Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Afghanistan War - Still Awesome!

Illuminating article on The Awesome War of Good Neighborliness, our righteous and wonderful invasion of Afghanistan.

It's still pretty much assumed that only crazy people opposed the Afghanistan invasion. After all, it was so obviously necessary and good.

Yet the war has accomplished none of its objectives, and continues to do so. It killed an untold number of people, and continues to do so. It has created rising instability in nearby nuclear-armed countries, and continues to do so.

This is what awesome wars look like. Not like that shitty war in Iraq.

Maybe from this it begins to look less crazy that some of us tend to oppose even obviously awesome wars.

3 comments:

Uncle Kevin said...

The Afghan war was problematic (from a western point of view) from the outset. The "war" was really focused on the Taliban, who basically weren't Afghan, and weren't particularly supported by the local population. Rumsfeld and company just assumed that if they "defeated" the Taliban they could install some puppet government and move on.
Problem is that, much like Iraq, others have tried this and failed miserably. In fact, the very reason the Taliban were successful was because they were willing to actually stay and govern. They are also willing to fight to come back.
The Bush Doctrine, in part, is based upon a presumption that people will take to democracy given half a chance. By any reasonable definition of democracy, they've never been shown to actually do so. Quite the opposite, it is fairly easy to get them to choose to do otherwise. Most of the world considers "self determination" to be unconnected to government. It is far more about merely having ones own land, and the ability to own things like cars and computers. And the unfortunate reality is that the commercial export of "American Culture" has resulted in a world wide perception that "freedom and democracy" has something to do with Britney and Porsche instead of voter registration and freedom of speech.
Obama wants to go into Afghanistan in a bigger way, and I suspect it is predominately because he really wants to get to key figures in Al Queda that still frequent areas around the Afghan/Pakistan border. It is also much easier to make attacks inside Pakistan from Afghanistan than from almost anywhere else. However, in the time honored tradition of "mission creap" if he doesn't catch all the people he wants in short order, he can find himself justifying all manner of actions in that country which will never be "done". Karzai is being a bit strategic in a way because he realizes the mood of the world, and potentially including that of the US population. But I also suspect he has begun to realize that the "fight" that we want to wage isn't particularly interesting to him. And he really doesn't want to become the place that we "fight them over there so they don't come over here". The flip side is without us, he lasts about a week.

Raul Groom said...

Afghanistan is a weird case, it's true. But I think your version of things skips over some important realities.

The main one is that under "any reasonable definition of democracy" for the most part the United States is actively hostile to the development of democracy in resource-rich countries.

Now, Afghanistan doesn't really qualify as resource-rich, so in fact the country had a better chance than other places of developing democracy after the overthrow of the Taliban because we don't really care one way or the other whether Afghanistan is ruled by Afghanis (as opposed to Iraq, Iran etc. where US policy has always been very explicit that the population must not have any serious role in government.)

The real mistake Bush (and, to be fair to Bush, just about everybody except wild-eyed antiwar nutcases like myself) is to conceive of war as some sort of low-impact reshuffling of the deck.

In fact when you bomb a poor country's meager infrastructure to smithereens, you set the cause of "democracy" (or really any modern non-despotic form of government) back by decades.

The central point that no one is ever allowed to make in public without being consigned to the looney bin is this:

The wonderful benefits of war are largely imaginary. The costs are real. A calculation that assumes imaginary benefits and ignores real costs is likely to lead, over and over, to bad decisions.

As, of course, it will again next time.

Uncle Kevin said...

under "any reasonable definition of democracy" for the most part the United States is actively hostile to the development of democracy

Generally true. However, in the last 8 years the Bush doctrine has purused exactly that and been burned almost every time. Whether it was the election of Hamas in Lebanon or the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Truth is, the Tienamen protesters were less interested in western democracy than they were in economic freedoms. Russians haven't been all that interested in democracy either. It's questionable that many of the eastern block countries have much interest.

The wonderful benefits of war are largely imaginary. The costs are real. A calculation that assumes imaginary benefits and ignores real costs is likely to lead, over and over, to bad decisions.

I think you overstate the level of isolation associated with this statement. Prior to this current crowd, "preventative war" was seen as an oxymoron. Even Clinton took a fair amount of criticism (from the right as much as the left) for "bombing them into democracy" in Kosovo and Bosnia. Since Vietnam, the attitude had generally been that direct military confrontation was a losing proposition for the aggressor. Russia's foray into Afghanistan was seen as proof. Even in Somalia there was the approach that hostilities had already begun. Bush utilized the 9/11 attacks as a basis for making the case that we needed to engage in preventative war. But he could only do that by the WMD connection.

The large disconnect, and one that was fairly well known prior to this current bunch, is that victory on the battlefield (battle space is the current term) has nothing to do with establishing stable governments (of any stripe). Even Petraus has made the case that military force in the absensce of negotiation achieves nothing. His "success" in Iraq was achieved primarily through cooperating with former aggressors. And that is the path being considered in Afghanistan as well.