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2 Weeks Later: Operations Khanjar and Panther's Claw

by Magnifico Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 06:28:03 AM EST

Two large NATO coalition military offensives are underway in Afghanistan. Here is one example of what NATO troops face. The Guardian has what the newspaper is calling the First ever image of IED roadside explosion in Afghanistan.

The photo by Manpreet Romana shows a U.S. Marine running for safety moments after an IED blast. The roadside bomb explosion was photographed in the Garmsir district of Helmand province.

"The huge cloud of smoke and dirt in the picture, taken yesterday in the southern Helmand province, obscures the bodies of two other U.S. marines killed by the improvised explosive device (IED)."

From the diaries by afew


Here's some background to what's currently going on. The Marines are in Afghanistan as part of U.S. President Barack Obama's 21,000 strong "planned troop increase". This is not an escalation or a surge. "A surge suggests that it's temporary," said Capt. Scot Keith, an American.

Since the beginning of July, the U.S. has been conducting Operation Khanjar (Stike of the Sword). The operation begain with 4,000 U.S. Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade deployed in Helmand, a large opium-growing province in southern Afghanistan. Now, according to Reuters, some 10,000 Marines are now part of the military task force.

The Americans are joined by roughly 650 Afghan troops. U.S. military commanders believe there needs to be more Afghan troops involved in the operation.

"I'm not going to sugarcoat it. The fact of the matter is we don't have enough Afghan forces, and I'd like more," said Brigadier General Larry Nicholson, the U.S. Marines commander in southern Afghanistan, earlier this month. "The bottom line answer is, I'd like more, I need more," he said.

Coinciding with Operation Khanjar, Operation "Pather's Claw" is underway in north Afghanistan. It is a similar-sized British-led operation of NATO troops. Less than a week ago, the number of British troops killed in Afghanistan surpassed those killed in Iraq. The casualty rate now in Afghanistan is now as high as any point since the 2001 invasion.

Today, General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the British army, said success in Helmand can only be achieved with more coalition troops. "I don't mind whether the feet in those boots are British, American or Afghan, but we need more to have the persistent effect to give the people [of Helmand] confidence in us," he said.

Since the begining of the military operations, the Marines have pushed deeply into Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan. After now nearly two weeks of fighting a patterns seemed to emerge. The Marines would advance and the Taliban, after engaging in "light skirmishes" would then retreat.

The CS Monitor observed after one week of fighting, as the U.S. troops move into the south, the Taliban strike elsewhere. The troops meet only light resistance, "but Afghan insurgents hit back in other parts of the country." The Taliban seems to be fiercely fighting the British.

Meanwhile the war plan of U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Obama's chosen commander in Afghanistan, isn't going as expected. Instead, McChrystal warns the operation in southern Afghanistan will not end quickly. The "Marines had faced less resistance than expected..., but that British troops just to the north were running into fiercer fighting than anticipated."

McChrystal, also said that he was surprised by the resilience of pockets of Pashtun militants in western and northern Afghanistan, areas that he expected to be relatively calm but that now needed more troops and stronger local governance...

McChrystal said Taliban fighters were starting to fight back, probing with small-scale attacks and improvised explosives.

"They're coming back and nipping at the edges," General McChrystal said... "They're waiting to see what happens."

While McChrystal seems to be somewhat surprised by the Taliban's tactics. When the U.S. operation began, a spokesman for the Taliban said they planned to strike where the coalition forces were at their weakest.

The Taliban is countering with Operation Foladi Jal (Pashtu for "iron net"). "We will not engage them in front battles. We would rather hit them by mines and guerrilla attacks," said Yousuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman.

Which brings me back to Manpreet Romana's photograph above. A key part of the Taliban's defensive is improvised bomb explosions and they are taking a toll on U.S. and other coalition forces. Buried bombs put risk in every step, reports the NY Times. While the IEDs "are less powerful or complex than those used in Iraq, they are becoming more common and more sophisticated with each week, American military officers say."

This year, bomb attacks on coalition troops in Afghanistan have spiked to an all-time high, with 465 in May alone, more than double the number in the same month two years before. At least 46 American troops have been killed by I.E.D.'s this year, putting 2009 on track to set a record in the eight-year war...

With few paved roads, Afghanistan is even more fertile territory for I.E.D.'s. than Iraq, where hard pavement often forced insurgents to leave bombs in the open. Not so in Afghanistan, where it is relatively easy to bury a device in a dirt road and cover the tracks.

Even when I.E.D.'s do not wound or kill troops, the threat restricts and complicates the movements of coalition forces.

The U.S. and coalition operations are hampered by a limited number of helicopters. So most troop maneuvers are done in "mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles known as MRAPs, which are lumbering and hard to maneuver."

Mobility is a problem for the troops. British MPs are publishing a report saying a British helicopter shortage puts troops at risk in Afghanistan and U.S. Marines are now traing to use pack donkeys and mules in Afghanistan.

"Humvees and even helicopters are of limited use in Afghanistan's mountains. There are few roads and the air is thin. But a 1,000-pound mule or 400-pound donkey can easily carry a load one-third its weight -- or more, if necessary."

But despite the precautions and armor, roadside explosions still are deadly. Military officials are warning Americans to be ready for "rising casualties" from Afghanistan. "At the current rate, 2009 would be the deadliest for the U.S. in more than seven years of fighting, surpassing the number killed last year".

According to icasualties.org, a total of 201 troops, 109 of them from the U.S., have died in Afghanistan so far this year. Reuters reports July equals deadliest month of Afghan war. "In the two weeks since U.S. and British troops launched massive assaults, Western troops have died at an average rate of three a day, nearing the tempo of the bloodiest days in Iraq and almost 20 times the rate in Afghanistan from 2001-04."

Afghans are also being killed in bomb attacks. Less than a week ago, 16 children were among the 24 people killed in a huge truck bomb explosion in town in Logar Province. "The truck had overturned several hours before and the children, ages 8 to 12, had stopped on their way to school to watch police officers investigate the crash when the truck exploded".

The military will advise Obama more troops are neeed. it seems only a matter to when. According to an interview he gave to McClatchy Newspapers, McChrystal says he won't pull punches on Afghan proposals. "He won't be deterred by administration statements that he cannot have more U.S. troops."

"If I change my calculus based on what I think economic or political things are, then they are not benefiting from an absolutely untainted recommendation from me," McChrystal said...

"The public can expect and should expect from me to give my best military advice on what I think is required. And I will do that. If I think it requires less forces, I'll say that. If it requires more forces, I'll say that. That's what I think my responsibility is."

With American commanders calling for more Afghan troops already after two weeks of fighting and the head of the British army saying more "boots on the ground" are needed in Afghanistan, I think it is likely McChrystal will recommend to the American president that more troops are needed for the war.

As Helen Thomas writes, Afghanistan now is Obama's war. Thomas sees shades of President Lyndon B. Johnson in Obama's "planned troop increase". She wonders, "Do we ever learn?" And honestly, so do I.

 
Adapted from an essay at Docudharma/Daily Kos.
 

