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  • More reasons why we can’t give up on Afghanistan


    by Sunny
    4th September, 2009 at 3:29 pm    

    So I’ve written an article for Guardian CIF on why I think staying in Afghanistan is the right thing to do. As I’ve said before, I’ve taken a very South-Asian-stability-centric view. And I think it reduces terrorism here. Anyway, one commenter writes below my article:

    I live in Pakistan right now.
    What the ‘peace party dont recognize is that the Taliban / al-Qaida really will return to what they were doing pre 2001. That is to say – training camps for would be jihadis, executing people in public, making the lives of women hell etc etc.
    This is not scaremongering – they have done it in Pakistan. The town of Mingora was turned into a charnel house with headless bodies appearing in the central square and on trees in the town.
    Until they threatened Islamabad nobody was willing to do anything about them, despite the begging of the local population. Many Swatis wondered if they were part of Pakistan at all.
    The operation against the Taliban in Swat wasnt exactly a walk in the park – but a battle in Waziristan will be something else. They are entrenched in Waziristan. So too are the training camps and al-qaeda.
    The Afghan Taliban are (at the hardest core) not people who can be negotiated with. Nor is the Pakistan establishment open to the persuasion of reality – that is to say unless it directly threatens their arses they will do nothing about it.
    What has been seen recently is an unwillingness to hold terrorist godfathers like Hafiz Saeed, Sufi Mohammad and Abdul Aziz (of the Red Mosque fame). Rather, they are allowed to go free and live their lives doing what they will.
    The apologists for terrorism are laying low right now, they can hardly do more given what has happened since May. But make no mistake, they are still there.
    Sunny is right. Any vacuum created by the sudden withdrawal of foreign forces in Afghanistan will suck the Taliban into power, just as it did in the 1990s when they appeared (courtesy of Pakistan).
    Afghanistan is not the same as Iraq. Iraq was a smash and grab raid (the biggest in history) under the cover of the so called war on terror.
    Afghanistan is the real thing.

    Precisely.
    Sorry but I’m not going to be persuaded anytime soon that we must pull out of Afghanistan. The Taliban are among the worst religious fanatics on the planet. They should not be allowed to get back into power by force.


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    1. Sonja Johns

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      Pickled Politics » More reasons why we can’t give up on Afghanistan- Via Pickled Politics comes news that Jimâ. http://bit.ly/h74qA




    1. Boyo — on 4th September, 2009 at 4:44 pm  

      Quite right too, although I think George MacDonald Fraser wrote the best analysis of Afghanistan in the first Flashman book. You may laugh, but it is a brilliant dramatisation of the disasterous 1st Afghan war and the retreat from Kabul.

      I never supported Iraq, not because I’m anti-war, or entirely agree with the smash and grab hypothesis, but because i thought it was a stupid thing to do - why fight more than one war at a time? Because of this they failed to finish the Taliban/ AQ off and now look where we are.

      The trouble is not really the Taliban or AQ of course, but Pakistan (and to a lesser extent Saudi) which provides its lifeblood, in more ways than one. Pakistan is more or less a failed state, Saudi is barely a state in any modern sense of the word.

      One has to persuade the elites in both countries to turn off the tap. Only then can the Afghan situation be solved militarily. The trouble is, as far as I can see, the West lacks the will to make any kind of concerted effort to do anything except perpetuate the problem and hope something (um… nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia?) will come up and solve it for them.

    2. sidney — on 4th September, 2009 at 5:18 pm  

      with the news today that NATO have killed 90 people, many of them civillians. What exactly are the british and americans achieving except more death and destruction!

    3. A Shameless Plug — on 4th September, 2009 at 6:36 pm  

      A message from RAWA
      http://solanas.blogspot.com/2009/08/message-from-rawa.html

    4. Dalbir — on 4th September, 2009 at 7:01 pm  

      There is another good reason for pushing Britain to stay in Afghanistan.

      It will keep their busybody noses preoccupied and hopefully prevent them from sticking their snouts elsewhere e.g. Iran.

      Once they land on brown man’s soil, they only bring death and destruction and other misc. evils. (subjugation by proxy being the most common objective).

