Afghanistan is not Iraq. Indeed, it’s a whole new ballgame and one where there is no real goal. We have heard of long term goals, short term goals, winning the hearts and minds goals, the stability (whatever that means) goals, realistic goals, unrealistic goals, in fact there have been shoals of goals and all of them have one thing in common. None of them explain just what the fuck we are doing in Afghanistan.I shall mightily refrain from commenting on the people who voted for Obama, hoping for change.
By all accounts al Qaieda has been dismantled and scattered. The Taliban are not al Qaieda but an entirely separate entity. And is shifting the Terror Wars from Iraq (who our leaders seem to forget had nothing to do with al Qaieda) to Afghanistan really the change people hoped for when they voted for Obama?
-Rob Payne at Halcyon Days
Many anti-Iraq-War Progressives nonetheless got behind Obama's rhetoric of escalation, soon to be program of escalation, in Afghanistan out of a desire to to help him prove "his martial bona fides while running as the ostensible peace candidate. The Donk's committment to escalation even as he purports to be antiwar is a source of constant amusement at Who Is IOZ? headquarters, and we raise our shot glasses in salute to overcoming cognitive dissonance and killing foreigners For Their Own Good™." (Musings, multiple, here.) But with al Qaeda dispersed to regroup as a regional irritant in East Africa, at least for the time being, Rob's query as to what the fuck we're doing increasing our commitments to the Subcontinental borderlands deserves attention.
First, related developments. Our supply lines are taxed and vanishing quickly. Bad Vlad recalls the gleeful American backing of the Mujahadeen and the emasculated Soviet Empire limping from Afghanistan to the mother-bosom of its own fast-approaching doom, and will now glory in denying the US foothold in Central Asia. Western political and media types crow about Russia's declining fortunes and the certainty of the Bear's ultimate compliance due to the declining price of certain fungible natural commodities, but as the Ukraine-EU gas imbroglio demostrated, Russian assertiveness is by no means on the wain, and let's also not forget that although the spiraling profits of the Russian petrol industry are constrained of late, these mostly nationalized energy resources still provide positive revenue for their economy, which is more than you can say for the Western powers. The specter of the United States, which is the debtor economy, lecturing Russia, which is not, in full American self-congratulatory style on the feebleness of its economy in the $40/barrel era tickles. Russia sees a strategic interest in getting America out of its backyard and has to tools to do so.
America has no clarity about the purpose of its presence in Afghanistan. Obama has already stated in clear terms that his administration will not brook starry-eyed projects to create Jeffersonian democracy in Afghanistan, and that's commendable as far as it goes, but one notes that exchanging an impossibility for an abstraction is no mark of realist acumen. "Stability," the currently desired outcome, has a certain amorphous quality, no? The central Afghan government is illegitimate. The Taliban, despite the persistence of acid-throwing stories in Western media, have actually moderated somewhat over the past several years in order to garner more popular support in the territories they now control, which are widespread. With the exception of the garrisoned capital city, the situation on the ground now is not altogether dissimilar from 2001, except that in the interim we have also managed to aid in the rapid disintegration of central authority in Pakistan. Oops.
Newsweek recently ran a piece asking if Afghanistan was to become Obama's Vietnam. The predictable progressives aired their predictable outrage that just two weeks into his rule, anyone would have the temerity to raise the question, but they remained silent on the more salient point, which is how exactly the question or comparison is inapt. Well, there are a thousand small differences, but the narrative arc is strikingly familiar. Obama seems to self-imagine himself as the great mediator. Temperamentally and intellectually, he seems committed to notions of "bringing people to the table." Though not burdened with the "CEO President" moniker, the Obama Administration far more than Bush's speaks in goo-goo management tones. But Afghanistan is not composed of "stakeholders." Obama has so far proven inept at mediating the marginal differences between Washington's palace factions. His apparent plans to do so in Afghanistan are as yet more doubtful.