Less Bad War Still Bad

AfghanistanIs the most polite way I can put it. Afghanistan was one of the poorest countries on earth and then it went through decades of wars. We can't even dream of establishing a functioning, stable government that controls most of the country. Whatever time frame you stipulate, it's a fantasy.

It is incredible that we're even considering a long-term commitment there. We went from topple the Taliban and kill bin Laden to cancerous neglect to decades of soldiers and money. What happened? Did I miss something?

Actually, at this time, we really don't have any strategy in Afghanistan. But by the end of the month, Obama will get a report from the latest General on the ground. And it won't tell him to bring everybody home. The only question is how the report will dance around the number of deployments and the amount of money that will be required to do whatever it is that it says we're doing.

All decorum aside, this is a clusterf*ck.

UPDATE: The day after I posted this, the Wall Street Journal had a story based on an interview with said General Stanley McChrystal: Taliban Now Winning, August 10, 2009. The interview was called "a preview of the strategic assessment he is to deliver to Washington later this month," which means it was a strategic communications PR ploy. The article ends with a classic quote from the General, "It's the critical and decisive moment." Yeah, right. Like all those others that you saw while serving in Iraq.


Ryan said...

Hmmm---who was predicting disaster with this whole "effot" from the very beginning? Even if you accept the construct that a group of "Islamic terrorists" that the US intelligence community used to do business with but, geez, we don't anymore, flew planes into the twin towers, invading Afghanistan to catch one guy and bring his criminal gang to justice makes about as much sense as invading Sicily to drive out the mafia. Most IRA funding in the 1970s and 80s came out of Boston and New York, and IRA leaders hung out here a lot. Would Britain have been justified in bombing and/or invading us to get rid of their IRA problem? I'm glad you're on board with the fact that this whole idea is a mess now, it's good to see, but man, we needed a lot more clear-headed thinking as a country in the days after 9/11. There were a million other options apart from a military invasion to take care of things in Afghanistan. That place is the graveyard of empires. The USSR met its Waterloo there, and we all remember what happened to the British there---they left one guy alive to go back home and tell them not to try that idea again. We need to get out of Afghanistan every bit as much as we need to get out of Iraq, and pay them a pretty hefty sum in reparations.

Norwegian Shooter said...

We both agree to get out of Afghanistan now, but I still think the original invasion was the right thing to do. And the examples you cite aren't right, I think.

You compare dealing with bin Laden and his gang to driving out the mafia? Not even close. Bin Laden's gang were foreigners paying a small faction of Afghans to host a few camps. The mafia are locals integrated into the fabric of society of Sicily.

The IRA funding thing is ridiculous. To work for al-Qaeda, it would mean we bombed Saudi Arabia. Obviously, that was never even considered.

On the larger question, Afghanistan couldn't have been a graveyard for us if we dropped the empire bit. (Don't freak out, I know we have a de facto empire a la Chalmers Johnson. But Afghanistan? The Baltic Avenue of the world?) The goal of invading Afghanistan should have only been to topple the Taliban and kill bin Laden (assuming capture would be impossible). That was actually possible in the beginning. But we screwed the pooch at Tora Bora, if not earlier. After that, whether we were successful on the second count or not, I would have gotten out. The Pottery Barn analogy doesn't apply to Afghanistan. It was a violent civil war before the Taliban, it couldn't have been worse afterward, except if we stayed. But we did and now Afghanistan is even more messed up.

Ryan said...

How is the original invasion "the right thing to do?" I agree bombing Saui Arabia was never even considered, but in what way does bombing Afghanistan back toa stone age they were already in make any more sense? The Taliban's remval was our stated goal, yet they were every bit as "integrated into society" there as the mafia are in Sicily---if not, they wouldn't be resurgent today. The fact that Al-Qaeda were foreign folks based there is typical for Afghanistan---hell, we recruited them to go there in the 1970s in the first place. In what way were the civilians, women, and kids we bombed our enemy? Obviously they weren't. But that's who we hit, and all it brings is future "terrorist" recruits and sympathizers among the survivors. The Taliban was isolated economically and politically with only one ally---Pakistan. And out post-9/11 "working relationship" with Pakistan would have ended their support. How long would the Taliban have lasted without any external support whtsoever? Maybe a few more months? Thye might have been a rough few months, but a lot easier on the population that a concerted US bombing effort. The idea that if we'd gone in with different goals in mind might have some merit, but it still wouldn't make any more sense than just squeezing the Taliban out through political pressure and watching their government collapse with no aid coming their way.

Norwegian Shooter said...

Because removing the Taliban from power and killing bin Laden were worth more than the losses we would incur. Afghanistan was already in the stone age was one of my points. And even though I would have liked to use less bombs and more US troops (at least close off the exit) in Tora Bora, bombing it didn't have any effect other than killing some al-Qaeda and blasting rock.

