Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why are We Still in Afghanistan?

Professor Fouad Ajami
Dr. Fouad Ajami is a brilliant scholar and life-long student of the Islamic world, fluent in its languages and its cultures. He is a patriotic American born in Lebanon to Shia parents. He has traveled extensively all over the Middle East for decades, consulting with his deep rolodex of friends and contacts, which includes commoners as well as royalty.

There is no more trenchant observer of that world than Dr. Ajami, so I pay attention when he speaks. In his latest article, he wonders why we are still propping up the corrupt Hamid Karzai crime family. Besides knowing what he's talking about, he also writes beautifully:
American and NATO forces bleed in that hopeless land, Al Qaeda fighters who pulled our soldiers into the Hindu Kush are mostly gone by now. [...]
Truth be known, neither the Karzai regime, nor the Taliban warlords, want the Americans out of Afghanistan. The treasure we pour into that country sustains the ruling cabal and the Taliban alike. We are the straight man at the bazaar, the stranger fleeced by the locals. The protection money we pay for our convoys wends its way into the pockets of the Taliban.
Here's the crux of it:
Long ago, Afghan society had lost the ability to provide for its own people: There is no economic life to speak of, the pillars are the drug trade and the foreign handouts. It is in the interest of the Afghans that their country be seen as a dangerous land. Were we to head for the exits, the Afghans are certain to block our way with reminders that Al Qaeda is there, or could make a quick return. This is an odd kind of nationalism, one that wants to keep a foreign military presence—and deride it at the same time.
Professor Ajami can at times can be too optimistic, but his insights into the Islamic culture are invaluable and brilliant, and again, he states them so beautifully:
I still harbor doubts about whether the radical Islamists knocking at the gates of Europe, or assaulting it from within, are the bearers of a whole civilization. They flee the burning grounds of Islam, but carry the fire with them. They are “nowhere men,” children of the frontier between Islam and the West, belonging to neither. If anything, they are a testament to the failure of modern Islam to provide for its own and to hold the fidelities of the young.
If you long for non-political, non-agenda driven commentary on Islam and the Middle East, Professor Ajami is your man.  He writes with a sympathy for the culture that produced him, but he can also be critical of it in a way that others could not.  Most importantly, he writes of the Islamic world's affairs from the perspective of an American and explains how they affect America, dispensing solid advice along the way.

Ajami WSJ Google Search
Fouad Ajami - Pakistan and America
Fouad Ajami - Dream Palace of the Arabs
Western Hero - Fouad Ajami: American

26 comments:

Always On Watch said...

My USMC cousin just returned from Afghanistan. He believes that we should get the hell out of there. The entire proposition is a losing one in his view.

Ducky's here said...

Mr. Ajami seems to be pushing the idea that as a landlocked country with poor neighbors Afghanistan's poverty is due to its religion rather than its geopolitical location.

If a nation is landlocked it better have rich neighbors like Switzerland or you end up with Bolivia.

Ajami, by implying Islam is the culprit is playing to the suckers who are willing to believe this stooge is "brilliant".

Ducky's here said...

... but yes, long past time to get out of Afghanistan.

bunkerville said...

I happened upon the diaries of several British Soldiers who were fighting in the late 1800's over there. Same old, same old. Will we never learn?

Mark Adams said...

Plain and simple. The jobs not done. The Taliban and AQ have safe heaven just over the border in Pakistan with the proof that the Pakistan military, without admission, (but we know better) have given them safety. A nation, as it is with Pakistan, who hold nukes, should not be ignored nor walked away from. As it also will be with Iraqs neighbors Iran.
We created the Taliban (in a literal sense) and we need to be big boys (and girls) and clean up our mess.

Silverfiddle said...

Good sounding words, Mark, but easier said than done. No job is ever done in global politics, because it is driven by eternal human nature. I've been there. It's hopeless.

Ducky: You completely misapprehended Ajami. He does not attribute Afghanistan's troubles to Islam at all.

Z said...

The "fire" is certainly coming to Europe. There are mosques built in German villages where there are almost no muslims to fill them...YET. Until Turkey's given EU status. God forbid.

This man may be dispensing solid advice along the way, but one 'way' doesn't seem to be the White House.

