Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What Victory Looks Like in American Eyes

An American asks now that the US has won the Afghan war, isn't it time to leave?

The editor in chief of AirForce Magazine concludes that the American forces have come as close as they ever will to winning in Afghanistan and that Western forces have come as close as they ever will to getting a viable Afghan national security force, police and military, up and running.   So why not just declare the whole thing a great victory and get out fast before it goes all to hell?

It's an interesting, if deeply flawed, assessment of our Afghan fiasco.  It's flawed because it ignores facts and draws false assumptions that allow it arrive at bad conclusions.

Vietnam showed us that, as these adventures draw to an end, we offer up parting gifts to our reluctant hosts.   One of these is to blame them for their plight.

The US, NATO, and international organizations have been working to improve Afghanistan’s future for a decade now. They have protected Afghan citizens at tremendous human cost, built schools, bridges, and other critical infrastructure, and poured billions of dollars into the country. Despite this, vast swathes of Afghanistan’s population view the Westerners with suspicion, hostility, and outright hatred. 

 ...The Taliban has had little trouble recruiting generation after generation of insurgents over the past decade. Part of the responsibility for this must be borne by the Afghan people. The Taliban mercilessly ruled Afghanistan for five years, destroyed education, women’s rights, and the economy and imposed the world’s harshest Islamic sharia law. Since the US and NATO arrived, the Taliban has waged a nonstop terror and intimidation campaign and has caused the vast majority of all civilian injuries and deaths.

Despite all this, the Afghan people never fully turned on the Taliban or forced them from the country.

The US and NATO cannot provide freedom and security to the Afghan people if they are not willing to be equal partners in the effort. Ultimately, Afghanistan must decide whether it favors peace or extremism. The two cannot exist side by side. 

The underlying myth here is that we protected the Afghan people when we did nothing of the sort.   We didn't protect them from the Taliban.   We didn't protect them from the other warlords, supposedly our allies.   We didn't protect them from the narco-lords.  We didn't protect them from their own corrupt government, the one whose installation we oversaw.  And we didn't protect them from the corrupt and predatory national police service either.

We didn't give a shit who was having at them or in what order of rotation.   We didn't care who was doing them up while the sun shined and  who was doing them up after the sun set.

So they weren't our "equal partners" in the fight against the Taliban.  They weren't equal to anyone.   Not to our firepower.   Not to the Taliban's.   They weren't equal to their government's rotten judiciary and bureaucracy.   They weren't equal to the warlords who ruled them.  They weren't equal to the police who robbed them.  It's an impoverished, peasant society dominated by a feudal power structure.

At the end of the day what would victory look like?   For us there is no victory in Afghanistan, merely various shades of defeat.   Fortunately the Afghan peasants need not worry about such nuances.

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