Divide et Impera, Conclusion
Afghanistan is not a nation, much less a nation- state. It is patchwork of hostile ethnicities and regions engaged in endless conflict, alternately lapsing into a cold, or blowing up into a hot, war. It is one Pashtun tribe against another, Pashtun against Uzbeks and Iranians, and Uzbeks against Iranians, old guard corrupt mujahideen against idealistic Taliban, and, overall, Shia against Sunni. I know too little about the place to speak with any more authority than the CIA experts who permitted a Jordani- an triple agent to blow them up, but even that little is more than I wish to know. Returning veterans have said they find our Afghan "allies" as revolting as our enemies, and, from what I can gather, pedophilia and homosexual rape are routine pastimes, like bowling or having a beer with your buddies in the good old U.S.A. One friend told me he went to bed each night and woke up each morning with but one thought: "I don't want to have my legs blown off for these people."
Military men have told me that General McChrystal is an excellent officer, but his job—subduing Afghanistan—is not only impossible: It is not worth the doing. Two misinformed and ignorant American presidents have sent their countrymen to die in the rocks and stones of Kabul, protecting the right of child-molesting warlords to grow the opium that is poisoning the soul of Europe and America. Yes, we shall lose face in withdrawing. This is something that Messrs. Cheney and Rumsfeld might have thought about before going in, something that President Obamas advisors might have considered before beefing up the mis- sion. So far the government admits that our own First Afghan War has cost about $300 billion and 1,000 lives. The whole of Afghanistan is not worth a red cent to the American people, much less the life of one American helicopter pilot. It is time to cut and run.
* * *
That was my conclusion ten years ago, and I made several observations before and after in speeches, Chronicles, and in the Daily Mail. There is really not much more to be said, though I intend to summarize some of my arguments in a forthcoming podcast, as soon as my voice is strong enough.
In a nutshell, US foreign policy since the end of the Second World War, has not been conceived or conducted in the American interest but as a speculative ideological enterprise in which the goals have been hazily described as stopping the spread of Communism, spreading democracy, promoting a revolution for human rights, liberating women, and promoting a New World Order. One might pardon some petty vulgarian in a private's uniform, if he were to ask his sergeant"
"What's in it for me?"
If the United States were to have a concrete objective, such as conquering and ruling North Vietnam, then our military and political leaders could be evaluated on a simple criterion for success: Did we win? But when imbecilic criminals like Eliot Abrams and his stooge Col. Oliver North are allowed to foment civi war in Central America, we can never speak of winning or losing, victory or defeat, only of managing conflict and evolving understanding,
Imagine a sports team or industrial firm managed under such circumstances. Oh yes, if you want to take the low road, we did have some problems in the area of hitting and runs. At the end of the 9th inning, the Yankees were ahead 12 to 3, but we had tightened our infield and the batting coaches have been giving instructions on a new grip, and do not forget that the installation of artificial turf means that when we do start getting hits, the Yankee fielders, if there has been some drizzle, will be more likely to fumble.
When George W. Bush decided to invade Afghanistan, it was supposed to be with the two -fold objective of nabbing Osama bin Laden and getting even for 911. We did not come close to arresting Osama, and if anyone in the Bush administration wanted to punish a national government for fomenting anti-American terrorism, we would have invaded Saudi Arabia, arrested the Bin Laden clan along with the Saudi royal family, shut down their terrorist ideology schools in America, and taught them the price a hostile nation would have to pay for killing Americans, no matter what bribes they were paying to members of Congress and the ruling administration.
As I have been saying for over 50 years, the lessons of Korea and Vietnam are not the lessons they apparently teach at our great service academies. The first lesson is that we do not send American servicemen (and women) into combat unless we have defined and communicated what our objective is. I still don't know why we were in Vietnam, and my friend Admiral Stockdale did not know either.
The second lesson can be summarized in the homely American expression: Fish or Cut Bait. If you are sending Americans into combat, send them into win a war by the normal rules. Don't attempt to confuse the military objectives by imposing political rules. As the Beatles might have sung, "You say you wanna a fight a war, well you know, we don't wanna rule the world." No? Then don't engage in wars of empire if you have no intention of ruling your conquered subjects. If you really don't want to rule the nations you attack for obscure reasons, then leave then the Hell alone.
Anyone who has read any of what I have written on American foreign policy knows I am opposed to imperialism on several grounds, but what some fail to grasp is why I do not oppose with the same fervor the imperialist wars of Rome, France, and Britain. The simple answer is that Rome, France, and Britain were playing to win, and when they did win, their subjects often ended up much better off.
I am not saying I would approve of American imperialism, if we could once get our act together and conquer Mexico and the rest of Latin America--the necessary first step for any American Empire--but that at least we would as citizens would have some idea o what we were fighting for and what victory meant. As it is, we fight only to ravage and spoil whatever good things might be in the possession of Afghans, Iraqis, Serbs, Vietnamese and the countless other victims of our "Fish but don't catch, cut bait but keep casting" strategy.