Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Empires come, empires go

Afghanistan looks set to be the graveyard of the Obama presidency. It's all very well blathering that Al Qaida is growing and we have to fight it, but the reason it is growing is that we are fighting it.

The world houses many trained Islamic militants, able to take part in sophisticated missions, partly because they have been given real-world training for the past 30 years, first against the Russians, then against America and its allies.

Curiously, Afghanistan is still a complete fucking mess. And no resolution really appeals. Leave, and let the place become an Islamist hellhole in which women and other "minorities" suffer, giving Islamists a country to site bases in, periodically requiring us to feel we have to bomb the place to bits? Stay, and fight an endless, unwinnable war against an idea?

Because that's what it is and why it can't be defeated with guns. It really isn't going to be resolved by throwing more troops at it. We can't "stabilise" the place and then leave and everyone will live happily ever after, because we may kill thousands of Afghans, but we won't kill the ideology that impels the militants. We may or may not get the pipeline we wanted, but we will need to intervene over and over to keep it safe, because the resentment that we have engendered won't go away just because we bomb it.

In any case, one can hope that Biden is the stick and Obama the carrot. Obama is too smart to believe there is any such thing as a "moderate" Taliban (he means "Taliban who can be bribed to stop fighting", not "Taliban who do not hold extreme views"), but he recognises that walking away from Afghanistan with something approaching a unity government in place will allow us to throw our hands up and say that it's not our fault when the Afghans return to fighting a civil war (if they actually stop) when we are gone.

Maybe, ultimately, the best course really will be just to get out and let them sort it out for themselves. It's amazing how often this really is the right approach. We can manage the outcomes without using military force, because Afghanistan needs trade in other goods than drugs, and it needs aid.


At 8:23 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Maybe, ultimately, the best course really will be just to get out and let them sort it out for themselves. It's amazing how often this really is the right approach."

That's one of the reasons I feel that a paternalistic punishing daddy government is unnecessary. People will sort it out by themselves. The only thing of value the government needs to do is keep the streets clear of corpses until they stop appearing there, for health reasons.

At 9:17 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

If we were on a level playing field, maybe that would be the right approach. But we need governments to protect the economically weak from the thieves who would make them weaker. Most of the other functions of government are a waste of money though, particularly those addressed to stopping people from getting high.

At 10:44 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But Zen, that's not what governments actually do at all, what they actually do is hold the economically weak in place while the thieves bugger them!

It's governments that keep the playing field from being level.


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