Display:
If there ever was an enemy who should be fought, it is the people who planned, protected, and executed the attacks that killed my friends, and maybe some of yours, in NYC, Washington, Madrid, London, and other places.  I'm sorry, but I don't see any acceptable end to this other than a negotiated piece with the Taliban in which they agree to lay down their arms, end protection of al Qaeda, and commit to participate only non-violently in political affairs.  The only similarity between Vietnam and Afghanistan is that the outcome is uncertain. But that's not a reason for NATO to surrender after its members have been attacked.
by santiago on Thu Jul 16th, 2009 at 11:41:14 AM EST
Is the Taliban of today the same group as the Taliban of 2001? Does the Taliban of today even have the capability to negotiate a surrender? Or are you asking us to commit to an open-ended occupation of a piece of real estate where the locals have about two hundred years' worth of mostly excellent reasons to shoot white people on sight? Sorry, no dice. Pissing away blood, treasure and political capital in a petty quest for revenge is neither strategically nor politically sound.

Now, if it were going to actually make anybody safer in the long run, there might be a point. But it won't. The attacks in New York were carried out using nothing but box cutters and plane tickets. Even if you kill every last Taliban under arms in Afghanistan (which you won't), it will not prevent ten pissed-off crazies from boarding a plane, buying a number of box-cutters in the duty-free, hijacking the plane and flying it into a landmark somewhere. As for the attacks in London, any moderately competent High School student can make stuff go boom using nothing more than commonly available household chemicals.

London, by the way, was not an Al Qaeda operation. And Madrid was never connected to the Afghanistan branch of the franchise.

No, if you really want to save lives, take the money being spent on the Terror "War" and spend it on railways instead: Cars kill more people in a month than terrorists kill in ten years. But that does not make us call a war on cars.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jul 16th, 2009 at 04:14:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All the indications are that the Taliban of today is the same organization, and under the same leadership and mostly the same people, as the Taliban that protected those who attacked us (both Europe and America).  Not only that, but they are continuing to aggressively display coordinated, geographically complex strategies, through mostly violent means, to regain power in the region.  That's evidence of organizational leadership, even if decentralized.  

There have also been indications, noted in media stories over the last few years, most recently in negotiations with Pakistan, that the Taliban are both willing and able to negotiate for terms.  This, coupled with their use and public advocacy of violence, means that military force can be expected to have more success than other strategies of engagement and of encouraging them to lay down their weapons.

Unlike Iraq, there has never been an open-ended commitment to occupation in Afghanistan.  NATO's objectives have been to secure the military defeat of the organizations that attacked us, with a negotiated peace with their leadership being the current goal.  However it ends, this is an either/or scenario of limited engagement.  Either we win, or they do, but at some time in the nearer, rather than further, future, NATO will come home. This really does not have the incrementalist political dynamics of Vietnam at all, nor does it have any fuzzy questions about defining victory or defeat as that conflict did. America has won many uncertain, guerrilla-type conflicts in its past, as well as having lost them, and the US population, unlike Vietnam, remains very supportive of military efforts in Afghanistan. Although NATO might very well lose this conflict, that's not where the smart bet would be today.    

It's true that cars are much more dangerous than terrorists.  But that's not what this is about, is it?  This is about something much deeper in human psycho-social relations. Like Ingmar Bergman's Virgin Spring, this is about getting the bastards who killed our kin and stopping them, at least, from doing it again.  A good Christian would forgive and move on. But how many of us are really that good?

by santiago on Thu Jul 16th, 2009 at 04:59:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Unlike Iraq, there has never been an open-ended commitment to occupation in Afghanistan.  NATO's objectives have been to secure the military defeat of the organizations that attacked us, with a negotiated peace with their leadership being the current goal.  However it ends, this is an either/or scenario of limited engagement.  Either we win, or they do

Would you care to reread what you wrote, and then enlighten us as to what sense it makes?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin

by Crazy Horse on Thu Jul 16th, 2009 at 05:41:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No one (in NATO leadership) is planning for a long-term military presence in Afghanistan after either the Taliban wins, or NATO does. (Although some pundits, mistakenly I believe, are.) This differs entirely from the expectation and planning for a long-term military presence in Vietnam and Iraq.
by santiago on Thu Jul 16th, 2009 at 06:09:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's insane.

Really. It's completely insane. It also assumes that we can ignore Afghani history, which has the unfortunate effect of highlighting just how ineffective imperial war making is in a region where the best you can ever hope for is a stand-off.

The only way NATO could win - even assuming agreement with your framing - would be total occupation of every square inch of the country, followed by a twenty five year program of Westernisation and re-education. The Taleban would have to be herded into camps or murdered to prevent them moving into Pakistan.

There is - quite literally - no other way to win. And anything less is a temporary holding pattern.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 07:27:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately that's not true.  If it were it would be a lot easier for NATO to just forgive its injuries and forget.  But for 200 years the colonial powers and the United States have developed an inglorious history of success as well as failure in wearing down and defeating guerrilla forces. In more recent history, the variable for success has been the support or not of the population of the invading power for the war.  The Taliban know this, and they hope to outlast American anger at 9/11, and because Americans are pretty forgiving, they just might be able to.  But not right now.  Support for killing Taliban and Al Qaeda members is still so high right now in the US that it would be inconceivable, almost traitorous, for a US president to withdraw at this point.  Don't underestimate how hurt people feel about 9/11 and how that image carries with it the capacity for withstanding pain and holding hate that one needs for victory in war.
by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 10:42:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
outlast American anger

Again, what's with this anger stuff? What happened to maturity? The Bush administration is a textbook example of the colossal failure of policy by emo. It's time to grow up and move on.

I tend to be leery of realpolitik but at least it asks the question: what concrete good does it do (us)? Emopolitik doesn't even do that.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 11:05:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
But for 200 years the colonial powers and the United States have developed an inglorious history of success as well as failure in wearing down and defeating guerrilla forces.

This has only worked when there has been total occupation, as in India. And even that was hardly an unqualified success in the longer term.

Elsewhere 'success' has meant a strong government capable of running death squads. This is impossible in Afghanistan. It's a blanket impossibility because Afghanistan isn't a country, it's a patchwork of shifting semi-nomadic alliances with a strong moral code which supports extended family ties through blood feuds.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 03:09:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a blanket impossibility because Afghanistan isn't a country, it's a patchwork of shifting semi-nomadic alliances with a strong moral code which supports extended family ties through blood feuds.

It's like New York without the tubez.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 04:57:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And Congress.

And Wall St.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 06:01:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's assuming they can get into Pakistan and find safe haven.  I'd taken it as a given that they could do so, but with the recent moves by the Pakistani military, and the fact that it seems the Taliban have turned the locals and the general public against them, I'm not so sure they're going to find much stability there.

Last I'd checked, the government was starting to gain a little legitimacy and get a grip on the country, too.  Now whether that lasts -- hell, I don't know.  Maybe it's already gone.  The press reports on Pakistan are rubbish, even more so than they are on everyday stuff.  I didn't even hear about the military taking back Swat and its neighboring districts, let alone amassing forces in preparation to go into Waziristan, until well after it had all happened.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 10:56:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Drew J Jones:
 I didn't even hear about the military taking back Swat and its neighboring districts,

wha?

it's really that bad, the u.s.media lockdown...

here it was all over the different news channels, huge amount of displaced refugees.

i guess beautiful minds don't want to see that stuff.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Jul 24th, 2009 at 06:28:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, I'll buy that the Taliban are sufficiently coherent that we can negotiate a surrender with them and expect most of them to stick with it.

