The headlines could be from 2003, 2004, 2006 or 2008, and nothing changes. “Rescuers Search Iraq Blast Site” “US Base Attacked in Afghanistan” “US to improve Afghan Training.” If this were World War Two, the Yalta conference would have been two years ago and President Truman would be planning to meet in San Francisco soon to establish the UN.
The wheels and the machinations turn and yet nothing changes; the death tolls grow and yet somehow the lines on the map never change. How will we ever know when we’ve achieved victory? How long will it take before we accept defeat, not so much a military defeat but a defeat nonetheless? While we maintain military control over Iraq and Afghanistan, politically we are no better off than the day the tanks rolled in.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is contemptuously referred to as the Mayor of Kabul since after almost eight years and billions of dollars the Afghan army cannot guarantee safety on the country's highways outside the capital. A recent study done by the US military in Afghanistan found the majority of weapons used by the insurgents were originally issued by the US to the Afghan military.
President Karzai recently kicked off his campaign for a second term as President and perhaps his campaign slogan should be, “Four years of doing nothing and I’m not half finished!” A recent poll showed Karzai at 33% of the vote, but the Gucci revolutionary is not worried. “Nonetheless, the conventional wisdom among foreign diplomats in Kabul is that in a country of widespread illiteracy and deep-rooted tribal and ethnic loyalties, the election will not be decided by the popularity of individual candidates. Instead, it is believed, most voters will cast their ballots for whoever they are told to vote for.”
Here, here, democracy in action. In the last Afghan elections, voters chose from the parties listed without listing the names of the candidates. Not to worry, you just vote; we will fill the names in later. Yet we point fingers at Iran and question their voting outcomes. Under the US sponsored election in Iraq, the Unified Iraqi Alliance claimed 41% of the vote. What a surprise, that was the political party most closely allied with the US, and while 88% of Iraqis said they wanted the Americans to leave as soon as possible, a majority voted for them to stay. President Jalal Talabani was elected President and earns one million US dollars per month. The Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and the other 275 council members must scrape along on a mere $100,000 per month.
Maliki disagreed publicly with the administration in 2007 and was threatened with termination, but it wasn’t the Iraqi administration he disagreed with; it was the American administration. His call for termination came from that great champion of democracy, Condoleezza Rice. Prior to the US Presidential election, one of the great issues of the day was whether President Bush’s surge accounted for the fall in violence. The surge coincided with the Iraqi awakening movement.
To fully understand the Iraqi awakening movement, you must first put on your Soprano's hat and imagine that you are Tony. Street gangs are fighting for territory and they are costing you millions of dollars and killing your men. So you call a meeting in the back of the meat market. “Youse guys are messing up our business, all this killing and shootings has got to stop! Big Ahab, youse boys gonna control downtown. Fat Osa, you get the West Side to the airport. Skinny Jalal, you get the Eastside. And I'm gonna pay you all 100 G’s a month for not shooting at me or at my boys.”
“But, Tony, what about the graft and crime and corruption?”
“That’s your problem. Youse guys run your part of town however youse guys see fit! I’m just here promoting democracy!”
So it wasn’t the surge so much as the slush fund that quieted the guns. If indeed we had bought peace it might have been noble, but we have merely rented the peace. The spoils have been promised to one and all of the awakening tribal leaders, when in fact there are not enough jobs to go around. $679,655,334,049 is the cost in dollars; the deaths continue to pile up, and the number of wounded now equal the population of a small city. What have we gained? What have we accomplished? In a war that, according to simple common knowledge, was an unnecessary war, a war of choice and a war of aggrandizement.
Our goals in Afghanistan are even cloudier and murkier. What are our goals in Afghanistan? By their own admission democracy in Afghanistan has been as big a failure as communism was under the Soviet puppet government. And yet we have fallen into the same trap as the Soviets. They are shooting at us because we are there and we won’t leave until they stop shooting at us. The terrain and topography all favor the insurgents, and they don’t have to win to conquer. They just have to stay. They have been there since the beginning of time and until the last Afghan draws his or her last breath, they will always be there.
We, on the other hand, we can’t stay and our dependence on high-tech weaponry bleeds gold.
“He who wishes to fight must first count the cost. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be dampened. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor dampened, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue... In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.”
-Sun Tzu, the Art of War
World War One 1914-1918
World War Two 1939- 1945
Korean War 1950- 1953
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