Ed Note: This thread covers August 2008 through Obama’s inauguration, during which time the Americans commenced their Strike-from-Afar war in/on Pakistan.
Then follow the comments below to follow events into April, when Prez Obama, trying to sell the Gates-Mullen Surge to his NATO partners, found Strasbourg on fire about his ears — thru August, when the Paki government finally said Yankees Go Home and Afghans went to the polls — into September, when the new American ground commander said the strategy was not attuned to the problems and the President told the Sunday talk shows that, before sending more troops, “The first question is, are we doing the right thing?”
One wishes he had taken this tack during the campaign with McCain. But was it possible to do so and be elected? However that may be … When in a hole, stop digging?
FIRST SOME HOUSEKEEPING:
We’ve been following the American attacks in/on Pakistan since they started in late August — 2008 — in four threads:
1.¬† To begin near the beginning, recall former CIAist Robert Baer’s stormcrow piece about the National Security Apparat’s intentions. Then¬† follow updates through the comments to the post.
2.¬† That thread of comments ends with a link to September 20 — when we find Paki terrorists blowing up the Islamabad Marriott during a nearby reception for the new Paki president an hour after he’d endorsed Uncle Sam’s War on Terror in his first speech to parliament. Negative feedback. Bad press. Not the best start.
3.¬† Those comments then lead up to to September 25 — when we find G.I. Joes in a fire fight with Paki Army troops — our¬† allies, scorecard sez — at the Afghan-Paki border, which the Americans had thought to cross on foot instead of merely by sky.
Comments in this thread record the developing, mass murderous American missile campaign, the Brit Commander in Afghanistan telling the world the western forces cannot win, Obama’s election and his bloody interregnum. Clearly the new prez will inherit a chaotic mess.
4. With the Strike-from-Afar terror war well underway, reasons arose to think about why both Obama and McCain from the outset of the presidential campaign were on the same page so perfectly about Surging in Afghanistan and making war on/in Pakistan.¬† Apparently they’d been briefed and signed off on the new Surge — disagreeing in debates only as to how much one should say about such things in public.
Tenured brains seized the question:¬† Afghanization or Escalation? I.e., pull out of Afghanistan after decent efforts to set the government (who? where?) on its feet — or Surge?
Several comments in this thread focused on CIA director Michael Hayden’s rare, shocking and belligerent speech of December, in which he succinctly declared war on Pakistan. Must read. Then they stumbled upon an epiphany:
May the otherwise inexplicable (qua US national interest) Afghan escalation be the staging for a more dangerous ground war in Pakistan, the root — if DCI Hayden wasn’t fibbing — of all islamic terrorism?
Assume we launch such a war and enjoy some initial success, cleaning out the Pashtun insurgents¬† and their foreign guests (angry Arabs). Mission Accomplished.¬† Would Russia, China and Iran tolerate such advances and the permanent bases the Pentagon trails wherever it goes?
Thus, small-time declared victory in the War on Terror here may set off a geopolitical bomb — one of the things worried about here on behalf of our new president soon after his election.
(The worry in brief:¬† The Bay of Pigs raid was an attempt by its CIA and Pentagon planners not to conquer Castro’s Cuba, but to provoke President Kennedy (less than three months in office) into doing so with Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.¬† He was sharp enough to refuse the gambit.
Then again:¬† JFK inherited a Pentagon intent upon provoking China (first in Laos, then Vietnam) back into the war that Eisenhower had stalled in Korea; memos to the new President laid out the scenario that would lead from provocation to first strikes with nukes on Chinese cities.¬† The President concluded the brassy authors were “nuts,” stopped inviting them to meetings and for three and a half tense years evaded their Vietnam gambit. The Pentagon didn’t make it to Vietnam until 1965.
One hopes the new President is apprised of the Kennedy lessons and on his toes, especially during his early months, when most vulnerable to manipulation by the briefers of the Apparat.)
5. Finally, a fifth post noted with surprise soon into the transition that Obama’s foreign policy team, the SoS aside, would consist entirely of Pentagon brass — the most heavily weighted that way since Dubya Dubya Two.
PS: However, it turned out that Hayden (a career Pentagonian despite his tour at Langley) would not be staying on at CIA.¬† So among the guys running Obama’s world with scrambled eggs on their shoulders will be Hillary and one other civilian. Assuming Leon Panetta (the CIA nominee) pays his taxes.
AND SO …
All threads now lead here, where we will watch and continue to wonder what in Blazes the new President thinks we can win in the wastes of Pakghanistan. Where no one has ever won anything.
General David Petraeus, supposed Savior of the Surge in Iraq and the new regional commander (CENTCOM) for Pakghanistan, deigned the day after Obama’s inauguration to sit in on the President’s first meeting with the brass.
