Let's get out of afghanistan

“It is not clear whether the Ghanikhel raid was a case of mistaken identity or a successful anti-terrorist operation that also became a human tragedy.”

LI’s question to ponder this weekend is: what the hell is the U.S. still doing in Afghanistan?

In 2001, LI supported the attack on Afghanistan for the standard vanilla tit for tat reasons. But wars in the humanitarian intervention era ( “On your door I am a-knocking/with my toolbox and my stocking”) are sticky things, so sticky that the soldiers never seem to find the conditions just right to actually leave. Now, this is much to the satisfaction of all bien pensant people in D.C., and like a good little war, it is tossed into the forgettery of the back of the A section for bored householders to peruse if they will – although what’s the fucking point of that?

Occasionally the news comes from the front that things are going swimmingly, or they are going backwards, or that American marines have become so adroit at their anti-terrorist operations that they have permanently protected villagers in remote valleys from the insidious Taliban:

“On Tuesday, a senior U.S. military commander issued a formal apology to the families of 19 civilians who died in a March 4 incident in Batikot, in Nangahar province. A squad of Marines, ambushed by a suicide bomber, sprayed indiscriminate gunfire at cars and pedestrians.”

The Afghan war has some adorable characteristics, which you’d expect of a five year old. Five year olds love to build sand castles and destroy them. They love finger painting. Oh, and they love indiscriminate air warfare too!

“Almost every day, warplanes drop bombs, shoot rockets and fire cannon rounds into suspected enemy locations in southern and eastern Afghanistan. Generally, there tend to be more airstrikes in Afghanistan than in the war in Iraq. Since the beginning of this month, according to data released by Central Command, the U.S. military headquarters for Afghanistan, Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, B-1 heavy bombers have struck Afghanistan four times, F-15 fighters have done so twice, and A-10 ground-attack jets have fired their cannons three times. Also, a British Royal Air Force Harrier jet carried out bombing.

The airstrikes and casualties are a direct result of the stepped-up Taliban insurgency, which employs suicide bombs and often uses civilian areas as hiding places. Yet according to diplomats and human rights groups, the tough military response is weakening Afghan support for foreign troops and playing into the insurgents' hands. President Hamid Karzai, sharply rebuking his foreign allies, declared recently that such civilian deaths were "no longer acceptable."”

The technostructure of war in America has been a win win on many fronts – it distributes money to the right array of companies, it keeps the budgets high, it makes a symbolic statement to the rest of the world, and it expresses pretty well the inexorable logic of the dialectic of vulnerability that the U.S. has been committed to since Hiroshima. It is a form of offshoring the war. However, although it is marvelous, it can’t do one thing: it can’t win a low intensity war. It can only delay losing a low intensity war. That Bush is presiding over two defeats makes him a remarkable American president in many ways – that he pulled defeat out of the jaws of victory in Afghanistan is, well, it is why his fans love him. Bush is like a Jesus figure, if you can imagine Jesus, at the wedding in Cana, turning water into radioactive urine and urging the guests to drink up.

So let’s add things up. First, you have to advance an essentially colonialist enterprise by manufacturing an election. Check – this is where Karzai comes from. Then you essentially bungle the one chance you have to actually force the enemy to surrender, or to break him. Check – the Pentagon’s nursing of the escape of Al Qaeda and much of the Taleban leadership into Pakistan was a sort of foresighted action, to guarantee that the war wouldn’t stop, because if the war stops, you might actually have to… gasp … withdraw. Then you need to wait around, let the economic situation plummet, produce amazingly liberal legislation for show in the capital which just happens to be in complete disconnect with the culture at large – this has the double advantage of maintaining the humanitarian label and making the powers you have propped up in the capital look like complete and utter puppets, which increases their dependence on the occupation – and finally, voila, you have the situation of an openended occupation that will feed on itself until those people in the mountains find the stingers to take down some of those bombers. Then things can get merrier.

It should be pointed out to establish LI's fucking non-partisan cred here that Clinton’s wars in the 90s actually put in place the elements that have grown to full fledged malignancy here. The party divide disguises a fundamental continuity. The bombing wars that avoided any American casualties seemed free and fun – save of course for a buncha landlubbers bleeding to death in the villages – but it turns out that they had no ending bracket. Occupation just goes on forever.

It is long past time to have an exit strategy for Afghanistan that actually makes sense – that is, that comes to an exit. You know what an exit is, don’t you Uncle Sam? Or does it have to leave muddy boot prints on your butt?


Scruggs said…
What do think, Roger? I think no one intends to give up on encircling the Big Bear or establishing a "presence" near sources of easy-to-drill oil -- even when it's abundantly clear that it's a fools errand. The Dems have gone back to bear-baiting, the wingnuts want that useless star wars project planted on their doorstep and the EU is getting huffy about Russia's obligation to deliver the energy they want. That ole can-do spirit will keep them pouring blood into Afghanistan until a mutiny makes it impossible.
roger said…
Mistah Scruggs, I am sure you, with years of body organ vending behind you, must be familiar with the scatological rites of burglars discussed in Albert Hellwig’s classic article, Die Bedeutung des grumus merdae fuer den Praktiker, or for laymen, The meaning of grumus merdae (burglar’s pile) for professionals”, which surveys the reasons for the ritual leaving behind of feces by break in artists. As you are aware, the subject holds grave difficulties for the crime scene investigator. Is it timidity or boldness, or some offering to the unknown gods, that motivates our cat burglaring friend to take his dump on the Persian rug?

Similarly, one must range through theories to understand why the world’s most invested war culture can no longer seem to wage wars. I and my colleagues at LI believe that there is a parallel here with the fact that the world’s most auto consuming culture can, seemingly, no longer manufacture cars at a profit.

And so, Mistah Scruggs (could you please don the white coat and the green gloves?) to the problem itself, the grumus merdae left in Afghanistan. LI a couple of long years ago urged a pullout, but oddly enough, our song and dance was not echoed along the liberal corridors. Actually, we’d have like to have seen the dissolution of our ferocious enemy, al qaeda, but as nobody seemingly is up for that job, and in fact just the opposite is US policy – the loving coddling of this group is, after all, an investment in keeping the long long long long war focused on Islamofascism, a puzzler for Mom and Dad and the kids at home! – we think that we might consider negotiating a payoff. Why not? Since we are paying tribute to Pakistan, let’s include Bin Laden in the booty – he’s probably siphoning off a few U.S. dollars as it is. It is cheaper, and even if we can’t wage war anymore, the U.S. still leads the world in borrowing bucks – so we can come up with the ready.

In the meantime, this video seems to explain our current foreign policy.
Scruggs said…
No one can echo you, Roger, at least in liberal circles, because you've come to see it as wrong. You may be the last living liberal who can do that.

They'd have to admit to being wrong too. They absolutely can't do that without an easy moral equivalence at hand. There's no triangulation avalaible. Our sphincter-of-steel liberals would sooner die of an impaction (oh happy thought!) than admit they were wrong in a way that cost them any of their vanity market share.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.