The Option That Isn't Discussed

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I don't have a lot of time, but I wanted to throw out this piece by Glenn Greenwald on Afghanistan. I have heard talks of escalation and keeping the same strength, but the one thing that doesn't get much press is a withdrawal.

Every option is on the proverbial table except one: not fighting the war. And there's a widening gap between (a) public opinion (which sees Afghanistan as "turning into another Vietnam" and which opposes more troops, with 49% favoring a full or partial withdrawal) and (b) the virtual unanimity of establishment punditry which, as always, is cheerleading for the war. The only difference is that, with a Democratic President, there seems to be more Democratic and progressive support for this war (though there was, of course, plenty of that for Iraq, too).


As the article points out, there is a compelling reason to pull out, this statement from the Defense Science Board Task Force on what is making terrorism worse and exacerbating the problem:


American direct intervention in the Muslim world" -- through our "one sided support in favor of Israel"; support for Islamic tyrannies in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and, most of all, "the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan


Give me a compelling reason to stay. I can see a few, but none that are worth the problems we are causing by staying.

21 comments:

Monk-in-Training 12:10 PM  

Let the Empire go.
Just let it go.

Seriously.

But then, I am in the peacemaking business, so my my viewpoint is perhaps skewed.

Pax Christi

steves 12:36 PM  

I am certainly not suggesting that ther aren't legitimate uses for force, but this is not one of them. Even if it were, it is nullified by the fact that we are making the situation worse.

Bob 12:53 PM  

"But then, I am in the peacemaking business, so my my viewpoint is perhaps skewed."

The question in my mind is leaving likely to produce peace?

My sense is some type of reduced presense will be needed, but increasing the forces just creates more tension.

Monk-in-Training 4:56 AM  

Bob,
Leaving perhaps might not create peace, but will staying create it in either case? I am less convinced that it will, and in fact exacerbates an already unpleasant situation.

Smitty 7:55 AM  

I am of the opinion that on September 12, 2001, we could have nuked the daylights out of Afghanistan and gotten away with it. I don't say that by way of being a shock-jock. I say that because maybe it would have shown people just how crazy we are. Fly a plane into our building? Horrendous death follows.

Which leads me to my next point: Iraq. So we didn't nuke Afghanistan. But we should have put all our boots there instead of Iraq, and we know it. Instead we wasted a lot of time and some of my friends in Iraq, and now we have a President who wants to exact our vengeance in the *right* spot again.

Problem is, 8 years after the fact, it's a bit late to roll into Afghanistan and expect that everyone involved will accept our Mulligan. Oops! Do-over!

Our attention in Afghanistan, I am afraid, was and is a campaign tactic meant to satisfy an uneasy "middle" point of view that we should be somewhere kicking someone's ass to make us "safe."

But here's where I am torn: Osama Bin Laden is undoubtedly the mastermind and major funder of Al Qaeda and removing him helps put the biggest disruption into that organization I can think of. My theory is that with as many boots on the ground in Afghanistan as we had in Iraq, we could find him and a lot of others. It would also help us quietly threaten Pakistan which IMO needs it from us. They are no ally...

BUT, will it matter if we get Osama? Will the multi-headed hydra fight on, uninterrupted? Is the symbolic meaning behind his death that important?

Ultimately, I'm on the side of find him, and watch Pakistan closely. And that takes boots.

steves 8:12 AM  

Smitty, I believe we were certainly justified in taking aggressive actions in Afghanistan, considering their role in supporting OBL. The question then becomes are we justified in continuing to occupy a country for an indefinite period of time? What is our continued purpose?

I think Greenwald is looking at it from a pragmatic perspective. Is being there with a large military force beneficial to us? Is it beneficial to the people of Afghanistan?

As to the first question, it is hard to say. How long will people be supportive. Vietnam is an example of us being worn down over a period of time. Some experts predict we could have won that war, but it would have taken until the mid to late 1980's. There is no way people would have supported that long of a war.

As to the second question, it seems clear that our continued occupation of a country in the Middle East is one of the main reasons "they hate us." This directly contributes to terrorism against us.

