We have all been following the news out of Afghanistan lately and have been dismayed at the continuing riots, violence and deaths that have resulted from the incident with the inadvertent burning of a Koran. Westerners have a very hard time understanding the intensity of the reaction to what was an innocent mistake -and for good reason. This reaction, in spite of the claims that it is because of the deep religious feelings of the Afghan people, is not just about the improper disposal of a book. It is a manistification of the anti-western feelings growing daily in that war-torn region.
The majority of the Afghan people initially welcomed NATO and US troops when they entered to chase out Al Qaeda and the Taliban. That was a decade ago. Since then they have seen a series of tactical and strategic errors and an unwillingness on the part of the "westerners" to put in the resources to finish the fight. They have seen our troops strike in stealth at night, often mistakenly kicking in the doors of innocent civilians (how would you like to live with that threat constantly hanging over you?). They have seen us supporting a corrupt and unpopular government. They have heard promises of economic assistance and seen only billions of dollars of that assistance disappear into the the pockets of Karzi and his cronies. No, the riots are not just about the burning of a Koran and anyone who thinks that is woefully mistaken.
It is time for us to re-examine just what it is we are trying to accomplish by being there. Our government tells us that we want to establish a stable government that has the ability to sustain itself and prevent the return of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. We do not want to allow Afghanistan to become a training ground and base of terrorist operations against Western countries. The problem is that we have been hearing that for 10 long years and, depending on who you listen to, we are not much closer to accomplishing that then we were 8 years ago.
Our initial objective when we put "boots on the ground" there was the defeat of Al Qaeda. Chasing the Taliban out was not the objective but was a necessary step in achieving that objective. We did that -long ago. We started going off course when that objective somehow morphed into one of nation building. Nation building by itself is a fine and noble goal but you can not build a nation from behind a gun and within a tank. Telling a people how and when to hold elections, where to build schools and roads, how to grow crops and how to start successful businesses are not the function of the most powerful and professional military the world has seen. It is not what our guys and gal have enlisted to do. These things are best done by the State Department and organizations like the Peace Corps. Coming from them it is friendly advise, coming from men armed to the teeth it is not advise, it is an order. Despite our best intentions, many Afghans who initially welcomed us as friends and liberators, now see us as occupiers who encourage and support the corruption, rather than do away with it.
So, what to do? Well, that is really much easier than everyone seems to think. Just bring the troops home. Declare victory over the Taliban and Al Qaeda (they have been chased out of power, which was the initial goal, right?) and bring our people home.
There are those who say that leaving Afghanistan will result in the return of the Taliban and the people will once again be forced to live under what we consider to be mideviel Islamic laws. That is probably true, but I think I should point out 2 things. First, they are what we consider to be mideviel, not necessarily what the majority of Afghans consider, and second, it is their country whether we like it or not, and they have a right to determine how they want to live. When the Taliban becomes the government under attack by Afghan terrorist groups seeking western-style democracy, ask me again.
Lastly, what about the possibility that the Taliban will allow terrorist bases to be built and terrorist groups to operate against Western powers from there? Well, my first question is -Do you mean from there instead of the border areas with Pakistan, or from Somalia, or Yemen or the jungles of Indonesia? Oh, OK. Well, that is what we have Special Operations forces, cruise missiles, drones and stealth bombers for. If they threaten us, hit them and take out the threat. It is not complicated. If, on the other hand, they decide it is better to not provoke us and to mind their own business (as long as we do the same) then the question is moot.
The point is that we have been spending 2 billion dollars a week for 10 years. We have been asking our fine military people to go in harms way where far too many have been killed and injured. And we are not really accomplishing much, nor are we likely to if we stayed another 10 years. So, let's try something different. Lets try minding our own business for a change. Bring the troops home and if we are threatened again, go back, kick the shit out of them and come right home again. But bring our troops home and stop wasting American lives and tax money.
Live Long and Prosper...