Thursday, October 01, 2009

Afghanistan is a Losing Proposition

Obama is weighing his course of action in Afghanistan, but even he can't do the impossible, and that's what Afganistan is. I'm not for increasing troop strength there, and I'm probably for reducing it. It's a no-win situation.

Don't get me wrong. I sympathize with those many Afghan people, especially the young people and women, who've had a taste of modernity and individual rights. If we pull out, they suffer. But, if we stay in, we suffer too much. Maybe it's time to let Afghanistan work out its own future, whatever that is.

Al Queda is a danger to us, and the Taliban have harbored them. Therefore, the Taliban is our enemy and Al Queda can hide as guests among them. As a consequence, we can't just leave Afganistan. We've got to keep the pressure on them, make the lives of the bad guys miserable and always fearful until, if ever, they decide to be more accomodating to us. But we don't need to occupy the country to do that; we can operate from a fairly small footprint and keep casualties down. No nation-building. Search and destroy. I know this doesn't sound Christian, but these guys have stated their aims and self-defense is no sin. Biden is right.

Our generals want a big war. War is their thing; it's what they've trained for all their lives, and they want to be seen as being good at it. And they have lots of cheerleaders, especially the contractors who make fortunes providing the materials of war. Nuts to them! McChrystal may be a top-notch soldier, but we don't need to provide him a big war as his playpen.

Why am I so amadant about this? Two reasons. First, Afghanistan is just too big, too rough, and too backward to occupy and "win over". The cost of trying would be astronomical, and the American people would be right to conclude there are far better places to spend their money. Second, we can fight Al Queda without controlling Afghanistan. We can do it with drones and special forces based near Kabul and major population centers with plenty of guards. We don't need the casualties we'll get if we continue this pattern of making forays through the Taliban-dominated countryside.

It's hard to believe, but our greatest threat to the Taliban might be to decriminalize drugs in the U.S. Afghanistan is the largest producer of opium in the world, and we could take the profits out of their largest market in no time. That would deprive them of the revenue they use to buy weapons and pay their soldiers. I'm for that. Freedom for us (even freedom to rot some of our brains) and no money for them. I'm all for making fundamentalist Afghan boneheads penniless.

So, no more troops. No more grandiose plans for a girls school on every corner and paved roads everywhere. Just find a way to be really nasty to the bad guys and leave Afghanistan to work out its problems mostly on its own. Maybe give them cheap computers and free satellite internet, and let them figure out for if they want to be modern. In the meantime, wreak havoc on any kind of major Taliban facility or meeting center we can find. Perhaps they'll get as tired of hiding out as I'm tired of hearing about IED's and dead G.I.'s who died in a no-win war.

14 comments:

Lifehiker said...

P.S. I to mention the nonsense about "minimizing civilian casualties" that we hear every day. You either fight a war or you don't. When civilians are mixed in with soldiers, the civilians become unfortunate "collateral damage".

You can't fight a war with one hand tied behind your back. Another big reason to scale back a lot in Afghanistan.

Dave said...

Agreed, but the Administration and the military aren't paying attention.

ThomasLB said...

One of the problems is that everybody in the world thinks that their system is best. The Soviets told us we'd love communism once we got used to it, the Taliban thinks we'll love having a theocracy once we get used to it, we're telling them they'll love democracy once they get the hang of it.

Maybe everybody should just leave everybody alone and let them sort out things for themselves.

Lifehiker said...

Wouldn't that be nice, Thomas? Maybe Rodney King had it right. But, fundamentalists just can't seem to figure it out - they've got the "answer" and the rest of us need to be brought into line. It's unfortunate, but we have to fight back to some degree.

thimscool said...

Search and destroy. I know this doesn't sound Christian, but these guys have stated their aims and self-defense is no sin.

No, it does not sound Christian.

Self defense means guarding against attack, and acting to prevent further attack. Search your heart and mind. Are we acting to prevent further attacks? George Bush said that we'd attack them there to prevent an attack here, is that the sense in which we are preventing further attacks? Because we are as woefully unprepared for a nuke in a container as we were before we started making air travelers take off their shoes. And as for interdiction, fagetaboudit. What the hell are you talking about it.

We're in Afghanistan because of Iran in particular, and the other central Asian republics. The old-world Brits and vulgar Soviets wanted to annex it, but we have a new approach: the same thought we have for Iraq...

Prop up an impossible "legitimate government", waylaid by the "warlord thugs". Keep massive bases with air strips capable of supporting major escalation if necessary, on the pretense that we have to protect the fragile legitimate government from the warlord thugs.

Keep up the appearances by supporting campaigns against the long dead CIA asset known as Osama Bin Laden, and "surging" in support of free elections, that support one dipshit or another (see Hamas).

"Well, citizens, it is an imperfect situation, but we do have vital strategic interests and to put it in perspective, we've only lost a few thousand soldiers a year, God bless them."

Wake up, ya candy ass. Smell the twice burnt coffee. Get ready for the links. This whole new world order and golphing thing doesn't quite hold together smoothly does it? Maybe some more herbicide in the ground water and we'll get the point? Wake up old man, the world is uglier than your limp assessment has mustered.

Let me close with a nice picture for you.

