ThePoliticalCat

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

World: Afghanistan



Welp, it looks like more and more Dems are coming around to Senator Russ Feingold's point of view on Afghanistan. And none too soon, given the recent news of rowdy fratboy misbehaviour by U.S. citizens in this deeply conservative Islamic nation.

What the hell are we doing in Afghanistan, anyway? It's a pointless war. The idea was to go in, get bin Laden and whoever else is in charge in al-Qaeda, and get the fuck out. But now, General Stanley McChrystal, top American commander in Afghanistan, is asking for more U.S. troops. And NATO is purportedly planning to increase its commitment to Afghanistan, according to Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary-general of NATO. "As long as it takes," says Rasmussen. As long as WHAT takes, sir? What are you hoping to accomplish?

Afghanistan is a pathetically poor nation, historically torn by fighting. Everyone seems to want a piece of that poverty-stricken land, beginning with Sikandar (Alexander the Great to you Greco-Romanists), and moving through Britain and Russia to the United States, and now an alliance of Western powers fronted by NATO. So far, no one's had much luck winning a war there. The British gave up after multiple defeats. The defeat of the Russians occurred within our own lifetimes. And now the US/NATO Coalition of Teh Stupid is getting ground to dust.

Clausewitz has this, among other things, to say about war:
War is not an independent phenomenon, but the continuation of politics by different means.
Given that Clausewitz is somewhat of an authority on war, it would behoove both NATO and the US to remember that. And what are the politics of Afghanistan?

Historically, Afghanistan has been a land of warring tribes, fierce and intransigent, deeply committed to a harsh version of the Muslim faith it adopted circa 650 AD. United for a little over a century into a kingdom comprising multiple dynasties and tribal alliances, these tribes have long resisted any semblance of comity, being more likely to invest their energies in settling grievances with each other by whatever means and having long since grown adept at manipulating foreigners against each other for their own survival and vengeance.

Thus, the question restates itself: What are the political aims of the U.S. and NATO in Afghanistan? Uniting the country? That seems laughable. There is no "country of Afghanistan," only a series of tribes that have fought each other for hundreds, possibly thousands, of years and will continue to fight each other long after the latest in a series of invaders has been crushed into exhaustion by the hostile climate, terrain, and natives.

Alleviating the lot of the natives? Well, war is the worst possible way to go about that. We appear to be killing lots of innocent, and possibly also not-so-innocent, civilians. In the event, a country torn by war, poverty, corruption, crime, and suffering does not allow democracy to take root in its bitter soil. Democracy requires the active participation of informed people. The people of Afghanistan are too busy fleeing bombs, being killed and maimed, and attempting to stay alive to spend time gathering information. And our presence there, far from alleviating their lot, is killing them.



It doesn't help to have the examples of other failed wars in Asia: Japan's war in China, and the U.S. involvement in Korea, and VietNam. To quote Bernard Viscount Montgomery,
[...] Rule 2 of war [...] is: "Do not go fighting with your land armies in China". It is a vast country, with no clearly defined objectives.
In the House of Lords, 30 May 1962 (Hansard, Col. 227)
And subsequently, upon the involvement of the U.S. in the VietNam conflict:
The US has broken the second rule of war. That is, don't go fighting with your land army on the mainland of Asia. [...]
As is always the case, corruption is rife in a land torn by war. No one seems to care about what the Afghanis themselves think about the Taliban, or the puppet dictator, Hamid Karzai, that we have foisted on them.

What exactly are we hoping to achieve in Afghanistan? Because if our aim is to ensure that natural gas flows from the rich fields around the Caspian Sea to ports where it can be transhipped to countries hungry for this rich natural resource, then perhaps we ought to be less hypocritical about it and either sterilize the entire nation of its inhabitants, or just buy it outright and pay the Afghanis to settle elsewhere.

Inhumane, you say? Of course it's inhumane. But how humane is it to prop up a corrupt, American-owned dictator who watches and pockets our riches anyway even as little girls and boys have their arms and legs blown off?

This is a problem that requires a political, not a military solution. So far, 21,000 troops have been sent there to fight and kill and be killed.

Photo by Julie Jacobson, AP

No more. Let's bring them home, people. Supporting the troops means not using them in the Gee, Dumb? Yeah! war of convenience. The Afghanis don't want us there. They want us to give them the training to become adept at defending themselves and then get the fuck out. What the fuck are we waiting for?

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