I just don't see the benefits outweighing any of the costs.

Smitty 9:34 AM  

"They hate us" is, IMO, a constant in mideast relations. Our occupation neither increases nor decreases their level of hate. Our leaving Afghanistan won't make a dent in their hate.

In order to curb their hate, we have to leave Afghanistan, leave Iraq, curb our overtly pro-Israel rhetoric and end relations with Saudi Arabia. On top of that, we have to stop being secular and Christian-dominant.

Since everything but leaving Iraq and Afghanistan is *not* going to happen in the foreseeable future, then just leaving our occupations is not gonna make a dent in terrorist sentiment.

So in my mind, it makes the most sense to mitigate that hate by going more directly at its sources of support (Afghanistan and Pakistan). They're gonna keep hating us, regardless since we aren't going to stop all the other stuff they hate us for.

Yes, that's a bit tongue-in-cheek. The real solution is a comprehensive mideast solution that includes economic assistance, access to education, human rights, a balanced approach to handling various religious sects, curbing dependence on oil, etc.

But realistically, how's all that been going for us?

Right. It's not.

steves 10:18 AM  

Smitty, I don't pretend to be an expert or even an amateur in mid east relations. In order to correct that, I am reading the very long titled The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday: Unexpected Encounters in the Changing Middle East. This very readable book talks about the mid east from the perspective of the average, day to day folks, such as workers, farmers, professors, doctors, etc. It doesn't talk about the politicians or the policy makers.

In some ways, these people have a very distorted view of the west, but in others, they are spot on. Our pulling out won't make all of them into friends. IMO, it will make many of them dislike us less and some of them respect us.

There is a huge history of Western interference in their affairs, most often for economic gain. Continued interference, even for good reasons, is still interference. The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday: Unexpected Encounters in the Changing Middle East talks about a opium farmer who accepted money and aid to change to dairy farming. Apparently, it has not worked and he struggles to feed and support his family. Perfect example of noble goals not being noble in practice.

IMO, it is not effective to force morality, democracy, equality on another people. It just doesn't work. Things like democracy come from internal movements, they are not imposed. At least not so far.

Bob 10:48 AM  

"...The real solution is a comprehensive mideast solution that includes economic assistance, access to education, human rights, a balanced approach to handling various religious sects, curbing dependence on oil, etc."

At least in the beginning, if not now, there has been success in these areas in Afghanistan. Military action was necessary long before 9-11 due to the atrocious way women were treated. As I recall, many girls can now go to school, schools have been built and there have been other civil rights improvements. Seems to me we forget what has been accomplished if we focus only on catching Bin Laden. If we can preserve some of that, we have not “lost the war”.

steves 12:03 PM  

Military action was necessary long before 9-11 due to the atrocious way women were treated.

Is that a sufficient justification for going to war with someone? Are we going to invade other countries that treat their citizens like shit? I am glad there is something good that came out of the invasion, but do you seriously believe that we should use killing or the threat of killing to impose morality?

Smitty 12:19 PM  

I will go buy that book, steves. It looks like it is a real contribution to mideast policy debate.

A mideast unchecked by the West is even more dangerous to us. Of *course* they want us out of the way. They want to develop nuclear capabilities and tear each other and everyone else to shreds.

I have read a good deal on terrorism, and the bulk of the literature one can find of a reasonably-unbiased sort (nothing from neocons, nothing from DFHs) deals with education and opportunity. In middle eastern countries, unemployment is massive and in some areas, like Iraq, education is readily available. When you have a group of young, energetic people, reasonably-well educated, with no job prospects, they are prime targets for recruitment. So, too, are the zealots. Times are tough, who do I turn to? God. And what does my priest tell me? It's the Americans' fault.

That's one oft-repeated theory of a rise in terrorist numbers, exacerbated by U.S. occupation of the middle east. Not just Iraq and Afghanistan, but of the middle east period.