That raises a couple of questions about the nature of that surrender. Going through the terms you suggested in your top-level comment one by one:

Disarmament of the Taliban: Disarmament is always good, so I'll buy that one. But it cannot be one-sided. There is a civil war going on in Afghanistan underneath the NATO operations there. Are we able to negotiate binding agreements on behalf of our local allies? What guarantees can we give the Taliban that they will not be disarmed only to face their own Shabra and Shatila?

Handing over al Qaeda bigwigs: Who are they to hand over al Qaeda members to? It certainly cannot be the US - that would be illegal, since the al Qaeda leaders would face almost certain execution. The International Criminal Court? If we do that, are we going to prosecute NATO war criminals from Afghanistan there as well, or is it (yet again) going to be one law for white people and another law for brown people?

And nobody lives forever, especially not in a war zone. What do we do when they tell us that some of the people on our list are dead, or have escaped their jurisdiction? What if they tell us that they don't know where - say - bin Laden is, that he ran away on them in 2005 and they haven't seen him since? Or that he died of kidney failure in 2006? They're unlikely to keep records that will prove it, and anyway such records could be forged. It's been the next best thing to ten years since 9/11 - even if they had the al Qaeda leadership within their jurisdiction back then, it does not mean that they do today.

Normalising relations with the other Afghan factions: Who're going to be guarantors of that peace? A UN peacekeeping operation like Bosnia or Cyprus? A NATO force? Nobody? Can we convince the other Afghan factions to normalise relations with the Taliban?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 07:39:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The longer a war goes on, the easier it becomes to find agreement on the points you raise.  People do eventually get tired of fighting.  The points you raise are all quite valid complications that have so far prevented an agreement until one or both sides are just too worn out to continue with the madness.  For NATO, as I mentioned in another comment, think El Salvador, where after 12 years of violence the FMLN, for better or for worse, just called it quits and surrendered and were welcomed back into the civil polity. Eventually when enough Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders die or are replaced with new ones, the point of continuing the war fades for both sides and agreements on those complications become politically acceptable to the constituencies of both parties. It's also possible, but not now or in the foreseeable future, that other issues will replace the image of 9/11 in American consciousness and the appetite for killing will dissipate, as it did in Vietnam and more recently in Iraq.  But the fact of getting hit first and having more tangible, limited objectives for military operations puts a lot of strength on the NATO side that did not exist in Iraq and Vietnam.
 
by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 11:00:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How many years did it take to wear down the RUC's and the IRA's will to fight? And how many years did it take from Good Friday until the IRA destroyed their last weapons?

As you yourself point out, this kind of thing takes decades. Twelve years in El Salvador, fifteen in Lebanon, twenty and counting in Somalia, and a comparable number in Sierra Leone.

Going by the best of these cases, we're looking at the better part of half a decade more. How many dead does that amount to?

And for what? If NATO war criminals will not be prosecuted alongside the Afghan war criminals (and if you think they will, I have an investment bank I want to sell you), then what is the point of this exercise? Certainly not justice. Are you going to ask European and American boys and girls to die and kill to satisfy a petty desire for revenge?

Finally, and at the risk of repeating myself, if we are going to be effective in preventing terrorism and bringing terrorists to justice (not to mention the other, more important tasks ahead of us), we have to have the trust of other countries. One of the most important reasons that we currently lack that trust is that we maintain one rule for white, English-speaking people, and another rule for brown people who speak funny.

So catching a bunch of al Qaeda leaders and murdering them in kangaroo kourts, the way we did Saddam Hussein, is very fundamentally not helping.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 12:37:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
RUC was the police.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 12:47:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oops.

What was the Protestant militia called?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 12:51:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
UDA

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 12:59:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's true that cars are much more dangerous than terrorists.  But that's not what this is about, is it?  This is about something much deeper in human psycho-social relations. Like Ingmar Bergman's Virgin Spring, this is about getting the bastards who killed our kin and stopping them, at least, from doing it again.  A good Christian would forgive and move on. But how many of us are really that good?

This is precisely why civilised jurisprudence does not accord the victim of a crime standing in determining the punishment.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 07:42:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
this is about getting the bastards who killed our kin and stopping them

Well; if you believe Juan Cole (and his track record is pretty good, after all):

Informed Comment

In fact there does not seem to be much al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan.

So I guess if you want to go after Al Q it would make more sense to go after Pakistan...

But the larger issue to my mind is that years have passed since 9/11, 7/7, Madrid, etc., and the hot thirst for vengeance has cooled. Why do we still need to get all emo about it? Wouldn't our security, and the well-being of the people living in Afghanistan, both be better served by a rational approach?

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 08:16:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's true that time has passed, and the longer it goes on, the more weary each side gets of war, end eventually one gives up. Which is why this has a necessarily limited time frame. That's the strategy of both sides right now.  For NATO, they look to El Salvador.  After 12 years of war, the FMLN surrendered. If you're the Taliban, trying to hold a base area in Pakistan while plotting your return, the increase in troop strength in Afghanistan and the more aggressive military actions from the Pakistani government cannot look very hopeful to you right now.  
by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 10:25:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well you would think so, but they may well be thinking that all their experience says that when something like this happens, you can melt into the population, or into the hills. and you then let the increased agression and troop strength wear itself out against empty terrain to no good effect.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 10:48:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I note that the FMLN did not control any areas of large-scale narcotics cultivation, so I think other South American analogies would be rather more apt.

Also, the FMLN is currently the majority party in El Salvador. I expect that' a kind of "surrender" the Taliban could live with. ;)

But again that detracts from the main question: is this conflict really in our (or anyone's) best interests? The historical record to date would seem to indicate otherwise (remember it was Western support for anti-Soviet insurgents that got us into this mess in the first place).

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 10:58:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You could same the same then for the FARC in Columbia, which is close to military defeat as well, despite having unlimited access to funds from narcotics as well. (Or the Sendero Luminoso in 1992, which still tops the US state department list of history's deadliest dangerous terrorist organizations.) What brings it to defeat?  It's leaders got old and died or were killed or captured. It's not just money that keeps a war going - it's support for it by various constituencies on both sides that keep it going.  War, like all policies, has an equilibrium that keeps it going, and only a shift in the factors maintaining that equilibrium allow negotiated peace to occur. The strategy for each side is to make the shift happen negatively for the other party before it happens to you.

But having been struck first on 9/11 creates an image in the American population that shouldn't be underestimated when gauging American appetite for suffering more loss and killing others.  Support for the war remains strong in America, fed by anger and hate about 9/11, and that gives NATO a lasting power that America did not have in Vietnam or Iraq.  It's rather the Taliban that are in the same position as the US was in Vietnam -- a war-minded leadership picked a fight that created widespread hate for it among the injured population. That, coupled with resource constraints (no great power support for the Taliban) gives the odds in this war still to NATO.

by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 11:17:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
After 12 years of war, the FMLN surrendered.