    5. damon — on 4th September, 2009 at 7:17 pm  

      I don’t really know what the right thing to do is.
      But have heard this bloke Rory Stewart talking on the TV a few times and I wondered if he was credible or not.
      http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article5920064.ece

      He obviously knows a heck of a lot about the country itself … and even wrote a book which I’d like to read, about walking across Afghanistan.
      But he’s looking to become a Tory MP, which rather quells any enthusiasm I might have had for him.

    6. Binky — on 4th September, 2009 at 7:45 pm  

      WAZIRISTAN DELENDA EST

      It seems pointless to have all these nuclear warheads and have to endure tiresome behaviour on the part of these awful people in Swat and Waziristan.

      Nuke then back to the pre-Cambrian age and all this silliness will stop!

      Do the Russkis still have a few Czar Bombas in stock?
      Do the Americans have a few neutron bombs handy?

      Now THAT would look good on the Al Jazeera evening news!

    7. Paul Sagar — on 4th September, 2009 at 8:18 pm  

      Sunny,

      I find your piece, and the comment, interesting because I used to hold the exact same position. now i’m not so sure, after talking to a friend who knows a lot about this.

      He pointed out to me that the Taliban and Al Qaida are not synonymous. Rather, the Taliban have only every been itnerested in the Af-Pak region, and don’t give much of a stuff about anything beyond. Pre 2001 the Taliban and Al Qaida were actually far more in tension with each other than is commonly allowed for: the idea that the two were synonymous is more to do with US propaganda and media simplification than anything else.

      Post-present, there would be lots of big incentives for the Taliban *not* to allowed Al Qaida to re-establish itself: namely, the threat of being invaded and ousted from power again!

      And it’s not like the people we are associating with in Afghanistan right now are a particularly nice bunch. The Northern Warlords are basically as brutal, as misogynistic and as evil as the Taliban, but their allegiance is to money rather than the Koran. Karzhai is not exactly a saint either, to put it mildly.

      In essence, I used to support the war because of the al Qaida return threat. I’m not so sure that’s a sustainable argument anymore. Power-sharing deals and an exit strategy - or at any rate, actually putting significant sums of funding into hearts and minds rather than just bombs - seems like a better bet, in the long run. After all, the place is a terrorist training camp NOW, it’s just that at present they are blowing up Afghans not Yanks and Brits…

    8. Binky — on 4th September, 2009 at 8:53 pm  

      The fastest way to persuade the Saudi elite would be to freeze their assets in the West.

      Or simply nuke Makkah and Madinah.

      AS-SAUDIA DELENDA EST !

    9. douglas clark — on 4th September, 2009 at 9:35 pm  

      Paul Sagar @ 7,

      I really don’t see the point in arguing whether or not one group of barbarians is better than another. Or another.

      Which is what you are essentially doing. The Taliban are not / or are as bad as Al Quada and / or the warlords.

      Where does that get us?

      I’d just point out that the elephant in the room is Pakistans nuclear deterrent, which any one of the three of these groups could use for their own purposes if Pakistan fell. A narco-nuclear state? A state that stamped on the faces of women for another thousand years? An expansionist idiology backed by the Bomb?

      None of these, it seems to me, is a good option.

      I’d, sort of agree, with what you had to say here:

      In essence, I used to support the war because of the al Qaida return threat. I’m not so sure that’s a sustainable argument anymore. Power-sharing deals and an exit strategy – or at any rate, actually putting significant sums of funding into hearts and minds rather than just bombs – seems like a better bet, in the long run.

      On a pragmatic level we should have sorted Afghanistan out long before sorting out GW Bushes Oedipus issues. However, we may well have missed whatever opportunity we had. Unless we now do as you suggest for a very long time indeed.

    10. Leon — on 4th September, 2009 at 9:42 pm  

      It’s so easy to sit at a keyboard argueing we should commit this military action than to go fight, or be one of those who see their loved one come back dead. This is one of things that sicken me about the left, far too many people with no experience of war telling everybody when and where we should send our troops…

    11. Dalbir — on 4th September, 2009 at 9:51 pm  

      The fastest way to persuade the Saudi elite would be to freeze their assets in the West.

      Or simply nuke Makkah and Madinah.

      The voice of reason!

      Why not tell whitey to fuck off and live without oil (theal)??

      Nope, can’t have that can we!

