This month The Atlantic magazine published an article, "Man Versus Afghanistan," elevating General McChrystal to the heights of a Julius Caesar, the man who determines the course of history and who can rebuild Afghanistan into a democracy as prosperous as many imagine America to be, or as Rome was before it crumbled into history's dust.
Kaplan describes General McChrystal as a man who "has never submitted to fate" (p. 26). With such a job title for McChrystal, we might believe that he can also leap over tall buildings in a single bound. As our newly anointed Superman, the general sleeps four hours a night, runs eight miles, and eats one meal a day. McChrystal is America: the country no longer conceives new ideas because its vision is blurred by lack of sleep; the country can only run mechanically one foot in front of the other because it no longer innovates; the country eats its daily meal devoid of taste and nutrition.
In his story about General McChrystal, Kaplan takes the predictable and enjoyable job of describing the apparent virtues of the general whose "physical regimen"itself expresses an unyielding, almost cultic determination."
Yet we wonder. Now that the U.S. has spent trillions of dollars, thousands of American lives, almost ten years in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more than one million civilian lives, when are we finished? What's the goal? What results do we expect? When the U.S. leaves Iraq and Afghanistan, will these countries be stable? What's to stop them from simply returning to despotic, theocratic regimes?
Kaplan doesn't consider any of these questions. Not once does he mention America's dependence on oil and, consequently, its dire need to occupy much of the Middle East to ensure a stable supply. Instead Kaplan bloviates about how the most powerful military in the world can overcome fate thanks to the likes of General McChrystal who lacks sleep. Kaplan ignores the atrocities by former Vice President Dick Cheney, who now brags on mass media how he authorized the same sort of torture as Afghan and Mexican authorities use for power and plunder.
Mexico, Afghanistan, and Moral Smoke
Likewise, Mexico's history and current situation reveal how it has always plodded along with a weak central government. Each region in Mexico has always had its autonomous leaders (caciques), which, as in Afghanistan, have become drug lords reaping billions of dollars in the drug trade. As these drug lords gain wealth, they carry more power than their federal governments. The large profits of such unrestrained businesses are able to usurp governmental authority. This has happened in both Afghanistan and in Mexico. Whether they sell opiates, cocaine, or oil, the successful businessmen ply their power to increase their wealth and to impose their own politics, usually fundamentalism to the point of fascism, and ignore the freedom and development of the less privileged classes. The scenario resembles the U.S. Republican agenda.
Kaplan writes, "McChrystal believes that the "ideological piece' of al-Qaeda is "truly scary': that a new brand of totalitarianism--al-Qaeda the franchise--is running amok and motivating small secretive groups around the world, and that victory in Afghanistan is necessary to deliver a "huge moral defeat' to it" (p. 62).
Clearly as we invade and occupy foreign countries in order to control their resources, the more they will resist. Instead of fighting for reliable oil supplies, America must do what it does best: innovate and create renewable sources of energy.
If certain bellicose Americans were so concerned about moral defeats or moral responsibilities to carry the imperial burden and set the world straight, why didn't the Bush administration invade the dictatorship of North Korea or China, or any other unjust government? Like many other neoconservative knuckle draggers, Kaplan refuses to state the crass and simple truth that the U.S. occupies Iraq and Afghanistan in order to secure stable oil supplies and, above all, to keep our enemies from taking control of the vast wealth the petroleum reserves represent. Making this clear to the otherwise beguiled, American middle class would only shatter America's moral self-image, albeit mostly self-delusional.
If the U.S. were so altruistically concerned about saving other countries from dysfunctional governments, why not invade Mexico? Instead, under the Merida Initiative, we continue to pour billions of dollars ineffectively into the Mexican government, which morally defeats the U.S. because the Mexican government takes bribes from the various drug lords and explicitly supports the Sinaloa cartel over the others. As Mexico slips over the edge of complete anarchy and unbridled capitalism, the U.S. blindly funnels money without oversight as to how it is used.
Just as the U.S. props up a corrupt and crumbling Mexico, so too, it supports the Karzai government in Afghanistan, a mere racketeer operation. As Kaplan quotes, "'Afghanistan was a cakewalk in 2001 and 2002,' says Sarah Chayes, former special adviser to McChrystal's headquarters. "We started out with a country that hated the Taliban and by 2009 were driving people back into the arms of the Taliban. That's not fate. That's poor policy'" (p. 64).
The U.S. merely empowered the mujahedeen commanders to transform into gangster-oligarchs and drug lords under the American-supported Karzai. So long as the U.S. occupies Afghanistan, the people will enlist and fortify al-Qaeda and the Taliban as a form of resistance to protect their country. That's exactly what Americans would do if they were invaded.
In the midst of all-out war between competing drug businesses in Mexico, the U.S. Homeland Security Department can only sit on its hands as billions of dollars of illegal drugs cross the border along with hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens while millions of dollars of weapons are exported to support the Mexican chaos. Among the illegal aliens crossing the southern border, how many are al-Qaeda operatives carrying various types of WMDs? Let's ask Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano.
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