You're trying to revise history. After 12 years of war, the FMLN surrendered after a UN-brokered peace deal was negotiated.

You're implying they surrendered because they gave up and that effectively the US won.

This is dishonest and wrong.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 03:15:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
If there ever was an enemy who should be fought, it is the people who planned, protected, and executed the attacks that killed my friends, and maybe some of yours, in NYC, Washington, Madrid, London, and other places.  

You're saying we should invade Saudi Arabia?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 07:19:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That would've been a dumb idea for obvious reasons.  Wholly justifiable, since the Saudis are the ones who funded, and continue to fund, the Sunni nutjobs, but still dumb.

What we should've done after 9/11 was to go to the Saudis and say, "You're going to give us oil dirt cheap, and we're going to tax the shit out of it so that our people and businesses have an incentive to stop using it, and we're going to put all of the money into building and subsidizing independent sources of energy.  And if you try to screw with us, you're dead."

We could've been nearly done with these assholes by now if we'd done that.  Could've built enough batteries to get them a lot closer to sustainability.  Could've subsidized the shit out of them in cars along the lines of the Volt.  Could built a ton of power plants.  Could've put a serious international effort together and helped subsidize efforts to get it done elsewhere.

And, most importantly, we'd be knocking at the door of the day when we could put the message out to bin Laden and his ilk that "Enjoy your the sunshine and poverty.  Hope the Chinese aren't too rough with you.  Buh-bye."

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 09:00:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, I'd point out the idiocy of the allies we've chosen in the region.  Why Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are considered the "good, stable partners," while Iran and Syria are considered the eeeebl trrrrrsts -- despite the fact that both are more aligned with us on the issue of al-Qaeda and Sunni extremism than the House of Saud and Pakistan ever will be -- is completely beyond me.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 09:07:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How are your MilInd vampires going to get their war profits on if there's no need for war?
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 09:20:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
True, but what's to stop them from adjusting in a scenario where we flip sides -- making nice with the Shia while getting the hell away from the Sunnis -- and launching their propaganda on Saudi Arabia, et al?

The MilInd vampires are remarkably good at going after whatever enemy they believe they can create.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 09:25:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
I'm sorry, but I don't see any acceptable end to this other than a negotiated piece with the Taliban in which they agree to lay down their arms, end protection of al Qaeda, and commit to participate only non-violently in political affairs.
The Taleban offered to hand Bin Laden to an international court in 2001 if the US provided evidence of his involvement in 9/11. Bush was obviously not interested.

The Taleban lost control of Afghanistan by the end of 2001 so they are no longer protecting anyone.

Now, forcing them to lay down their arms and engage non-violently in the political process assumes there can be a political process in Afghanistan where the Taliban and the other warlord factions (for that is what out allies the Northern Alliance are) can constitute themselves into political parties. It's not clear that's possible. It wasn't in the early 1970's and things have only gotten worse since.

Iraq was not a failed state in 2003. Afghanistan has been one for the last 35 years.

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 07:35:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Afghan warlords, including those who fight with the Taliban, fight one day, switch sides the next, fight again, and run for office.  That's actually a very good scenario for convincing enemy leaders to give up the Taliban side and engage with other sides in the region. Loyalty is low, which is evidence of a very good odds of obtaining rational, self-interested negotiated settlements.
by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 11:27:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But does that give a good scenario for self-interested negotiated settlemens actually sticking?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 11:30:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have a problem with a negotiated settlement, but I think we make a huge mistake trying to attract such a settlement when our people don't understand the various factions of Afghani and Pakistani political society.  That's been our problem in the Middle East all along.  We made friends with these dysfunctional Sunni royals whose time is going to be up in the not-too-distant future, and the consequence was that we wound up fueling the very people who attacked us, both financially and -- because of the corruption and brutality of the regimes -- politically.

We need to do away with that, set aside the shallow assumptions that have governed our foreign policy in the region, and start over.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 11:36:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]

It just has to stick long enough for NATO forces to get out and the populations of NATO, particularly the US, to feel satisfied for their injuries at the hands of al Qaeda.  The big problem:  It is not in al Qaeda's interest to end the war.
by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 11:51:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So you'd need it to stick for quite a long time, or it would seem like NATO was cutting and running at the first oppertunity. The sooner it all goes badly wrong, the more of a failure you seem.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 12:08:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're looking at the wrong constituency for war.  It's never about the enemy and what he thinks of you -- it's always about your domestic politics.

It only matters what European and American domestic opinion is, not whether anyone else sees NATO as cutting and running at the first opportunity.  We are in this war because popular support demands revenge, and the NATO treaty requires it if NATO is to continue as an entity.  We are not in this war because of what what nobodies (as Kurt Vonnegut referred to people like them) on the South Asian street think about it, even if some of them are the ones who support the Taliban and al Qaeda.

by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 12:36:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No I was arguing about the view from domestic politics, As soon as victory wasn't declared, and then NATO withdrew after six months, with Osamas head on a pike, the only result that can realistically be considered is failure of one form or another. The locals aren't going to become a shining city on the hill through our intervention, and anything else is going to be seen by domestic constituencies as being no better than when you went in.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 12:46:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That all depends on how tired the locals are of the war at the time.  If they're tired, it makes marginal advantage look like a great victory.
by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 01:01:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
We are in this war because popular support demands revenge,

Well, that's your position, presumably on American public opinion, which you claim still strongly supports revenge for 9/11. What makes you sure American opinion hasn't shifted in eight years? Are there consistent polls series that offer evidence one way or another?

and the NATO treaty requires it if NATO is to continue as an entity.

Right from the start after 9/11, NATO invoked Article 5 and claimed that, the US having been attacked, all the treaty signatories considered themselves ready for war alongside America. Washington brushed its NATO allies aside and made it clear Afghanistan would be America's war - and Operation Enduring Freedom was a purely American and non-NATO initiative. It was only two years later, the Bush administration's focus having shifted to Iraq, that NATO was asked in to share the burden, and American pressure for NATO allies to increase commitment has not ceased since. This has little to do with "the NATO treaty requires it", and a lot to do with "Washington requires it when it fits Washington's agenda".

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 01:05:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True, but not quite the right interpretation.  NATO was not exactly brushed aside. (Although the Bush administration was extraordinarily incompetent as imperial diplomats in this respect.) US, UK and Canadian forces participated from the beginning, and forces were finally placed under a NATO command two years later.  But NATO members never saw this as a rejection of their support for the treaty, and they were rather relieved to be called on for only moral support at the beginning given the domestic political difficulties of engaging military forces outside of Europe, even in defense of member states.

Although many here at ET don't see a need for NATO, among the many European policymakers who do, they see little reason for America to continue subsidizing European defense if NATO were to prove inadequate to the task of sticking it out to the end in a relatively low-cost engagement in Afghanistan.

by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 01:43:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hey santiago, don't bogart that joint.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 01:46:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd ask to what extent the US is subsidising European defence? Looking at articles about the so called "Subsidy" it is actually just a disparity between European and American defence budgets, brought about by a lack of worldwide bases.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 02:31:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ask the Rleinlanders whether they believe that America is not subsidizing anything?  The US has attempted, under both Clinton and GW Bush, to close most major American bases in Europe.  European demands are the only thing keeping them open.  Some of it, of course, is really an economic subsidy, and not a defensive one.  But I don't see many arguments in the security policy literature in Europe that indicates that Europe would not have to substantially increase defense spending to replace current US provision of military strength, and that's just in Europe.
by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 04:40:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What enemy do US bases defend Europe against?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 05:07:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At the very least, American bases defend Rheinland wineries from the poverty and bankruptcy which most would face if American officers and their spouses stopped frequenting their establishments.  

