Should Obama Escalate the War in Afghanistan?

Chuck Spinney voices his opinion on this subject, and proposes a thought experiment, in Counterpunch.

Here’s the premise:

At the heart of this question is the nature of the conflict in Afghanistan, specifically the question of whether or not it has mutated into something that is more akin to a classical guerrilla war as opposed to being part of a Fourth Generation War against al Quaeda. The two attachments below may help the reader to appreciate the different dimensions of this consideration.

Good luck with the experiment.

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Filed in Uncategorized | 18 responses so far

18 Responses to “Should Obama Escalate the War in Afghanistan?”

  1. Mycophagiston 01 Aug 2008 at 5:09 pm 1

    When we went into Afghanistan, we immediately installed the same kind of Islamic Warlords that instigated the Taliban movement in the first place. After due consideration, we gave them an Islamic Constitution – And more or less turned the country over to dope growers, corrupt Islamists, and after a thourough search, any other bottom of the barrel character we could find. The question is not why is the Taliban so strong, but why they aren’t stronger.

    We have totally ignored the native secular forces, whether Monarchists or Communists, all of whom have deep support in Afghanistan.

    All of this “self determination” was planned and carried out based on an ideaology of 21st century neocon economics and politics.

    Then of course since the above corrupt elements have a hard enough time selling drugs, let alone building a new nation, we find ourselves waging war by remote control, and doing the Talibans propaganda for them.

    Is it to late to change? Is it too late to rally the secular forces, all of whom, whether on the right or the left are more capable then those whom we set into power (might as well say, “set into stone,” for all the actuall reforms their capable of).

    If we’re going to win there it won’t be with Karzai

    Dave

  2. senor tomason 01 Aug 2008 at 8:20 pm 2

    “If we’re going to win there it won’t be with Karzai”

    The Soviets could not win there with a larger, conscript military using more liberal, more brutal rules of engagement than ours. Does not forbode well for our relatively-small, all-volunteer military fighting with one hand tied behind their back.

  3. waltcon 02 Aug 2008 at 2:03 am 3

    Its a guerilla war and in fact a replay of the Soviet invasion, replete with Paki Pashtuns pumped up from the latest sermons from Saudi funded madrassas and Salafist mullahs exhorting the bearded youth to fight for Islam against the despised infidel.

    And as the occupying infidel, our support among the locals is subject to expiration at any time as demonstrated in the loss of the forward operating base and 9 of our soldiers. As the saying goes “you can rent a Afghani but you can’t buy them”.

    It was bad enough to make a Army general beg on national TV for more troops.

    The sad fact is we have no business trying to rebuild and occupy a Muslim nation. One that at best is set along tribal and sectarian lines that makes Yugoslavia look like a model of multiculturalism. The Brits couldn’t make it work and nor could the ruthless Soviets.

    If we had a brain we’d leave and let the locals sort out things themselves or not. We owe them nothing.

  4. Mycophagiston 02 Aug 2008 at 2:54 pm 4

    senor tomas Wrote:

    “The Soviets could not win there with a larger, conscript military using more liberal, more brutal rules of engagement than ours.”

    Well we are back to the “hearts and mind” BS… :)

    Why is it that the side We pick, lack the same guts and determination as our enemies? If we want to win there, then the “winning” is going to be done by motivated Afghans, who may or may not like us. Why would leftists like us? And for that matter the Secular Monarchists have never been our flunkys as well.

    Can we live with an Afghanistan which doesn’t particulerly like us, but likes Islamists even less? Whose goal is an independent Afghanistan beholden to no one? At the moment, supporting such people is anathama to this Bush regime, and I suspect the Obama one as well.

    Even so, I would define winning as creating an Afghanistan which is a “Defacto” ally in the long term psychological war against Islamic Fundamentalism. It’s perfectly ok with me if they don’t want to be our puppets.

    Dave

    [CR: Good points. Suppose they stay “Islamic fundamentalists” (whatever that means) but don’t threaten us or harbor groups that do?]

