Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Afghanistan and the Dog and Pony Show

Headline from the NY Times today: "Obama Rules Out Large Reduction in Afghan Force: Undecided on Buildup: Meeting Top Legislators, He Seems to Desire a Middle Ground."

Oh boy, the "middle ground." Isn't that comforting? