Dennis Perrin on Obama's designs on Afghanistan:
A recent UN survey reports that violence in Afghanistan is surging, the civilian death rate up some 40 percent from last year. The Taliban is blamed for 60 percent of the carnage, but the US hasn't been slacking either, killing more than its share of civilians through airstrikes and raids on villages. Obama plans to add to the body count with no end in sight. What is the final purpose here? Kill kill kill until the Taliban and other armed groups surrender? Or is Obama simply planning to exterminate them, regardless of the civilian toll?
As a former, enthusiastic supporter of this war, all I can see is perpetual death for years on end. Obama's not going to turn Afghanistan into Sweden; he'd be lucky to turn it into post-Katrina New Orleans.
As it happens, I'm a "former, enthusiastic supporter of this war" myself. After 9/11 I figured the proper course of action was to overthrow the Taliban and somehow bomb an already-ravaged country into a European-style liberal society. Thinking about this now, I can't understand how I ever came to such a self-evidently stupid position. Maybe I subconsciously thought that the US had designed a new model of bomb replaces everything it destroys with a Cafe Nero. As if even that would be remotely desirable.
A few points and questions:
1. I hated the Taliban before the 9/11 attacks. I first became aware of them maybe one year before, when they dynamited the Buddhas of Bamiyan for being un-Islamic. Outraged by real-life cultural destruction in the 21st century, and knowing virtually nothing about the Islamic world, I did a bit of research on Afghanistan and its (at that time) current regime. Read about their campaign of murder, torture, and enslavement against women. Their fanatical morality, enforced by acid-throwing policemen, their hatred of modernity and liberty and experimentation.
The Taliban, then as now, were true and proper wicked goons.
2. An invasion later, I'm not so sure if Afghanistan is the just crusade many still make it out to be. The US insists on terrorizing villagers and farmers from the sky, rocketing weddings and dropping chemicals on fields that are many Afghans' only source of livelihood, and more or less replacing the evil fundamentalist Taliban regime with equally evil, equally fundamentalist non-Taliban warlords in the provinces and cities alike.
3. Afghanistan has been a tragic country for a long time, destroyed by war and ideological fanaticism of all kinds. I'm not sure what makes Obama think he's going to avoid the fate of Alexander the Great, the British and the Soviets in that empire-killing country.
4. I agree with Perrin that an escalation in Afghanistan will bring only perpetual death.
5. I hope that all the brave Afghans fighitng for liberty, feminism, pluralism, and secularism will succeed one day. One thing you can do towards ensuring some level of good fortune is supporting RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. Their position on the troubles of their country seems exactly right to me:
The US "War on terrorism" removed the Taliban regime in October 2001, but it has not removed religious fundamentalism which is the main cause of all our miseries. In fact, by reinstalling the warlords in power in Afghanistan, the US administration is replacing one fundamentalist regime with another. The US government and Mr. Karzai mostly rely on Northern Alliance criminal leaders who are as brutal and misogynist as the Taliban.
RAWA believes that freedom and democracy can’t be donated; it is the duty of the people of a country to fight and achieve these values. Under the US-supported government, the sworn enemies of human rights, democracy and secularism have gripped their claws over our country and attempt to restore their religious fascism on our people.
6. These people are the heroes of our present bad and sad world. People like RAWA, the passionate Pakistani writer (and, if the tabloids can be trusted, the girlfriend of one George Clooney) Fatima Bhutto, the great Iraqi poet Dunya Mikhail, the enchanting Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif, and Arabic's greatest living bard, the vehemently anti-clerical and anti-imperialist Adonis, are the voices from the Islamic world we need to be listening to: brave souls who protest the twin brutalities of Islamic fundamentalism and US/Israeli militarism. Perhaps not coincidentally, most of these are women.
7. One thing the US government can do to deflate the Taliban is end the insane and criminal "war on drugs." If you destroy the only lucrative crop (poppies) many Afghans have, you destroy their trust and goodwill. Why the hell would anyone trust the US when the US is destroying their livelihood and destroying plenty of actual lives?