Ron Davison said...

LH,
there is no good way to do this. I think it'd be interesting to see a map of the world by threat based on stated intentions of groups that manage to live in a region and their ability and - perhaps most importantly - the assessment of how much change it would take to bring them into the modern world. This element of cost of change and proximity to modern is something that doesn't seem to be much considered when deciding where to spend our money and efforts.

you disappoint me said...

This whole taking off your shoes at the airport thing pisses me off more than anything. How disgusting that I have to remove sandals (SANDALS!!) and then walk the bare floor on the same path as smelly fat people with god knows what kind of foot fungi.

In Europe they have little dispensers with plastic slippers available. Here? WE DON'T GET FUCK ALL! If I must continue to fund these little wars either blow them the hell off the planet already and let's get back to being able to take bottles of wine and meat cleavers on airplanes, or get me some damn plastic slippers so I can ride this thing out with clean feet.

Lifehiker said...

Well, this topic certainly gets some attention, doesn't it!

My oldest grandson, a U.S. Marine, is most likely on schedule for Afghanistan early next year. He's gung-ho to go, but I'm not happy. I don't want him to look back and know he risked his life for a useless cause.

Thimscool, I'd like to know what you were drinking or inhaling before you wrote your comment. Whatever it was, it enhances incoherence. But, I appreciate your passion.

Ron, this idea of bringing people into modernity is a laudable goal. However, it doesn't take many opponents to sabotage such efforts, especially if they're well armed and ruthless. My view is that modernizing Afghanistan would be infinitely costly; we should spend our money elsewhere.

"you disappoint me" has a thing about feet, it seems. I've worn sandals to the airport, too, but I never thought about the fungus on the floor. Now I may start having nightmares... I think many of us believe TSA has gone way overboard with silly security; bureaucracy run amuck, and no plastic slippers, either!

you disappoint me said...

He's gung-ho to go, but I'm not happy. I don't want him to look back and know he risked his life for a useless cause.

Someone "gung-ho to go" likely doesn't have the brain capacity to even ponder the notion of useless causes.

Perhaps they'll get as tired of hiding out as I'm tired of hearing about IED's and dead G.I.'s who died in a no-win war.

Umm....the question begs, why did your grandson sign up?

Lifehiker said...

My grandson scored in the top 2% on his ACT's and could have gone to a fine college. Unfortunately, he's also pretty immature and instead chose the Marines. He was, and is still, under the impression that combat is glorious.

I was an officer in the paratroopers, but I realized right away that combat is not glorious. Combat is ugly and poop-your-pants scary. It should only be experienced by those who feel their life is worth losing in order to win the cause. Afghanistan is not worth it.

thimscool said...

Er... sorry about that. My bottle of Bakers was bigger than I thought. Good stuff when you've got to kill a bug that crawled up your ass.

It wasn't really all that incoherent until I got pissed off at you for only understanding half the story. The following part makes perfect sense, and it is exactly what is going on in both Iraq and Afghanistan (although we haven't figured out the airstrip in the latter, which is why it is particularly stupid):

[We intend to] Prop up an impossible "legitimate government", waylaid by the "warlord thugs". Keep massive bases with air strips capable of supporting major escalation if necessary, on the pretense that we have to protect the fragile legitimate government from the warlord thugs.

We don't want to occupy, we just want access in order to bring down the hammer when things don't go our way. So we support impossible "democracy", and keep the thing in a perpetual state of fragility to justify our continued presence. Sure it's expensive... to the tax payers; and sure a few boys will get killed (I pray you don't lose your boy). But it looks damn affordable and proper if you think that fossil fuels should drive our entire policy apparatus.

Barack Bush should have a little of Clinton, Reagan, and Dr. "Carter Doctrine" himself (google it). Our system is a rolling disaster, completely hijacked by the ultra-rich.

Your point of view is naive. It sounds tender and caring, like you are a moderate republican who is hand wringing over whether this is "worth it" because of stopping the scary muslims. You are missing the plot. Wake up.

It's just like the golf thing... you think you're out there enjoying nature, while in fact you are contributing to the devastation of the environment all for the zen moment of sinking a putt. Take up mini golf. Or do you only golf where they use no pesticides/herbicides? Runoff is no joke.

Bah! You seem like a good man, but you post stuff that should have been apparent to you years ago...

thimscool said...

This whole taking off your shoes at the airport thing pisses me off more than anything.

Aye, Leslie. All that because of the thankfully inept shoe bomber. Here is the really bad news...

You know what that means, eh? Line up for your body cavity search, ladies and gentlemen! Ye haw.

you disappoint me said...

Thank you, Thimscool. I have advised the band to start wearing chaps when we fly.

V might like that article. He fits the "dark and hairy" profile to a T.

1138 said...

"I don't want him to look back and know he risked his life for a useless cause."

It doesn't have to be.
We had never been to the moon... and then after testing, planning, hard work and hard loss we have been.

Afghanistan is only lost if we refuse to give it the same thoughtful diligence we've given so many other projects.

If we walk away from Afghanistan -again- we will pay more than we can stand. It's only another Vietnam if we are foolish enough to run it like Nam. So far we haven't run it at all and NATO is pretty weary of pulling our weight.