Friday, October 07, 2011

Operation Forever War

Af Pak demo


Friday was the 10th anniversary of the launch of the war in Afghanistan, launched less than 30 days after the terrible events of September 11th, 2001. The war on the Taliban was originally called "Operation Infinite Justice" but was renamed Operation Enduring Freedom when somebody decided that "Infinite Justice" had a creepy fundamentalist tinge or something. Infinite Justice also suggests an operation never meant to end, and maybe the name change was meant to avoid that suggestion, although evidently it would have been more honest.

Why are we still in Afghanistan? Because we are needed? Because they want us there? This is pretty unlikely. When an American reporter goes to some rural village, surrounded by US soldiers and asks if they want us to be there, what are they going to say? "No, get lost, and take those gun-toting soldiers with you, they're really ticking us off!" I wonder what Americans think when they're told we're needed or wanted in Afghanistan.

Slate, Gen. McChrystal: "After 10 Years, Our Work in Afghanistan Is Only Halfway Done"

McChrystal: "Frighteningly simplistic" view of the country has crippled the war effort.
By Will Oremus | Posted Friday, Oct. 7, 2011, at 12:01 PM ET

Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, McChrystal said the United States had a “frighteningly simplistic” view of the country when it invaded, CBS News reports. Even today, McChrystal argued, the country lacks the understanding needed to complete the mission successfully.

“We didn't know enough and we still don't know enough,” he said. “Most of us — me included — had a very superficial understanding of the situation and history, and we had a frighteningly simplistic view of recent history, the last 50 years.”Knowledge isn’t the only problem, he added. President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq was a costly diversion that has tarnished Muslims’ perception of the United States.
The most difficult task still ahead, he continued, is building a credible Afghan government that could rule the country peacefully once outside forces withdraw.

The celebrated personal difficulties between BHO and McChrystal notwithstanding, the language above, in which McC describes GWB's decision as a "costly diversion", suggests that he's 'on message' with the Obama administration in terms of delivering the right talking points. But whether it's McChrystal or Petraus, or Condoleezza Rice or Gates or Hilary Clinton delivering the speech, and whether it's 2005 or 2009 or 2011, the message is depressingly similar. A superficial understanding isn't the problem. They don't want us there, and will never want us there, at least not as occupiers imposing our will.

People like McChrystal must know this, even if they feel they also have to support doomed policies, apparently because it's expected of them. I don't know if this is sad or monstrous. I suppose it's both.

I wrote about the Af-Pak war at some length in the summer of 2009, here and here. While the US may have killed bin Laden since then, I fail to see what has otherwise changed, or even how killing him has changed the war. More people have needlessly died, on all sides, who were alive in 2009. What else?

Even the reliably hawkish Fred Kaplan acknowledges that the Af-Pak war is going badly:

As for Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who appeared alongside Mullen at Thursday's hearing, it is hard to tell whether his spin on recent events was evasive, delusional, naïve, or a combination of the three. The assault on the embassy, Panetta insisted, marks "a sign of weakness in the insurgency." Having been dealt a string of setbacks on the battlefield, the insurgents are now shifting tactics to go after "high-profile" targets, such as Afghan officials, peace negotiators, and the American embassy. This shift, Panetta said, will have no effect on the Taliban's "odds of military success."

Also here:

Hearts, Minds, and Murders: The killing of Hamid Karzai's brother means the war in Afghanistan is going worse than we thought

Two from Greg Scoblete, How Important is Af-Pak?

The Alluring, Enduring Myth of Energy Independence

and, A decade of war [via BDR]


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At October 08, 2011 4:17 AM, Blogger Mimi said...

Funny this tenth anniversary wasn't marked with the overwhelming hoopla that other one was last month. Seems to me it ought to be more intense, as more civilians died. Oh, but wait, they weren't American civilians, so no prob.

At October 08, 2011 1:10 PM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

Yeah, it's funny. And isn't one anniversary the reverse image of the other one, almost like a photographic negative?

At October 08, 2011 9:52 PM, Blogger rob payne said...

