US war policy is still very much bogged down in the paranoid, preemptive strike mentality of the Bush years. We have moved on only in the sense our very sophisticated military is now less concerned about holding large areas and much more focused on the precise task of finding and killing insurgent leaders. Lop off their heads.
At the same time, using its two most powerful tools vis-à-vis the American public -- secrecy and public relations -- our military is involved in a concerted campaign of face-saving, lest anyone think our forces are in a condition of moral quagmire or military stalemate. Which they are.
Consider the story in The New York Times about Mohammed Massoom Stanekzai , an official of the Hamid Karzai government of Afghanistan, specifically secretary of something called the High Peace Council. Stanekzai reveals that, as part of his office focused on "peace," he and other Afghan officials are in regular contact with the Taliban insurgency.
This is really interesting news. The backward nation of Afghanistan actually has a Department Of Peace. Of course, antiwar Congressman Dennis Kucinich has lobbied for a Department Of Peace in the United States for years. It's in his bill H.R. 808.
"We talk all the time," Stanekzai said. "We've sent representatives to their side and they've sent representatives to our side." The exchanges are now "a step beyond" just talk of setting up future talks, Stanekzai said, suggesting that they were beginning to get into substantial issues.
The reason for the Times story was the announcement that the US is giving $50 million to help out the Afghan High Peace Council. Maybe it's cynical, but experience makes one wonder whether the $50 million is intended to really facilitate the struggle for peace with the Taliban insurgency or whether it's a bribe to keep the US in the driver's seat and, thus, intended as a monkey wrench in the works to prevent any kind of real peace.
Members of the Taliban insurgency deny they are speaking with the Karzai government about anything. As the Taliban has consistently demanded, they say they will not formally talk to anyone until there is a complete withdrawal of foreign forces, that is, the US military. Meanwhile, the US military says it's ready to discuss not shooting at Taliban diplomats as they travel to and from talks.
This, of course, is Exhibit Number One of the problem. The Taliban want the foreigners out, and the foreigners want to tell them when and where they can meet to talk without being blown up by F16s or drones. As the Strother Martin character says in Cool Hand Luke, "What we have here is a failure to communicate."