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August 12, 2007

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It is very sad, and very tragic. I wanted to believe that we would muster up some Marshall Plan for Afghanistan, but I had a feeling we would never actually do it. I mean, look where Afghanistan is located! There ain't no white boys around there! I say that with full snide, but I do believe the reason our actions in Afghanistan are half-hearted (in comparison to Europe for example) is that Afghanistan is not in Europe. Did we ever have a "Marshall Plan" for Vietnam? It's not a matter of strategic importance, as much of a cultural thing.

But that's just my own view on it.

"but 9/11 did seem to have concentrated his attention, and it truly seemed as though he had changed."

It did, and he was... For a few days, maybe weeks, then he reverted. It was pretty obvious he hadn't fundamentally altered his priorities, when he set the country on a series of wars, and didn't bother getting the troop caps lifted, (And expanding the military would have been easy in the days right after 9-11.) to produce a military equal to the challenges he planned to give it.

He was elected promising to be a domestic President, and wanted to remain one, only with "war leader" tacked on as an afterthought. It seems he wasn't willing to give up a little butter to get the guns.

It did, and he was... For a few days, maybe weeks, then he reverted.

Hours, I think.

It was, apparently, late in the evening of September 11 that the notion of attacking Iraq was mooted.

And it was clear to me on January 20th 2001 that George W. Bush was fundamentally interested in looking good to his base, regardless of the damage done to people round the world. I've never seen him do anything that has changed my opinion of him on that.

When we went into Afghanistan I told one of my coworkers that we better do something to significantly improve the economy, including tax breaks for companies that invested in the country or the people would trun back to poopy growing for the opium trade. Oh well, it doesn't matter being right.

Also, and something that is frequently forgotten, is the fact that the diversion of peoples, supplies and money to the Iraq front, with much of it occuring prior to the dreaded 2002 vote, was actually illegal as Congress had not authorized funds to be used for anything other than Afghanistan.

It was feasible, it was the right thing to do, but most importantly, as far as its actually happening was concerned, it was clearly, obviously, overwhelmingly in our interest.

If you define us as "U.S. corporations" as Bush does, probably not.

Oh its pathetic. We could have paved over every afghan road, built a school for every child (sex segregated if that is what they wanted), built hospitals and banks and turned the whole thing into the next switzerland for what we have wasted on the Iraq war. YOu want to turn a hell hole into a beacon? We *could* have done that in AFghanistan. But we didn't *want* to, if by want we mean actually intend. In the end we pretty much accompllish what we set out to do. That's why I always laugh at the republicans insistence that if weonly had the *will* to do something it would actually happen. If we only had the *will to win* in Iraq we'd win etc...etc...etc...There's always aproblem in complex, multi player systems deciding who actually itnends what, and who has the power to affect what is done. But in this particular instance we have to lay the blame straight at the feet of bush and his partners. They held power very close to the chest, they held decisionmaking very closely in the oval office, they had compelte control over the purse and over the military. So its only their "will" that matters. Either they had the will to do something really bad and stupid, or they didn't have enough will to do something good. Either way, we and the afghan people pay a price.

aimai

I had supported the invasion of Afghanistan, and I heard those words -- Marshall Plan, we will not repeat the mistakes of the past, we will not abandon Afghanistan -- and thinking: we are really going to do something wonderful.

i realize this admission will put me in the list of unSerious People, but i care not...

i never supported the Afghanistan war. i argued against it. i knew Bush wouldn't do it right (he did campaign on a No Nation Building plank). i thought he'd just bomb and run, and the result would be a bunch of dead people and their angry relatives who would join al-Q and attack us in revenge. he'd put no serious effort into turning Afghanistan into a place that would naturally reject terrorism.

once again, the Serious People were wrong about Bush, his plans, his capabilities and his goals. and once again, little ol' peacenik me was right again.

what do i win?

Cleek's right.

If the Bush administration had been the kind of collective mind that would see the benefit to the world of rebuilding Afghanistan, and go ahead and focus on getting it done despite the fact that doing so would not profit any major business interests in the US, legal or illegal, then Bush would never have been appointed President. Bombing Afghanistan was good for Bush's general popularity. A different President might have been able to persuade the people of the US that investing billions in a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan was (a) the right thing to do - an obligation owed Afghanistan since the 1980s - and (b) the best thing to do in the interests of world peace and the "war on drugs": but, if Bush had been that kind of man, if he had showed any signs of being that kind of President, he would never have had the backing to push him into office.

It was clear to me that there was a serious problem with the President when he gave his post-9/11 address to Congress, and instead of vowing simply to track down the miscreants to the ends of the earth, he called for a crusade to rid the world of evil. I (tiresomely) asked everyone within earshot how that had worked, so far, for the President's favorite philosopher. And why anyone thought the president could succeed where the Philosopher had thus far failed.

I supported military action in 2001, thinking it would be more like a Noriega thing, telling people (again tiresomely -- you people have no idea what a debt of gratitude everyone I know IRL owes you) that the idea of a Marshall Plan run by people who didn't believe in government was laughable.

I was thus, along with the rest of humanity, perfectly placed to discount completely all talk of re-creating the Middle East as a better place when the Iraq war came around. I have no idea why anyone believed any of that nation building stuff from these people.

(That's not correct: I know exactly why invasion apologists believed what they wanted to hear. It's the same reason I keep hearing 'ticking timebomb' hypotheticals from torture apologists, and 'battlefield capture' discussions from detention apologists. Note to apologists: we have empirical evidence -- they are not serious about nation building; they tortured minions to find out if there were any ticking timebombs; they detained hundreds of people who are neither combatants nor battlefield captures.)

Like cleek, I was also unserious. So very unserious.


In addition to his reasons, I also thought that an invasion would have been immoral because it was unnecessary. It was unnecessary because a sufficiently competent government could have cut a deal with the Taliban. Yes, I know, they're barely human, they're worse than animals, etc. But I really did think that if presented with the right "inducements" they could have become very cooperative, even if they had to make noises in public to appease their base. Of course, such negotiations would have required subtlety, patience, and skill and the Bush administration was incapable of doing that. Their incompetence did not relieve us of our obligations however.

I'm was also unserious about Afghanistan, for the reasons noted by cleek and Turbulence and the big one, for me, which is that war (esp when brought in from elsewhere) seems like a counter-productive way to begin an ongoing process of democratic decision-making.

On 9/11 one of my first thoughts was "I hope the idiot is not doing anything rash like nuking somebody". When there seemed to be a willingness to go into Afghanistan only (and that after some preparations, not on 9/12) I gave the benefit of doubt (despite having heard that there were shady background deals involving pipelines).
That did not last that long though at first I put it more to incompetence than malvolence (naive me!). Once it was clear that Iraq was the real target and Afghanistan just a foreplay/sideshow/whatever I began to almost view favorably coerced neck prolongation for the perpetrators (after fair trial that is).
No improvement in sight, I'd say.

The 'I'm' at the beginning means I'm still unserious.

The 'I'm' at the beginning means I'm still unserious.

Add me to the 'unserious' roster.

Waiting for Sebastian Holsclaw to bring down his wrath in 3...2...1...

(SH, if you're reading, that was meant in lighthearted jest. ;-))

I supported the attack on Afghanistan for what seemed to me like a somewhat amoral but nonetheless practical reason: I figured the Bush-Cheney crew could actually manage to send troops someplace to kill some folks, and get it done reasonably well. In retrospect I had an inappropriate confidence in their warmongering competence. If I'd stuck to general principles about that bunch, I'd have avoided that particular mistake. :(

If it's an unseriousness and unfashionableness contest, I have a shot at the podium. Photographs document my standing out on a cold pavement every week protesting the Afghan war. In late November I changed my placard to No Wider War, seeing the recurring Saddam-al Qaeda-link stories from Wolfowitz, Cheney, and Perle.

For extra unfashionableness points, I submit that the high point of Afghan freedom and material well-being in the recent past was during the pro-Soviet government of the late 1970s, before the Carter administration started funding mujahedeen and before the Soviet invasion.

I still use that placard at periodic out-of-Iraq vigils, and assess the odds of stopping the next war before it starts as very low indeed.

I supported the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Not only because they were sheltering OBL, but because the Taliban was a non-government government whose only "competency" was turning misogyny and nihilist fundamentalism into a national sport.

Back in those innocent days, I had no idea Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld had a hard-on for invading Iraq. When they started the campaign for war against Saddam, I very clearly remember thinking, "WTF? What does he have to do with any of this?"

It seemed so obvious that our "enemy," insofar as we had one, was OBL and AQ; that, if anyone was exporting terrorism against the West, it was the Taliban in Afghanistan; that, if we were serious about combatting terrorism, we had to finish the job in Afghanistan. It seemed so obvious to me that OBL, AQ, and the Taliban were the direct result of our funding and arming the mujadeen, and we therefore had a moral obligation as well as a national defense obligation to finish the job in Afghanistan. It seemed so obvious to me that failing to finish the job in Afghanistan would lead to the same disastrous consequences of having strengthened the mujadeen in the first place.

Obviously, I am not the stuff of which "serious" war policy is made.

As defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld claimed credit for toppling the Taliban with light, fast forces. But in a move that foreshadowed America’s trouble in Iraq, he failed to anticipate the need for more forces after the old government was gone

I think it's important to note that Rumsfeld didn't "fail to anticipate" the need for more forces. He rejected the need for more forces. He had an agenda for a "Revolution in Military Affairs", which required, as a matter of doctrine, a transition to lighter, more agile operations, and he saw both Afghanistan and Iraq as opportunities to implement and demonstrate his brave new plan. The "revolution in military affairs" or "RMA", in turn, was part of a broader strategic package that was intended to insure the continued global hegemony of the US after the fall of the Soviet Union.

I'm not making this up, it's all available in black in white. They wrote this wacky nonsense down for anyone to read, and signed their names to it.

Start here. Pick a day when your calendar is pretty clear, make a pot of coffee, and read it for yourself. There's lots more available besides this.

What I want to propose is that the foreign policy blunders of the Bush administration are not due to imcompetence, carelessness, or bad luck. They are the result of a foreign policy that is based on the delusion that the United States can, and should, dominate the rest of the world to the exclusion of any rival, friendly or otherwise.

The reason Afghanistan, Iraq, and pretty much any other foreign policy initiative of the last six years has been a fiasco is because the ideology that is driving our foreign policy is insane. Barking mad. Hubris on wheels.

It won't change until that does.

We're not undermanned in either Afghanistan or Iraq because Bush, Cheney, or Rumsfeld are incompetent. We're undermanned because Rumsfeld had a point to make. It was a stupid point, perhaps insane in it's denial of reality, but it was no accident. It was deliberate.

Thanks -

i never supported the Afghanistan war.

FWIW, I did. But here's a funny story.

My father in law spent WWII in the infantry in the Philippines. My mother in law spent WWII build Corsairs in Akron OH.

After 9/11, their first, and enduring, thought was, "I hope we don't go to war over this."

They weren't peaceniks. Far from it. They just remembered what war was like.

Thanks -

To add to what russell has said, it is important to stress that from the beginning, there was little interest in getting Afghanistan right. This is the crew that had to be persuaded by Powell to go after Afghanistan first before going after Iraq.

Every decision about how to conduct the Afghanistan war was shaped by the desire to low-ball the effort so that they could rush onto Iraq.

When the US decided to form a reconstruction government that included known drug warlords from the provinces, it was obviously doomed to fail. We took no meaningful action to prevent those people from then restarting massive opium production. We abetted the "reconstruction" of Afghanistan centered around opium production -- that has been our "Marshall Plan." That has been obvious since 2002-2003. How can any expect something good to come of that?

Hilzoy wrote:

"I remember hearing those speeches and thinking: oh, thank God. Back in late 2001 and early 2002, I was giving Bush the benefit of the doubt -- I hadn't thought much of him before, but 9/11 did seem to have concentrated his attention, and it truly seemed as though he had changed. (As indeed he had; just not in ways anyone anticipated.) I had supported the invasion of Afghanistan, and I heard those words -- Marshall Plan, we will not repeat the mistakes of the past, we will not abandon Afghanistan -- and thinking: we are really going to do something wonderful."

Hilzoy, I hope I don't sound rude, because I like your writing and this site generally, but I have to ask: how does this differ from the starry-eyed column by Rod Dreher that you mocked in your previous post? Because it seems to me to be different in degree but not in kind.

i never supported the Afghanistan war. i argued against it. i knew Bush wouldn't do it right...

Except that it wasn't just Bush --- there were a considerable number of other countries involved. That alliance and that model were important.

Now that it has withered on the vine, not so much. But there was promise there.

"how does this differ from the starry-eyed column by Rod Dreher that you mocked in your previous post? Because it seems to me to be different in degree but not in kind."

It seems to me that Hilzoy's error here was to assume basic competence and shared goals re: action that was so nakedly a matter of national self-interest, global influence, and domestic security - "clearly, obviously, overwhelmingly in our interest". It's Serious thinking, but of a kind that in most other administrations would have been - well, if not guaranteed, at least pretty reasonable. As it was, rabid partisanship would have been more useful - but this wasn't quite so obvious back then . . .

Dreher's error, on the other hand, was failing to revise or revisit the (understandably) immature political reasoning of his 13-year-old self, so that down the years he believed Democrats was detestable, wimpy losers, and Republicans strong, dependable winners, based largely on tough talk and powerful ~emotional appeals not backed up by the actual record or double-checked against more rational consideration . . . that it was only at 39, after watching the astonishing fiasco of the Iraq War, that it finally hit him:hey, unquestioning trust in authority isn't the best idea! - That, basically, he was being pretty RWA-ish.

Over at Orcinus, Sara has another take on the bizarre preponderance of leering old (conservative) men that seems relevant here, , arguing that their bizarre and immature fixation on a kind of cartoon masculinity stems from arrested moral and intellectual development -

" In other words[right wing authoritarian followers] are voluntarily choosing to operate at the intellectual processing level of a first-grader . . . Authoritarian followers crave someone who will keep things ordered and safe, someone who will provide and protect and set firm rules and boundaries; someone all-powerful and all-knowing who can teach you right from wrong and keep the harsh parts of the world at bay. Someone, in short, who looks like Daddy looked when you were about five years old.

RWAs would far rather curl up in Daddy's lap -- even if it means abandoning reason and taking the occasional spanking -- than try to deal with the world by themselves, on adult terms."

Without claiming that Dreher has the mind of a not even a fifth, but a first grader - he doesn't, and it's more complex than that - one might suggest that the formative age he give - 13 - is significant, that there are developmental paths or challenges that he turned away from then (though not, it would seem, forever), for reasons that involved issues of fear, security, identity and masculinity.

Of course, practicing pop political socio-psychoanalysis without a license (or with one, for that matter) is a foolhardy pursuit, so . . .

Afghanistan would be in much better shape if we just bought the opium at double the going rate. The taliban would be starved of funds, the locals would appreciate a bumber cash crop and the rush to become a liscensed seller would strengthen the local government in many ways.

Make the Taliban the losers in a drug war instead of us.

Maybe short term, bago. But that plan doesn't do anything to break the opium farmer's addiction (sorry) to the cash-crop.

I happened to catch a State Dept briefing on the problem yesterday, on CSPAN, and along with the usual stuff about interdiction and strengthening the local judicial system, they were promoting agricultural products that could support much larger value-adding industries (ie, vegetable and seed oils) which in turn would require (and pay for) more infrastructure (roads, water, electricity).

Bago: Afghanistan would be in much better shape if we just bought the opium at double the going rate. The taliban would be starved of funds, the locals would appreciate a bumber cash crop and the rush to become a liscensed seller would strengthen the local government in many ways.

Yes: and the opium bought could be used to make prescription heroin, which is still one of the best painkillers ever (even if doctors in the UK are now legally permitted only to allow it for dying patients). Or we could (in the UK) go back to the reliable, oldfashioned method of dealing with drug addicts, which is to require each addict to register with a GP and get prescription heroin to maintain their addiction. I like this idea: it would cut down on drug-related crime and disease enormously.

One of these days we'll start being sensible about drug addiction again... I hope.

Model 62: But that plan doesn't do anything to break the opium farmer's addiction (sorry) to the cash-crop.

No, it wouldn't: but then, farmers the world round like cash crops to supplement their subsistence farming. Rather than try and force Afghan farmers away from their traditional cash crop, better to provide a legal buyer for it, paying higher than the criminal buyers (and providing whatever protection the farmers would then need) and even set up a Fair Trade system to ensure that the cash paid goes to the farmers. Then provide them with the help they need to increase their growth of subsistence crops.

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