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January 28, 2010

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Pointing to deep and irreparable problems in the Karzai government and now defending it (via 'appropriately snarky' quotes) as the only way that some level of stability be brought to Afghanistan. Snark has a way of papering over cognitive dissonance.

Pointing to deep and irreparable problems in the Karzai government and now defending it (via 'appropriately snarky' quotes) as the only way that some level of stability be brought to Afghanistan. Snark has a way of papering over cognitive dissonance.

Actually, I'm highlighting the dissonance - the incoherence of our policies.

I'm not the one attempting to do both of those things, at cross-purposes. I was merely quoting Josh Foust's humorous observation of the incongruity.

O, holy crap. Another band I've never heard anything from.

The backlog, it grows daily.

I think we've been played for suckers — if we had sent a shrewder negotiator, I'm sure the Shinwari would have burned down the homes of their tribal and ethnic enemies for free!

I just started getting into The Clientele too, Slarti. Late to the party as I so often am, but good stuff.

It seems more like you are demanding that we treat Afghanistan as a national entity and then, when we don't, you hold up this as evidence that we should get out. Sure, snark is humorous, and humor often works because it combines two points that normally are not considered associated. But a constant drip of these sorts of 'humorous' connections and the implication that they are somehow supposed to inform policy, like Reagan's oft repeated line about the nine most terrifying words in the English language (cue someone to explain that this is not a joke, but an existential fact) is one reason why this discussion always seems to drive itself into a ditch.

btw, the Foust article returns a 403 Forbidden error, so I don't know if it is 'appropriately snarky' or not.

Pointing to deep and irreparable problems in the Karzai government and now defending it (via 'appropriately snarky' quotes) as the only way that some level of stability be brought to Afghanistan. Snark has a way of papering over cognitive dissonance.

Here's the thing, you see those two things as being contradictory, things that cannot both be true. I see them (can't speak for Eric) as not being in conflict at all, and that fact being the main motivation for my desire to get the hell out of there.

It's perfectly possible for a country to be so screwed up - so awash with weaponry, riven by deep and frankly objectively justified mutual hatreds, and steeped in violence - that the corrupt, incompetent, widely-hated Karzai government in fact reflects the option with the best chance of ever making things better, given those options that could actually plausibly get implemented (given that apparently "burning down people's houses" is on that short list).

That doesn't mean it's a very good idea for the US to be so closely associated with the Karzai government, because what the Karzai government does to impose order on Afghanistan is probably not the kind of thing that fits with the liberal democratic ideals of the United States (and we are quite apparently not able to keep them from doing those things). That their best option might be a brutal and corrupt government doesn't mean our best option is to ally ourselves with that government; the fact that whoever brings something like order to Afghanistan is going to be hated by just about 49.99% of the population (maybe more) means that picking a side is pretty much a lose-lose proposition for us.

Pointing that out may be pointless and futile in some sense, given that nobody in the Obama administration appears to give a rat's ass about what anti-war progressives think, but it's not actually an exercise in cognitive dissonance.

Jacob, the cognitive dissonance comes in labeling an attempt to bypass the Karzai central government in order to stabilize particular regions of Afghanistan as being 'counter-productive' because it doesn't deal with the nation as a whole, when we have heard ad nauseum that for centuries, foreigners have never been able to unify the country. Furthermore, 'Anti-war' loses its meaning when you include people who argue that drones and over the horizon capabilities are sufficient. Perhaps it should be named pro-puppy to emphasize its inclusive nature.

Fair enough, I guess I am more focused on burning people's houses down and less on the central government's legitimacy.

Anti-war is a problematic label for sure, always will be for anyone who isn't a blanket pacifist, and I am not that. Just speaking for me, I don't think I've expressly supported a drones 'n' JDAMs approach, but to the extent I could be said to support a different kind of military engagement with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan it would not be that I think that is the optimum arrangement (which would be complete withdrawal because I don't think we are actually reducing what threat exists from Al Qaeda by our actions either way) but that I think it would involve less violence and be less counterproductive than our current strategy. Favoring X) possible military strategy over Y) current military strategy doesn't mean I wouldn't favor A) no military strategy at all.

LJ: The link seems to work for me. Are there other difficulties?

I can't access Registan from certain servers, and can from others. This is a fairly consistent problem. I don't know why.

Can't get it at school or at home. Went up to the upper domain as well and no go.

Read "Lessons in Imperial Policing" - a manual for junior officers on the Frontier in the 1920s and 30s. There's an entire chapter on how to burn down Afghan houses. Let the inhabitants take their Korans as they flee, it advises, because this is the equivalent of the family Bible, and if you burn it they might get upset.

the cognitive dissonance comes in labeling an attempt to bypass the Karzai central government in order to stabilize particular regions of Afghanistan as being 'counter-productive' because it doesn't deal with the nation as a whole

Could you miss the point more?

The cognitive dissonance comes in labeling burning down Afghan houses as "stabilizing particular regions of Afghanistan".

The problem is not bypassing the Karzai "central" government: the problem is trying to claim that crispy-charring Afghans is somehow "saving" them. From themselves.

For their part, the regular American Army forces in Jalalabad said they were startled by the Shinwaris’ decision. At a tribal council meeting — called a shura — held last week, 50 Shinwari elders decided to declare that the entire tribe would oppose the Taliban.

“The shura proclaims that the Shinwari tribe stands unified against all insurgent groups, specifically the Taliban,” the agreement stated.

Among other things, the tribal elders declared harsh penalties against Taliban sympathizers, including huge fines and expulsion from the area.

“The shura authorizes the burning of residences of those found harboring the Taliban,” the proclamation said.

Yeah, the military ought to step in and stop them from doing this. I mean, if every group of Pashtun get the idea that they could get rid of the Taliban through collective action, where would that leave us?

where would that leave us?

That would render us nearly superfluous, which probably isn't a status that most people here would wish on us.

LJ,

This is elementary. COIN doctrine is premised on building up the legitimacy of the government in question. We are supposedly employing COIN tactics. However, in this instance, we're undermining the power of the central government.

That might be necessary, and the least worst path going forward, but there is a fundamental contradiction.

And, of course, the collective punishment aspect is a war crime. Which stands in contrast to our ostensibly noble mission of safeguarding the Afghan people.

Furthermore, 'Anti-war' loses its meaning when you include people who argue that drones and over the horizon capabilities are sufficient.

But a very important difference is that I would not endorse their use on the Taliban writ large, but would implement much stricter ROE, and use them to target AQ almost exclusively (allowing for the fact that certain Taliban factions have grown uncomfortably close that distinguishing might be difficult - I'm thinking Haqqani here).

I mean, if every group of Pashtun get the idea that they could get rid of the Taliban through collective action, where would that leave us?

I'm less concerned with collective action as I am with collective punishment. Again, a war crime.

if every group of Pashtun get the idea that they could get rid of the Taliban through collective action, where would that leave us?"

It might leave us with the impression that the Taliban aren't representative of the Afghan people after all. And it might undermine the argument that if we leave Afghanistan, all the people there will be content to live under the Taliban. I assume that the concerns about how long lived an alliance with the Shinwari might be are justified, but since we don't plan to be there long-term, it seems to be a hopeful development.

I mean, if every group of Pashtun get the idea that they could get rid of the Taliban through collective action, where would that leave us?

Back in 2001, the US military got a shiny bright idea: they'd pay a bounty for "Taliban fighters" and "al-Qaeda operatives" delivered to them.

It didn't take eight years to figure out the problem with that one: not just the bounty that meant any foreigner in Afghanistan could be identified as an "al-Qaeda operative" and sold to the Americans, but the benefit to anyone with a grudge or a feud: instead of killing your enemy, pass 'em on to the US!

Now the US military is proposing that any group of Pashtun who hold a grudge against any other group of Pashtun and who can make a case to the US that their enemies are "Taliban", shall be allowed under protection of the US military to burn their enemies houses.

I don't think we're going to need to wait eight years to see the problems with this line of thinking. Indeed, the idea that the US military can "stabilise" a country by picking a side in the local civil war and supporting that side's atrocities, has been proven fundamentally wrong over and over again any time in the past fifty years.

What is wrong with this picture, liberal japonicus? Why do you think it's "stabilising" to have houses burned? What part of US history in the past fifty bloody years have you studied that leads you to think that taking sides in a civil war is going to "stabilise" a country?

Jesurgislac
Kindly get with the program. Cemeteries are very nonviolent : it's only getting to that stage that is violent.
Somalia and Iraq are only two stunning success stories of imperial hubris. Here's how to destroy the infrastructure of a modern state and leave the citizenry destitute,diseased and starving.
Post-Saddam Iraq -Desert Crossing War Game
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB207/
New State Department Releases on the 'Future of Iraq' Project
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB198/index.htm

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