Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Afghanistan - Quagmire

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.  

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.                


Ed Baker said...

writ on w your last paragraph..


I just watched SHANE for the first time in about 20 years

probably the best cowboy movie ever..

you know

our "wars" are all about the money and the lies justify the doings!

thank gawd we got thwe 5 th column to "tell it like it is" as the Gov't allows and dictates what is broadcast!

Curtis Faville said...

I'm amazed at how gullible Americans are about these things.

The Obama administration has offered no more persuasive reasons for staying on in Afghanistan than the Bush people did, yet people still have a "wait and see" attitude. What are we waiting for? If we were going to have "caught" bin-Laden, we'd have done so years ago. He's slipping quietly from village to village, and the native populations are covering for him.

What are we really fighting for in the mountains? Real estate?--this is land nobody really wants to own. The people?--these people want no part of outsiders, least of all American soldiers. Do we think we can hold back the tide of Muslim extremism here?--it's a pipe dream.

Ed Baker said...

one two three what are we fighting for..


what a crock os dreck we've become.

I guess it is just pay-back time for the lessons we've never learned!

so fucking sad ...

and we teach this crap to our kids!

Curtis Faville said...

Every week on the news shows, the "experts" tell us to be calm, give it another year, and another year, and another year after that, etc. "We're on the verge of getting control, we're close to a breakthrough," etc.


We could be in Afghanistan for 10 years and they'd still be telling us this. Wait another year.

Time isn't on our side, and it never was.

Ed Baker said...

where will we my 94 year old Alzheimer's mother get her "comfort" medication (morphine) from if we wipe out the Afghanistani poppy fields?

from them hills in WV? or Mexico? or California. Oregon,Washington, Idaho?

too cold in Alaska to grow anything but ..

well off to the grocery store to buy some Dannon
Sterilized Pestisized Fruit on the Bottom Dumbed-down "yougurt" on sale because of the gov't required expiration date is near!


maybe I'll buy some of those chickens that grow in poison plastic wrap and are pumped up with antibiotics and formaldehyde...

and some packaged fried potatoes from India!

no wonder we'are a sick/starving/ignorant society!

we're fu''ing brain dead since the mid 80'
when we all got Reagan's Alzheimer's Lobotomy!

I wold go "ananyoumous" here... but, twould be no secrte who I am!

Kirby Olson said...

It was originally designed as a 25-year mission.

Don't you ever talk with Afghanistan war veterans?

The idea was to change the nature of Islamic countries so that they are more amenable to democracy, and thus more like us. Women could get educated, and vote (they now can, both in Iraq and in Afghanistan), there will be pluralism (in terms of political parties, and in terms of acceptance of multiple religions, as in our own first amendment), and other good things.

I think that's better than a one-party fundamentalism of either communist (Vietnam), communist-Buddhist (Myanmar) or Taliban-fundamentalism.

It's a continuation of the Lockean ideal.

Hasn't anybody in San Francisco ever heard of John Locke?

Curtis Faville said...


I think your version of a preferred outcome is a fairy-tale.

That's a painful fact--inasmuch as the consequences for those peoples (their nations) are truly sad to contemplate--but one which we must acknowledge.

Even George Will in his column today came out in favor of an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. That's a complete turnaround from what his position had been (under Bush).

Afghanistan is going to the dogs. They'll go back to being an opium poppy greenhouse, and the women will re-wrap their faces and we'll wring out hands and go to the mall and eat cotton candy again.

We can't save the whole world from itself, and we shouldn't try. Give'em a little foreign aid. If it makes you feel better, drop a few incendiary bombs on'em. We'd have about as good a chance of killing bin-Laden that way, as the manner in which we've been going about it. We "secured" Afghanistan years ago, now we have to go do it again. Do you honestly believe that this wouldn't happen over and over again over time? Three weeks after we leave, the Taliban slips back into power. What did we ever hope to accomplish?

We're "training their militias" or "winning over the countryside" or "establishing the rule of law" so that elections and police protection can be put in place"--


None of it's going to happen. Thousands of dead, trillions of dollars spent.

For nothing. Nothing.

Kirby Olson said...


We won Tet, and Cronkite called it for the other side.