But your question is precisely the one that American security literature has been asking since 1990. One argument that I find reasonably compelling, is that American bases provide a kind of paternal glue which allows Europeans to identify themselves as Europeans instead of as various nationalist entities competing, possibly violently, for power with one another. America becomes the "other" by which Europeans find their own continental identity which allows cross-national forms of governance such as the EU to develop.

American defense policymakers are of two dominant minds on the issue: One says that withdrawal from Europe forces Europe to develop military capabilities which will increase European political clout in the world at the expense of America's.  The other says Europe will realize that it doesn't need a big army after all and won't develop such clout, which will benefit America by allowing it to focus its defense resources on people who might actually attack her, rather than just berate her. The second mind was that of the first Bush administration who tried to retool NATO into an imperial intervention force to keep oil under control in the Middle East (the New World Order).    

by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 06:15:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At the very least, American bases defend Rheinland wineries from the poverty and bankruptcy which most would face if American officers and their spouses stopped frequenting their establishments.
Funny! the Rhineland is, as I'm sure you're aware, the heart of the west European steel and coal heavy industry. As the mines have shut down, this has brought economic hardship throughout, into which a handful of GIs buying Riesling and Pilsener in the Rammstein area don't make a dent.

Don't confuse microlocal politics with strategic interests, especially when the whole hoopla about Rumsfeld shutting down American bases occurred around an election campaign. Think of a local issue in Dallas temporarily taking national importance.

Here's the truth: American bases are not needed, nor wanted in Germany, a few shopkeepers notwithstanding. This popular sentiment is summarized by the widely used slogan "Ami go home!".

--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

by martingale on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 07:59:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I am well aware of the local politics around Rhine area bases. But the facts really are that Americans have attempted to leave the area more than once since 1990 and because of both local merchant interests (including lobbying in Washington) and the intervention of European security elites (for lack of a better word to describe them), planned base closures were halted. Whatever people say on the street about American soldiers occupying the area (and, truly, most of what is said is not at all hostile), the political structure in Europe keeps them there.
by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 09:07:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, but you were arguing economics. There is no credible argument about jobs and investment in the local economy that can be made. If you've ever visited a US military base abroad, you'll know that they bring everything with them (and take everything away when they leave...). A base like Rammstein is an enclave, a miniature reconstruction of America from the airwaves down to the plumbing. Even if they wanted to use local German materials, they couldn't due to metric/imperial standards incompatibilities. I suspect they fly in the sand to make cement...

--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$
by martingale on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 09:54:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was just being flippant about the wineries and the economic development arguments for NATO.

But the reality is that bases really do add an enormous amount to local economies.  I forget the multiplier the German localities calculated for the bases around Ramstein, but it was actually very high and their closure would have led to hundreds of thousands being displaced from jobs, which corresponded pretty closely to the experience of southern California during the massive base closures there in the 1990's.  They bring in less, and are more dependent upon local resources, than you'd think.

by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 11:10:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A military base (especially a major one) certainly generates a lot of ancillary activity, but I think you're reaching too far in arguing that this is of huge local benefit. The needs of US military bases are served primarily by multinationals, which may well set up a local presence as required. That's the extent of local development, and it is mitigated by Germany's first class transport network. If you take the town of Kaiserslautern, which hosts the Rammstein base, it's tiny. After 50 years of US occupation of the area, it hasn't developed anywhere near the kind of size one might expect if there was serious amounts of money and people flowing into it. Probably the biggest focus of the place is its university.

As to your claims of commercial lobbying in Washington, I wonder if those are American companies and international conglomerates, who are at serious risk of losing their juicy contracts whenever a base closes? I certainly can't imagine the State of Rheinland-Pfalz or even the city of Kaiserslautern sending lobbyists to the US.

--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

by martingale on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 11:57:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A few points of small consequence.

Even if they wanted to use local German materials, they couldn't due to metric/imperial standards incompatibilities.

There's a good reason everyone in the US must have both metric and standard tools.  Most everything we've bought for some time has come in metric from automobiles and bicycles to computers.

Even during the 70s when I lived in Europe (the UK), we used a lot of local materials and labor on US subleased bases (from the RAF) and Americans loved the European food, wines, beer, and whiskey (particularly Scotch).  I bought most of my clothes in London or nearby towns, bought British and German made cars (insane to drive a left hand steered vehicle on UK roads - thought I drove both types), dined in local restaurants, drank in local pubs, and attended some educational classes at local schools.  Our on-base housing (many did not live on base) was constructed to British standards and I am pretty sure all the materials were procured locally, yes even the plumbing, constructed using British labor and maintained by British labor.  When the base closed some years later, it left a very new commissary building left behind), and the all brick housing was top notch.

I can't speak about the subleased bases in Germany or other European countries, but I believe all those in the UK generally fit this mold because at one time or another I visited most of them.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 01:16:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, in the last paragraph, I didn't intend to say subleased bases in other countries - this only applies to the UK as far as I am aware.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 01:19:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But a lot of those pieces of policy literature are written purely to justify further military spending, either by arguing that Europe isnt spending enough, so europe must spend more, or Europe isnt spending enough so the US needs to spend more. It's advertising through circular argument. Does money put into European economies provide anything more than a small indirect subsidy that barely starts to counterbalance the money spent on quantities of Military equipment brought from US defence contractors?

What are  the threats that Europe would need more military strength to defend against? Historically the main people Europeans need to defend against are other Europeans, and that isnt really a requirement anymore.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 05:32:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, they are.  But that's who's calling the shots.
by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 06:02:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 06:11:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The people who write that literature are consultants to those who call the shots on defense policy.

Here's a response to your other question/comment.

by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 06:21:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
the Bush administration was extraordinarily incompetent

To the point of rebuffing NATO allies, especially non-English-speaking ones. And Enduring Freedom was, as I said, an American operation (with small auxiliary forces on the side).

santiago:

forces were finally placed under a NATO command two years later

That's a strained interpretation - as if Washington wanted NATO in there all along. There was no will on America's part to invite NATO into Afghanistan until the focus was on Iraq.

santiago:

the domestic political difficulties of engaging military forces outside of Europe

In the days following 9/11, that was simply not true.

santiago:

among the many European policymakers who do, they see little reason for America to continue subsidizing European defense

Who are these people and what do you know about them?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 05:05:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
NATO itself is an American operation, so it is a distinction without a difference in Afghanistan.  What is relevant is the Bush administration's complete ineptitude to gather European and world support around a common policy to defeat a specific threat to nation states and the international order.  (This is evidence, however, that the American right, as neo-isolationists, don't really believe that the US is an empire and that it needs to engage the rest of the world as constituencies instead of as competing powers.  Obama, on the other hand, believes America is an empire with global governance responsibilities which require inclusion of other national interests within an American polity.)

