Thursday, July 21, 2005

You know what bugs me about the flypaper theory?

If Bush was really trying to win the war on terror, why the hell did we leave Afghanistan in the first place?

Sidney Blumenthal in The Guardian tells us, "the situation in Afghanistan is one of barely managed chaos. Democracy was an afterthought."

You'll of course recall we invaded that country because of 9/11 and we had revenge, not democracy, on our minds. For the record, I was against that invasion as well. I thought then as I do now, that an overgunned military response to guerrillas - that's what they used to call terrorists - was not going to solve the problem. I wish I hadn't been right.

Blumenthal tells us why and I urge you to read it all but here are some highlights.

"I was horrified by the president's last speech [on the war on terror], so much unsaid, so much disingenuous, so many half truths," said James Dobbins, Bush's first envoy to Afghanistan, now director of international programmes at the Rand Corporation. Afghanistan is now the scene of a Taliban revival, chronic Pashtun violence, dominance by US-supported warlords who have become narco-lords, and a human rights black hole.

From the start, he said, the effort in Afghanistan was "grossly underfunded and undermanned". The military doctrine was the first error. "The US focus on force protection and substitution of firepower for manpower creates significant collateral damage." But the faith in firepower sustained the illusion that the mission could be "quicker, cheaper, easier". And that justification fitted with Afghanistan being relegated into a sideshow to Iraq.

...Democracy was an afterthought for the White House, which believed it had little application to Afghans. At the Bonn conference establishing international legitimacy for the Kabul government, "the word 'democracy' was introduced at the insistence of the Iranian delegation", Dobbins points out.

... Dobbins believes that the operation in Afghanistan has improved, but that the administration "hasn't readily acknowledged its mistakes, and corrected them only after losing a good deal of ground, irrecoverable ground ... most of the violence is not al-Qaida type, but Pashtun sectarian violence. It's not international terrorism."

Facts on the ground cannot alter Bush's stentorian summons to the Gwot. "This is a campaign conducted primarily, and should be, by law enforcement, diplomatic and intelligence means," Dobbins said. "The militarisation of the concept is a theme that mobilises the American public effectively, but it's not a theme that resonates well in the Middle East or with our allies elsewhere in the world."
The number of serious international terrorist incidents more than tripled last year, according to U.S. government figures, a sharp upswing in deadly attacks that the State Department has decided not to make public in its annual report on terrorism due to Congress this week [April 27, 2005]. The latest report I read this week put that number at around 3,500 incidents.

Karzai has lost control of his home province and is losing his command even in Kabul, which until now has been the safe haven that Baghdad dreams of becoming. It doesn't take a military genius to see our current policy is not working.

So far the administration has been only been right about one thing. It's been happening somewhere else. I'll save the full lecture on how somewhere else is the same as here for another day. For now I'll just say the London bombings should remind us that the distance from there to here is not that great.
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