Well, there is a reason we are there. Afghanistan has a geopolitical importance to the U.S. To begin with we can dispense with whatever silly reason we are told why we went to war in Afghanistan, and Iraq. The key to all this is though the U.S. doesn’t really need oil from the Middle East what it does need or feels the need for is to control the flow of oil and who gets it. If you control the flow of oil you have a certain amount of control over your enemies which is China and Russia.

Afghanistan and Iraq are near the Caspian Basin home to an estimated trillion dollars worth of oil and natural gas. Both China and Russia have their eye on the Caspian Basin, and indeed some years ago took part in joint military exercises in that region. Recall the Carter Doctrine which stated that we would defend the interests in that part of the world with military force. You can bet that the joint military exercises in that area were a great worry to our government. So the U.S has been installing military bases in and around the Caspian Basin because they don’t want China and Russia to have access to that region. What the U.S. is doing is creating a military presence via military bases much like the forts in the old Wild West. Cowboys and Indians. The U.S. never planned to defeat Afghanistan which is actually quite meaningless in that fractured land. First, they never had the resources to occupy Afghanistan so they opted for the next best thing, military bases in strategic areas through which they could focus their military power. This also explains the animosity toward Iran, just look at a map and the relationship of where Iran is and where the Caspian basin is.

To sum it up the plan was permanent military bases all along while all the crap about nation building was a ruse for the rubes at home. Us. The only two rivals we have in the world, though they are distant rivals, are Russia and China. And that is why we will never, ever, leave Afghanistan or Iraq because control of the oil flow gives the U.S. some leverage over them. So from this perspective the U.S. wars in those two nations are a great success because we did what we set out to do, create permanent military bases. We are there and there we shall stay at least for as long as we are able to.

At October 09, 2011 3:39 AM, Blogger Mimi said...

That's about the best answer to "why are we there?" I've ever read, Rob. Thank you.

At October 09, 2011 9:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob's got the truth... well said Rob.

Add what Rob said to one's analysis of why the USA "supports" Israel: more geopolitical foothold in the region, plus control over the water rights adjacent to and within Israel's present "borders" or whatever you want to call such fluid concepts that depend entirely upon Israel's bellicosity.

Water rights is the next resource that nations will wage war over. Nations know we're seeing the end of petroleum as the dominant energy source, so they angle and wrangle with an eye toward the next precious resource.

If you live in an area of the USA where water rights are paramount, you know what I'm talking about here. If you don't live in such an area, ask yourself why rivers were dammed just to provide hydroelectric to Las Vegas and water to SoCal.

At October 09, 2011 1:14 PM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

Dam straight. Rob, I guess I didn't want to tackle this except on one level in this post, but you are right, there is also this second level in which the stated aims of a policy have very little to do with what they're really trying to do.

But even aside from the not insignificant ethical question, I'm convinced that prosecuting a never-ending war to box the Russians in is bad as policy and ultimately doomed to fail.

At October 09, 2011 2:02 PM, Blogger Mimi said...

Here in Jersey we just take water for granted, Karl. It never occurred to me to even think about dams. Now I will.

At October 09, 2011 9:14 PM, Blogger rob payne said...

Thanks Mimi, Karl, Jonathan, I’m blushing.

Karl, that’s an excellent point regarding water which is as you say extremely important. The Colorado River doesn’t even make it to the Gulf any longer it has so many dams on it. This has ruined a very unique ecology. Mono Lake is sadly drying up, another unique ecology because of Los Angeles. I’m trying to recall the name of a valley where some of the residents waged war by sabotaging the water line from Mono Lake that went to Los Angeles but I cannot recall the name right now. But at any rate, Karl, it’s a good example of how important water is. I also recall that sink holes developed in Texas, Jonathan, maybe you know something about that since you live there. It was a result of too much water use of the underground water tables. Los Angeles is weird when you think about, a huge city right in the middle of a desert. I suppose it is the ports in Los Angeles that drove that but that’s just a guess.

I hope all of you are doing well.

At October 12, 2011 10:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At October 12, 2011 10:40 PM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

Hi KFO, thanks for the link.


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