The Talking Dog

December 1, 2009, More of same

Even when I don't fundamentally disagree with him, the President's insistence on trying to appear "measured" and "careful" still manages to piss me off these days (possibly because he keeps fucking me and everyone who supported him with his outrageous stances on civil liberties and of course GTMO, et al.)... thus the big "Afghanistan speech" whereby he will up the ante by 30,000 more troops.

I am consistently appalled by Democratic Congress members polluting my in-box seeking my money, who have thought nothing of fucking me themselves on virtually every issue I hold important but who then still have the temerity to ask for money... even as they seem to live for money from their corporate contributors rather than me (at least with Republicans, we expect this...Democrats... it's just appalling.) I'm referring specifically to an unnamed upstate New York Congressman, a former Naval officer, btw, who keeps insisting we have to end the war... the Afghan war.

Wrong. We have to end the Iraq war. Today. Only issue is how fast we can bug out. Any long term adverse consequences of pulling out will be outweighed by the fact that we will stop killing people (including our own people). Period.

Not so Afghanistan. Lest those of you who do not work a block from the World Trade Center quibble on this point, the United States was absolutely right to engage in a military action against the Taliban, who harbored (and largely facilitated) the criminal group who had the audacity to launch attacks at New York City and Washington, D.C. For good measure, the Taliban are brutal monsters in their own right and insanely unpopular, but they have gained traction simply because the alternatives to them are so insanely corrupt and disorderly (not to mention violent). But unlike Iraq-- which just needs to be ended-- Afghanistan must be ended on our terms, and that means with Messrs. bin Laden and al-Zawahiri and Mullah Omar dead, in custody, or at a minimum, on the opposite side of the surrender table, having formally renounced jihad and any territorial claim to any part of Afghanistan or Pockeestonn. (Yes, I know Afghanistan has been a graveyard of empires; but prior to 9-11, it had never actually harbored anyone who attacked either London or Moscow iin the earlier imperial engagements there; our empire's vulnerabilities arise from the eventual collapse of "cheap oil" and from its very wide-spreadness.)

That said-- the Taliban simply have to be defeated. Unlike Iraq, which Republicans have no problem saying "we might be there for 50 years"... because it has oil (which, btw, will be long gone well before the 50 years... and hence, so will we...)... as long as Afghanistan has either the Taliban or A.Q., we have no choice but to be there, possibly for all eternity. I know that's troubling, particularly coming from me, someone who is generally a pacifiist, and is himself an undraftable 47, and who doesn't have sons ... Anyway... that's reality. Afghanistan is "the good war"... we were attacked, and if we let up there, we will be attacked again. Period. We can't say this about Iraq. And it cannot be solved by some worldwide nebulous "war on terror." No. The Taliban and A.Q. must be defeated. Period.

I'm not convinced that 30,000...or 40,000... or 400,000 more troops is going to "turn the tide" or "change the course" or whatever the metaphor of the day is... and it troubles me that the man who spent months making the political calculus did not get as good grades as I did in political science back when we were both undergrads at the same institution... but I tend to agree that there is simply little choice on this one-- we have to play out Afghanistan, until we win. Winning can be defined not in nebulous "war on terror" terms, but in plain old traditional war terms: when the other side surrenders, lays down its arms, and gives up its toxic ideology... or simply lies dead, having refused to do so.

If the President has at least recognized this, finally, once and for all, then I applaud him, and respect his decision. Alas... I'm not convinced he has.

If, as is much more likely (and, btw, I believe this to a moral certainty... the West Point backdrop only confirms my view on this) that this is just another crass political decision to try to appear to be a "tough Democrat" who nonetheless is "independent" of General Stanley McChrystal (who, btw, should have been fired for overstepping the bounds of civilian command in publicly advocating his own military policy and then prosecuted for his war crimes in Iraq), but the President still nonetheless seeks the political cover of providing "only" 30,000 more troops rather than the 40,000 troops asked for, then I am appalled at "the triangulation."

Which one? Don't know. Either way-- it's going to be more of same. The war(s) will go on; the pointless killing will go on; Mullah Omar and OBL and al-Zawahiri will continue thumbing their noses at us while still serving as useful bogeymen for the military industrial complex as it seeks to suck out whatever money is available in our economy that isn't being sucked out by health insurers and pharmaceutical companies and investment banks.

In short... this has been... and is going to be... more of same.


I hear you about triangulation and Afghanistan (and about 9/11), but do you really think 40,000 instead of 30,000 would make that much difference? We still are farming out the dirty work to contractors, we still do not concentrate on having people on our side who can speak the language of the folks we're "protecting", and we are still killing more civilians than enemies (not really knowing which is which in any case). And instead of a president who really didn't give a sh*t about details, we now have one that knows the details and continually acts like they don't matter.
If this is all going to be more of the same, which it is, then we should at least get our own out of harms way.