  5. Mycophagiston 03 Aug 2008 at 12:14 pm 5

    Chet wrote:
    “[CR: Good points. Suppose they stay “Islamic fundamentalists” (whatever that means) but don’t threaten us or harbor groups that do?”

    The Muslim Brotherhood, or Hamas are preferable to Al Qaeda, but ultimately they share the same eventual goal. Whether they wish to or not, they will “spawn” a future Osama.

    Saying the above doesn’t mean we should include them in our aims, indeed, pehaps at THIS moment, we can give them subtle support, but they will never be a safe ally, or even a safe enemy.

    This admninistration shows a preference for “tame” fundamentalists – Which is to say the same kind or corrupt persons such as the leadership of Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan. These are men who wrap themselves in Sharia, but are only interested in number one – Them and their money.

    So just as our phoney patriots wrap themselves in the flag, while having no bid contract parties, these clowns wrap themselves in Sharia while selling dope, and pocketing money for development.

    Dave

  6. senor tomason 03 Aug 2008 at 7:36 pm 6

    “The Muslim Brotherhood, or Hamas are preferable to Al Qaeda, but ultimately they share the same eventual goal. ”

    Maybe on the surface, but not really. Al Queda gives lip service to a Palestinian state. But Al Queda’s goal is a caliphate extending all the way from India to Spain. Surely an independent Palestinian state would conflict with that goal as Al Queda would want the so-called Palestine to be part of their caliphate.

  7. Maxon 03 Aug 2008 at 9:29 pm 7

    “Is it too late to change?

    Good analysis all around.

    Yes.
    Both campains were failures from the get go.

    The damage has been done, the US should turn it’s attention
    and trillions $ towards alternative energy solutions and it’s
    failing economy, and coming as a conciquence of the burgeoniong debt incured by the military mis-adventures .

    I’ve said for the last several years that the response to 9-11
    should have been along the lines of the Oklahoma City
    bombing and the capture and prosicution of those perpetrators.

    I mentioned it several times on this, and my own forum.

    Now some high faluting “think tank” thinks so too.
    I gave that advice for free.

    http://www.antiwar.com/eland/?articleid=13245

    No more, no less.

    In that context, we had no relevent bussiness or interest in
    Iraq. It’s sheer nonsense morover to try and influcence hearts
    and minds in Afganistan. The US is incapable of even the most
    basic of understanding of what it’s up against, the people involved,
    or what motivates them.

    We see the same fundemental mistake repeted, with the expectation
    that people everywhere indentify and want to be just like Americans,
    and particuarly behave as the mythologised version of the independence revolution.

    All this will only end one way, and with each passing day, the US digs itself deeper and deeper.

    MaX

  8. niculothon 04 Aug 2008 at 12:35 pm 8

    The soviets weren’t just more brutal they also were more generous. They too brought many gifts – they removed a medieval social system, emancipated women and put in place a modern political system. They built bridges and schools and tunnels and roads and dams (the same dams that western aid projects repair). They spent lavishly to improve the life of the afghans at least those 5% in the towns and cities. They thought the Afghans would gratefully and put up with a puppet government – they were wrong.

    I think the key misconception is to consider an insurgency as war. It is better to think of it as the continuation of war by political means.

    What has happened is that the majority Pashtun rural populace, the majority of Afghanistan, has voted for the Taliban over the foreign installed northern warlords, they let the Taliban operate freely in their areas without alerting the government and on occasion actively support them.

    Development projects are hardly gong to turn around people someone who will already risk everything already to get rid of you and military operations will just harden the decision.

    While the military manuals, and even the occasional general talks about insurgency being primarily a battle for legitimacy – when faced with the fact on the ground that the majority no longer see’s them as legitimate – that by their own definition they have lost – they blame safe havens or foreign interference or anyone else – just as the Soviets did.

    An insurgency is a sign that you have already lost, not the beginning of the campaign.

  9. Mycophagiston 04 Aug 2008 at 2:10 pm 9

    Max wrote:
    “Both campains were failures from the get go.”

