Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Democrats' Future War Problem

Several things have been evident on the world stage lately. First, the Iraq "war" is on hold until Bush leaves office. The pro-Iran Shi'a government has been trying to wrestle authority from the pro-Iran Shi'a militias including Sadr's Jaish Al-Mahdi, and while sections of Sadr city have been destroyed or turned into walled ghettos, mostly the militias have backed down rather than stand and fight. Both Shi'a forces have been busy denouncing the U.S., who continues to sprinkle the country with money. The various Sunni forces have decided to milk the occupation for money and guns, establishing their own mini-states while they wait out Shia-U.S. drama. And meanwhile, the conflict in Afghanistan has been heating up and spilling over into Pakistan.

Since the U.S. and its Nato "allies" have taken over the job of fighting mujahedeen from the Soviets, it's increasingly evident what a trap Afghanistan is for imperialism and neocolonialism. Unable to root out the bases of so-called terrorists, or even to dislodge the Taleban medievalists, the mightiest war machine ever is about to find itself stuck in the same mud that helped destroy the Soviet Union.

Assuming Obama wins, and assuming he actually withdraws American forces from Iraq even as the violence restarts, Afghanistan will remain as dangerous quicksand. Since most Americans, even liberals and leftists--yours truly notwithstanding--believe somehow that the U.S. and Nato are doing something good in Afghanistan by punishing the 9/11 planners or preventing their resurgence, they will follow this colonial adventure blindly until it's too late to see it for what it is. Now Obama gains points for saying that the conflict in Afghanistan should be escalated while the one in Iraq should be ended. What's gonna happen if it turns out that Afghanistan is the real Vietnam here, not Iraq?

I think it's predictable that the mildly modernizing puppet Karzai regime will come to the same end as the succession of home-grown communist regimes that the Soviets rushed in to bolster. Surely the Taleban was odious and its policies abhorrent. (Though I still recall its first mention in the NY Tiems years back when it was presented as some band of religious students trying to end corruption and bring peace and a golden age to Afghanistan as it struggled to drive out the mujahedeen warlords between the occupations of great powers.) But surely the lessons of colonialism and imperialism and its meddling shows that the medicine is always as bad if not worse than the nativist brutality it seeks to remedy.

Let so-called terrorists be dealt with as a law-enforcement problem. Let the Afghan and Iraqi peoples determine their own destinies. And let the armies of imperialism be brought home... there's a country to be rebuilt. Yeah, that swords into plowshares bit sounds damned good.

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