That smacks of the need for intervention of an economic sort. In those cases, in other countries, we have been successful, especially when American universities have intervened (Michigan State's efforts in the M.E. and Central America come to mind). But we can't do that until it's safe. And that's not happening until we quell the opposition sufficiently.

Bob 12:20 PM  

"Is that a sufficient justification for going to war with someone? Are we going to invade other countries that treat their citizens like shit?"

I can think of worse reasons.

Smitty 12:24 PM  

I can think of worse reasons

Ah...ah...aCHOO-OIL. Ahem. Hm. Sniff.

Scuse me. I must have sneezed.

steves 1:07 PM  

I can think of worse reasons, too, but if your country is invaded and people are killed and brultalized, I doubt it makes much of a difference to you.

Smitty, I am not suggesting an isolationist stance. There has to be something more sensible than "do nothing" and "kill for peace." Whatever we come up with needs to take into consideration these factors:

1. our security.
2. The security of our allies
3. Treaty obligations
4. The soverignty of individual nations.

Smitty 1:22 PM  

Smitty, I am not suggesting an isolationist stance.

I hear you, and I am not taking your position that way at all. It is turning out that your reasons for leaving are close to my reasons for staying is all.

"kill for peace."

I am getting that made into a bumper sticker.

4. The soverignty of individual nations.

I agree with the first three. It's the last one that's the sticking point. When other nations, including our own, are at risk from another nation, does that nation reserve the right, as a sovereign nation, to do what it wants? I know you know the answer to that: it doesn't. History is full of examples where, despite much talk about the importance of sovereignty, we waltz-in and kick a sovereign nation's ass.

SO back to my original point: until we can eliminate the one factor in Afghanistan that is making regular Afghanis' lives miserable, the Taliban, then we should have boots on the ground. So long as there is Talibani, and so long as they are a more viable option for Afghanis than a more "regular" government, then we have to kick their asses.

/neocon

Bob 1:43 PM  

"So long as there is Talibani, and so long as they are a more viable option for Afghanis than a more "regular" government, then we have to kick their asses."

This is where I am as well, to an extent. It may be we can accomplish this with less forces, as we did during the initial invasion.

I have been considering a post that essentially bashes the lefties for being pricks about Obama's stance on Afghanistan. Obama is doing exactly as he said he would do, so the left should STFU if they think we should just bail out. It's not that there will be peace and harmony if we just walk away.

Bob 1:45 PM  

BTW-

Does anyone want to order

"I Support President Obama and the Troops" bumper stickers?

They will make nice novelties to pass out to all our conservative friends who only support troops under a Republican CinC.

steves 2:28 PM  

Soverignty doesn't mean that one nation can do what it wants to another nation, but we can't invade a country because we don't like their internal polcies. That doesn't mean we never interfere, as in the case of genocide, but we have been pretty selective in the past (e.g. ignoring the genocide in Rwanda).

The Taliban are a bunch of dickheads, but it seems that escalation runs the risk of creating an environment where we are seen as interlopers and outsiders and the Taliban are seen as some kind of savior. How long do we stay? we are not some fucking babysitters. At what point do the Afghan people have to do this for themsleves?

Smitty 2:44 PM  

At what point do the Afghan people have to do this for themsleves?

Maybe they want to, but can't. Isn't it then itinerant on us to intervene?

Soverignty doesn't mean that one nation can do what it wants to another nation

Well, yeah. Hence my sentence "I know you know the answer to that: it doesn't."

where we are seen as interlopers and outsiders

Which is how the Taliban views us. But as you said, they're dickheads, so fuck 'em. We're already at the interloper stage with those guys.

and the Taliban are seen as some kind of savior

That's the problem. Right now, they are the "safer" option because at least under the Taliban, the Taliban isn't killing you.

Unless you are a girl who tries to go to school.

Or not wear a burkah.

Or a guy who'd like to see an election.

Anonymous,  4:33 PM  

Kill 'em all and let God sort them out.

steves 5:34 PM  

If most of the Afghan people want our help, then I think it is reasonable to give it to them, but I think we need to be careful and it should be tailored to helping them help themselves, not setting up permanent bases (e.g. Korea).

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