    12. douglas clark — on 4th September, 2009 at 9:55 pm  

      Leon,

      This is one of things that sicken me about the left, far too many people with no experience of war telling everybody when and where we should send our troops…

      I’d agree. But it is not something limited to the left now, is it?

      G W Bush - I think you and I would agree - was an extremely right wing figure with no experience of war whatsoever.

      Who the hell started these wars?

      And yet could also be reasonably described as one of:

      far too many people with no experience of war telling everybody when and where we should send our troops…

      And he isn’t even one of our elected representatives.

      Nor, even, behind a British keyboard! Like you or I.

    13. douglas clark — on 4th September, 2009 at 10:08 pm  

      Dalbir,

      It is pretty obvious that this site (and LC) are being firebombed by Binkyites.

      This is the sort of reasoned discussion you’d expect on a brain dead American site. Be aware that phrases like:

      “turn it into an illuminated parking lot”, or indeed Binkys kind words, are indicative of a sadly polarised and deliberately polarising view of the world.

      Just remember you are a fucking site better than that…

    14. Boyo — on 4th September, 2009 at 10:30 pm  

      heh. well i invaded sierra leone and kosovo, is that enough for you ;-)

    15. Chris E — on 5th September, 2009 at 12:26 am  

      Staying in Afghanistan might be part of the right thing to do, however it’s not clear that the PTB will luck on the strategy that makes staying in there a winning option any time soon.

      So far - with a greater number of troops in Afghanistan than the Russians had at the height of their invasion - the West has just about held its own in a few small regions (if you discount terrorist attacks in Kabul as crime rather than military opposition of any kind).

    16. Naadir Jeewa — on 5th September, 2009 at 12:56 am  

      Paul @ 7

      There doesn’t seem to be much evidence that Al-Qaeda and the Taliban aren’t working together, according to some analysts:

      See Joshua Faust’s 3-part case for continuation.

      Doug @ 9
      Be careful there with the argument about barbarians. That’s dangerously close to a decentist position. Our only rationale for entering Afghanistan was retaliation for 9/11, and the exit policy should be the elimination of further threat, with state-building left to competent institutions that can acquire the right legitimacy, i.e. the United Nations, as Conor Foley has argued for at Crooked Timber.

    17. douglas clark — on 5th September, 2009 at 8:43 am  

      Naadir Jeewa,

      I was responding to Paul Sagars’ comment with that remark, particularily:

      The Northern Warlords are basically as brutal, as misogynistic and as evil as the Taliban, but their allegiance is to money rather than the Koran. Karzhai is not exactly a saint either, to put it mildly.

      It was shorthand.

      Frankly the nation building should have involved the UN from the get go.

      I’ve always thought Conor Foley speaks an enormous amount of sense. And I agree with what he has to say in the article you linked to, although your reading of it and mine are slightly different. His final paragraph is particularily good on the illusionary nature of our efforts in Afghanistan:

      The basic problem is that Afghanistan has been suffering from a discussion based on the politics of illusion. Perhaps the type of “liberal interventionism” that has defined western foreign policy over the last few years would not have been appropriate given the country’s historical, cultural and political specificities. But despite all the hypocritical cant from western politicians about democracy and women’s rights, this policy was never even actually tried. Beyond some vague, and unconvincing, claims about not allowing the country to becoming a base of an international terrorism, western politicians struggle to articulate the international mission in Afghanistan, because the claims to date have never matched the reality. That makes it all the more difficult to justify why western troops are now being asked to kill and die there.

      My highlighting.

      Incidentally, I’d lay the complete lack of post invasion commitment to nation building in Afghanistan at exactly the same level of incompetence as that in Iraq.

    18. Boyo — on 5th September, 2009 at 9:23 am  

      For what it’s worth the UN can do nout without security, and security needs to be imposed by sustainable force. While the situation in Iraq may be salvageable, not least because this is (was) a more educated and affluent society - comparable perhaps to one of the outer Soviet satellites that went through a period of gangsterism before stabilising somewhat - as far as I know (and that’s not much) Afghanistan is not and never was.

      Whereas a “surge” followed by local deals might work in Iraq, I doubt it will work in Afghanistan - can you imagine a Taliban in Iraq? No. An Iranian-style dictatorship maybe, but not a Taliban. The Taliban are largely local people, drawing on local customs etc. They may be hated by their own people (maybe like the Cromwellian Puritans?) but what gives them the edge is that they’ve got nowhere else to go - in Iraq NATO dealt with former Saddam commanders to get rid of the AQ outsiders. In Afghanistan the Taliban are largely insiders. As they have said, and the Afghanis know, they will still be there after NATO has left.

