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Afghanistan Lost

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Do I sound like Harry Reid? The Nevada Senator referred to the Iraq war as lost during the debate on President Bush's surge in Iraq. Unlike Harry Reid and his exercise in wishful thinking, I have no desire to see the U.S. fail in Afghanistan. I believe failure there would mean someday we would have to return and pacify that country all over again. Also, unlike Harry Reid I do not wish the Obama Administration to take the wrong course in this war. I have made my thoughts plain as to what I felt was the right way: an increased force size backed by a larger U.S. Army with no timetable so our enemies could not plan around our thrust. Also, unlike Harry Reid, I believe we have chosen to lose this war, not been defeated on the battlefield.

It's been a little over two weeks since current President Obama visited Afghanistan in drive-thru fashion. Following the usual Obama lecture and a few pictures, he was gone. Sadly the few photos and the brief discussion of this vital issue quickly disappeared in the next issue du jour and then the next. First, came a phony off-shore drilling proposal, followed by an appeasement arms control deal with Russia and finally, a Potemkin village dressed up as nuclear security summit. These were calculated gimmicks all. Transitory fluff aimed at obscuring a train wreck in progress.

Bill Clinton and Dick Morris pioneered the issue of the day mode of operation back in the nineties. The big difference is that the Clinton issues were minor and at worst, guilty of the usual left wing condescension and time wasting. School uniforms springs to mind. With Obama, the ante has been upped. Minor distractions no longer suffice. If the issues that distract America from a war she will lose, be large and complex, then so much the better. It does not matter in Obama's mind that America has stripped itself of missile defense or that foreign energy dependence is disguised or that banter about Chile replaces confronting Iran. All that matters is that a war that will be lost in two years time is given a quick push to the side. Then we're off to the next propaganda item.

Make no mistake this war is not being lost by the troops. Even now, U.S. troops and allies have made large strides in controlling former hot spots, but this is for naught. President Obama has declared that the United States will give up, turn tail and run and leave our Afghan allies twisting in the wind in two years. It's no wonder that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is talking about joining the Taliban. In two years, Kabul will be back under Taliban control. Obama will try to time the withdrawal near the 2012 election. This may work politically, but after the election, Mullah Omar and his pal Usama Bin Laden will be back in their old haunts. This will obviously be a large complex problem for Obama's second term (provided he lies well enough to get one) but he won't really care. He'll never face the voters again.

Am I too cynical?(perish the thought!) Take the example of sainted FDR and the Invasion of North Africa in 1942 during World War II. Lagging in the polls, FDR urged the generals to invade before the November Congressional elections. The generals informed the Democratic president that they weren't ready to invade. Lacking a positive event to spin, FDR and the Democrats watched as the Republicans made hefty gains in the Congressional elections. Trading lives for spin isn't new, but usually those who do have done so tend to have been Nazis or Communists, i.e. the political extremists.

About Mr Dock Ellis

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    BTW, Stan, just read subsequent remarks:

    “as for 2003, it was what happened after the invasion that got America offside in Iraq with the locals, not the invasion itself.”

    I tend to agree with you there. But that doesn’t change the fact we fucked up and walked right in like a bull into a china shop.

    And the proof is – most of the casualties occurred after the invasion, not during. It was a failure of politics and foreign policy.

  • STM

    Rog: “If the Afghanis were part of the US effort, they would be fighting the Taliban themselves”.

    But they are, Rog. If you know anything about this, you will constantly hear referance to “a combined force of US, Australian (or whoever) and Afghan National Army troops”. They are constantly out with US and coalition forces on military operations. They are also now doing their own with just “advisers” in tow.

    They ARE doing what the did with the Russians …

    I blame your media there in the US. Any action that goes on is a US action or a US-led action. Understandable but no mention is made of anyone else mostly, but the truth is, Afghans are fighting the Taliban, and all the time, and have been from the very start.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, if you’re right, Stan, then we definitely don’t get this kind of picture from MSM. Quite the contrary, all you hear about is a negative reaction on the part of the locals whenever there’s any collateral damage, not to mention the recent distinction between the “good” and “bad” Taliban, or the corruption of the local government.

    Besides, I don’t make a straightforward equation to the effect that Taliban = Al Qaeda, do you?

    Perhaps things are moving forward, politically, in terms of the aforementioned distinction between good and bad Taliban. You can’t totally exclude a great part of the local population (even if it’s Taliban) from having say in their own government.

    But aside from all that, however, you surely must be aware that our presence there is not strictly speaking humanitarian; the stability of the region is at stake, the situation in Pakistan, not to mention economic issues.

    I’ll never buy the idea that chasing bin Laden down is the only reason.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    That’s a conversation stopper, Stan, and you know it – the kind of things that would get us tangle up in a bar.

    Perhaps you should stop flapping your jaws, Roger and pay attention. If you did you would find that I’m right, and that Stan, who reflects my views without desiring to say so, is right also.

