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December 31, 2009

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Sobering to realise that this merely extends the parallels between the Taliban and the dominionist/tea-bagger/so-called-conservative political movement that's been growing in the USA for the last 40 years.

Each is a product of relatively isolated, relatively ignorant, relatively irrational cultural elements and areas; each displays a comparatively violent, unilateral, emotionally reactive character compared with the home culture as a whole, and each wields disproportionate power as a result of the typical manifestations of the sub-cultures generating the movements.

I fear it will go very, very badly for the US as a nation and a people if we continue to obsess over the Taliban mote while ignoring the beam in our domestic eye.

But then, the is the land of the theoretically free & home of the "proud right-wing terrorist," in spite of our history with the Klan and the Know-Nothings, so perhaps it's inevitable that we follow in the footsteps of the Pashtun. Something about refusing to learn the lessons of history, I think....

I just cannot understand the basis for the utopian thinking that believes that you can culturally transform a society through occupation and development, that you scratch a peasant goat-herder or a soldier in a private army in a basically medieval society and underneath is someone ready for the give-and-take of democratic society. It took centuries for democratic societies to take root in Europe and America, driven by changes in education and religious belief, by industrialization, and through the growth of a secular civil society. I think you can accelerate that, but you're still talking about decades, as the examples in the post-colonial era would seem to indicate.

One of the reasons I'm optimistic about democracy in Iran (and to a lesser extent in Iraq) is that they do have a long tradition of civil society even if not exactly democracy. Afghanistan is not like that, outside of maybe Kabul.

But this is the problem with getting involved with foreign adventures. Only in cartoons is there a good side and a bad side. In the real world all sides in a country like Afghanistan are going to be unacceptable to American sensibilities. By intervening you force yourself to have to take sides.

We intervened to 1) capture OBL and defeat AQ in Afghanistan and 2) punish the Taliban for harboring him. We should've done that and gotten out, left them to pick up the pieces - which is what happens to countries whose ruling party harbors people who attack other countries. That's called "an incentive against harboring terrorists" and I don't think we would have been pilloried for it.

Sure, we should have given them what assistance we could, but not committed to a military occupation on behalf of one faction. Instead we chose to pretend that the Taliban did not reflect a significant political faction in Afghanistan, or that they were thoroughly discredited, neither of which was true. Afghanistan wasn't 1945 Germany and the Taliban weren't the Nazis.

I don't know when minding your own business fell out of style. Maybe it was never in style, I dunno. But what people do to each other in Afghanistan is not my business, at least, not to the extent that justifies a military occupation. (Civil support, sure.) People behave terribly to one other all over the world. As long as they're not killing each another en masse, or invading neighboring countries, that is their problem to solve.

(Doesn't help that we and the Soviets flooded the world with weapons during the Cold War, and backed any number of evil despots. But you don't fix that by extending the policy.)

I don't know when minding your own business fell out of style. Maybe it was never in style, I dunno.

Sometimes "follow the money" is just a glib catchphrase. But sometimes there's really no better explanation.

"What's the point of having this superb military you're always talking about if we can't use it?" --Madeline Albright

And bear in mind that Albright represents the sane, cautious, non-insane wing of the American polity.

"Sane" and "non-insane" -- oy. Too early on a post-party morning to be doing this.

I know Western horror at these things isn't the point here, but I really, really wish I hadn't read that about what happened to the student. What happened to her after that? Does Gopal know?

Jacob Davies: I just cannot understand the basis for the utopian thinking that believes that you can culturally transform a society through occupation and development

Well, those are two different mindsets: the mindset that believes the "natives" can be culturally transformed through occupation, by violence and brutality: or the experience of NGOs over decades of development that giving people a chance to feed themselves and their families and provide their children with more opportunities than they themselves ever had, leads to a better society in the long run.

The first is pretty much excuse-making: when Bush & Co sickeningly justified bombing Afghanistan because Afghan women are treated as slaves, that was patently a lie. The US government had always regarded the plight of women in Afghanistan with complete indifference, and continues to do so.

The second is actually based on real experience and explains why NGOs tended to be the strongest and most consistent opponents of the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, because it was going to be fundamentally counterproductive. And has been.

@Jacob Davies--excellent post. I hate using the term, but the old argument between 'civilization' and 'uncivilized' rears its ugly head in this region once again. People tend to forget that the British coined those terms to address this region specifically. Iranians (Persians) have an ancient and established culture and civilization, one that has experienced and survived major changes and upheavals in the past (Persian Empire, Islam, imperialism, etc.). The cultures in the Af-Pak border regions, because of their isolation, have had little need to adapt to change over the centuries. The British and Russians did little to 'civilize' the region, instead taking the 'pacification' route--buy off some leaders, punish others--to maintain peace.

The idea that the US can bring Jeffersonian Democracy to the region is pretty silly. Most likely, Afghanistan will end up like it was before 1979--a central govt in Kabul that controls the city, a lot of scattered tribes doing their own thing elsewhere.

