The situation in Iraq has apparently improved dramatically via the expedient of the American press by and large refusing to report news from it. Not so the situation in Afghanistan: the American press, alas, is quite interested in it. Not that you want to roll out a new product in August or anything, but it seems that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said to CNN:
I think it is serious and it is deteriorating, and I’ve said that over the past couple of years, that the Taliban insurgency has gotten better, more sophisticated, in their tactics
Yes, the Bush Administration “neglected” the Afghan conflict for years while it conducted the Iraq debacle, and yes, candidate Obama promised to “get tough” in Afghanistan (because, you see, Americans want their leaders to be
imbeciles “tough,” particularly when it comes to killing foreigners in other places.)
However, it’s 2009; the eighth anniversary of 9-11 is just weeks away, and “victory,” whatever that is, is as elusive as ever; OBL, Al-Zawahiri and AQ HQ, and Mullah Omar and the Taliban… are out there, taunting us. We also conveniently forget that the conditions that led to the Taliban’s ascendancy in the first place, to wit, the existing government’s inability to provide any semblance of order, while the Taliban, though irrationally brutal, provided such order, are by and large not different. In part, this is because of the failure of the “nation-building”project, but I think it’s more fundamental. I think it’s the very same superimposed hubris that made the Iraq debacle such a debacle, to wit, that without any semblance of liberal Western-style institutions or any semblance of experience in liberal Western-style “democracy,” somehow we can magically impose “democracy” through force, and have the society magically transformed, as if corrupt local potentates and warlords will cease operating as corrupt local potentates and warlords just because they were selected “democratically” (as if even this is really possible in the middle of a war zone where “open campaigning” is discouraged by the occasional assassination or kidnapping or the less occasional open intimidation).
Well, at least it makes us feel better about ourselves, and isn’t that important? I get the feeling that all of our political decisions are as much about that (particularly, making older, stupider, Whiter people especially, though not exclusively) feel better about ourselves, by telling us often enough that “we are bringing
Christianity and civilization freedom and democracy to the heathen oppressed.” (And don’t get me started on recent attempts to superimpose “the [home] ownership society” as a cure-all for the arbitrariness and unfairness of our neo-Victorian socio-political-economic order, which is just another “feel-good” strategy designed to deflect people from thinking).
Where was I? Oh yes… 44 American troops were killed in Afghanistan in July, and, at least the short term prognosis there looks grim. This might be an excellent time, as my college classmate the President is fond of saying, “to hit the reset button.” Maybe some kind of “withdrawal schedule” from Afghanistan might be in order; we’re clearly not achieving our strategic goals there, and the question of whether such goals could be better served by a draw-down, if not an abandonment of the Afghan conflict would now seem to be in order.