Afghanistan and Imperial Wars — How to Achieve Success with Failure

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(now cross posted at DailyKos)

The ongoing war in Afghanistan-it can now be thought of as perpetual and unending is more important than a lot of people seem to think. It is not just a far-away semi-colonial war but part of an ongoing struggle for control of Central Asia and the Middle East by the imperial forces of NATO.

It has to be very clear than despite the fact that Europeans are somewhat reluctant partners in this enterprise they are, nevertheless partners and part of essential parts of the Empire. Europeans, like Americans, like their priviledged position in the world. They are a little less bloodthirsty than we are-it is a less essential part of their cultural life. In America violence is loved for its own sake. In Europe it is merely a sometimes necessary component of asserting interests. That’s the only realistic difference between Europe and the United States. The notion that Europeans are more “progressive” than Americans in foreign policy is just not true. Europeans sees the United States as the military arm of the Empire required to insure that world security is maintained particularly energy security. Europeans like the fact the United States provides them with security and are quite willing to accede to the brutality of the the American military in keeping the wogs in check-a brutality that they have far more knowledge of than the American people do. I generalize here because in Europe a large segment of the left is notably against militarism still unlike here.

Having said that the war itself shows us some interesting patterns. As reported in the NYT, the great show “battle” has not really had any real results. The article Violence Helps Taliban Undo Afghan Gains is worth reading but you and I both know what it says and probably knew even before the “battle” happened what the results would be as do all non-compromised journalists and observers of the situation. This and many other stories of the recent war in Afghanistan often buried on the back pages of the NYT tell a tale of woe almost unbelievable in its pathos.  

The article starts with

Since their offensive here in February, the Marines have flooded Marja with hundreds of thousands of dollars a week. The tactic aims to win over wary residents by paying them compensation for property damage or putting to work men who would otherwise look to the Taliban for support.

Ok, bribery “worked” in Iraq so it will work in Afghanistan I think is the idea. First of all, the two areas of the world are very different culturally all Islamic societies are not the same. Afghanistan has a long tradition of being a warrior society, unlike Iraq which was always a highly civilized and commercially based society usually living in peace under one empire or another. It has only been in recent years that Iraq became a battleground due to oil. Bribery will not have the same effect in Afghanistan as it does in Iraq.

The article goes on to say that, in fact, the Taliban are much like other members of the community and, in fact, are perfectly happy to accept the payments provided by the Americans so they can buy more weapons. There follows a litany of attempts to make friends with the locals and the response of the Taliban has been to increase violence and beatings of the locals who cooperate. As has been reported often in this war once the American military leaves the Taliban return. And the cycle starts again.

Even when given a chance the Afghani government is corrupt like every other client state and acts exactly like, for example, the American client gov’t in South Vietnam. The police are corrupt and loot the localities the Americans conquer as in this article After Push in Marja, Marines Try to Win Trust some quotes:

But the bad reputation of the Afghan police forces, in particular, along with the spotty performance of Afghan forces in Marja, suggest that the work and the spending of billions of American dollars to date had not achieved anything like the desired effects.

The Afghan soldiers who accompanied Company C, he said, had looted the 84-booth Semitay Bazaar immediately after the Marines swept through and secured it. Then the Afghan soldiers refused to stand post in defensive bunkers, or to fill sandbags as the Americans, sometimes under fire, hardened their joint outpost. Instead, they spent much of their time walking in the bazaar, smoking hashish.

Just like the South Vietnamese military. So what? Well, I’ll tell you so what. Do you imagine that this was not known beforehand by all concerned? As I mentioned above, everyone from the military to intel to the policy makers in Washington knew/know that this will always be the result. “Nation building” was rightly criticized by Pres. candidate George Bush in 2000. It does not and cannot work as Americans practice it. Could it work? Yes, it could, after a fashion as long as you dispensed with the fiction of that Afghanistan is a sovereign government and just make it an American colony staffed entirely by U.S. civil servants, judges and so on. But as it is it cannot work in Afghanistan and everybody knows it except the marks.

So what is the point of the war? The point is to have a massive and permanent U.S. military presence in the area to act as a constraint on the rising power of China and India as well as finish the ring of military forces around Iran. Just as Iraq was taken in order to make sure that the U.S. had veto power over Middle Eastern oil for, again, the rising power of China and India. That hold over Middle Eastern oil is what motivates the Chinese not to rock the boat to much and keep propping up the dollar. The recent wars have nothing whatever to do with Islamic militants and their desire to destroy the rich. That is sheer fiction created and abetted by the western intel community particularly British and Israeli intel along with Egyptian, Saudi, Israeli, Pakistani, Turkish with a solid backing of various organized-crime syndicates–here’s one place to check some of this out. You can do your own research based on the link I just provided. This is very logical and known in foreign policy circles at the time–Islamic fundamentalism was seen as a great counter to the rise of socialism in the middle east particularly in Egypt, Syria and Iraq. The bankers that made up the early CIA knew very well that socialism was a formidable enemy and the fundamentalist would never be a real enemy. In fact, in my view, still are not a real enemy but rather stooges used by intel services to bring fear to the ignorant masses in the west, particularly in the United States, that most fearful of all societies where courage and honor seems to have taken a hike somewhere down the line. Whatever our faults as a people it has only been within my lifetime that I’ve seen cowardice and dishonor both become virtues–and I say this is true on all sides: left, right and center.