But NATO's vote of confidence and commitment was appreciated, if wasted.  It was the institutional bias and even legal obstacles preventing particularly the much needed German forces to operate outside of Europe, rather than popular sentiment, that provided the domestic political obstacles.  Remember, as corporatist social democracies, European states are much less sensitive to the immediate sensibilities of popular sentiment and much more sensitive to institutional interests, such as the military and political parties in the 9/11 case.

Here's a sampling of recent sources for what little I know of the different perspectives of European policymakers' on EU versus NATO sponsorship of defense -- taken from book reviews of these works (they're not page-turners, sorry to say, so if you read them and find something to contradict me, let me know):

A lot has been written both in European and American academic literature around the topic of NATO and increasing European defense responsibilities. The issue is basically this: America sees little need to protect Europe itself anymore (from whom?), and it wants NATO, since Bush I, to retool and refocus itself be an activist force for Atlantic interests in the middle east and south asia.  Absent that, America says it needs to focus on Asia and the Middle East and wants to leave Europe.  The European response has been to beg America to stay, and it puts up token military support when required, and substantial diplomatic clout, in aid of hard deployments in Asia and the Middle East.  The only explanation is that Europe perceives some necessary benefit from American participation in NATO that it would either have to replace or would have to suffer without.  

by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 05:57:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
 The European response has been to beg America to stay,

Huh? Where?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 06:05:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The issue is basically this: America sees little need to protect Europe itself anymore (from whom?), and it wants NATO, since Bush I, to retool and refocus itself be an activist force for Atlantic interests in the middle east and south asia.
Has anyone told the European atlanticists who keep saying that Europe needs the US to defend it through NATO?

By "Atlantic" interests you mean "US American", right?

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 06:09:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
Loyalty is low
Except along ethnic lines, which can be quickly reasserted in times of crisis.

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 11:48:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It doesn't really matter for NATO's purposes if they go back to fighting the day we leave. (Remember, rhetoric aside, this war really isn't about security -- it's about revenge for 9/11, London, and Madrid.)  And even ethnic loyalty is surprising low as far as the leading warlords are concerned -- just like in political parties in democratic Europe or America, a leader's biggest enemies/rivals are those vying with him for leadership within his own clan.
by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 11:57:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
this war really isn't about security -- it's about revenge for 9/11, London, and Madrid
Please keep Madrid our of your vengeful Atlanticism, thank you very much.

Also, London (like Madrid) took place well after the Taliban had been driven out of Afghanistan and the bombing had shifter to Iraq. The London and Madrid bombings did not come out of Afghanistan and were not retaliation for the 2001 invasion of it, anyway.

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 12:00:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And London for that matter.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 12:02:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Atlanticism is weird like that. You convince yourself that you're in Afghanistan to prevent it from becoming a terrorist safe haven, and the next thing you know you're reversing the arrow of time.

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 12:07:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
NATO did not go into Afghanistan to prevent it from being a terrorist safe haven. NATO went to Afghanistan in retaliation for one of it's members being attacked by elements from that country who enjoyed the protection of the ruling group there.  It is a retaliatory war, which is the primary function of NATO's existence -- if one member is attacked, all members will kill the perpetrator.  It is a deterrence treaty, which means that if the war was not prosecuted, the alliance would be meaningless.  NATO is in Afghanistan fighting for its own existence.

Attacks in London and Madrid were came after, but they fueled popular support for continued action in Afghanistan within Europe, making those countries victims of the same enemy where they might have lost their nerve, which was likely what al Qaeda was hoping for since al Qaeda, like most people with guns but little else, gain power and relevance when war is going on.

by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 12:30:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well arguing that it is The same enemy is a bit of a reach.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 12:47:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The NATO angle only holds if you consider 9/11 a military attack.

Why was 9/11 a military attack when the Oklahoma bombing wasn't? Or the Unabomber? Or the 1995 WTC bombing? Or the IRA bombs in London during the Troubles?

No, we're in this war because Cheney and his trained monkey wanted a war. And while they would have preferred Iraq, they didn't have time to gear the propaganda up for that while the belligerent revanchism was still hot. So they decided to love the war they could get, if they couldn't get the war they loved. (Of course, once belligerent jingoism was the political currency of the day, selling the adventure in Iraq became a lot easier...)

And I'm still not seeing what we're supposed to get there? Revenge does not strike me as a valid policy objective.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 12:49:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But NATO did hold it as a military attack and voted unanimously to invoke the mutual defense charter authorizing military operations.

Whatever Cheney's obvious faults, he did not plan 9/11 (and, if anything, it was a distraction to his plans because there is absolutely nothing of economic value in Afghanistan to fight about).  The policy objectives are not why we're there, and it's somewhat naive to talk about them as if they were.  We're there because those are the people responsible for 9/11 (as well as millions of people completely innocent of 9/11 which are conveniently forgotten), and subsequently for London and Madrid.  Even Cheney knew it made no strategic sense, which is why he diverted forces to Iraq which fit into a plan. But it was required because of much more basic domestic political needs to address the claims for justice of the American population. That's how democracies end up in bigger wars than might otherwise be warranted. In the US, even the flakiest, most pacifistic liberal (in most people's minds) in Congress, Dennis Kucinich, voted to invade Afghanistan, which gives an idea of how deep the anger was over this.  And as all politicians know, nothing builds power for collective action like deeply felt anger.

by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 09:23:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
It is a retaliatory war

It's only a retaliatory war in a propaganda sense of blowing shit up to prove that no one screws with the US.

9/11 -> therefore blowing shit up to restore machismo and prestige.

And in that sense - how much retaliation is enough? When do you get your fix of vengeful emo and go home, having convinced everyone that honour and integrity have been fully restored?

Especially considering that you're attacking a country with no direct links to 9/11 - and deliberately fumbling opportunities to capture Public Enemy Number 1.

Asia Times Online :: South Asia news, business and economy from India and Pakistan

Had the Bush administration's priority been to capture or kill the al-Qaeda leadership, it would have deployed the necessary ground troops and airlift resources in the theater over a period of months before the offensive in Afghanistan began.

"You could have moved American troops along the Pakistani border before you went into Afghanistan," said Lamm. But that would have meant waiting until spring 2002 to take the offensive against the Taliban, according to Lamm.

The views of Bush's key advisers, however, ruled out any such plan from the start. During the summer of 2001 Rumsfeld refused to develop contingency plans for military action against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, despite a National Security Presidential Directive that called for such planning, according to the 9-11 Commission report.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 03:32:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know. I certainly think its been sufficient already, but very few others do.  (Obama's winning campaign message on national security was that Bush was fighting the wrong war, not that war was the wrong idea.)

But deterrence only works if it's credible, and NATO would not have a lot of credibility if the most egregious attack against the center of Atlantic strength was not sufficiently avenged, would it?

It's not about the rationality of eliminating threats to public safety.  It's about the credibility of power itself that was challenged on 9/11. That's why it is a great mistake to try to categorize the Afghan war in the same group as other neo-colonialist conflicts.  This war captures the heart of the injured population, much as did the bombing of London and Pearl Harbor.  The common people are still out for blood, and troops are not likely to called home until the home population tires of the war or can be convinced by their leaders that they've been sufficiently avenged.  

by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 04:48:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
NATO would not have a lot of credibility if the most egregious attack against the center of Atlantic strength was not sufficiently avenged, would it?

