Monday, December 14, 2009

The Short View

The more I delve into our documented, muddled, historical involvement in Afghanistan, the more incredulous I become at the short-sighted war mongering of hawks like William Casey (former director of CIA under Reagan and the man almost solely responsible for escalating the covert war against the Soviet occupation of the late 70s-80s), Robert Gates (current Sec'y of Defense and former director of CIA), Charlie Wilson (didja see the movie with Tom Hanks?), Michael Vickers, Michael Pillsbury, and a whole slew of self-professed communist slayers playing backroom politics during the Reagan years.

Short-sightedness seems to be America's modus operandi in anything and everything; from internal issues at the municipal levels of government to international foreign policy. We believe more in slapping on band-aids and hoping for a natural wound heal, than applying stitches and nurturing the rift with careful tractability.

To learn about the fervent, Mujaheddin hatred of communism and capitalism equally during the time of Soviet occupation, and to realize that Casey et. al for some reason either overlooked this fact, or didn't have the foresight to anticipate the quick about-face by their beloved, supported Taliban, is beyond mind boggling. It's egregious, political thinking; or lack thereof. It makes a regular citizen like me almost scream outloud: politicians, are you kidding me? You honestly had no idea that once the Soviet "infidels" would eventually retreat (or be defeated), the Mujaheddin or Taliban fighters would re-focus their efforts on the imperialist Gargantua that is the United States?

A lowly schmuck like me can see the Jihadi tsunami coming for miles; and I have nary a course in political science, much less a degree in it like all proper analysts.

Is there a resolution viable in this "graveyard of empires?" Militarily, no. But there might be a small chance of self-governance if both the United States and NATO commit to (wait for it Fox News)...nation building. Yes, the two most awful words in political vernacular since "healthcare reform."

In a way, it's what U.S. military presence has been obtusely attempting with local Afghan ethnic groups---Pashtuns, Tajiks, and Hazaras alike. But it hasn't been altogether successful. How could it be? The high command's version of "nation building" consists merely of hand shaking and exercising good, pro-U.S. public relations. But guess what? We cannot slip these people a couple of packs of chiclets and hope to coax them to our way of life.

The Taliban resurgence, particularly in the southern provinces and on the Pakistani border, has been a sobering by-product of our failure to connect with the Afghan people and provide them with the necessities of a decent life. Indeed, it's our responsibility to do that, if we're occupying.

I realize the prospect of "nation building" sits in the mouth of an American tax payer as snugly as a root canal without anesthetic. But given the failed history of potential conquerors of this geographically-challenging, complex country, we have little choice. If this tactic is not employed by both the United States and its NATO partners, history will once again repeat itself and claim countless lives on both sides as collateral damage.

(Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard) Sheverdnadze had asked for American cooperation in limiting the spread of "Islamic fundamentalism" (after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan). (Secretary of State George) Shultz was sympathetic, but no high-level Reagan administration officials ever gave much thought to the issue. They never considered pressing Pakistani intelligence to begin shifting support away from the Muslim Brotherhood---connected factions and toward more friendly Afghan leadership, whether for the Soviets' sake or America's. The CIA and others in Washington discounted warnings from Soviet leadership about Islamic radicalism. The warnings were just a way to deflect attention from Soviet failings, American hard-liners decided.
--Steve Coll, "Ghost Wars"

1 comment:

Jeffinseatown said...

I'm glad you referenced "Ghost Wars". Reading that book has really provided some historical context into our current problems in the region. I don't know where we will be in 5 years with respect to the Af/Pak issue, but I sure hope it is a lesson to learn from in our future interactions. Consider the long-term effects of short-term dealings....a train of thought that apparently wasn't in use in the 80's.