Our leaders seem to think the community policing that Petraeus applied with some success, so far, in Iraq’s cities (but what’s going to happen when we retreat?) will work with the widespread nations and tribes of Afghanistan, for whom skirmishing with each other is a way of life rooted in centuries.
I.e., our leaders seem nuts — or at least as nuttily dangerous as OSS-CIAist (and when colors suited “General”) Edward Geary Lansdale was about Vietnam, where he inspired our march into the quagmire spouting culturally sensitive but backfiring schemes.
Petraeus, one might hazard, is shaping up as the geopoliticosophical son of Lansdale — whose image one finds in The Ugly American‘s earnest Colonel Hillendale and The Quiet American‘s earnest CIAist Pyle. Both characters wind up doing no good.
In particular, Petraeus’s plans for Afghanistan evoke eerily the Stategic Hamlet program, which used carrots and covert sticks (mass murderous false flag provocations) to engage the apolitical farmers of South Vietnam but failed to win their hearts and minds to the puppet government’s cause; instead they were provoked by the turmoil and violence into becoming active allies of the Viet Cong and the North’s government.
(Farmers were herded, sometimes with false flag machine gun fire, from their lands into artificial villages — reminiscent of early Soviet programs to collect independent farmers and, in some cases, convert them into industrial proles …)
Lesson of Vietnam No. 35.6167/FART/7:¬† Attempting to dispose people en masse in one’s favor by redesigning their socioeconomic life tends to beget not cooperation but disdain and hatred.¬† Petraeus seems to think he can herd the many tribes of the Pashtun — 40 million people all told! — into ranks and files loyal to the government in Kabul, which might as well (for the targeted hearts and minds) be in Iowa. And the Pashtun comprise only one slice of Afghanistan’s diverse demographic pie.
In short: There is no sociological basis for a centrally-governed state over there.¬† Decentralized tribalism is the way the land enclosed by Afghanistan’s border works.
What are the Pentagon’s war aims over there?¬† I see no one in Congress or the press bothering to ask.
Eradicate the Taliban? ¬† This recent mind-boggling heart-breaking Guardian piece roots high and low, reporting along the way as certainly given that G.I. Joe will be fighting in Pakghanistan in 2017 (when Obama if lucky will leave the White House) — but reports not¬† a whiff as to why.
The reporter is good to report however that the Taliban hardly exists as an organization capable of being dismantled by Pentagon machinery, but is rather¬† “a shifting alliance of insurgents.”
Meaning tribesmen. Unallied (as always) to the distant central government. Shifting as always like sand and dunes with the wind.¬† Shall you destroy even the sand, Sahib, you who strike from afar?
Win the War on Terror?With mass-murderous missiles falling on huts from the blue?¬† But that’s … terrorism.
The world learned in dozens of 20th century wars that when you kill people indiscriminately pursuing an oblique cause you create more resistance than you remove. Terrorism cannot be defeated with guns and bombs.
It defeats itself, typically, running out of steam and foot soldiers. Or, as in the Holy Lands, 1948 to the present, it steadily endures with its provacateurs, as a means of war against a technologically advanced foe.
Terrorism lives and can be fought effectively between people’s ears. In Palestine, a real settlement with Israel would deprive dyed-in-the-wool jihadists of most of their constituency and foot soldiers — a basic change that constitutes Israel’s best chance for peace.
But in Afghanistan … I see no action or structure that would reconcile the diverse tribal so-called warlords to the Kabul government. And we see this in the coded chit-chat of the american political advisors over there (prominent among them since Obama’s election, Steve Cohen, Likud Lobbyist) — who are now saying in public that their plans under Bush-Cheney for democratization have proven inapt.
But Terence this is all old hat. What’s news?
Today the Pentagon acknowledged that an American attack earlier this week killed without intending to 13 Afghan civilians:
The civilians killed included three children, six women and four men in the Gozara district of Herat Province, in addition to three people suspected of being Taliban fighters, according to an aide to the provincial governor.
“We expressed our deepest condolences to the survivors of the noncombatants who were killed during this operation,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Ryan, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.
And today’s Times has a feature piece arguing that the targets of the attacks in Pakistan executed under the aegis of Obama indicate that the campaign has broadened. Right on schedule.¬†Toot toot. All aboard.
Perhaps in a safe somewhere inside the Beltway sits a sleeve of secrets that substantiate beyond reasonable doubt the national interests and strategic plan that justify escalating our desultory but minor Afghan war.¬† In public view there is nothing at all.
Maybe Peking will put its foot down and stop footing the bill, ruining what’s left of the US economy in the process.
Until then, the December speech by General Hayden is the American map and manifesto.¬† It seems not to matter what the new president may think.¬† The Apparat is in charge here.
Dr Strangelove, I presume?
Who’s the gadfly?