This is a bullshit argument, as I have pointed out above. NATO's invocation of Article V of the Washington Treaty was unwelcome to the Bush administration, and NATO was only brought in later, when that administration wanted to switch its thrust to Iraq. So what credibility would you say NATO had, in the aftermath of 9/11, and how much would you say the US showed it cared about that credibility?

If the war in Afghanistan is about retaliation, it is about American retaliation. And how much are Americans really in tune with revenge today - and on whom?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 05:16:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, it was not unwelcome in the Bush administration. It was used with great effect to secure domestic support for any kind of military action the administration could dream up: "Look, the whole world is with us," is what they used it for, as well as to move troops freely through the air, land, and water space of European countries, which is the critical logistical veto that Europeans have over American forces dependent upon European bases.  

Yes, it is about American retaliation, and I can attest, having traveled to NYC often in the last year (a place not known for it's knee-jerk conservatism), that if there is one thing that most liberals, progressives, and even some socialists agree with conservatives about, its that getting the Taliban in South Asia is a good war, just like getting the Nazis was a few generations ago.  Will it begin to wear thin?  Of course it will. Especially if there are enough failures, frustrations, and defeats, which is why the Taliban are picking the right strategy still to fight it out, if morality has nothing to do with this.  But America's holding power in this is going to be a lot more than it was in Vietnam, to say nothing of the snow job people felt in Iraq, and at this point I don't think the Taliban's allies among local warlords is going to hold out as long as American anger does.

Terrorism works, not because it scares people away, but because it makes them want to fight.  And when fighting happens, people surrender their power to the ones holding the guns, whoever they are.  Al Qaeda gains power as long as there is a war, but so do military elites of America and Europe, and that provides a policy equilibrium in favor of war that is difficult to break out of. (For some background on how policy equilibriums work, the literature on ACF, or advocacy coalition framework, is the state of art in that area right now.)

by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 09:42:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Terrorism "makes people want to fight", and you have anecdotal evidence that Americans still want revenge today. Yet you claim the Bush administration found NATO's response useful in the immediate aftermath of 9/11:

santiago:

It was used with great effect to secure domestic support

which, presumably therefore, was lacking?

I don't see any point in continuing this discussion.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 02:41:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
afew:
and on whom?

 harassed civilians wedding parties, mostly.

next question?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Jul 24th, 2009 at 06:42:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From the attacks we know of, it would appear that Al-Quaida is a radical dating agency.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Jul 24th, 2009 at 06:48:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
roflmao

well who knows, next thing they'll want gay marriage!

which will be the only kind available to them, when they've finished brutalising womens' lives.

it's pro-active, natch.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Jul 24th, 2009 at 09:41:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Conveniently omitting that this call for blood was deliberately drummed up by the state press and the official opinion-mongers.

It was Cheney and his trained monkey (and their friends on CNN and Fux) that elevated this to a question of NATO's power to strike back against an attack. There was no compelling need to do that. It could have been allowed to pass from public memory the same way the Lockerbie bombing was allowed to pass from public memory. They deliberately decided not to allow it to do so.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 05:21:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
a different leadership in place on 9/11 could have guided a much more humane and rational response, and have better secured the powerlessness of Al Qaeda.  But's that just not how it happened, and we are where we are today -- in an equilibrium that requires war. No political leader can break out of it on his own without giving up his groups' own hold on power.  (President Jimmy Carter was the last America leader to take that path, and he is still much maligned in history, even among many progressives, for it.)
by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 09:46:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
However (and this has been my central disagreement with your quasi-deterministic view of social institutions throughout) by stating boldly and bluntly that Americans felt a need for revenge, and only conceding in a comment in the small print on the bottom of the page that this need for revenge was mostly manufactured, you help to perpetuate this feeling of vengefulness. Simply pointing out that their desire for revenge is largely manufactured would do much to call the legitimacy of this response into question, and hence erode social support for this feeling.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 12:08:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and how much of that hate and lust for revenge was deliberately whipped up by the Fawning Corporate Media?

imo, to cover up (aka drown) the growing public awareness that there was probable cause for the effect of 9-11, it didn't happen in a vacuum, or because they envied our freedoms to get fat and watch porn.

we didn't think it ok for the nazis to kill whole villages for protecting a few partisans, why is this different?

as for no economic reason for invading afghanistan, don't forget the illegal drugs market, worth billions to mafias who then prop up the potemkin western economies, laundering illegal, untaxed profits.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Jul 24th, 2009 at 06:50:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
But deterrence only works if it's credible

And this 'credible' deterrence prevented 9/11? And - by your argument - also prevented London, Madrid, Bali, etc?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 06:08:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Like most things in life, outcomes are not either/or, but probabilities over a distribution.  (Which is why mutually assured destruction was such a problematic strategy for something so fatal.) Even if it fails, it is reasonable, as a strategy, to presume that following up as promised when it fails will improve or maintain the expected benefit of a deterrent strategy.
by santiago on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 10:28:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So it should have worked, and would have worked if it hadn't failed?
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 10:32:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, it works most of the time, and will probably continue to do so if people can see that the alliance actually delivers on its commitments to its members.
by santiago on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 10:50:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure how 9/11 counts as proof that it 'works most of the time', especially if it's then used to justify a vengeance war to guarantee that it continues to 'work.'

The reality is that Al Qaeda, such as it is, which isn't much, has been planning epic stunts for at least a decade before 9/11. Including a plot to bomb the Twin Towers.

What 'works' is good intelligence and effective policing to prevent practical action. So-called deterrence and proud NATO solidarity have had no observable positive effect at all on strategy or tactics.

The only observable effect has been negative - an influx of radicalised supporters who would never had become involved if the US hadn't taken to bombing their relatives' wedding parties.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 10:59:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What 'works' is good intelligence and effective policing to prevent practical action.

Which is, unfortunately, exactly the capability we don't have.  The FBI can't even tell the difference between an Arab and a Mexican, and the CIA hasn't the slightest idea what's going on in the Middle East.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 11:47:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What's proof that it works most of the time is that there has not been a major war between Atlantic powers since NATO was formed.  That's proof that NATO is still necessary, however.
by santiago on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 06:09:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Who are "Atlantic powers"? And since when was NATOs purpose to stop war between them?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sun Jul 19th, 2009 at 05:38:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You keep rewriting history.
NATO did not go into Afghanistan to prevent it from being a terrorist safe haven. NATO went to Afghanistan in retaliation for one of it's members being attacked by elements from that country who enjoyed the protection of the ruling group there.
Actually, NATO did not go into Afghanistan. NATO invoked Ch.5 of the treaty, a pretty extraordinary thing in itself, but the US rebuffed offers for help - big macho countries don't need help to beat the crap out of a backwater - so the invasion of Afghanistan was a US/UK operation. The US didn't want to be bogged down by having to agree with allies on rules of engagement and the like. UNSC authorisation for military action only came 2 months after the US/UK operation had been under way.
Attacks in London and Madrid were came after, but they fueled popular support for continued action in Afghanistan within Europe
we must be in touch with different "people within Europe".