I’ll sum up my view of modern imperial wars:

First they are lies from start to finish. “Battles” are fought like show trials with several audiences: domestic, to instill confidence in our military might (and a few erections in the hinterlands), and foreign, to inspire fear and dread or shock and awe, i.e. pure terrorism.

Second, they are always strictly geo-political and strategic in their mission–as I indicated they are meant to block access so that tolls can be extracted to some vital strategic materials, mainly energy. BTW, this is why the U.S. is so solidly opposed to alternative energy.

Third, they exist, in part, to keep the military in fighting trim and the military-industrial complex in lavish wealth since it is an important component of the imperial oligharchy along with the FIRE sector and big medicine.

The stated goals and instigations, as I’ve alluded to are all bullshit without any and I mean any justification.


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    • banger on April 26, 2010 at 21:19

    For this scam.

    Imperialism is not new to the U.S. It is an essential part of our culture. Do not blame the oligarchs. We want this situation. We cannot stop our imperial aspirations they run very deep and reflect not just an American Dream but the dreams and hopes of European civilization that has hoped for a new Rome since the Dark Ages. We are the new Rome.

    First we need to accept this fact–then we can do something to make imperial rule more palatable to all involved which is to provide a framework for peaceful interaction.

    I will tell you from personal experience that there are and have been forces within government that wanted a benign rule. I’m talking here of a faction within the CIA, Pentagon and State. Those forces are badly split on the current wars. Some feel that lemonade can be made out of this mess.  

  1. The gigantic money sink hole of both wars of error does hasten the fall of empire and their planned global dystopia.

  2. Over there, over there

    Send the word, send the word over there

    That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming

    The drums rum-tumming everywhere

    So prepare, say a prayer,

    Send the word, send the word to beware

    We’ll be over, we’re coming over,

    And we won’t come back till it’s over, over there


    When I look at those old documentaries of Europeans and Americans  around 1915, I get a sense that the people are little mechanical toys. They all seem to walk like wind up robots. And did the boys all have fun, fun, fun in the trenches. And that was called the “Great War”—-Think about it; only 50 years after Lincoln was killed!

  3. years ago. She chronicled how the ideas of cultural Darwinism seeped into the belief system of the elite opinion makers of the major world powers. And in the great age of magazines and newspapers, it didn’t take long to mesmerize the people; the most advanced nations would naturally prevail.

    By the way banger, I haven’t read Two Soldiers. I’ll put it on my reading list.

    Today, I wonder where the intellectual and cultural roots of our current “elite ideology” of “survival capitalism” come from? Sounds pretty 19th Century to me. What a crime that one of the greatest (if not the greatest) advances of mankind, medicine, has been made artificially scarce. It is a perversion of the very ideas embodied in Christianity and the Enlightenment. Is this really happening in America?

  4. don’t want “more benign imperial rule”.  This is like a storm that has increasingly worse consequences the more we try to further it or even maintain it.  The story of the last 40 years of American adventurism in the world has been looking at what we think of as immediate bad consequences in the short term, only to create still more horrific consequences from the last adventure we have to clean up (or imagine we’re doing) with the next one.

    Like a feedback loop, you pump energy into putting off or even “solving” a problem that either increases in ferocity by an order of magnitude or engenders a new problem of that magnitude, at some point you realize that no amount of force (or pushback) to fix a perceived problem or an absolute interest requirement will ever be great enough, and the problems and consequences just get so very massive that we are squashed by them like a bug on a windshield, because force can never be infinite and the consequences outrun the force, no matter how massive.

    That said, I guess I can sometimes be a little naive .. I just wind up not realizing how far afield I am from the strictly utilitarian but ultimately nationally self destructive thinking of this sort.  That we will remain the “top dogs” as long as possible while creating utter and worsening ruin in the future of the possible, is unpleasant.

    It may be true that “Americans” would never accept anything less, and the squashed bug scenario would be unavoidable without having a world which we found very strange and alien and unpalatable to our tastes in being “exceptional” in that the world bows to our wishes.

    It may be too unpopular to ever work.  But I don’t have to like it, I guess.

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