Thursday, June 9, 2011

Operation Enduring Quagmire

It disturbs me to hear people speaking about 21st century conflicts using 20th or even 19th century terminology.  It is especially jarring when the person is foreign policy godfather Henry Kissinger.

I think his plan for getting out of Afghanistan is perfect...  For ending the trench warfare stalemate of World War I...
For negotiation to turn into a viable exit strategy, four conditions must be met: a cease-fire; withdrawal of all or most American and allied forces; the creation of a coalition government or division of territories among the contending parties (or both); and an enforcement mechanism. (Kissinger – WaPo)
A cease fire? Among who? This isn’t the Franco-Prussian war, with identifiable states and armies. Afghanistan is a motley clash of Taliban, Al Qaeda and drug gangs, with the Pakistani ISI and Iranian operatives thrown in for good measure.  Add to that a supporting cast of unemployed locals who can’t even be classified as terrorists or belligerents. They just live there and don’t like strangers in their neighborhood, so they play jihadi rock and roll for the highest bidder with guns and bombs.

Withdrawal. OK. I get that. An exit strategy is pretty much dead if you don’t exit.

Creation of a Coalition Government? Didn't we do that already?  Klepto king Karzai has stolen billions, and his policemen we've trained have developed a nasty twitch which results in them killing their US and NATO "allies."  Does Henry Kissinger read the newspaper?

Division of Territories? That’s problematic, as Kissenger later admits. Leading us to…
Enforcement. Kissenger says this requires “a residual American force, some international guarantee or presence, or — best — a combination of both.”
Let’s see… We couldn’t impose order with a big presence, so we’re going to leave only a small residual presence in order to enforce an agreement among anarchic, violent drug and terrorist gangs who hate outsiders. Yeah, that'll work.

Kissenger rightly predicts chaos upon withdrawal, but his solution of international conferences and agreements with people who won’t honor them is no solution at all.
“Such an outcome would threaten the security of Afghanistan’s neighbors more than America’s.”
He identifies the immediate neighbors, Iran, Russia, China and Pakistan as the ones most negatively affected by this all tipping over after we leave.  He's right, so they will end up dealing with it.  No sense in us getting involved.  China having to resort to communist butchery in order to continue extracting Afghanistan's mineral wealth troubles me not at all.  Our only residual role should be to offer noncombatant assistance to India when the inevitable chaos breaks out in Kashmir.

Henry Kissinger is a brilliant man, so I realize I’m just a little kid trying to kick him in the shins.  His insight is valuable and never to be ignored, but we need to remember he is working for China now, and that will obviously bias his opinions.

My plan for getting out?
Get out!  Turn everything over to Rashid Dostum and our nominal allies in the north so they can cover us as we kiss that hellhole goodbye.  Leave north through Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and tell Pakistan to kiss our ass, we're taking that $3 billion per year in aid with us.


amanofwonder said...

"I’m just a little kid trying to kick him,"

You missed the shins, but got him in the groin. Well spoken.

Always On Watch said...

Kissinger is supposed to be a genius. But is he really?

Silverfiddle said...

Kissinger is supposed to be a genius. But is he really?

His doctoral thesis on Metternich pegged him a highly intelligent man in the global strategy arena, but I think he missed the mark on this one.

The world has moved on and maybe he hasn't caught up.

Anonymous said...

Well I think this is a bit different than Vietnam (which is what I'm assuming you were aluding to when you dropped the "Q" word).

We all know that Vietnam never posed any threat, direct or indirect, to our national security, so it made sense to just get the hell out of there.

Although Afghanistan doesn't pose any direct threat to us, we know that they were friendly to Al Qaeda. We'll probably never fully eradicate Al Qaeda, but we can't just abandon the country to chaos and let it revert to what it was before we went in there.

I have a feeling that just leaving would be a great disservice to those who have given much for that country.

I don't really want to be there forever, but to run in, destabilize it, and then leave before we get it to at least a manageable point seems fairly immoral to me.

Silverfiddle said...

Leaving in no way diminishes the sacrifices of our troops. We fought heroically to give these people a space to create something better. They blew it. Not our fault.

Afghanistan will remain an unstable place regardless of how much money and effort are expended there.

Anonymous said...

I’m not sure I understand why anyone thinks highly of Henry Kissinger. The man is no more than a legend in his own mind. This love affair with self clearly goes back to the Vietnam era and, on that note, read the now infamous book by CIA operative Frank Snepp, entitled “Decent Interval.”

In those days, Kissinger and most of the State Department had their heads up their collective ass, and the CIA was a finishing school for Bozo wannabes. How is it possible for anyone other than a complete idiot to leave the names of 3,500 pro-American Vietnamese operatives sitting on a desk in an abandoned Embassy so that the North Vietnamese could identify them?

If I needed anyone’s advice about Afghanistan, it wouldn’t be from Henry Kissinger. No, I’d rather depend on the observations of Rudyard Kipling, and in that process save hundreds of millions by culling the nitwits out of the State Department.

Anonymous said...

Chaos is the natural state of afairs in Afghanistan. It's part of their culture. Leave them to it. Bring our troops home. We can stay in touch aftewardds by lobbing in a smart bomb now and then. On the way out, however, we spray a little agent orange on their poppy fields. Just a thought...

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% with our amiable blog host, SilverFiddle, about the wisdom of our leaving Afghanistan. It was foolish and immoral for us to go in there in the first place. Sooner of later we must admit that our Middle East policy has been an unmitigated disaster. I can't see that moral interests are supported by persisting in a policy that was a colossal blunder to begin with.