We had them on the ropes, and the dopes called it for the communists.

Don't be a quitter, Curtis.

show some spunk, and some belief in human nature to change. Many in Afghanistan want us to win.

We changed Japan and Germany.

We can change Afghanistan, too.

We already have.

Curtis Faville said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Curtis Faville said...


I think the best place to start in discussions of foreign policy is one's aims: What is it, exactly, that one is seeking in a relationship to an individual country, or a region as a whole. What do you want, and how do you get it, and how much will it cost you.

Could the United States forcefully "adopt" countries on other continents, maintain them indefinitely with military presence, and a continuous stream of aid?

There are spheres of influence, and there are countries with whom we have strong ties. Taiwan, for instance. The United States should have strong diplomatic ties to the Middle East, but these are much complicated by our differences of approach to religion, governance, etc. We have never had a close tie to any Far Eastern Continental nation, except perhaps Iran (where the Shah stood in for us as a client regime). Western Europe abandoned their colonial interests there in the 20th Century. They had never intended to "civilize" nations they occupied or controlled economically--they just wanted the resources, and the rest was window-dressing.

The U.S. has been much maligned for its selfish support of dictatorships throughout the Third World, maintaining advantageous influence at the expense of indigenous populations.

The neo-Conservative agenda required that they convince Americans that we needed to "nation-build" or "win hearts and minds"; No sensible person believes this lie any more. In reality what we were doing was protecting our economic interests, which lay at the heart of our traditional foreign policies. Self-interest is the motivator for a reasonable foreign policy. Otherwise, you're selling out your own people. In reality, America has been protecting the interests of its multi-national corporations, under the guise of nation-building and pursuing terrorists.

Afghanistan is susceptible to democracy. It's at least 50 years away, and even then, much blood-shed is likely. Do we want to try to broker a seat at the table, for a poor country like Afghanistan? It's a sink-hole for money and materiel.

If that were our only problem point on the globe, we might consider sticking it out, but we have too much on our plate right now.

Ed Baker said...

Rambo said it best:

"Murdioch, I'm coming to get you!"

all we are
is creating 10,000 years' hatred ... enemies who suck our blood..

as long as we supply money and "things" they will line up
and bow-down to us... and all the various hypocritical religious

we can convert any starving people with chocolate bars, cigarettes, and Ford Escalades!

Kirby Olson said...

It's hard to know.

I think any country will be better off with Lockean as opposed to Marxist or Islamic ideals at their head (pluralist rather than one-party states).

Afghanistan could be a showcase for what happens when you take a shithole and make it into a functioning country with bathrooms, kitchens, and women who are permitted to think and read.

I think it's already happened in five years, for the most part.

If it gets control of its own borders, and goes on to become a showcase for Lockean ideals, one-party places as farflung as North Korea, Zimbabwe, and Red China will suffer a smashing defeat.

Even the Vietnamese may have a second go at democracy.

Curtis Faville said...

"I think any country will be better off with Lockean as opposed to Marxist or Islamic ideals at their head (pluralist rather than one-party states)."

I'm right with you there, Kirb. Any ideas how that can be accomplished without either tearing the resident Islamic fabric end to end, or simply killing everyone who disagrees with you?

"Afghanistan could be a showcase for what happens when you take a shithole and make it into a functioning country with bathrooms, kitchens, and women who are permitted to think and read."

I don't owe the Afghanistan's any toilets, or any toilet paper. If they want to come into the 20th or 21st Century, let them find their own way. We have enough problems here at home, that I'd rather have my tax dollars spent on.

"I think it's already happened in five years, for the most part."

If that's true, then our work is done, and we can bring the boys home.

"If it gets control of its own borders, and goes on to become a showcase for Lockean ideals, one-party places as farflung as North Korea, Zimbabwe, and Red China will suffer a smashing defeat."

Ah, yes. The "domino principle" in reverse.

"Even the Vietnamese may have a second go at democracy."

The quickest way to rid the world of socialism is to bring about the inter-communication of people(s). China may morph into a democracy in time, simply because the internet, that insidious many-tentacled monster--couldn't be controlled. But watch out, Kirby, that will also mean the downfall of the moral life. Danger!! Young Chinese girls wearing mini-skirts!