Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Graveyard of Empires

William Lind, a consistent conservative critic of our Iraq invasion, now writes about Afghanistan, and shares this description of Administration deliberation on the issue:

On the one side were Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg, who argued in closed-door meetings for a minimal strategy of stabilizing Afghanistan…The goal of these advocates was to limit civilian and other nonmilitary efforts in Afghanistan and focus on a main military objective of denying safe haven to the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists.

The other side of the debate was led by Richard C. Holbrooke, the special envoy for the region, who along with U.S. Central Command leader Gen. David H. Petraeus and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton fought for a major nation-building effort.The Holbrooke-Petraeus-Clinton faction, according to the sources, prevailed. The result is expected to be a major, long-term military and civilian program to reinvent Afghanistan from one of the most backward, least developed nations to a relatively prosperous democratic state.

And then he adds this:

Short of divine intervention, nothing can turn Afghanistan into a modern, prosperous, democratic state. Pigs will not only fly, they will win dogfights with F-15s before that happens. The most Afghanistan can ever be is Afghanistan: a poor, backward country, one where the state is weak and local warlords are strong, plagued with a drug-based economy and endemic low-level civil war. That is Afghanistan at its best. Just achieving that would be difficult for an occupying foreign power, whose presence assures that war will not be low-level and that no settlement will be long-term.

Instead of a pragmatic, realistic approach to attaining that limited objective, it seems we are committed to a Quixotic quest for the unattainable. Again, that guarantees we will lose the Afghan war. No means, military or non-military, can obtain the unattainable. The circle cannot be squared.

Here we see how little “change” the Obama administration really represents. The differences between the neo-liberals and the neo-cons are few. Both are militant believers in Brave New World, a Globalist future in which everyone on earth becomes modern. In the view of these ideologues, the fact that billions of people are willing to fight to the death against modernity is, like the river Pregel, an unimportant military obstacle. We just need to buy more Predators.

I hate to say this, but I think Holbrooke is a disaster. He seems to have been at least partially responsible for the attempted expansion of NATO into the former Soviet republics during the Clinton administration, which infuriated the Russians and led to the recent chill of the last ten years. So he and Clinton want nation-building? In Afghanistan? It's no wonder the neo-cons seem to be supporting the Obama administration in his new 'Af-Pak' policy, while the left is skeptical, to put it mildly.

Obama seems to be morphing more and more into the very likeness of Lyndon Baines Johnson, with his guns and butter strategy. Liberal, well-intentioned, politically able man. But very bad advisors and a flawed worldview. Remember what happened to him in 1968? I do, because that was the year I graduated from high school. A very bad year in the larger world around my sheltered little world. Johnson's attempt at a land war in Asia had failed, and his Great Society changes in American society weren't affordable along with a major war.

I can't defend this from criticism by my gloating Republican friends. This is definitely not change I can believe in. This is like a nightmare for me. Please wake me up.

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