July 05, 2008

Further into the Quagmire, with Field Marshall Obama

I've cited Mike Whitney's analyses of the U.S.'s ongoing economic collapse a few times; see "When the Pretense and the Lies Unravel," and the Update to this entry.

I continue to discover more and more value in Whitney's writing (and I had always found a great deal), and he has thankfully expanded his subject matter over the last several months, and now discusses foreign policy. His latest piece is a truly devastating description of the catastrophe of Afghanistan. I strongly recommend that you read the article in its entirety. Here a few highlights.

About the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, and its extraordinarily dire results:
Afghanistan was supposed to be the "good war"; a "just response" to the attacks of September 11. It was supposed to bring Bin Laden to justice "dead or alive" and quash terrorism wherever it originated. 95 per cent of the American people supported the invasion of Afghanistan. Now less than half think the U.S. will prevail. The war was promoted as a way to replace a repressive fundamentalist regime with a democratic government based on western values. The Bush administration promised to rebuild war-torn Afghanistan, transform its feudal system into a free market economy, and liberate its women from the oppression of Islamic extremism.

It was all hogwash. None of the promises have been kept and none of the goals have been achieved. Besides, war isn't an instrument for positive social change; it's about killing people and blowing up things. Dolling-up military aggression as "preemption" can work for a while, but eventually the truth comes out. Democracy and modernity don't come from the barrel of a gun.

Far from being the "good war", Afghanistan has turned out to be a brutal war of revenge. Three decades of fighting has left the country in ruins and the violence is only getting worse. As victory becomes more elusive, the US has stepped up its bombing campaign making 2008 the most deadly year on record. Civilian casualties have skyrocketed and millions of Afghans have become refugees. At the same time, the Taliban have regrouped and taken over strategically vital areas in the south disrupting US supply lines from Pakistan.


The situation on the ground is hopeless; there is no light in the tunnel. Author Anatol Lieven put it like this in an article in the Financial Times, "The Dream of Afghan Democracy is Dead": "The first step in rethinking Afghan strategy is to think seriously about the lessons of a recent opinion survey of ordinary Taliban fighters commissioned by the Toronto Globe and Mail. Two results are striking: the widespread lack of any strong expression of allegiance to Mullah Omar and the Taliban leadership; and the reasons given by most for joining the Taliban -- namely, the presence of western troops in Afghanistan. The deaths of relatives or neighbors at the hands of those forces was also stated by many as a motive. This raises the question of whether Afghanistan is not becoming a sort of surreal hunting estate, in which the US and Nato breed the very "terrorists" they then track down. "

Lieven is right. The occupation and the careless killing of civilians has only strengthened the Taliban and swollen their ranks. The US has lost the struggle for hearts and minds and they don't have the troops to establish security. The mission has failed; the Afghan people have grown tired of foreign occupation and support on the homefront is rapidly eroding. The US is just digging a deeper hole by staying.

By every objective standard, conditions are worse now than they were before the invasion in 2001.


The situation is dire and it's forcing Bush to decide whether to shift more troops from Iraq or face growing resistance in Afghanistan. Meanwhile the violence is spreading and combat deaths are on the rise. Pentagon chieftains now believe they can only defeat the Taliban by striking at bases in Pakistan, a reckless plan that could inflame passions in Pakistan and trigger a regional conflict. Gradually, the US is being lured into a bigger quagmire.
And about the Democratic nominee for president:
Presidential candidate Barack Obama, "The Peace Candidate", supports a stronger commitment to the war in Afghanistan and has proposed "sending at least two additional combat brigades -- or 7,000 to 10,000 troops -- to Afghanistan, while deploying more Special Operations forces to the Afghan-Pakistan border. He has also proposed increasing non-military aid to Afghanistan by at least $1 billion per year." (Wall Street Journal) Obama, backed by Brzezinski and other Clinton foreign policy advisers, has focussed his attention on the "war on terror", that dismal public relations coup which conceals America's desire to become a major player in the Great Game, the battle for supremacy on the Asian continent. Obama appears to be even more eager to repeat history than his opponent, John McCain.

In November, voters will be asked to pick one of the two pro-war candidates. McCain has made his position clear; his focus is on Iraq. Now it is up to Obama to point out why it's more acceptable to kill a man who is fighting for his country in Afghanistan than it is in Iraq. If he can't answer that question, then he deserves to lose.
Read the whole article.