A man with a plan 5

The excellent Diana West writes at Townhall:

When it comes to Afghanistan, what separates President Barack Obama and Gen. Stanley McChrystal?

Not much. Neither wants to destroy the Taliban — just tamp it down to the point where an as-yet non-existent Afghan state can function. Which is why — prediction time — McChrystal won’t quit when Obama gives him fewer forces than McChrystal is asking for.

McChrystal’s assessment frankly states that what the general calls his “new strategy” — an intensification of “population protection” at the expense of “force protection” — is his top priority, not increased troop levels. But this strategy is ignored in the debate, and certainly by most conservatives, who only emphasize the need to “give the general the forces he needs to win.” What it is that McChrystal actually wants to win — namely, the support of the Afghan people — is rarely mentioned.

And how to win that Afghan support? The man has a plan. It amounts to a taxpayer-funded, military-implemented bribery scheme. As the New York Times’ Dexter Filkins recently put it: “McChrystal’s plan is a blueprint for an extensive American commitment to build a modern state in Afghanistan, where one has never existed. … Even under the best of circumstances, this effort would most likely last many more years, cost hundreds of billions of dollars and entail the deaths of many more American women and men. And that’s if it succeeds. “

In other words, the Afghan “surge” under consideration is for “nation-building,” not war-making. But guess what? The United States of America already tried building a modern state in Afghanistan — or, at least, building a state of modernity in Afghanistan — and it just didn’t stick. And this was no fly-by-night operation. University of Indiana professor Nick Cullather describes the 30-plus years of sustained U.S. development in Afghanistan as “an `integrated’ development scheme, with education, industry, agriculture, medicine, and marketing under a single controlling authority” — a massive dam project known as the Helmand Valley Authority. As historian Arnold Toynbee observed in 1960: “The domain of the Helmand Valley Authority has become a piece of America inserted into the Afghan landscape.” And from the project’s beginning in 1946 — designed by Morrison Knudson, builder of Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge and Cape Canaveral — to 1979 when it ended, there was no Taliban “insurgency” complicating the social work of nation-building.

But this crucial episode of U.S.-Afghan history has been erased from national consciousness, pricked only by the odd remember-when news story. Of course, these historic U.S. efforts in Helmand Province — the Taliban-spawning, opium region into which 4,000 U.S. Marines “surged” this summer — have themselves been erased from Afghanistan, which may explain the amnesia.

Still, for nation-building utopians such as Gen. McChrystal, those from Left to Right who see different peoples and cultures as interchangeable markers on a game board, reality never tempers the fanaticism. A blind faith empowers believers both to see their utopian visions and to block out the reasons they can never materialize — in this case, the specifically Islamic reasons (Sharia) Afghanistan can neither serve nor fulfill Western ends.

Here lies the fatal flaw in our strategy. … The United States and its Western allies ignore the threat of jihad … “We miniaturize the challenge,” writes Andrew C. McCarthy at National Review Online. “Thus, the war is said only to be in Afghanistan. The ‘challenge’ is framed as isolating a relative handful (of extremists) rather than confronting the fact that tens of millions of Muslims despise the West.” And even worse, the fact that tens of millions of Muslims work to assuage their feelings by following and imposing Islamic law across the West.

In other words, nation-building in the Islamic world is a distraction from nation-saving in the Western one.

  • rogerinflorida

    The Afghan campaign is living proof of the saying “SNAFU”. It is like this because of the actions taken by the US. Americans have a short attention span, particularly in history and politics, we think of 2 year and 4 year election cycles, the Afghan leaders think in centuries, the reason for this is that the same families will be in control in decades or centuries to come. How any genius thought the British army would be welcomed back to Afghanistan beats me. For an excellent summation of the problems the US faces in Afghanistan read this:
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/KJ22Ak
    Observe from the article the fact that the normally promoted narrative of US intervention during the Soviet era (“The US bravely aided the resistance to stand up to the evil Soviet forces”) is totally false. In fact the US under the idiot Carter and the devious, loathsome catholic bigot Zibigniew Brezhinski aided the mujahaddeen (Al-Queda) to agitate against and overthrow the modern secular govt. of Najibullah, with the explicit intention of causing a Soviet intervention. This cynicism, which caused untold damage to Afghanistan and the deaths of perhaps millions of Afghans is a disgrace for which Carter and ZB should be hauled up in front of the ICC to answer charges of crimes against humanity.
    So the people we are fighting now are the same ones we armed and supplied previously, is it any wonder that the Afghans don't trust or like us?
    The great Scottish poet Robert Burns had some beautiful lines, one of the best was:
    “The greatest gift that God can give us, is to see ourselves as others see us”.

    • Jillian Becker

      r-in-f, I appreciate what you say.

      The article you link to is informative and may be largely accurate, but one bit of it, the only bit I really know anything about, is untrue. Israel never supported Hamas, not even in its embryonic beginnings. That allegation was made by one or two anti-Israel commentators in Britain at the time, without a shred of proof, and against probability. An Israeli intelligence 'source' that I asked about it in an interview responded with first amazement that anyone could possibly believe it, then irritation bordering on outrage that 'yet another lie' about Israel was being propagated in the British press, and finally with information which convinced me that Israel knew Hamas for the extremely inimical organization it has proved to be, right from the beginning.

      I wholly agree with you about 'the idiot Carter' and the 'bigot' Brezhinski.

    • C. Gee

      The loathsome, egomaniacal Zbigniew Brezhinski may well have liked the idea that he manipulated the Soviets into invading Afghanistan. The probability is that the Soviets would have invaded to protect their man even without the US aiding the mujahadeen. That was its modus operandi.
      As for the Afghans – by which term is meant the various tribes in their timeless, bloody quest for local hegemony – they do not trust or like each other. The national idea was false under the Soviet puppet. It is false under Karzai.
      But if they could avail themselves of the gift that God gave them and should see themselves as others see them – distrustful, cruel, hating, primitive – they may decide to accept the US offer to nation-build. To my mind, that offer should be withdrawn immediately.

  • It must be very depressing to serve in the US military these days, I hear.

    • Jillian Becker

      Winston –

      Yes, indeed.

      Your comment has persuaded me to post one of many recent articles I have read on the demoralization of American soldiers in Afghanistan.