    “The damage has been done, the US should turn it’s attention
    and trillions $ towards alternative energy solutions and it’s
    failing economy, and coming as a conciquence of the burgeoniong debt incured by the military mis-adventures .”

    This may be true. It might be too late. But allowing the Taliban back into power is intolerable, and if it’s possible to stop this, we should.

    How? By getting rid of our “tame” Fundamentalists, and arming every Afghan with a secular agenda, while at the same time, BOTH limiting our military presense, (staying there just long enough for the above) AND pouring money into humanitarian projects. It took the expenditure of Five Billion dollars to overthrow the Comminists in Afghanistan, surely we can spend five billion to bring the moderate communist, socialist and monarchists back into power.

    With the exception of those the Russians put into power when THEY overthrew the moderate Communists, we can live with the existance of any secular government there. The Taliban are a menace to all of us from right to left.

    Dave

  10. Maxon 05 Aug 2008 at 8:39 am 10

    Dave writes;

    “This may be true. It might be too late. But allowing the Taliban back into power is intolerable, and if it’s possible to stop this, we should.”

    Nic in the previous posting, pretty much answers point by point, and nicely written.

    Eric Has an excellent summary today, along the lines
    of what has gone wrong I indentify with his larger perspective
    that the campain was ill concieved from the start;

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/margolis/margolis118.html
    As far as the Taliban being a perpetual menace, I see your
    point, but have to wonder to what degree and to what extent.

    The trick might be to find a counter weight to the Taliban influence.
    Along those lines and if you catch my drift,
    Recall how Alquida had Masoud eliminated before 9-11.
    Astonishing how far ahead of the game (OODA) loop
    they were back then, and arguably still carry that momentum.

    Therein lies the real failures of ‘American intelligence’ (oximoron).
    And that those responsible and throughout the top echeleon
    have been nothing but further rewarded throughout for failure
    and incompetence.

    MaX

  11. Jeffrey Ron 07 Aug 2008 at 12:24 am 11

    While this discussion is interesting I think we all need to remember that the neocons or others have proposed we build an oil pipeline through Afgahn territory. While this may seem silly to any person who studies Afghan history, lack of historical insight did not deter the US from Iraq which has not worked out as expected. Was there even a plan?

    The second point to consider is the drug trade. If the US wants to get the Afghan people to stop selling opium poppy products they need to offer a substitute that is as economically rewarding as poppy production. Wheat at world prices is not going to make it.

    The British could not get the Afgahns under control. The Soviets could not. I don’t think the US or the UN can but it does seem we will give it a try. What the expense to our nation will be is yet to be seen. Given past history, the price will be high.

    [CR: Good points — thanks.]

  12. Barryon 07 Aug 2008 at 5:05 am 12

    “A counterweight to the Taliban influence”

    Exactly! thats what US international relations are (or ought to be) about.
    Afghanistan is more of a loose confederation that an a country, and Taliban are only strong in a few areas that border the refuge given by their Pakistani kinsmen.

  13. Mycophagiston 07 Aug 2008 at 1:59 pm 13

    Max writes:

    “Nic in the previous posting, pretty much answers point by point, and nicely written.”

    Actually no, he did not. The first Communist regime in Afghanistan was not only Not a Soviet puppet, but they repeatedly made overtures to us for better relations. Faced with a US supported insurgency, they refused to adapt the harsh tactics their Soviet advisors suggested. As a result, the Soviets actually invaded, overthrough their government, and thus assured their defeat.

    One might argue, and I Would argue, that the original regime would have beat the Fundamentalists in the long run. They were a completely native movement, and they welcomed no foreign troops.

    Water under the bridge of course, but it demonstrates that there IS a large secular movement. Even the Royalists, were secular in Afghanistan.

    Whereas we are now making the exact same mistakes as the Soviets – Converting this into a war against foreign resistance. The longer we stay, without Native allies worth a damn, the more the issues crytalises around the idea of getting rid of the foreigner.