      As I said at the top of the thread, you have to cut off their lifeblood - the Pakistani and Saudi support that sustains them (who do you think pays for these IEDs?), the madrasses that supply them, the anti-western rhetoric we take for granted now, but is a relatively new phenomenon. Only then, when the warlords are confident the Taliban will not come back, you begin to capacity build.

    19. Edsa — on 5th September, 2009 at 11:35 am  

      How is it that Islam (with its commitment to brotherhood) throws up fanatics like the Taliban? (Mind you, Judaism and Hindutva have their own crop of weirdos.)
      Unfortunately, the West has never been sincere - it only wants a solution in which it was a dominant role. The US will only work with despots and puppets, never with nationalists. As the youngest Afghan woman MP, Malalai Joya , said (19 August 2009):
      The people on the street believe that everything (election outcome) has already been decided by the U.S. and NATO…
      Hamid Karzai has allied with brutal warlords and fundamentalists but the West did not object.

      All in all, I agree with Dalbir that the West should return to their own green and pleasant lands and let the Mid-east Muslims settle problems their own way.

    20. Kulvinder — on 5th September, 2009 at 11:38 am  

      far too many people with no experience of war telling everybody when and where we should send our troops…

      I pay for them; i get a say on where to send them.

      Besides though i may not have direct experience of war my family’s recent history has direct experience of what happens when anti-demcractic/theocratic/religious fascists try and take over.

    21. Kulvinder — on 5th September, 2009 at 11:45 am  

      Oh and its amusing the arguments pre-9/11 when the afghan asylum seekers were coming to britain - that the west had abandoned afghanistan after the cold war - have so quickly been forgotten.

      The ‘left’ can play at sanctimonious real-politik as well as the ‘right’ it would seem.

    22. thabet — on 5th September, 2009 at 12:00 pm  

      Sunny,

      What do you say to people like Malalai Joya who call our troops ‘enemies’?
      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/malalai-joya-the-woman-who-will-not-be-silenced-1763127.html

    23. thabet — on 5th September, 2009 at 12:07 pm  

      OK, comment didn’t get through. I’ll try again…

      Sunny,

      What do you say to people like Malalai Joya?

      Today, she fights for democracy outside parliament. But, she says, any Afghan democrat today is “trapped between two enemies. There are the occupation forces from the sky, dropping cluster bombs and depleted uranium, and on the ground there are the fundamentalist warlords and the Taliban, with their own guns.” She wants to help the swelling movement of ordinary Afghans in between, who are opposed to both. “With the withdrawal of one enemy, the occupation forces, it [will be] easier to fight against these internal fundamentalist enemies.”
      Link: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/malalai-joya-the-woman-who-will-not-be-silenced-1763127.html

    24. Dalbir — on 5th September, 2009 at 12:27 pm  

      All these attempts to drag societies into western notions of modernity are bound to fail anyway people. Especially with a tribal people like Afghans.

      Lets just suppose that the west is able to stabilise the region and exit. It would just take a few warlords to disagree and “kick off” (which has been the practice there since time immemorial) and we’ll be back at square one, or somewhere close. Sometimes we are better off not getting involved in such hornets’s nests. That being said, the low level of casualties on the British side (given who they are fighting and the length of time they have been there), is a good sign. Does anyone have figures for Russian casualties during their war for a comparison btw?

      One can only hope that the west learns from the experience and is less gung-ho in attempting to police the world in future. We have to hope that a society will naturally (if slowly) advance over time. To falsely try and stimulate this evolution is unnatural.

      Watch out though. The Brits have now been wounded and if history is anything to go by, once this is over, they will seek some lesser “evil” to jump into to redeem their misguided sense of pride.

    25. Jai — on 5th September, 2009 at 2:41 pm  

      How is it that Islam (with its commitment to brotherhood) throws up fanatics like the Taliban?

      The same way that Christianity (with its commitment to compassion, love and brotherhood) did, and in some parts of the world still does.

    26. Dalbir — on 5th September, 2009 at 2:52 pm  

      At least Brits are doing better this time round than during the first Afghan war.

