Sunday, September 09, 2007

Two For The Price Of One

The Afghan war was a war that I could actually get behind, and considering I've opposed nearly every American military venture in the past forty years, that's saying quite a bit.

But thanks to George Bush's infernal and imperterbable obsession with Iraq, it seems we may lose two wars for the price of one:
Afghanistan has slipped backward into a political "danger zone," the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies warned in March. In the broadest published evaluation of Afghans' attitudes, the center said Afghans are facing worsened physical security, greater threats from warlords, criminal gangs and corrupt officials, and more difficulty in supporting their families. Such alarms are ringing from every side: UN agencies, non-government aid organizations, scholars, some U.S. officials and ordinary Afghans.

In the battle against the Taliban for Afghans' hearts and minds, "support for America and for [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai is becoming less every day," said Eissa Wahdat, an Afghan government engineer who coordinates small development projects in Nuristan.
You might recall that, prior to our liberation of Afghanistan from the Taliban, Hamid Karzai was an advisor to Unocal on a pipeline through Afghanistan. He was also a staunch ally of the Taliban until he came to realize the Taliban had strong ties to Pakistan. As president, Karzai has had a running slap-fight with Pakistan president Musharraf over what to do about the tribal regions that span the Afghan-Pakistan border.

The strategic mistake America made in Afghanistan, apart from distracting ourselves with that idiotic venture into Iraq, was to try to cement the tribal warlords fealty with short term measures (notably, money). The history of the region shows us that warlords are about as loyal as, well, Britney Spears panties: here one day, gone the next. To say a bargain will be honored is to ignore a simple realty: warlords are in truth Republicans, and so the philosophy, "I got mine, Jack!" is taken to its logical extreme.

What we could have and should have done from day one was to go into Afghanistan full force and forgotten about Iraq. Afghanis owed us a debt of gratitude after we helped Osama bin Laden and the mujahadin drive out the Soviet Union's occupying force, and that could have brought us a lot more respect and a lot more assistance, if we showed we were serious about installing true representational rule that wasn't tyrannized by a minority party.

(Yes, we're still talking about Afghanistan, and not America)

Too, installing a president who was so willing to be a puppet of the Bush administration (and so clearly powerless outside of Kabul) was a signal to the northern alliance tribes that the US was not going to be around very long. Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun (meaning his ancestry traces from the region near Pakistan), was not an acceptable choice for the Nuristani factions.

That they've been willing to work this long with Karzai and the NATO alliance/American forces is a testament to their desire to have a freely elected government that will represent the people of Afghanistan, and not a terror organization. We ought to take that into serious consideration and do something to help, or else risk throwing not only South Asia into chaos, but having that chaos spread into Asia proper, including parts of the former Soviet Union as well as western China itself.

And that will create a conflict so far-reaching, it's beyond my ability to assess what could come of it, aside from some nebulous "and then the real war starts" comment.