Also, London and Madrid were about Iraq, and did not fuel any popular support for continued presence in Iraq.

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 05:47:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wikipedia:
Command of the ISAF passed to NATO on August 11, 2003.
because Anglo-american attention was needed elsewhere.

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 05:53:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it should be noted that even after 2003 lots of US troops in Afghanistan are non-ISAF, that is not subject to the NATO command.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sun Jul 19th, 2009 at 05:42:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Please keep Madrid our of your vengeful Atlanticism, thank you very much.

Do you speak for all Spaniards?

The London and Madrid bombings did not come out of Afghanistan and were not retaliation for the 2001 invasion of it, anyway.

Perhaps true, but then what were they about?

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 01:28:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fair points.

On the first, I'm going to have to find some opinion polls, but vengeful atlanticism is not a very widespread political position in Spain. And the March 11 bombings did not increase public support for intervention in either Afghanistan or Iraq. Where none of the people involved in the plot were from, anyway.

Also, Spanish vengeful atlanticists such as there are (like Aznar) will both agree that 1) the bombings strengthen their resolve to take part in the Iraq and Afghanistan misadventures; 2) ETA and not AQ is responsible for the bombings. But they don't say these things at the same time. They say 1) among themselves and 2) when talking to the general Spanish public (it doesn't fly either).

On the second, they were about the foreign policy mistake committed by Aznar and Blair by supporting Bush. But they were both cases of homegrown terrorism, unlike 9/11 which involved commandos of foreigners.

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 02:56:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not just revenge. Think of the women.

HOWARD DEAN: Look, again, you know--and I don't have to say anything nice; I'm not in the administration. But I'm with Obama on his conduct of the war. I always said, when I was running against the Iraq war, that Afghanistan was different.

Let me tell you what the stakes are now. And what I find incredibly refreshing about this president is he uttered words that Lyndon Johnson never said, which is that we cannot win this war militarily. He knows that from the get-go. Here's what's at stake. It's not just the Taliban. I think we could probably control the Taliban and the al-Qaeda in the Northwest territories by doing some of the things we're already doing--drones and air power and so forth. Roughly 50 percent of the Afghan people are women. They will be condemned to conditions which are very much like slavery and serfdom in a twelfth century model of society where they have no rights whatsoever. So, I'm not saying we have to invade every country that doesn't treat women as equal, but we're there now. We have a responsibility. And if we leave, women will experience the most extraordinary depredations of any population on the face of the earth. I think we have some obligation to try and see if we can make this work, not just for America and our security interests, but for the sake of women in Afghanistan and all around the globe. Is this acceptable to treat women like this? I think not.

AMY GOODMAN: We just interviewed an Afghan parliamentarian, Dr. Wardak. She said the opposite. She said, yes, she agrees with you on the way women are treated, but that this is worsening the treatment, that the increased number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan, the huge number of troops that are coming in right now, are alienating the Afghan population.

HOWARD DEAN: Well, that--and that is the clear challenge for this president and for the generals who are over there, is can they stop that? Because if they don't, we'll be out of there much faster than we ought to be, and we will be leaving behind 50 percent of a population who are going to experience horrendous depredations and set back the cause of women's equality around the world by decades.



Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 07:59:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's still the revenge.  But revenge is evil in liberal discourse, so we lie to ourselves about it.  Does anyone really believe its about women, or about rational security policy, or anything else?  That's why a dose of critical theory is helpful for policy analysis here. What about women in other countries in just as dire conditions?
by santiago on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 09:50:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You see. Retribution --revenge-- so conceived to bear any relation to the peoples or state(s) of Afghanistan is a lie, a series of patent lies.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 08:29:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
very good odds of obtaining rational, self-interested negotiated settlements
After 35 years of civil wars a fair estimate of the odds might be rather low...

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 11:50:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
silly...what part of 'stay the course' don't you understand?

wars of attrition always work in afghanistan, everyone knows that.

we have watches, they have time, and we have dwindling capital to waste on war.

blowback is a bitch, shouldn't have built up these women-hating bastards.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Jul 24th, 2009 at 06:57:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Taleban offered to hand Bin Laden to an international court in 2001 if the US provided evidence of his involvement in 9/11. Bush was obviously not interested.
Wikipedia:
October 14, 2001, seven days into the U.S./British bombing campaign, the Taliban offered to surrender Osama bin Laden to a third country for trial, if the bombing halted and they were shown evidence of his involvement in the September 11 terrorist attacks. This offer was also rejected by U.S. President Bush, who declared "There's no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he's guilty."
Like all those other people the US knows have been imprisoned in Guantanamo for 8 years for no reason but will now not be released even if there are no charges against them?

I mean, if you know someone is guilty, why can't you produce the evidence? What's the risk? That only "girly men" dole out justice according to civilised rules and due process?

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 05:51:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
but will now not be released even if there are no charges against them?

Actually, word leaked, I think, last week that they're not going to hold any of them indefinitely if they don't have the evidence to put them on trial.  One of the NBC guys got it (probably Andrea Mitchell or Pete Williams), if I'm not mistaken.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 11:43:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, word was leaked...

There. Fixed it for ya.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 12:20:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's a relief, honest.

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 02:43:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, yeah.  Obviously not saying it'll come down that way.  Just saying.

As you know, we're having a fight about it here, because Obama signed that executive order, but Congress is trying to block him from bringing the detainees here.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 08:05:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Neither the countries, nor the military, nor Nato.  Haven't learned diddly in 8 years and now they call it 'changing circumstances on the ground' to demand another escalation by pulling their rank.  If they had learned anything they would have anticipated the changes.  

It's more arms production, more opium, more war, more death, more devastation and all BS.  It's time the militaries design the best pull-out plan there ever was, but that's beyond their bubble, just like politicians are Walled in and can't see the end of their noses economically.  

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Thu Jul 16th, 2009 at 02:36:04 PM EST
Why should the military pull out? What has the military really suffered in 8 years? Realistically, the Iraq and Afghan adventures have been cheap, and excellent training for the troops, and moreover they're great PR for the military, since the population insists on supporting them. The number of US lives lost (the only metric of importance for such a decision) is pitifully small compared with the great wars of the last century, and there is no material damage to America's population to speak of, as a result of these adventures.



--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

by martingale on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 07:03:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I love the smell of great wars of the last century in the morning.

But I have to disagree with the 'no material damage' part. I wanted a nickel cigar the other day and there was just none to be found. Things like that can cause great damage to even the most dirigible societies.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 11:45:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - 2 Weeks Later: Operations Khanjar and Panther's Claw
This is not an escalation or a surge. "A surge suggests that it's temporary," said Capt. Scot Keith, an American.
But an escalation is also not temporary, or...?

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 06:32:00 AM EST
By that standard Vietnam was only temporary as well...

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 08:18:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...have fallen by the wayside here.  Notice that the diarist is relatively quiet?

Let's let this commenter who so values revenge have the last word.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 05:27:17 PM EST
Because of the Petition, the sleeper cells have awoken. Please do not feed the...

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 08:37:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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