      I found this really interesting near contemporary painting portraying the lone survivor arriving in safe territory. It is called “The Remnants of an Army” by Elizabeth Butler. I think the original is in the Tate now?

      http://www.britishempire.co.uk/art/butlerremnants.htm

    27. grapesoda — on 5th September, 2009 at 3:17 pm  

      To the armchair soldiers who want the war to continue in afghanistan. If the troubles in northern ireland where happening today would you have been so vocal and supportive of an invasion and periodic carpet bombings of northern ireland towns and cities? If not why is it ok in afghanistan is it because brown people thousands of miles away don’t really matter?

    28. Shamit — on 5th September, 2009 at 3:20 pm  

      Leon

      However, distasteful force has a deterring effect - especially against those who use force to control and subject people to torture or their own version of what life should be.

      Unfortunately, in Afghanistan there is no option but force to ensure the other important aspects of life such as education, health, and giving a voice to the women can be delivered.

      What people tend to forget the number of schools, hospitals, roads, power plants have been built over the past 7 years in Afghanistan. Doing that was not easy and would not have been possible without the use of force.

      The Taliban does not hesitate blowing up girls’ schools with young children inside because they don’t believe girls have the right to education. Should the world stand by or follow the typical international sanctions.

      History has shown be it in Iraq, Zimbabwe, Burma or wherever, economic sanctions always tend to empower the ruling tyrants - and the common people suffer even more.

      The Progressives do bring out John Rawls and his veil of ignorance theory on most domestic issues and rightly so. Why shouldn’t we use the same parameters for people suffering everywhere?

      The ideals of the Left challenge us to believe in a fairer world where people have the freedom to choose, freedom to be educated, to have health care,to choose their own way of governance and most importantly freedom to be alive without fear. Unfortunately, there are many in this world who wish to deny these rights to others.

      We could look the other way like we did during the cold war or we could step up and do something about it.

      The opportunity cost of not intervening with force has been very high when you look at Rwanda or Zimbabwe.

    29. Shamit — on 5th September, 2009 at 3:25 pm  

      Grapesoda -

      That’s a bizarre analogy.

      why do you think the IRA and the Taliban are similar - I have no love for the IRA — but when IRA bombed they usually let people know in advance.

      People are working together and are doing really good work in building a better quality of lives for all the people in Northern Ireland. Can you really say the same about the Taliban?

    30. Boyo — on 5th September, 2009 at 3:31 pm  

      “but when IRA bombed they usually let people know in advance.”

      apologies, but that’s a motherfucking myth.

    31. Shamit — on 5th September, 2009 at 3:45 pm  

      you are right boyo -

      I regretted it the moment and was going to change that bit — but a phone call did not allow me to edit it.

    32. grapesoda — on 5th September, 2009 at 4:07 pm  

      shamit if you say the analogy is bizarre your counterargument about ira is even more bizarre. My argument still stands no one in their right mind would have accepted northern ireland being carpet bombed, so why would they accept afganistan have the same treatment that is plain hypocrisy.

    33. Soso — on 5th September, 2009 at 5:06 pm  

      I’d have agreed with Sunny only a year or two ago, but no longer do.

      Afganistan is a lost cause because the culture simply doesn’t give us anything to work with. Germany and Japan were defeated, reformed and democratised by the allies after WWII, but that was only possible because both countries possessed a ‘high’ culture permitting such changes.

      Afganistan, otoh, is a fractured, tribal society, one which is dominated by clan warlords and one in which ony 15% of women can read and write.

      I would even say that our interventions have exacerbated and prolonged this state of affairs because the money flowing in can be used to grease the squeaky wheels of clan-friction, thereby keeping the tribal arrangements and alliances afloat.

      Were we to allow the Taliban to dominate, their outrageous misogyny, Bronze Age outlook and utter lack of sophistication, no matter the field of human endevour, would eventually lead to the implosion of the whole country.

      Islamism, like communism, doesn’t work, and so when left to its own devices will eventually run its course and collapse.

    34. Boyo — on 5th September, 2009 at 6:14 pm  

      “Islamism, like communism, doesn’t work, and so when left to its own devices will eventually run its course and collapse.”

      Absolutely. The trouble is, like Samson, it risks bringing the temple down with it.