    I well remember in my role as a leftist… :)
    My support of the orginal Communist regime, and my tossing the paper down in disgust when the Soviets invaded. Why this is forgotten, why their attempts to reconcile with us were rejected, are still a part of my consiousness of no one elses. :)

    Dave

  14. Maxon 18 Aug 2008 at 8:49 am 14

    The L8est.

    http://www.ericmargolis.com/

    If Musharraf falls, the entire US strategy in Afghanistan, to which the
    US is about to send 10,000 more troops, is in grave jeopardy. Both Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari have expressed varying degrees of opposition to Pakistan’s continued role in supporting the US-led occupation of Afghanistan and US attacks into Pakistan’s tribal belt, Nawaz strongly, Zardari fitfully. Public opinion in Pakistan is almost totally against the Afghan War.

    http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/afp/080818/world/pakistan_politics

    ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf resigned on
    Monday, bringing down the curtain on a turbulent nine years in power to
    avoid the first impeachment in the nuclear-armed nation’s history.

    Comment by Max — 18 August 2008 @ 1:41 pm

  15. Barryon 21 Aug 2008 at 9:21 am 15

    The reason Afghans win their wars in the end is the country always regains its insignificance. After 9/11 there were influential neocon voices arguing for attacking Iraq first. Those same people are no less influential today and their focus is all on Iran now that Iraq is smashed.

  16. Maxon 21 Aug 2008 at 11:07 am 16

    “the country always regains its insignificance.”

    Good commentary Barry.

    What did it for me was a front page color photo in a metropolitan
    tabloid I came across several years ago.

    A picture of a young Afgani boy, gawking at a gigantic
    unexploded US penetrator bomb embedded in the landscape,
    which for as far as the eye could see in the photo, could have
    passed for what we’re seeing of the surface of Mars.

    For me, that photo was a 10,000 word essay on the futility
    of that campain.

    Yet, we have at least one US Presidential contender pinning his aspirations on further public sympathy and support for this folly. While the other seems sympathetic to extending the GWOT to Iran, and probably Russia.

    Has the Afganistan campain been reduced to a twisted
    comedic & tragic farse ?

    http://tinyurl.com/5qzcz7

  17. Barryon 01 Sep 2008 at 11:56 am 17

    Third Generation war is a crisis of the state. When has a centralised state in had authority over Afghanistan (or Wiziristan) to lose legitimacy?

    This idea of a modern guerilla’s benefiting from civilian deaths/escalation ignores the experience of S. America. (Guatamala and El Salvador especially) and Algeria. It seems to endorse the War Of The Flea myth that led so many rebels to their deaths

    On BBC WS a US adviser said that the UK lacking helicopters tended to rely on artillery, (which virtually guarantees civilian deaths in any village the Taliban use of course). This “stick is what makes the carrot of money effective.

    [CR: Barry — Fourth generation warfare is sometimes described as the crisis in the legitimacy of the state as significant numbers of people in some places transfer their primary loyalties to other entities. Third generation warfare is maneuver warfare.]

  18. Maxon 02 Sep 2008 at 9:34 am 18

    Chet spells it out,

    “Fourth generation warfare is sometimes described as the crisis in the legitimacy of the state as significant numbers of people in some places transfer their primary loyalties to other entities.”

    Which includes Each other, and among thier own.

    I say that’s happening right here in America.

    I’m reading a lot of this lately, on related blogs,
    and with a lot of questions, and dougbts surfacing about the leadership offerings from both sides, in the upcoming US national elections.

    Many are saying that American’s need to take charge and take responsibility themselves, and can no longer rely or trust their
    elected leadership. I’ve never seen or heard this knotion at
    this intensity in my lifetime.

    As an aside, How that’s supposed to influence all these disasterous forgien, scocial, & economic policies, including the overwhelming influence of lobbiests and the Mil. Ind. Complex from Washington, is behond my comprehension. We’ve placed so much power in the hands of a very few.

    And far too many Americans now derive substinance from military
    and paramilitary interests.

    http://tinyurl.com/5z6m6t

    However , My point is,
    If all that’s not somekind of a “crisis” of “legitimacy,” or at least early stages, in a pronouced lack of confidence, I don’t know what is !?

    MaX