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'Giant' Holbrooke Failed on Afghan War

By       Message Ray McGovern     Permalink
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Hoh added, "many Afghans " are fighting the United States largely because its troops are there " the United States is asking its troops to die in Afghanistan for what is essentially a far-off civil war."

It was an articulate critique, with which former Vietnam-era diplomat Holbrooke himself stated that he largely agreed.

But don't be upset if you are confused over why Holbrooke would plow ahead with a policy that he knew to be severely flawed. After all, that had been the essence of his diplomatic "service" for nearly five decades.

I imagine Matthew Hoh will be joining many of us in pain amid all the encomia to be showered on Richard Holbrooke in the days ahead. But the greatest tragedy may be that he could have made a difference and chose not to.

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And, in the curious standards of Official Washington, Holbrooke's circumspection and silence even as countless "small" people get wounded and killed is cause for lionizing him in death.

In a final irony as Holbrooke is laid to rest the results of a military-dominated White House review of U.S. policy toward Afghanistan is to be announced this week with the expectation that the review will simply reaffirm the goal to "defeat, destroy, dismantle" the 50 or so al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan.

I shall be surprised if there emerges any sensible, identifiable strategy with metrics to assess success or failure.

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And the American troops? It is hard to escape the conclusion that Holbrooke shared the view of Henry Kissinger, another devotee of Realpolitik diplomacy who had little regard for the humanity and value of common soldiers.

In the book Kiss the Boys Goodbye: How the United States Betrayed its Own POWs in Vietnam, Kissinger is quoted as saying: "Military men are just dumb stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy."

So, amid the eulogies for Holbrooke, it may be time to insist that regarding the "small" people, not just the "giants" attention must finally be paid.

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)

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