I think it's too little appreciated that the Tajiks, Hazara, Pashtuns, Balochis, Almaks, Turkmen, Uzbecks, Nuristani, etc. living within the borders of "Afghanistan" are separate ethnicities, with different languages and widely different cultures. Tribal identity trumps allegiance to "Afghanistan"; this area has never been unified into a nation-state.

Anyone claiming that they can produce a functional nation-state out of Afghanistan is selling something.

Anyone claiming the US occupation of Afghanistan is intended for the benefit of the people of Afghanistan is...

The occupied government of Afghanistan and the United Nations have both concluded that U.S.-led troops recently dragged eight sleeping children out of their beds, handcuffed some of them, and shot them all dead. David Swanson

Jesurgislac, is the link to David Swanson's weblog the best you can do to support your apparent thesis that the US occupation of Afghanistan is, in fact, intended not for the benefit of the people of Afghanistan but instead as an operation to murder Afghan civilians in cold blood?

is the link to David Swanson's weblog the best you can do to support your apparent thesis that the US occupation of Afghanistan is, in fact, intended not for the benefit of the people of Afghanistan but instead as an operation to murder Afghan civilians in cold blood?

No, Sapient.

That was just the most recent specific brutal example of the US occupation killing Afghan civilians.

You want me to come up with more? I can. Limited to 3 links per post, of course. Have you been not-following the Afghan war to such a closed-eyed extent that you actually think there's something unusual about US-led forces killing Afghans in order to save them?

Many civilians have been killed in air strikes, which is abominable and certainly a valid argument against the effectiveness of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. Dragging sleeping children out of bed and murdering them is not something that happens as a matter of U.S. policy. If it happened (something that is very much in dispute) the perpetrators would surely face criminal charges. The fact that you cite David Swanson rather than a news report is telling.

Or try http://netdude.co.cc/browse.php?u=Oi8vd3d3LnR5cGVwYWQuY29tL3NlcnZpY2VzLyI%3D&b=13 ">http://alturl.com/438v"> this . It has nothing to do with Swanson.

I've e-mailed the kitten about the troll who's back posting comments under other people's handles.

Dragging sleeping children out of bed and murdering them is not something that happens as a matter of U.S. policy.

And yet, the children killed are still dead. Trying to claim that US policy is against killing Afghan children would be marginally more convincing if the immediate official reaction to the murders being made public was to launch an investigation - not, as you yourself note happened, dispute that it ever happened because, er, all the locals who say it did must be lying.

War means the atrocious deaths of innocent people. When US policy launches a war of aggression against a nation that had not harmed the US and was no threat to the US, US policy is to kill innocent people, for no better reason than aggression, revenge, and just possibly an oil pipeline or so and a handy location for an extra-judicial prison camp to keep terrorist suspects.

If the intent is not to kill Afghan children and other civilians, then when Afghan children are killed, the proper response is to launch an investigation into who did it in order to decrease the likelihood of it happening again - not just to deny it all and let the crimes go unpunished.

From what I've read, the incident is being investigated. From what I've seen (pictures) there's good reason to dispute that the allegations are true. I have very mixed feelings about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan for a number of reasons, but the project is not being billed by Obama as merely a good will mission for the Afghan people (except that an attempt is being made, while we're there, to do some rebuilding of infrastructure, etc.). It's my understanding that we're there in order to empower people in Afghanistan who oppose those who tolerate al Qaida. This is to benefit our interests, and Obama has been clear on that. It's true that it's a war, and that innocent people get killed in wars. There's a difference between that and cold blooded murder. Certainly it's fair to discuss whether the carnage is worth it, and from whose perspective it might be worth it.

From what I've seen (pictures) there's good reason to dispute that the allegations are true.

Of course there's good reason to dispute it, for a supporter of the war on Afghanistan: it is yet another nasty example of the "benefits" of the war.

I have no idea what "pictures" you could have seen that convince you that the people killed by US-led troops were in fact all dangerous al-Qaeda operatives. Or perhaps that they aren't dead at all?

It's my understanding that we're there in order to empower people in Afghanistan who oppose those who tolerate al Qaida.

Yes. And the pointlessness of this as a goal is that no matter how many Afghans the US "empowers" in its quest to kill, main, torture, and imprison Afghans who "tolerate" al-Qaeda, this will hardly decrease support for al-Qaeda: In fact, the historical record shows that such violent and unstoppable interference by a more powerful nation is precisely the kind of activity that increases terrorists, terrorism, and popular support for both.

This is to benefit our interests, and Obama has been clear on that.

So how does it benefit US interests to increase support for al-Qaeda and for terrorist actions by al-Qaeda against the US? Obama has never been clear about that. It was obvious why it benefited Bush to have an enemy like al-Qaeda to point at.

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