Friday, October 30, 2009

Kipling Haunts Obama's Afghan War

By Ray McGovern
October 30, 2009

The White Man’s Burden, a phrase immortalized by English poet Rudyard Kipling as an excuse for European-American imperialism, was front and center Thursday morning at a RAND-sponsored discussion of Afghanistan in the Russell Senate Office Building.

Read on.


democratic core said...

I disagree with this assessment. It is rapidly becoming the "conventional wisdom" that the US should withdraw from Afghanistan. Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations - and you can't get much more "establishment" than that - was on Fareed Zakaria's show recently espousing withdrawal. George Will and Thomas Friedman have written in favor of withdrawal. Will and Friedman are never right about anything. When people like this start coming out in favor of withdrawal, it is time for people on the left to pinch themselves and reconsider their reflexive opposition to American military operations. Perhaps President Obama is right - maybe it is necessary to pursue a war against sexist religious fundamentalists who are committed to the destruction of secular society.

I felt that Dobbins' comments were right on the mark. He correctly identified the ethnic conflicts that ultimately lie at the heart of the Af/Pak conflicts (2 fake states bequeathed to the rest of the world by British imperialists). His prediction of the consequences of American withdrawal was not scare mongering - it was an accurate description of the situation in Afghanistan before 9/11 (including the prospect of Taliban genocide against Hazara Shiites). There is no reason to think that things would not return to that situation if the US withdrew.

There is an alternative to both isolationism and neo-con/neo-imperialism. It is multilateralism. Af/Pak is a potential regional catastrophe. The US should not be in this alone, and NATO is not the only source of potential partners. More important than military strategy is diplomatic strategy: get the regional powers (India, China, Iran, Russia) involved in a mulilateral effort to bring about a long-term solution.

Nevertheless, US military action is necessary to get some security in the short run. Another reason why I liked Dobbins' comments: he kept drawing the analogy to US intervention in the former Yugoslavia, the textbook example of what happens when a multi-ethnic fake state cobbled together by imperial powers falls apart. Same story as Afghanistan, and a good model for the productive exercise of US power in the 21st Century.

Mark E. Smith said...

Having lived in Afghanistan for several years, I didn't find them to be any more "sexist religious fundamentalists who are committed to the destruction of secular society" than Americans.

There are probably as many Afghans who want an Islamic society as there are Americans who want a Christian nation. Afghans prefer their women to be fully covered, while Americans prefer their women to have as much skin exposed as possible. But apart from different preferences, neither country is less sexist or more secular.

The major differences between the U.S. and Afghanistan are that the U.S. engages in wars of aggression and Afghanistan does not. Afghanistan has a long history of defending itself against invaders, and the U.S. does not. Americans have more book learning but Afghans have more common sense. Not every American male can shoot a gun, but every Afghan male can. And prior to the U.S. invasion, prostitution and pornography, which are common in the U.S., were almost unknown in Afghanistan.

Our sole excuse for remaining in Afghanistan and Iraq is that we have already invaded and occupied those countries, so we can't just leave. That's like an armed gang breaking into your home and the police saying that since they're already there, they can't just leave.

Personally, despite mourning all the needless civilian deaths, I favor continued U.S. military expansionism, as it will hasten the fall of our empire.

I may not live to see the day that the U.S. can no longer overthrow democratically elected governments and install fascist dictators for fear that socialized medicine might interfere with corporate profits, and I know I won't live to see the U.S. join the free world in providing universal health care, but perhaps my grandchildren will.

Half of the U.S. carbon footprint comes from our military activities, many of which are aimed at obtaining more oil and minerals to fuel more military activities to hasten the destruction of the entire planet through global warming. Somehow I don't see that as a goal worth supporting.

The only reason we're in Afghanistan is to secure an oil pipeline, and the more quickly they defeat us, the better chance of life continuing on earth. Afghanistan's carbon footprint is so small as to be almost invisible. If you love the planet, stop polluting it with depleted uranium, which we can never clean up and which eventually comes home to roost, and start learning how to live simply and peacefully.