The official truth about Afghanistan starts to approach the real truth

Today the New York Times reports:

What only weeks ago was an undercurrent of anti-Americanism in Afghanistan is now a palpable fury, and if the situation continues to deteriorate at its current pace, plans could be altered, the official said. “There’s a certain impatience—I mean, there are people who don’t see how we succeed under the current conditions, and their case is getting stronger,” the official said.

Of course, I—along with every person who possesses what was once, prior to the ascendancy of modern liberalism, the common Western understanding of the nature of Islam—have been saying for the last nine years that we cannot succeed under any conditions in turning a tribal Muslim country into self-governing, pro-Western country. So it would seem that official truth is moving in the direction of truth at last, even though the particular official quoted in the article speaks of “current” conditions” that make success impossible, not “permanent” conditions, which is really what this is about.

The situation in A’stan as described in the Times is stark:

Hundreds of American military and civilian advisers have already been pulled out of the Afghan ministries and government departments in Kabul, the capital. While that move has been described as temporary, the official declined to speculate about what kind of long-term changes could be envisioned. The official and others interviewed for this article spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the crisis with Afghanistan.

We’re supposed to be helping the Afghans build a self-sustaining government and military, a job that requires our working side by side with them. But we can’t work side by side with them, because, duh, they keep murdering our people.

I’m telling you, folks, the only way contemporary liberal Westerners can realize that the liberal belief in universal human sameness is false is when those other humans keep killing us, so that we can’t safely be in their physical presence. Any warning signs short of that, any “wake-up calls” less piercing than that, and the delusional grip of the liberal universalist ideology will remain firmly upon us.

Meanwhile, over at Neocon Central, Jonathan Tobin, though he supports Obama’s apologies, explains why Americans have had it with apologies to Muslims:

Throughout the Muslim world [emphasis added], Christian churches are burned and Jews are persecuted, as are Bahais and other minorities. Christians are under siege in Egypt. Jewish shrines have been attacked and desecrated in the West Bank. Synagogues were burned in Gaza. Yet none of this is considered important enough to notice by most in the West let alone to demand an apology from Muslims. Attacks and murder of Israeli Jews in the name of Islam over the years has become such a routine event that such crimes must be of the spectacular variety to attract much attention. The official media of Egypt, Iran and the Palestinian Authority crank out vicious hate speech about Jews and few care.

Yet let a cartoon satirizing the Prophet Muhammad be published or if a crackpot American pastor burns a Koran to get attention and we are told these acts are sufficient to justify mayhem and bloodshed.

That’s quite a catalogue of Muslim violence against non-Muslims, particularly Jews. But does it lead Tobin to any second thoughts about the likelihood of turning Muslims into our democratic allies? Don’t be silly. He continues:

America’s dilemma is that it is locked in a life-and-death struggle with Islamist [sic] forces. After all, the only reason we are in Afghanistan is that its Taliban government allowed its soil to be used [as] a base for attacks on American citizens such as the 9/11 atrocities. In order to prevail we must seek and win allies within the Muslim world who want nothing to do with the Islamist agenda of unending war. To do that, we must show respect to their faith but so long as we accept a situation where we do not demand or expect respect in return, we are doomed to failure [emphasis added].

So, Tobin, after summarizing endemic Muslim violence against non-Muslims “throughout the Muslim world,” blames the violence on “Islamists” who he thinks are somehow separate and distinct from other Muslims, and he still thinks the solution is to find moderate Muslims who will subdue the Islamists, take control of the Muslim world, and end the violence.

But notice that he doesn’t actually speak of allies who can take control of the Muslim world; he just speaks of our “seeking and winning allies within the Muslim world who want nothing to do with the Islamist agenda of unending war.” Sure, there’s no question that you can find people within the Muslim world who want nothing to do with the Islamist agenda. The question is, once you find them, what can you do with them? What good will they do? Can they subdue the Islamists and end their violence? Tobin doesn’t raise that explicit possibility, because he knows how absurd it would sound. He imagines, or wants his readers to imagine, that if we find some Islamic moderates, that will somehow change the entire nature of Islam.

Also, in order to find and win these allies, we must not, Tobin continues, offend their faith. So the prospective allies on whom the entire project rests are so uneasy with us that we must keep twisting ourselves into a pretzel so as not to make them feel that we are disrespecting them. We’re supposed to wage unrelenting war on the moderate Muslims’ radical co-religionists, without offending the moderates. How likely is it that such an alliance can hold itself together, let alone succeed?

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Thomas S. writes:

Doesn’t this boil down to the naive liberal belief that one can substantially change human nature? The search for Utopias on earth seems to end in morass. Somehow along the way, conservatives were confused by the cluster of the need to establish security, and the desire to build nations. September 11th pushed some conservatives over the hill to be neocons on safety concerns, who were over there waiting with there nation-building pincers.

The Afghan mission might just have been to go in there and destroy Al Qaeda leadership, and keep a military check on terrorist bases redeveloping. Instead, we are trying to give democracy to people who need rule by a strong hand.

The nest we need to untangle is that which somehow swept the legitimate concerns of safety into an exercise in nation building. To leave a nation behind who won’t attack, you need to build the nation of course. Could we admit that maybe this is the only—if imperfect—solution? After all, reality must dictate our actions, even if that means doing something difficult. Would it have been better to establish strongman dictatorships in these countries, and let pressure cookers build of civil war? I feel we may be playing armchair quarterback in our criticisms of the mission.

The answer may be, that we could have erred further on the side of establishing a strong central government, and not messing too much with democracy. After all, Germany was under military rule for several years after WW II. A greater show of forceful by the Americans could have engendered more respect for us. Could have. But maybe not. This tangled nest needs more investigation, the ways of the military are not naive.

LA replies:

The nest is not so tangled. It consists simply in the fact that the Bush administration believed that extremism could be removed by democracy, which would give people “hope.” Despotism had led to extremism, therefore democracy would lead to moderation. There was zero reality to this. It was a formula of words, an empty syllogism, which our supposed intellectuals and everyone who followed them subscribed to without reflection.

Also, they subscribed to it because it fit our preferences and preconceptions. We already believed in democracy. Therefore it was easy to believe that democracy was what the Muslims needed and wanted.

It was also in the nature of empire. What is empire? A society’s imposition of its own form, its own vision of truth, on the rest of the world. A society does this unreflectingly, simply assuming that its truth is the only truth.

Paul K. writes:

Thomas S. writes:

“After all, Germany was under military rule for several years after WW II.”

Any reference to our post-war experience with Germany and Japan in connection with what we might expect from post-war Iraq or Afghanistan is at best pointless and at worst deeply misleading. Germany and Japan were two of the most advanced, organized, and competent societies on earth. We are dealing with quite the opposite in the Muslim world.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 27, 2012 05:07 PM | Send

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