    At least Stan does not reflect the views of an American who is unable to see anything beyond his borders. Unfortunately, the lot of you are unable to see beyond your own waters.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Ruvy,

    I’ve long ceased listening to anything you’ve got to say. I would have thought you would have realized that by now. But in case you have any doubts, I’m reiterating again.

  • Deano

    The Taliban and Al Quaeda are two different entities that the media superficially tends to lump together or equate as identical.

    The Taliban movement arose out of the muhajadeen resistance to the Soviet invasion. It was fundamentalist and not particularly well-supported across Afghanistan or even in the Pashtun regions. It was, however, gifted with the support of Pakistani Intelligence. In the wake of the Soviet departure, the US essentially shut down its support operations, boarded up the windows and left, leaving Pakistani intelligence and its Taliban underlings to do what they wanted to the remains of Afghanistan and its rivals for power.

    The Taliban went to war against the Northern Alliance(mostly Tajik) and Massoud, drove them out of Kabul and took power, instituting a theocractic dictatorship that banned haircuts, music, schooling for women, kite-flying, alcohol, drugs etc.

    They also welcomed Al Quaeda and Osama Bin Ladin (who had been a supporter and ally from the ‘good old days”) to set up training camps and bases in the country. Bin Ladin was considered a “guest” and a friend to the Taliban who were not recognized as a legitimate government by most parties.
    Afgahnistan was the priamry base of operations for Al Quaeda. It was the site of planning and training for msot of the major terrorist activities that Al Quaeda has been engaged with in the last 20 years (US Cole bombing, Niarobi Embassy bombing etc, 9/11 etc.).

    This is why the Taliban were targeted – for providing safe haven, support and alliance with Al Quaeda. The Taliban do not = Al Quaeda, however they are ongoing allies and the Taliban have deliberately and continually reinforced that relationship.

    If you want to get a good education on the subject, I would recommend reading “Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001″ by Steven Coll.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “You can’t argue about this issue from a position of ignorance”

    If that was the standard, the Internet would be a quieter place

  • Glenn Contrarian

    El B -

    Which standard – the standard of a position of ignorance, or that of a position of knowledge and understanding?

    I suspect you meant the latter, and truer words were never keyed!

  • BFTW

    Having read the article and all of the comments I’m now convinced that oil and gas pipelines have absolutely nothing to do with the invasion and occupation of either Iraq or Afghanistan by the US and its allies. Nothing whatsoever. I’m not joking here. I mean it. Nothing whatsoever to do with the invasion of either country. Zilch. Nada. Zero. Bugger all. Less than bugger all in fact. So much less than bugger all that bugger all actually gives the impression of substantial evidence to the contrary.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    We’re into nation-building, BFTW, don’t you know it?

  • STM

    In the long run, it might.

    But if the US had wanted Iraq’s oil in 2003, they would’ve bought it from them, not taken the whole joint over.

    The Iraqis were desperate to sell it, too.

    And even if it was to do with oil, that still doesn’t excuse lunatics from flying jets into skyscrapers.

    Sorry, don’t buy the tired old argument.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “. . . that still doesn’t excuse lunatics from flying jets into skyscrapers.”

    Agreed, but the reason we think so is because we don’t regards terrorist activities as acts of war. But by our very own standards, if we can speak meaningfully of being in war with them, they’re in war with us.

    And to take it to another level, we could equally be ambivalent about the bombing of Dresden, from which action even Churchill eventually distanced himself: what lunatics could possibly dream up the idea?

  • STM

    Come on Rog, the two are completely different things. I don’t believe in the reap what you sow argument when it comes to the US either.

    I don’t believe the US is a malignant force on this planet, even if what it does is far from perfect and has at times in the past been questionable.

    If it has any failings, it’s that it collectively believes the myth of its own exceptionalism.

    The Arabs have a saying: “Better be nice tyo America or they’ll bring you democracy”.

    It’s not an ideology of hate.

    Whereas, you didn’t have to p.ss the nazis off for them to invade you. They just did it.

    And what, they’re bombing the sh.t out of everyone else, and it can’t happen to them.

    I agree Dresden might be close to a war crime, but there was a war on at the time aimed at utterly destroying a hateful, murderous ideology in which the large majority of Germans were complicit.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Of course they’re “different things, Stan, but entirely different . . . That depends on definition of terms and the “privilege” that comes with what’s commonly recognized as warfare.

    As to your comment, “And what, they’re bombing the sh.t out of everyone else, and it can’t happen to them,” I’m certain you don’t want to press this point. After all, we don’t want to be judged by the same standards, do we know? not we’re are better than the Nazis.

  • STM

    America, for all its failings, is not a murderous, hateful ideology.

    When you weigh it all up, America’s in the black, not the red.