      Islamism is a classic utopian creed - when it doesn’t work, it is only ever, like communism, because it was “not implemented properly”. So Iranian Islamism is a dictatorship “because they’re not proper Islamists” ((they’re shias, etc!).

      The other excuse is conflict - note how Hamas can only exist in a state of war. When it won the election it had to spark further conflict with israel before it was exposed as useless (controversial!).

      The trouble is though, that Islamists will always, always say - “it’s Gods law so it must be perfect, it’s just because the people implementing it are at fault/ outside powers sabotaged it, now come brother and concentrate on the higher cause as you murder and torture.”

      It’s actually probably THE most dangerous, and useless, Utopian creed yet because at least the communists could be PROVEN economically wrong, and actually achieved one or two things like equality, space travel and dinky cameras, whereas the Islamists always end up poorer than they started off, at which point they call in God…

      Sorry, but expect centuries of useless slaughter and relentless misery before the “collapse” of Islamism, folks…

    35. Dr Anonymous — on 5th September, 2009 at 8:32 pm  

      The issue of when an unjust war (i.e. one that is not completely and absolutely and totally necessary and in accord with principles of decency to the extent possible) should be ended is a complicated one. The question of an inherited war is, as you have rightly posed it, whether the continuation of the violence, murder, rape, and barbarity that accompanies war would lead to a better situation in the long run or whether eliminating one’s presence in such a situation would lead to a better situation. And by better situation I mean a social, political, legal, and eventually economic process for that area, the warring parties - including the external ones like the UK and the U.S. - and for other parties affected (which includes the region and much of the world in a variety of ways).

      I won’t weigh in on what is the most effective way to end war, build social cohesion, and allow people in Afghanistan (and Pakistan) to build democracy - whether or not it is in a form that is to the liking of people in the United States or the UK. What I will say is that I think your primary argument for supporting the war is deeply flawed:

      My reasoning for supporting the Afghanistan war: it will bring more stability to the subcontinent.

      The mistake you are making is, as far as I can tell, assuming two things: 1) that ending the war would restore the pre-war politics and regional dynamics and 2) that the war itself is not damaging regional stability more than ending it would.

      All the changes that have taken place during the 8 years this war as continued inlcude: the destruction of the poorly concieved of goal of the war in the first place; evidence that without massive and overwhelming force and violence in Afhganistan by the US and the UK no stable and remotely decent situation is going to be established in Afghanistan - and even that best hope is perhaps wishful thinking and more relevantly politically highly unlikely; the expansion of the war into Pakistan and the political cchanges in pakistan; the incipient decline (hopefully) of the Hindu right in Indian national politics; increasingly instability in Iran; a change in power to the U.S. to a more sensible group of people if nothing else; and most importantly, a six year unsuccesful, destabilising and violent war in Iraq that has been part of a broader social and political polarisation that frequently has included violence but also applies to immigration laws, diplomacy, funding, tacit or overt support for thigns like the blockade of Gaza, etc..

      That’s just on the surface - it doesn’t even include what changes have occurred in the opium trade, which I don’t knwo about, what the extent of military penetration into social control in pakistan’s society and economy is and what the precise configuration of politics is in Pakistan right now, the stability of the state in pakistan, the prosepcts of the regime in Iran, etc. - all of which are in need of being taken into consideration - especially in the context of a global financial recession.

      If you take as many of thsoe factors into account as possible, I would argue that continued violence in Afghanistan is likely to simply increase the level of violence without leading to any reasonable solution given the political will for war in genearl and this specific war in the U.S. and the UK for an enormous expansion that is effectively and honestly and reasonably conducted with sufficient appreciation of regional dynamcis, local context, and how to democratise, that the elties in at least the US have never understaood. In Pakistan, it seems that the violence and the actions of foreign powers on its soil are likely to increase social instability, increase violence, create new problems like the IDPs in SWAT, and perhaps push the state to try to exert more power than it is caopable of exerting, thereby leading to a massive catastrophe.

      In contrast to the suggestion you are making, I think a clear indication of intention to withdraw would send a sign to people who are not in love wtih foreign and particularly US and Uk military presence in their countries, occasionally or frequently killing civilians, that there is a recognition of a coming stability. This, combined with a controlled withdrawal in line with a transition to more effective strategies (particularly involving civil society to civil society contact) would do more good for Pakistan and its people. I’m not clear what can be done about the entrenched power of the military in Pakistan or the graduyal islamicisation of Pakistani politics that has occurred over a long term, but I think that Pakistanis are the ones that need to be bolstered in dealing with those problems, rather than assuming that they can be bombed into agreement. This doesn’t preclude a much more targeted and realistic military component to foreign policy - but more along the lines of standard U.S. imperialism (along with its allies) than the descent into hubris and massive miscalculation and undermining of social cohesion on a global level that the Bush Administration fostered and which the Obama Administration hasn’t figured a way out of yet. That the British government has enabled the U.S. in doing this is its predominant sin.

      I am not sure what will improve the situations best - it is highly complicated - but I do think that the idea that a continuation of the war in the manner in whcih it is likely to be conducted given contemporary politics and a global recession is liekly to do nothing for stability in the region at best and severely undermine it at worst. I would therefore abandon that as an idea for supporting the war and if that is what your support for it rests on, I would abandon your support for it.

    36. Dr Anonymous — on 5th September, 2009 at 8:39 pm  

      #33, the idea that Hamas provoked violence with Israel when it was Israel with the support of the United States that refused to deal with Hamas after it was democratically elected and when Israel with the support of the United States blockaded Gaza, turning it into a rather large prison, and Israel (with the tacit support of the U.S.) tightened the blockade and invaded Gaza - well, it’s a pretty interesting reading of recent history ;) I’d suggest you take a look at some of the writings in the ny review of books or the writings of musthaq khan on how the oslo peace process led to this result or just look at who hamas is fighting now (people more radically islamist than hamas).

      Also, it would be worth noting that the Israeli state supported Hamas in the 70s or 80s in order to break the power of the (far more secular) PLO.

      There is a power game going on, so it would be worth your while to explore who has done what and perhaps more importantly, who has the most power and who has less.

    37. falcao — on 5th September, 2009 at 9:49 pm  

      post 33. By the same token the capitalists have been proven to be wrong following the economic meltdown we are going through yet again thanks to the boom bust bubble system!

      If the muslim world prefers to have an islamic system over the democratic one let them have it or are you against them having that choice?

    38. Phomesy — on 5th September, 2009 at 11:06 pm  

      Sunny,

      Just out of interest - what, exactly, was “legal” about the invasion of Afghanistan?

      Sorry, it’s just one of those things that nags at me. Everything in your article is classic liberal/humanitarian Interventionism. Yet you don’t seem to apply the same principles to the Liberation of Iraq.

      One thing that seems to get forgotten is that the US had, and has, no overwhelming need to Nation Build in either Afghanistan or Iraq. They could have installed “our son of a bitch” regimes in both countries and walked away. No occupations. No casualties. No huge costs. Just let the Afghans and Iraqis sort it out for themselves and bomb those we deem a threat. In fact that’s what some advisors told Bush to do.

      You sneer about Bush “screwing it up” - but the fact that he made a commitment to the long term in both nations is, in itself, a remarkable step forward.

      Isn’t it?

    39. Naadir Jeewa — on 6th September, 2009 at 12:47 am  

      douglas @ 17:

      That makes sense. I did mean also that state building had never been attempted, but it didn’t come across that way.

      There appears to be some confusion here in the comments thread:

      Current strategy has been to keep troop deployments low coupled with massive firepower from the sky. This hasn’t worked, and has been largely counterproductive.

      Proposals from General McChrystal involve increasing troop deployments and reducing aerial bombardment, with the aim improving intelligence and reducing casualties.

    40. qidniz — on 6th September, 2009 at 3:12 am  

      It is called “The Remnants of an Army” by Elizabeth Butler

      This was the massacre at Gandamak, the end of a disastrous campaign.

    41. Boyo — on 6th September, 2009 at 7:51 am  

      dr a - oh, no doubt, but one “whatabout” doesn’t excuse another ;-)

      “post 33. By the same token the capitalists have been proven to be wrong following the economic meltdown we are going through yet again thanks to the boom bust bubble system!

      If the muslim world prefers to have an islamic system over the democratic one let them have it or are you against them having that choice?”

      er… capitalism isn’t utopian (alright, neo conservatism is, but that’s different) - it’s been with us since barter. also, i don’t see any real evidence of failure yet, do you?

