Monday, November 30, 2009

Afghanistan: probably more of the same tomorrow

We will probably find out the President's plan for Afghanistan during his public address tomorrow. Most reports, based on information from allied sources in Europe and possible administration leaks, seem to indicate that he will symbolically ask for slightly fewer new troops than his general McChrystal has asked for -- probably somewhere around 35,000. Many estimate that it costs about $1 million dollars per year for each soldier sent, so you can do the math for yourself. My experience is that estimates like these are almost uniformly optimistic. (Remember that the Bush-Cheney hawks told us that the Iraq adventure would virtually pay for itself -- yet it has cost us over $1 trillion.)

And: It ain't gonna work. Look at the previous "surge" in Iraq. Yes, it increased stability somewhat, but Iraq is less stable than it was before we invaded. After a trillion dollars, hundreds of thousands dead and many more crippled and mutilated, the country is worse off in terms of security and infrastructure than under Saddam. This was a heavy price for the people of Iraq to pay, not that they were ever consulted on the matter.

In Afghanistan we have effectively driven out al-Qaeda, but there is still no effective central government to replace the Taliban, who are themselves resurgent, albeit in an altered form. Furthermore, al-Qaeda itself has regrouped in a far more dangerous setting: Pakistan -- a country with nuclear weapons and possibly a lot of nuclear material that is relatively unguarded (see the Wall Street Journal article from last May). In addition, al-Qaeda is currently running terror camps in Somalia, a country that, in effect, has no government, and what is does have is strongly radical Islamist. Then there's Yemen and possibly other countries in north Africa and -- who knows where? Can we invade them all?

This military "strategy" simply can not work, and we can't afford to print enough money to finance it. "Print money" is not an exaggeration: that is how all of these wars are paid for, since it is now forbidden to raise taxes on anyone at any time, even war profiteers. Of course there are the usual isolated "calls" to institute a war tax, but it will never happen: Obama won't push it, the Democrats don't have the votes, and the Republicans will never raise taxes or do anything constructive lest the Democrats be perceived as accomplishing something. So there you have it, a recipe for the further economic decline of the U.S.

Now is the time for new thinking on war and terror, and for bold "outside the box" initiatives. And, that is precisely what we are not getting. We have to remove most of our troops from Afghanistan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia and fight terror through diplomacy, anti-imperialism, real humanitarian aid, and intelligence -- in all meanings of that word. We should start inspecting all incoming container ships and bring our airport security up to the level of the Israelis'.

It is still instructive to skim through the 9/11 Commission Final Report to see how the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 could have been thwarted without invading anyone's country and without the terrible losses that were incurred later. 3000 were killed on 9/11 and many hundreds of thousands were made to pay with their lives for that preventable crime, without achieving one iota of real security. If another attack comes, it will not come from terrorists in Afghanistan; does that make anyone feel secure?

No comments:

Post a Comment