  • BFTW

    I almost believe that if some Saudi nationals had not learned to fly in the US and had not flown passenger jets into NY city towers on 9/11, the US would have invaded Saudi Arabia. It’s all so clear now. It’s just a matter of inventing dots and connections.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    BFTW -

    That’s pretty funny – and, given the tendencies Bush/Cheney had, possibly true.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Of course they would have. Bechtel and Halliburton were itching for more business. Dick Cheney was not to be denied.

  • BFTW

    No one pretends anymore that the pursuit of power, wealth, toys and sex motivates some people.
    That is just an old wives tale that the OW made up to scare the younger wives. In reality, especially in the oil and gas industry, people are motivated by pure altruism and their love for humanity. Wherever there are large deposits of oil and natural gas you will find them spreading love and peace and goodwill. It must be something in the fumes.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Deano,

    About comment #56.

    You’re getting there. Now all you need to do is to follow a Pashtun’s point of view on all this, and you’ll actually be able to try to wear their shirts for a mile and understand how they feel.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    There can be no better recommendation than to hear one approaches Ruvy’s POV. Simply stated, it means one’s about to arrive.

  • Deano

    Sorry but I’m not sure Ruvy’s POV is what I’m moving towards…sorry Ruvy – although he is correct in that “the old structures are collapsing”… which is a very astute observation and one primary reason the Taliban is what it is.

    My understanding is that the vast majority of Pashtun in Afghanistan and in the tribal areas are concerned mainly with local power, local politics and local communities, not with 9/11, the vagaries of international terrorism or any of the like.

    They are provincial, insular, conservative, clannish and proud, with a strong sense of tribal and familial identities, not overtly nationalist or even necessarily ideologically committed. Any outsiders are generally treated with disdain, comtempt or as potential people to rob or murder – unless you are a guest, in which case they will (as is the case with Bin Ladin) go to great lengths to provide courtesy and protection. Most Pashtun are not fundamentalists but much of the Taliban’s appeal is rooted in ignorance and an appeal to the inate conservatism and resistance typically found in village culture. Most rural Afghans will live their lives without ever going more than five miles down the road. Neighbours are often competitors for local resources. Throw in tribal identities and blood feuds between clans and it is unsurprising that in a culture of lawlessness, the Taliban can have a powerful appeal., particularly with many of the more traditional structures within the community being strained, changed or destroyed after 30 years of war.

    One of the best comparisions I’ve run across contrasted Afghanistan with Scotland, prior to the clearances of the Highlands and the advent of English rule. It took more than 200 years for the Scots to be hammered into at least a tolerable form of submission (although any friday night in Glasgow might belie that comment…). In the bad old days a highlander might slit your belly just for the fun of watching you die on the roadside, and cattle reaving, raids and clan wars were common. To illustrate, the word blackmail originates from the Anglo-Scots border country…

  • STM

    Deano: “It took more than 200 years for the Scots to be hammered into at least a tolerable form of submission (although any friday night in Glasgow might belie that comment…)”

    Then they put ‘em in the British army, and look what happened.

  • Ruvy

    Deano,

    I’m typing this from a net-cafe and do not have time to be terribly careful in my spelling – there is that bus to catch some meters away!

    Your description of the mountain Pashtun would have been very accurate 20 years ago. You would be surprised what cell phones can do to a culture, and how quickly isolated cultures can change – and how slowly they can change when you expect quick change.

    Ther hierarchy of loyalties of the Pashtun is the same as you describe. The possibility of mere local loyalty is still likely. But the cell phone, and education, which is spreading in Afghanistan, at least, is changing the realities. How quickly they will change is something I am not wise enough to foresee. That depends on what options are presented to the Pashtun, and how they respond. That is changing as I type this response to you.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Ruvy –

    #74 is an excellent reply…and unarguable. I could sit here for an hour and not find something in your comment to argue against…and I hope you take that as the compliment that it is.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    STM –

    IMO the Brits don’t get half the credit they’re due – not just for the British Army itself, but for the military units they were able to develop from all over the planet: HIghlanders, Diggers, Gurkhas…names to which anyone with a clue about military history will nod with respect.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Thank you for the compliment, Glenn. I’m sorry I’ve been rough on you elsewhere. It’s not personal.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Ruvy -

    No offense taken – not at all. Are you kidding? The ones I trust the most are the ones who have enough courage to tell me what they really think, who have enough courage to get pissed and tell me how screwed up I really am…but who also secure enough within themselves to reach out a hand in friendship a minute or two later.

    In contrast, the ones I distrust the most are ‘yes men’ and rank hypocrites…and you’re certainly neither of these.

  • STM

    Glenn: “IMO the Brits don’t get half the credit they’re due”.

    Only in your neck of the woods :) That’s the result of a) Them losing the American revolution (it was a bit like Vietnam … parliament called it off after a change of government) and b) Americans for some really bizarre reason refusing to admit they lost the war of 1812, which would have made it even stevens.

    It’s all developed from there. But from what I know about the British military, I’m glad they’re on my side.