Monday, November 30, 2009
Babbling About Afghanistan
By Alan Caruba
The President is going to address the nation about his plans for Afghanistan and if ever there was an exercise in futility, this is it.
Obama’s spent, we’re told, a goodly amount of time deciding what to do about this “war of necessity”, but he has never really explained why it’s necessary. Presumably it is because the Taliban want to take over Afghanistan. They did that before and, following the 9/11 attack, George Bush decided to kill as many as possible while doing the same to whatever members of al Qaeda were around.
Bush had a fairly simple approach to Afghanistan and it worked in the short term, but everything about the Middle East involves the long term whether you are looking back at history or trying to influence its future.
If you look back, you discover that the former Soviet Union had 100,000 troops there and spent ten years in Afghanistan. Like all occupying powers before them, they lost out to the tribes that function throughout the nation. Covert U.S. assistance expedited their losses, but that help was predicated on the long Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
One day in 1989 they just packed up and went home to Russia. Shortly thereafter the Berlin Wall fell followed by the entire Soviet government in 1991. If you look further back, you will find that the formerly great British Empire achieved little more than getting large numbers of their troops killed there.
Most military and other historians would draw the conclusion that invading and occupying Afghanistan is a really bad idea.
We have been listening to a lot of babble about its importance for eight years, but it was not important enough for the Bush administration to invest much effort. Iraq was far more than a war of necessity. It was a major oil producer, centrally located, and not incidentally, bordered Iran, a nation that has been in a state of belligerency with the United States since 1979. Beyond that, Saddam Hussein threatened any hope of stability in the Middle East.
As far as I can tell, Afghanistan’s major export is opium. The average life expectancy there is age 44 for men and women. The whole place is tribal with the Pashtuns being the largest one. Complaining about “corruption” in Afghanistan’s government or in any other aspect of life there is idiotic. What we call corruption is an ancient, established way of life for the whole of the Middle East.
Having fled from the Sudan, Al Qaeda set up shop there pre-9/11 because it is one of the most inaccessible places on Earth. He is believed to be in one of the frontier areas of Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan.
The problem of Afghanistan will not be solved until the problem of Pakistan is solved. And Pakistan does not like Afghanistan, but then Pakistan really hates India and one wonders who it considers a friend. It’s certainly not America, even though we have thrown billions down the Pakistani rat hole and only lately, when the Taliban were a short drive from downtown Islamabad, did the Pakis decide they were a problem.
One has to ask (1) why, after eight years, we haven’t found and killed Osama bin Laden and (2) why, after eight years, we are still militarily engaged there? Are we nation-building? If so, Afghanistan has passed through various stages of nationhood with not much to show for it. The present administration’s governing power extends to the city limits of Kabul.
If we can learn anything from the Soviet Russian experience, what are we doing there? The short answer is that we are getting our troops killed just as we did in Vietnam. NATO generals have openly questioned their nation’s participation. Meanwhile, a war-weary America is now drawing down our troops in Iraq.
President Lyndon Johnson wrestled with the Vietnam quandary in just the same way President Obama has had to do with Afghanistan and both came up with the same bad answer: more troops.
The American Empire is shrinking. The American economy is so bad that it is on life support from China, Japan and other lenders. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is pushing two pieces of legislation, Obamacare and Cap-and-Trade that would destroy the economy
A little bit of humility would be useful at this point, starting with some concentration on how to get Americans back to work and to find ways to keep American industry from leaving for places where the government doesn’t outlaw their products or some obscure specie is not the reason for denying irrigation water to farmers.
It is the habit of empires to never want to be seen abandoning the field of battle and right now we’re told that is in Afghanistan.
Hubris will prevent this President from defying history while, at the same time, shepherding a malevolent program to destroy America through Congress.
Afghanistan is the least of our problems.