I blame George W. Bush for succumbing to the blandishments of the neocons, who fomented the Project for a New American Century -- an idea which, I admit, sounded appealing at first. After all why not preserve, protect, defend, enhance and extend American Hegemony? But the rationale for PNAC was disingenuous. In truth it was designed to aid and abet the vital interests of a foreign power surreptitiously, and has had shockingly a deleterious effect on ours.

No one has ever been able to conquer or subdue the Afghans. I don't pretend to understand them but they appear to be a law unto themselves. The place is a morass, and since they have no resources that could be of any good use to us, we should leave them alone to work out their internal conflicts among themselves.

I didn't want to believe it at first, but Western meddling in the Middle East must be the primary reason so much hatred from that sector is now focused in our direction. Indigenous peoples don't appreciated being invaded, repartitioned, reinvented and "reformed" -- i.e. made to adhere to foreign cultural standards primarily for the benefit of foreign powers.

We conservative-libertarians certainly don't like the arrogant intrusions of an authoritarian Nanny State sponsored by self-righteous, self-appointed experts from the Ivory Towers of Academia, do we? So why should we expect Afghans, Iraqis, Iranians, Syrians, Egyptians, et al. to grovel at our feet in gratitude for our violent intrusion into their societies?

It's a hallmark of Marxist-Socialist thinking for a small group of revolutionaries or self-appointed busybodies to assume they know what's best for other people and to act on the impulse to force radical change on a society deemed "immoral" or "backward." The spirit of libertarianism is to allow people the right to determine their own destiny, even if we happen to believe their ideas are unsound.

I would have felt much better about the whole Middle East Misadventure if we had simply indulged in old-fashioned naked aggression in an all-out effort to gain control of the oil fields, kill off all those rotten dictators and subjugate the people to serve the best interests of the civilized world, but oh no! We have to couch our aggression in terms of righteousness -- saving the Iraqis from an evil dictator, "spreading democracy," combating terrorism "where it originates," etc.

And when all is said and done we have "won" nothing but scorn and contempt from "The International Community" and imminent bankruptcy. There's no acceptable rationale for continuing in that vein.

As for Henry Kissinger, he must be nearing ninety, isn't he? Surely his best days are long behind him -- and looking back maybe his best days weren't all that great after all.

~ FreeThinke

Unknown said...

In one sentence you nailed why we shouldn't get out.
"Afghanistan is a motley clash of Taliban, Al Qaeda and drug gangs, with the Pakistani ISI and Iranian operatives "
The latter having or will have nukes to give to the afore mentioned.
Not fixing the situation with the Karzai government will end just like we did when assisting the Taliban against the Russians, cutting and running... repeating history is not a smart idea.
My two cents.

Trekkie4Ever said...

Henry Kissinger, not so brilliant after all. I think he needs to re-examine his theory.

But I must agree with this, " tell Pakistan to kiss our ass, we're taking that $3 billion per year in aid with us."

Karen K said...

These have pretty much been my thoughts too.

If you're going to fight a war, then FIGHT the effing thing and get out.

If you're not going to actually fight to win, then don't fight at all.

Anonymous said...

Karen Howes put it as succinctly as anyone could.

My own thoughts and feelings beautifully synthesized.

Fight to win, or don't fight at all.

Thank you, Karen.

Why do we fight specifically to LOSE? That's an extremely important question. There must be a reason. Does anyone know the answer?

~ FreeThinke

Jersey McJones said...

Metternich! Wow, Silver! I studied him!

Speaking of Kissinger - listen to this, guys, if you get a chance (this is Kissinger and Koppel on Talk of the Nation for almost an hour, about Kissinger's new book, China back during the "only Nixon" years, and on from there):

Great stuff. (This is why people like me get so incensed when peoople talk about cutting funding for NPR - you just don't get this stuff from commercial radio)


"Afghanistan is a motley clash of Taliban, Al Qaeda and drug gangs, with the Pakistani ISI and Iranian operatives thrown in for good measure."

A lot of people see Afghanistan that way, and that's because we see it through the eyes of soldiers, the military, and a press that is only peeking out from behind them.

For those who study history and the world around them, as you guys obviously do, (I mean, wow! Metternich!!! Ya' just never hear the name dropped anymore!), we know Afghanistan is a tribal society. The tribes are far more important than the "Taliban, Al Qaeda..., drug gangs,... (and) Pakistani ISI and Iranian operatives" combined.

We'd do well to study and remember that.


Silverfiddle said...

Jersey: Point well taken. Which is why I also said

Add to that a supporting cast of unemployed locals who can’t even be classified as terrorists or belligerents. They just live there and don’t like strangers in their neighborhood...

Mark, I respectfully disagree that the truth you have spoke is reason for us to pour more blood and treasure into this failed project. As Mustang said, instead of listening to Kissinger (who is looking out for China's interests) we should be reading Rudyard Kipling. For those who don't have the time, renting the movie, "The Man Who Would be King," is a near substitute.

Silverfiddle said...

FreeThinke: Well stated. How can someone who objects to community organizing statism here at home be all for it in a God-forsaken foreign land?

Matt said...

I think Karen raised a good point as well.

Personally, the dividing territory option was incredibly short sited. Without a giant presence to stop the,m, each of the "sides" would devour each other until there was just one. The one that remained would be the most barbaric and powerful, of course.

Finntann said...

Aww, leave Henry alone, he's a good neighbor... never there.

God forbid he becomes unemployed and moves up here full time.


MathewK said...

The west hasn't got the stomach to sort Afghanistan out, so we might as well get out and let the chips fall where they may.

Perhaps the Chinese can be suckered into a quagmire of sorts.