I somewhat agree with Mark Adams, but I don't think anyone feels we CAN clean up our 'mess'.....

Mr. Z knew what bunkerville's book says and was never for going in "nobody's been able to do a thing there...we need to stay away .."

Would that Massoud had lived.

Proof said...

"Why are We Still in Afghanistan?" Well, according to Democrats, like Barack Obama, Afghanistan was the "good war", the war we should have been fighting all along.

You're not hinting that our current commander in chief is botching the "good war", now, are you?

Teresa said...

I will have to check out Ajami's writings. I do think at this point our main focus needs to be on Pakistan, not Afghanistan. We need to make sure that the nukes in Pakistan don't fall into the wrong hands. Not that I think that Mousharraf is much better than the terrorists. I have mixed feelings on the troops leaving Afghanistan altogether.

Finntann said...

Afghanistan is not as important as either we or they think they are.

Time to leave them to their own devices.

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

"...They are “nowhere men,” children of the frontier between Islam and the West, belonging to neither. If anything, they are a testament to the failure of modern Islam to provide for its own and to hold the fidelities of the young...."

Yes, of course, but isn't that true just about every society everywhere in the world today? Let's rephrase Ajami's statement this way:

Young people today are "nowhere." They are children on the frontier of the Culture Wars between Christianity and Cultural Marxism, between Patriotism and Internationalism, between Rugged Individualism and Collectivism, between Knowledge and Propaganda, between Refined Culture and Militant Vulgarity, between Honest idealism and rampant Lust and Greed for unchecked temporal Power, etc., etc., etc.

Our Educational System -- and above all our Popular Culture -- are a testament to the failure of our immediate forebears to guard and defend the priceless treasure of the rich, beautiful and wonderfully salubrious cultural heritage against the encroachments of godless, inherently vicious Marxist, Liberal, Progressive Populism -- and the de facto Oligarchy of International Bankers and Industrialists -- our self-appointed Overlords -- who play all antagonistic forces in the world against one another to the advantage of themselves.


The problem is hardly confined to Islam, though Islam is certainly one of its many facets.

~ FreeThinke

PS: The verification word his time is CARAT. Can you believe that? - FT

Anonymous said...

Teresa,

Our focus needs to be on our own domestic front -- NOT in the Middle East. Our society is in tatters and great deal of that has to do with our foolish determination to maintain and expand our hegemony.

Minding other peoples' business while not bothering to tend properly to their own is the hallmark of every liberal I've ever known personally. Their focus is always outward.

These self-righteous types never see fit to examine their own flaws. The result is the hostile, slovenly, unsanitary, accusatory, non-productive sort of behavior we have seen most recently in New York's Zuccotti Park -- and the flippant, sarcastic, blustering, disrespectful, hyper-critical, fundamentally hostile attitude we see expressed by most of the liberals who post here.

No need to name names. We all know who they are ...

Pakistan has nuclear weapons. So does India. So does China. So does Israel -- and who knows who all else? Right now we've been manipulated by the purely self-serving Israel Lobby into adopting the foolish notion that a nuclear Iran would bring on Armageddon.

Sorry! But Iran's having nuclear weapons is no worse than Israel, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, or anyone else having them.

I, personally, think it's regrettable that anyone has them including the good old USA, but that horse got out of the barn long ago, and there's nothing we can do about it now.

We must get over this insane notion that we have a right and a duty to supervise the entire world.

You may remember from reading your Bible that nothing less than the total domination, subjugation and ultimate annihilation of every tribe and nation in the known ancient world other than the Israelites, themselves, was the mandate their bizarre, highly imperfect understanding of God gave the ancient Jews.

Look where all those centuries of aggression and determined efforts at genocide ultimately got them:

AUSCHWITZ, TREBLINKA, BERGEN-BELSEN, DACHAU, THERSENSTADT!

NOTHING of importance HAS CHANGED in the MIDDLE EAST since the days of Moses. A terrible tragedy for Civilization.

Thank God we in the West thanks to the influence of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ have come to a somewhat more enlightened view of how the world ought to operate today. Needless to say we still have a long way to go.