For one thing, the Taliban are Pushtun, 40% of the population, concentrated in one area. BTW, just how do you classify who is the Taliban and how many of them are there?

I agree, the civilians killed in the initial war and afterward are obviously not our enemy. In what I said above, the initial war's innocent causalities are part of the costs. Just how many were there through the end of 2001? What I don't accept is any causalities afterward.

The self-inflicted local terrorist recruits and sympathizers will obviously oppose our occupation, but will they really "fight us over here" or just celebrate when we leave?

I don't get your "working relationship" comments. We obviously have been in bed with Pakistan since 9/11 and I don't think anyone is saying they have ended support for the Taliban. But still, the only way the Taliban would lose power was through violence, whether we contributed to it or not.

What political pressure could we exert? Even if economic sanctions would be possible, they would likely have a negative impact on the population, so there are no guilt-free answers.

Ryan said...

There's the key point---the only way the Taliban would lose power is through violence. Maybe so. What I don't see is any convincing argument as to why we should contribute to that. If we have other options for trying to exert influence and get them out of power, why not pursue them? Why contribute to any inevitable violence if it can't be shown that it was absolutely, unequivocally necessary? We can play Monday morning quarterback all day long wondering how and why nothing else to get them out of there would have worked, but the fact remains we straight-up didn't try anything else first. How can we be sure war was the only option, or the best option, when we didn't give anything else a chance to work first? Governments worse than the Taliban have ceded power through nonviolent resistance and revolution before, and again, even if violence was inevitable, what convincing arguments can be made that we should contribute to said violence---heck, to be the primary cause of it?

Norwegian Shooter said...

There is a nut in here, now that we're past talking facts.

First, I would never advocate violent regime change for the Taliban without 9/11 and bin Laden. Otherwise, they would still suck, but not our business. So the Taliban were a factor to consider, but not the cause of any action in Afghanistan.

Second, I don't easily endorse violence, but this was a case where it can be justified in my opinion. The question is how much. BTW, "absolutely, unequivocally necessary" is a standard that will never be met. Pacifism would be a more realistic position.

Third, the retaliation (and like I said, I believe capturing bin Laden would be impossible) had to come quick. The strategic question was to use Special Ops/CIA to just kill him or go whole hog, using our troops and the Northern Alliance to overthrow the Taliban. That's a question that's hard to answer without having the info that the administration did beforehand. If it's decided to send in the troops, then they still have to go soon, wait too long and bin Laden will be impossible to trap.

By nonviolent resistance do you mean foreign sanctions, internal protest or something else?

What would your preferred response to 9/11 be?

Ryan said...

Well, first off, I don't accept the construct that 9/11 was the work of Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. That needs to be proven. Secondly, even assuming that to be the case, the Taliban offered to HAND OVER Bin Laden if we produced any EVIDENCE of his guilt and/or association with the crimes. What we gave them was the "Blair report, which was nothing but a list of accusations, if you read any of it. The Taliban was desperate to avoid a US invasion. Why not comply with their request to produce some evidence and just take Bin Laden to trial once he was handed over? Assuming we had any. If we had all this hard evidence we claimed we did, just give it to them. If we don't want to comply with their evidence request for whatever reason, then it seems to me tactical special ops teams on "surgical strike"-type missions would have stood a much greater chance of success than a huge aerial bombing war. Take a law enforcement rather than military approach. Police his known hideout areas with special forces. Get the international community together to impose sanctions if need be. All of this would be preferable to bombing the shit out of the place and having nothing to show for it.

Norwegian Shooter said...

I ignored the first comment's use of "construct," but I can't continue that anymore. If you think that al Qaeda isn't responsible for 9/11, just call it a lie, please. I'd gladly let you guest post your case why al Qaeda was not involved. First point to address is the martyr videos made by the hijackers in bin Laden's Afghanistan camps.

Like I said, it is a tough question to say which choice, special ops or invasion, would be better without hindsite. I wouldn't argue with either in theory. And I agree the overall approach to al Qaeda should be law enforcement, but I don't think there was any chance in hell that we could use police tactics to get anywhere near him.

"Known hideout areas"? This isn't TV, dude. And how exactly could we police these "hideouts" without the permission of the Taliban?

I said I would have preferred more boots and less bombs. I found the estimate of civilian deaths in 2001 to be between 1,000 and 1,200. That's too many, obviously, but that's the data. I don't think our bombing campaign did any great damage to the infrastructure. It was already bombed and land-mined to shit.

I'm shutting this thread down. Comment at the Afghan links one if you want to keep going.

Norwegian Shooter said...

Afghan links post