A mindless country debates the Afghanistan policy

Has there ever been such confusion on an issue as seen in the all-over-the-place responses to Obama’s speech on Afghanistan?

Consider this, from presidential candidate Timothy Pawlenty:

I thought his speech was deeply concerning. Look how he phrased the outcome of this war. He said we need to end the war, quote unquote, responsibly. When America goes to war, America needs to win. We need to close out the war successfully, and what that means now is not nation-building. What it means is to follow General Petraeus’s advice and to get those security forces built up where they can pick up the slack as we drawdown.

So Pawlenty says we need to follow Gen. Petraeus’s advice and “win” in Afghanistan rather than “nation-build.” But of course Petraeus’s policy is “nation-building,” a.k.a. counter-insurgency, a.k.a. winning hearts and minds, a.k.a. building up Afghan security and other institutions and hoping against hope that they can hold the country together after our forces leave at some point—not “winning.” Pawlenty doesn’t know this? Is the man an idiot?

Further, if I’m not mistaken, Petraeus, who is cautious with words, has always eschewed the notion that we are “winning” in Afghanistan or that our policy should be to “win.”

A further problem is, even if our policy were to “win” in Afghanistan, what would that mean? It would mean defeating the Taliban so that it loses the ability and will to threaten our “ally” the Afghan government and loses the ability to host our other enemy, al Qaeda. But the Taliban are a part of Afghanistan, embedded in the population, and we can’t defeat the Taliban in any final sense without laying Afghanistan waste. Thus, short of genocide, there is no way we can “win” there, in any true and decisive meaning of the word. Anyone who speaks of “winning” in Afghanistan is either living in a fantasy world where there is no connection between words and reality, or lying.

As I have been saying since 2003, the best we can do in Afganistan and other troublesome Muslim countries is spend a few weeks bashing the hell out of whatever regime threatens us or harms us (as we did in Afghanistan in 2001), and then leave, and if they threaten to harm us again, go back again for a few weeks and bash the hell out of them worse than before. Bashing the hell out of a threatening Muslim regime (which needs to include killing the members of the regime or letting them be killed by local anti-regime forces) is something that we have the ability to do. Reconstructing a Muslim country so that it becomes our stable, democratic ally is something that we do not have the ability to do. We could spend a hundred years in Afghanistan, and we still wouldn’t be able to do it. But we could easily invade Afganistan once every ten years, destroy a regime that is threatening us, and leave, at a tiny fraction of the cost of the permanent occupation and war in which we are now engaged.

But of course not a soul in the U.S. establishment thinks in those terms. It’s as far from their consciousness as—what?—as the idea that there are significant racial differences in intelligence.

Also, a deeper reason for the confusion over Obama’s speech is pinpointed by the editors of Lucianne.com:

What has the strategy been in Afghanistan for the past two years? How about the past six? Since that question can’t be succinctly answered no one can say what the purpose of the drawdown is in these numbers except to help 0bama’s reelection.

How about that? Bush-worshipping Lucianne Goldberg or one of her editors is saying that no one knows what Bush’s policy in Afghanistan was.

- end of initial entry -

June 24

Clark Coleman writes:

You wrote:

Anyone who speaks of “winning” in Afghanistan is either living in a fantasy world where there is no connection between words and reality, or lying.

I vote for the lying. In fact, if I were running for President right now and had the background (e.g. a successful governorship) to win the nomination, I would lie like crazy. I have said before that politicians are not the philosophical leaders of our nation. They have to get votes. Others (columnists, radio hosts, bloggers) need to be the opinion leaders. The job of changing minds must be done primarily by those who are not running for office.

The exception is the candidate who just wants to put an issue on the table for discussion and try to guide that discussion in a certain direction while having no serious intent of winning the nomination. Tom Tancredo in 2008 is an example. That is good and admirable. But, after such candidates do their job and withdraw from the race, we need some imperfect conservative candidate to remain in the race and win it. If that candidate publicly stated everything that I believe, he would not stand a chance.

The sad thing is that we cannot get columnists, radio hosts, and bloggers to stop acting as if they are running for office and become the opinion leaders they should be. We have discussed this before. The problem is not that Bachmann, Pawlenty, et al. do not go out on a limb and challenge majority public opinion on Afghanistan in the middle of an election campaign. The truth is that most of the combat deaths in Afghanistan were a waste of American lives, based on liberal/neocon false hopes and misunderstandings. It is hard to advocate withdrawing from Afghanistan without implying this conclusion, even if you don’t state it directly. Good luck getting the nomination of the Stupid Party with a public position that Afghanistan has been mishandled since 2001 and we should just pull out, even if it is true.

From what I know of the current candidates, I hope Pawlenty lies his way into the White House.

LA replies:

You make a telling point. Of course politicians at times have to shade or soften the truth to avoid offending people. But I wouldn’t want to turn that into a blanket approval of lying.

James P. writes:

Regarding your strategy of periodically bashing the hell out of troublesome Muslim countries, we don’t even need to invade them to do that, we can simply bomb them as we did to Iraq from 1991 to 2003. Occupation, under international law, creates obligations to the country that is occupied, which is the last thing we want. Moreover,we wouldn’t have much reason to bash them if there were no Muslims in our country, because their ability to harm us would be very limited. You have far less reason to invade the world if you don’t invite the world!

LA replies:

What would you have done with Afghanistan in 2001? We had to destroy the regime that had hosted al Qaeda. Bombing alone wouldn’t have done that.

And my strategy does not involve occupation. It explicitly rejects occupation. It says, destroy the regime, kill the regime leaders and members, and leave, promising to do much worse damage if they give us trouble again.

Posted June 28

Jeff W. writes:

In thinking about Afghanistan, one should note that there are two ways that wealthy, influential, politically-connected Americans can profit from that conflict.

One is by selling weapons, materials, support services, etc. to the Pentagon. If there were no war in Afghanistan, defense contractors will be faced with billions of dollars of reduced demand.

The other is by investing in lucrative projects in Afghanistan. The presence of American armed forces may at some point make Afghanistan safe for investors. There are billions that potentially can be made there in mining or energy-related investments.

Because the Republican party gets support both from defense contractors and super-wealthy global investors, the GOP is conflicted on Afghanistan issue. The GOP voter base is ready to withdraw the military from Afghanistan. But major campaign donors may not want to do that.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 23, 2011 07:41 PM | Send

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