their methods are repugnant, undemocratic and even bestial. Is it even realistic to imagine that Afghanistan could ever be a parliamentary democracy with elections and police and armies loyal to their leader(s)?
Look at the former Yugoslavia. It bears little resemblance to its former national shape. Tito ruled with an iron hand. Once the oppressive dictatorship was removed, the country fell into bloody, ethnic civil war. Isn't this what we can reasonably expect to occur in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, once our support is substantially removed? These aren't really nations at all, just loose federations waiting to collapse once their supports are removed. And once the fighting starts in earnest, there won't be much anyone from outside will be able to do to influence the outcome, short of more direct military participation.
One fallacy of American foreign policy over the last 10 years: That the best, most effective way we can defend ourselves against terrorism, is by "taming" or "cleaning up" the weak Third World states where "extremists" and "insurgents" can hide, train and plot. The simple fact is that an act of terrorism is extremely easy to accomplish, by anyone in any country in the world. It has been conclusively shown that a handful of fanatics, acting in secret, can mount a terrific terrorist act--a bombing, a plane hijacking, a mass poisoning, etc.--and that there is really no way to prevent this. And yet we still act as if subduing the "tribes" in the rough mountains of Central Asia will "make the world safe" again from terrorism.
This is nonsense.
The sooner we abandon these quagmires in the Middle East, the better off we'll be. We could carry on a limited "automated" campaign against bin-Laden almost indefinitely, without taking responsibility for any of these nations. If history demands that they return to the stone age, so be it. In the end, we won't be able to save these places anyway. They'll either have to make themselves over, or smolder with hatred and violence for another century or two.
The real problems need to be addressed: Overpopulation, dwindling resources, the spoiling of the environment. Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan pale in comparison to these.