Posted by Michael L at December 2, 2009 9:50 AM


I hear you. But the people we really have to keep out of harm's way happen to be you and me and our families-- people in Boston, and NYC, and DC, and LA and other likely A.Q. (and dare I say it, Taliban) targets... if anything, A.Q., which had specific goals of OBL's pet project (Saudi) and al-Zawahiri's (Egypt), may be less toxic than the Taliban, which may actually really really WANT to restore the Caliphate on their own insane Medieval terms, and while A.Q. may be a specific annoyance, the Taliban, with unknown inroads and allies inside the American/Saudi funded Pakistani ISI, is going to be in a perpetually threatening position viz a viz Pakistan's nuclear arsenal... until and unless we finish them off (and whichever idiot--I'm thinking it was Tommy Franks-- decided not to pull the trigger on Mullah Omar when a drone had him in its sites should be court-martialed and stripped of his pension).

You have asked exactly the right question-- why is this particular troop level addition (30,000 or so... wasn't that around the same number as the Iraq surge, btw?) seem "right," and 20,000, or 40,000, or a million, not. What qualitative strategic difference is this going to make?

I'll at least say this: by and large, the locals on the ground in Afghanistan (in stark, stark contrast to Iraq) actually WANT US TO STAY-- because we at least can provide basic security that the hopelessly corrupt Karzai "government" (here we go again with our illusions of democracy). What worked best for 50 years in Afghanistan was a recognized-as-legitimate monarchy, which knew the place well enough to let many matters be handed locally and regionally by warlords. So... if more boots on the ground will at least perform that one function... of basic "on the ground" security in the hamlets and villages and towns and regional capitals... then that alone warrants the numbers, because that at least will allow the possibility (albeit unlikely, but still possible) of enough stability for the Afghans to settle things out themselves (mostly via inter-warlord alliances, of the kind we mistakenly represented "our victory" back in '01/'02)... in short, we must create the conditions for the stability necessary for the Afghans to have the confidence to throw us out... which they will only do when the Taliban are good and crushed.

The overarching problem is how overextended we are in every conceivable theater, be it the war on drugs, the many proxy wars we are waging all over Africa, Latin America or Asia, the subsidies we are dumping into Israel and Egypt so that the Israelis can steal cheap land and water that doesn't belong to them, not to mention the rest of our miserably failing economy and hopelessly out of control fiscal situation. I concede readily that the view over my right shoulder (if I squint and crane my head) of that 13-acre hole where two large towers should be is part of my thought process... but then, I at least don't believe in the "state secrets" doctrine and will at least out and tell you that.

All that said, my worst fear is that Obama actually trusts the generals who are part of a corrupt cabal designed to get its own way-- which is why I have suggested he should have threatened to fire Gates for undermining his opening rounds on GTMO (by, for example, releasing the horseshit "reports" about "terrorists returning to the battlefield") and he should not have threatened, but actually fired McChrystal for publicly trying to set policies with stated troop levels (thereby appearing to force the President's hand politically-- which seems to have worked.)

I understand that the price for any President trying to get that kind of actual (as opposed to rhetorical) civilian control over the nation's military/intel apparatus may be called "Deely Plaza..." which might well explain why the ultimate answer to all questions is simply "WE'RE FUCKED."

Posted by the talking dog at December 2, 2009 10:45 AM

"Inter-warlord alliances" are not what our powers-that-be define as democracy and so may not be part of the definition of winning. An excuse that the corrupt cabal mentioned above will be only too happy to exercise. All in all, I can only say I completely agree with your last sentence.

Posted by Michael L at December 3, 2009 8:22 AM

I fully agree that we are prisoners of our own rhetoric, and we somehow seem unable to learn that the Greek root of "democracy" is "demo," people... and hence, we seem utterly unable to grasp that "democracy" is something that people want and can only deliver for themselves, as has been the case all over the world (especially in those places we are hellbent on destabilizing with our military presence, in Latin America, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe). Where democracy has NOT worked, of course, is in those very places we have sought to impose it-- notably Iraq and Afghanistan head the list (and if we try anything with Iran, it can join that list.)

What matters is not "democracy" in the nonsensical sense of out of context elections that make us feel good so asshole Republicans can wave around purple thumbs amidst their cat-calls, but the institutions surrounding it-- rule of law, for one, usually a vibrant commercial class that needs order and orderly dispute resolution for another-- things utterly alien in the places we are trying to impose "democracy." Anyway, Afghanistan is a place (unlike Iraq) with a history as a stable nation-state-- but only when it had a legitimate, internally recognized government-- a monarchy-- which emerged from-- wait for it-- inter-warlord alliances. What matters is internal legitimacy-- not the trappings of how the government was selected...another lesson we are wholly incapable of grasping.

Anyway, don't get me wrong... if our 30,000 add-on troops (to the nearly 60,000 already there) are there to "kick ass"... then this move is going to be as affirmatively counterproductive as Biden's per se stupid "send more drones" strategy. All I can say is that, unlike most Bush "strategeries," this one at least "might" work toward actually stabilizing the place enough so that things are "normalized" enough for us to leave. I fully agree that such a "happy" result is not how you bet.

All that said, I think we're both in full agreement that the "smart money" is... "we're fucked."

Posted by the talking dog at December 3, 2009 8:58 AM