Carrying on up the Khyber 61

Mark Steyn writes:

It seems to me we have no very clear war aims in Afghanistan, which is never a good position to be in.

Are we “nation-building”? With US commanders talking about ending Afghanistan’s “culture of poverty”, it sounds like it. Yet, even assuming you could build a nation in any meaningful sense of the word on Afghan soil, such a nation would be profoundly uncongenial to us.

Are we there just to quarantine al Qaeda in their Pakistani redoubts and whack any bad guys who wander in range? That might be worthwhile, but is a tough sell to Nato forces who (excepting Brits, Canucks and a couple of others) operate under ludicrously constrained rules of engagement. So the “nation-building” facade is necessary to square it with the multilateral types.

The much misunderstood British strategy in Afghanistan was, by contrast, admirably clear-sighted, and worked (for them) for over a century. They took a conscious decision not to incorporate the country formally within the Indian Empire because they didn’t want a direct British land border with Russia. So instead they were content with a highly decentralized semi-client state and a useful buffer between the British Empire and the Tsars, a set-up that worked well (from London’s point of view) for over a century until it all fell apart in the Sixties when Moscow started outbidding the Brits for the loyalty of various factions – or what passes for loyalty in that part of the world.

The British strategy was cold and calculated and, if you care about Afghan child mortality rates and women’s rights, very unprogressive. But it was less deluded than asking western troops to die in pursuit of the chimera of ending a “culture of poverty” while in reality providing multilateral window-dressing for the country’s slippage back to warlordism and Sharia.

What are the goals here? Maybe the President could tell us. Or are we just going to (to cite the definitive film on the subject) Carry On Up The Khyber?

We doubt the President could tell us. We don’t suppose he has the least idea.

Posted under Afghanistan, Commentary, Defense, Islam, jihad, Muslims, United States, War by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, September 1, 2009

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