It's high time we learned once and for all that the Domination, Subjugation and Annihilation of peoples unlike our precious selves is NOT going to bring in the Millennium.

~ FreeThinke

98ZJUSMC said...

Always On Watch said...
My USMC cousin just returned from Afghanistan. He believes that we should get the hell out of there. The entire proposition is a losing one in his view.


A lifelong friend of mine - a LTC who operated with a very high up intelligence section - said the exact same thing. Additionally, he told me point blank that, the level of corruption, taliban pay-offs for convoy security, etc. is beyond comprehension.

Leave. NOW.

98ZJUSMC said...

If a nation is landlocked it better have rich neighbors like Switzerland or you end up with Bolivia.

Yes, that completely explains staid cultural development, mind numbing corruption and an in-bred hatred of women, homosexuals and every other religion on earth.


Ajami, by implying Islam is the culprit is playing to the suckers who are willing to believe this stooge is "brilliant".

Having a hard time admitting he's correct, I see.

Z said...

I've heard servicemen there say we mustn't leave, that we're making headway and it would be a big mistake. Odd, the two divergent opinions.

Jersey McJones said...

It seems plain to me we are in Afghanistan more domestic politics than for any foreseeable endgame.

Obama can't pull out before 2012. he can't. No president could. Afghanistan would collapse in short order, becoming a Pashtun version of Somalia, searing into the country's mind the "loss" of a war.

The Republicans don't care either way what happens to the Afghans any more than the Dems, but they can't undermine the operation the way they have to the domestic economy. They'd take down America before they let Afghanistan go, when you think about it. It's a sad twist in our politic dimensions these days.

So, we're stuck in Afghanistan, for political reasons. Any president would be stuck with it. Any congress could bring it to an end. It's too bad no one pays attention to the constitution and our national interests these days.

I feel bad for the Afghans. I do. It's a horrible situation. But taking a medieval society at gunpoint and forcing modernity upon them will always end in forcing them to remain medieval.

Military force is not always the last option.

If we really cared about the Afghans, we'd make a deal with them to import crops that pay better than heroine - or just buy up the poppy and use it medicine.

Let the tribes control the land, and make it profitable, for all involved. Fuck the Taliban. If the people can make some money, they'll turn their backs on those scumbag "religious" misogynists. And they will develop and they will liberalize.

We have an advantage there too - the tribes are to disparate to ever form a single single monarchy, as in Saudi Arabia. We could always be assured of a few tribes on our side.

And finally, if we put our investment dollars in their companies and their workers and their economy, it can only grow! It has nowhere to go but up!

We should be looking at this completely differently. Sadly, many on the Right Wing seem to think profiteering from war is profitable, acceptable, effective, intelligent, efficient American behavior. I can think of at least six things wrong with that.

JMJ

Anonymous said...

"I've heard servicemen there say we mustn't leave ..."

Why, Z, I never knew you spent time in Afghanistan talking with our soldiers. I'm impressed. Were they enlisted men or high ranking officers. I would assume the latter since you are acquainted with so many notable figures.

Do tell us more about your encounters with our men at arms. It would be so good to get firsthand information unfiltered and sent through the media conduits!

~ FreeThinke

Anonymous said...

"... Sadly, many on the Right Wing seem to think profiteering from war is profitable, acceptable, effective, intelligent, efficient American behavior. ..."

You really had me going with you through most of that, Jersey, until I read that last sentence.

Has anyone here ever even faintly suggested that cynical war profiteering is a good thing?

I don't think so.

I will say, however, that making profits from adverse situations in which one finds oneself placed inadvertently is part of the genius of Capitalism, which happens to be the economic system that has consistently produced the greatest good for the greatest number since its inception.

True wickedness would lie in deliberately exacerbating existing tensions in order to provoke armed conflict for the primary purpose of making money from the manufacture and sale of war materiel.

Profiting from a bad situation you had nothing to do with starting is another thing altogether and quite all right with me.

As it so happens, I do believe a lot of the losing conflicts in which we've become engaged since the end of WWII have been ginned up for covert, dishonest, nefarious purposes. They enrich and further empower the Oligarchs while enervating and impoverishing the people of all nations involved.