      On your substantive point, i’m not against consent, although it is worth remembering that the Nazis were democratically elected. Indeed, another “utopian” creed, it is useful to note that war and expansion also became their raison d’etre…

      i am against Islamism per se because of its stance on women, gay issues, dissent etc, its tendency to resort to violence, and to use God as an “excuse” for its nastiness. islamism as i said above tends to exist and excuse its errors by blaming “the other”, another form of the religious practice (house of peace/ war etc and the duty to wage jihad) from which it takes its inspiration.

      in short - an islamist neighbour would not be a quiet one.

    42. Boyo — on 6th September, 2009 at 8:01 am  

      @34 - interesting comment, and blog!

    43. falcao — on 6th September, 2009 at 1:19 pm  

      boyo

      with the worlds poor living on less than $2 a day i would say capitalism has failed miserably unless your an MP or Sir Fred Goodwin and have a nice £16 million pension to live on.

      If you haven’t seen real failure in the capitalist model i think you must have been living in a bubble, the economy is on the tip of an abyss and you can’t see any failure i think i found ideal job for you as the media representative for the chancellor of the exchequer!

      You keep saying islamism what is that? your stereotyping of 1.5 billion people is insulting and patronising to say the least. With britian busily occupying and looting nations since its creation and currently occupying iraq and afghanistan irony of all ironies seeing as you want to blame islam and muslims for being occupied now! You can hardly call others the violent ones!

    44. Soso — on 6th September, 2009 at 5:04 pm  

      @34 Sorry, but expect centuries of useless slaughter and relentless misery before the “collapse” of Islamism, folks…

      Are you quite sure? The Ottoman empire collapsed from within basically because it had no external financial suport. When left to their own devices, The Ottomans couldn’t pull through.

      The West has been keeping the islamic world on life support since WWl, and it has been doing so in a myriad of ways. First, the countless billions in free foreign aid that have not only served to prop up various dictators regimes and theocrats, but which have also served to buy off the opponents of these same dictators and theocrats. Second, we continue to send foodstuffs to majority-muslim countries that haven’t been self sufficient in food for decades now. Third, The West keeps relieving the internal demographic pressures on these societies, pressures which could potentially serve as springboards to reform, by accepting wave after wave of Muslim immigration.

      These ‘oxygen transfers’ are what is keeping the islamist patient alive.

      It is doubly ironic that Islamists blame all the problems of the islamic world on Western interference when, in fact, it is Western welfare and aid that allows these societies to continue to function.

    45. anobody — on 6th September, 2009 at 6:11 pm  

      Second, we continue to send foodstuffs to majority-muslim countries that haven’t been self sufficient in food for decades now

      Very good soso,

      Is western Europe currently self sufficient in it’s foodstuffs? It plunders the third world and emerging nations. I didn’t know Europe could produce bananas all year round. I’m sure it was North Sea cod you had for lunch Friday afternoon, because the North Sea is teaming with marine activity.

      It is doubly ironic that Islamists blame all the problems of the islamic world on Western interference when, in fact, it is Western welfare and aid that allows these societies to continue to function.

      So basically you plunder the 3rd world blacks, and distribute it to the 3rd world browns. Nice one.

    46. Boyo — on 6th September, 2009 at 6:24 pm  

      Falc

      “You keep saying islamism what is that? your stereotyping of 1.5 billion people is insulting and patronising to say the least.”

      Er… you brought the subject up. I responded. And if you think your “evidence” is that capitalism has failed, then you should join Marx as he used the same 150 years ago.

      Try harder.

      Soso

      “The West has been keeping the islamic world on life support since WWl, and it has been doing so in a myriad of ways.”

      There’s a difference between the islamic world and islamism… ;-)

      Anybody

      You’re not anybody, i know you: you’re George Monbiot!

    47. sastaRasta — on 8th September, 2009 at 11:49 am  

      Sunny, are you considering running for office in future? I would seriously urge you to, as I see you have mastered the language of the establishment. “We” can’t give up? Are you fucking serious? As if Britain gives a flying fuck about Afghanistan.

    48. sidney — on 9th September, 2009 at 3:52 pm  

      #46 boyo

      with the bankers taking the mick out of joe public yet again and not even facing jail or punishment your defence of capitalism is shoddy and embarrassing!

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