Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Finishing the Job in Afghanistan

News Flash! Peace Nobelist Obama has just finished protracted deliberations with his brightest and best, with a Bush-y style one liner about finishing the job, to wit, being able to show that America's going-on-ten-year Afghan police action has amounted to something more than a hill, nay, a mountain of corpses.

The likelihood of such an achievement is severely diminished by vagueness as to what success would even look like. All those years ago when the American led alliance was cutting through the Taliban and Al-Qaeda traditional forces like the proverbial hot knife through butter, the objective was to eradicate Muslim terrorism's cancerous core.
Then, totally predictably, the enemy just slipped into the hills, adopting and adapting the same successful guerrilla tactics that have worked all over the world for dedicated indigenes to confront vastly superior foreign military forces.

Over the years the relevance has become inescapable of historical precedents wherein world-class imperial forces were humbled in the rugged terrain of the Afghans. Alexander the Great was one of the earliest and, in fact, most successful of would-be overlords there. Yet having driven his way inexorably and rapidly all the way from Greece to the Orient, it then took three years to reach a semblance of control over the land then known as Bactria. Accordingly, he is said to have whined immodestly to his momma, "I am involved in the land of a leonine and brave people, where every foot of the ground is like a wall of steel, confronting my soldiers. You have brought only one son into the world, but everyone in this land can be called an Alexander." Multitudinous latter-day Afghan Alexanders re-appeared over the ages to play havoc with the British Raj and, more recently, the mighty USSR, which is now the former USSR, a fact not entirely unrelated to the ruinous war in Afghanistan from 1979 to1989.

This history means, that to "finish the job", as Monty Python might say, it's time for something entirely different, tactics that shall not win Amnesty International's seal of approval for playing nice with killers. And that does not mean pouring in thousands more troops but devising a strategy that will get a killing force right into the strongholds and refuges of the enemy. Of course, far more likely, will be proliferating political junk talk to make the continuing stalemate (or worse) smell like victory. Had I farm to bet on what things are gonna look like, say, in 2020, it would be that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda or some even worse Muslim extremist entity, will have retaken full control over the country, as we retreat under the spray of machine-gun-fast cover laid down in a second term of Obama's verbiage.

Not the least reason for this, other than all those latter-day Alexanders scurrying about in their rugged highland refugia, is well shown back home in one of the countries that has been sacrificing the most lives over there, Canada. Nationally, we have taken our eye of the ball, just, as at long last, Obama seems on the verge of doing something decisive, however questionable.

Our Afghan policy attention these days is almost entirely focused on the treatment of detainees. Cross-Canada hand-wringing predominates as we all feign shock at learning that Taliban and Al-Qaeda captured by Canadian troops get manhandled when turned over to an army composed largely of those who suffered under Taliban rule.


Allegedly, those who serve the high masters of terror and fatwa, are getting what many would say they had coming to them: treatment almost as brutal as what the same young minions and their masters dished out to their captives -- remembering for example, Daniel Pearl, but, more broadly, countless, nameless women murdered or maimed in the name of Sharia law. Figure out for yourself whether the adjacent picture illustrates compliance with UN conventions.

Now, at a time when the uncaptured buddies of these detainees are still blowing up Canadian and other soldiers - not, to my knowledge humanely or in accordance with any rules except their own - we are glued to the media watching the debate over how much our military and political leaders knew about the likelihood of torturing the bad guys. On principle, I do have respect for Richard Colvin and any whistle blower who socks it to the craven bureaucrats and pols of Ottawa, but in this case, really: there are so many more injustices in this world we ought to be attending to before losing sleep over pay back to the Taliban and Al Qaeda bully-boys. And unless we stop fretting over international laws of war -- ones that no winning side has ever given a sweet shit about -- and get literally bloody-minded about the strategies used to dig the perps out of their mountain lairs, there will be no real "finishing the job" in any meaningful sense. We can just pack up, go home, and wait for the bad guys to return to power and start cloning the terrorists, who'll kill us and our children -- without concern for the Geneva or any other convention espoused by "decent" societies.

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