"The people have always some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness . . . This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs. When he first appears, he is a Protector. . . In the early days of his power he is full of smiles. . . When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies . . . and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war or other in order that the people may require a leader . . . Has he not also another object . . . that they may be impoverished by taxes and thus compelled to devote themselves to their daily wants and [be] therefore less likely to conspire against him?"

~ Plato (427-347 B. C.)

Unfortunately, as you an see, there's nothing new in any of this. It started long before the birth of Christ -- and will continue long after we are dead and gone.

~ FreeThinke

Jersey McJones said...

FT, I said "many" on the right, not all of them.

Look at the popularity of Ron Paul among Republican voters! There are also many on the Right who would agree with most all of what I wrote.

But please face this: the GOP is not with us on this.

JMJ

MK said...

Staying in that shithole is expensive and bloody, however we can't just pretend that if we leave it'll be alright anyway.

Remember al-qaeda planned and executed 9/11 from there. So calling for a withdrawal and expecting terrorist muslim scum not to return and start their shit again is just stupid.

I don't know what the answer is, but i know this much, running is not a good option, neither is spending billions and billions trying to civilize the savages while leaving islam untouched.

Since the west has no spine to colonize the place, destroy its islamic culture and convert them all to Christianity, perhaps the only option is to put some strongman, our bastard if you will, in charge to keep the savages in check.

Silverfiddle said...

MK: It would descend into chaos, but it would be China's, Russia's and Pakistan's problem...

@ Jersey: It's too bad no one pays attention to the constitution and our national interests these days.

Amen, Jersey! If our politicians paid attention to the constitution, we could cut our federal budget in half and be back in the black!

Anonymous said...

I've observed Fouad Ajami mostly through his television appearances for at least twenty years. It's almost impossible not to like him and respect his great store of wisdom and knowledge. When it comes to Muslims, Mr. Ajami seems to be tone of those rare exceptions that proves the rule.

I only hope he does not prove to be an exceptionally skilled practitioner of TAKEEYA in the long run.

Prior to 911 I would never have dreamed of holding such a thought. Now, who knows?

The irreparable damage done to our society in the wake of 911 far exceeds the loss of three-thousand lives and untold billions of dollars in property damage. It is corroding the very soul of our once-relatively-free way of life.

And suddenly everywhere we see aggressive Muslims angrily claiming to be offended, vehemently asserting "rights" and stridently demanding special recognition in matters no one ever heard of before.

Isn't it BiZARRE?

Doesn't it strike YOU as more than a little bit "off?"

If not, why not?

~ FreeThinke

Teresa said...

- FreeThinke

I agree with about 85 percent of your statement.

I'll just say this - The main difference, which happens to be an enormous one, between Iran obtaining a nuke and the rest of the countries who already have nukes is that those who already have nukes would only look to use them for self-defense but with Iran we have a NUT who is looking for trouble, looking to establish a caliphate, and is eager to bomb countries off the map not for national security defense reasons but purely for political power is extremely dangerous for not only the Middle East but also the entire world.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Teresa, I agree, but what you say is true of anyone who has nuclear weapons. We've just been led to believe that Iran is more dangerous, because "Ockmadinnajod" has a big mouth. Iran is like North Korea -- all boast and swagger with nothing to back it up. I just don't believe we have all that much much to fear from Iran.

Very frankly I'm more concerned about the insidious power of the Israel Lobby and the tremendous, disproportionate influence it has on OUR congress.

We MUST end the Warfare-Welfare State. Our troubles come from within.

~ FreeThinke

Teresa said...

I don't see the Israel lobby as endangering our State's welfare. Sadly, I can't say the same for other countries in the Middle East. I see more anti-semitism on the rise, out of envy or something, something that seems similar to that of the OWS crowd being envious of the job creators in America.

I think America should give deference to our friends versus those questionable countries which claim to be our allies and Israel is definitely an ally of the United States.

dmarks said...

anon said: "Very frankly I'm more concerned about the insidious power of the Israel Lobby"

That is because you are an antisemite. The "ISraeli lobby" meme is a old plank of theirs, along with "Jews controlling the banks" or "Jews controlling the media".

Teresa: The hatred for the "Israeli lobby" bogeyman is a symptom and example of the rising antisemitism that you name.