Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What I like about a long war in Afghanistan, or why America desperately needs a quaqmire

Possibly the world's most valuable political analyst?
We simply do not have the Afghan partners, the NATO allies, the domestic support, the financial resources or the national interests to justify an enlarged and prolonged nation-building effort in Afghanistan.(...) The locals sense they have us over a barrel, so they exploit our naïve goodwill and presence to loot their countries and to defeat their internal foes. Thomas L. Friedman - NY Times
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My dad once told me about an interesting fellow he worked with in a large rug company. When the CEO was choosing new rug lines this guy's input was vital because... he was always wrong:  not sometimes, always.

If this man saw some new prototype just in from the design department and showed any enthusiasm for it, experience had taught the top management that nobody anywhere would ever buy it and conversely if he thought the proposed product was a dog, they would go into  night shifts to flood the market with the rug.

My father considered his colleague to be a veritable phenomenon of nature and one of the most valuable men in his organization.

My father assured me that to be always wrong is as rare and wonderful as to be always right. His wise words have stayed with me.

Among political analysts, Thomas L. Friedman is that man.

Just to refresh my reader's memory, lets have a little peek at his record on Iraq:

During the lead up to the war he said,
"The way you get that compliance out of a thug like Saddam is not by tripling the inspectors, but by tripling the threat that if he does not comply he will be faced with a U.N.-approved war."
After no WMD were found he said,
"The stated reason for the war was that Saddam Hussein had developed weapons of mass destruction that posed a long-term threat to America. I never bought this argument… The WMD argument was hyped by George Bush and Tony Blair to try to turn a war of choice into a war of necessity."
"The right reason for this war, as I argued before it started, was to oust Saddam's regime and partner with the Iraqi people to try to implement the Arab Human Development report's prescriptions in the heart of the Arab world. That report said the Arab world is falling off the globe because of a lack of freedom, women's empowerment, and modern education. The right reason for this war was to partner with Arab moderates in a long-term strategy of dehumiliation and redignification."
Finally in August of 2006 he wrote,
"Whether for Bush reasons or Arab reasons, democracy is not emerging in Iraq, and we can’t throw more good lives after good lives"
His scrambling to maintain some reputation as an analyst and pundit led him to a series of statements that have come to be known as the "Friedman Unit", a period of six months, where if his suggestions were followed, everything would turn out fine. Here is a sample of Friedman units ripped from Wikipedia:
"The next six months in Iraq... are the most important six months in U.S. foreign policy in a long, long time" November 30, 2003.

"What we're gonna find out... in the next six to nine months is whether we have liberated a country or uncorked a civil war." October 3, 2004.

"I think we're in the end game now.... I think we're in a six-month window here where it's going to become very clear" September 25, 2005.

"I think the next six months really are going to determine whether this country is going to collapse" December 18, 2005.

"I think that we're going to know after six to nine months whether this project has any chance of succeeding" January 23, 2006

"I think we are in the end game. The next six to nine months are going to tell whether we can produce a decent outcome in Iraq." March 2, 2006

"we're going to find out... in the next year to six months - probably sooner - whether a decent outcome is possible" May 11, 2006.
Today his message is:
Let’s finish Iraq, because a decent outcome there really could positively impact the whole Arab-Muslim world, and limit our exposure elsewhere. Iraq matters.
His reason seems to be because:
My last guiding principle: We are the world. A strong, healthy and self-confident America is what holds the world together and on a decent path. A weak America would be a disaster for us and the world. 
So now from 
"democracy is not emerging in Iraq, and we can’t throw more good lives after good lives"·
We arrive at "we can't throw more good lives after good lives in Afghanistan" because...
"Iraq matters".
In my opinion this is all shorthand for, "if the US armed forces are tied down in Afghanistan, we wont be able to use them anywhere else".

Where might that "anywhere" be?

My bet would be against Iran.

A lot of perspicacious analysts have always thought that in invading Iraq the real object was Iran. That is why Afghanistan was considered such a boring distraction. You probably remember how all the neocons  in those euphoric days were talking up, "real men go to Tehran". 

All the neocons have ever really cared about is Iran because it is Israel's bête noire and Thomas L. Friedman is the smiling face of neoconnerie.

With the United States armed forces enmeshed  and maxed out in  Afghanistan, a full scale war with Iran? ... fuggedaboutit.

The Russians know it, the Chinese know it, the Iranians know it,  and 
most of all the Israelis know it.

So the bright side of the war in Afghanistan  is that a war with Iran would be a total disaster with hundreds of thousands of dead and might cause a worldwide depression as oil prices skyrocket and would only serve Israel's and a few corrupt sheik's interests, certainly not America's. And as Friedman says,

"We simply don’t have the surplus we had when we started the war on terrorism"
So, if a low intensity endless quagmire-nightmare is the only thing standing between the USA and the abyss of war with Iran, the only excuse we can hand AIPAC for not going to war with Iran, then the president is right, Afghanistan is the "good" war.

Thomas Friedman, like my dad's colleague, is  the most reliable bellwether that America is on the right track in Afghanistan.

So Mr. President, send the troops, the more the merrier: Afghanistan is the best excuse we'll ever have for blowing off the Israelis and hey, we are still fighting terrorism, aren't we? DS

1 comment:

stunted said...

An unfortunate effect of this quagmire is the "collateral" damage inflicted on the occupied country. Afghans will likely be hard put to understand why they and their country should suffer low-intensity, endless destruction simply to keep the American military busy. As our economy seems to be largely dependant on keeping our armed forces busy, perhaps the different branches should just wage war on each other on our own territory and then there would be nothing left for the "terrorists" to destroy as we would be doing that all alone.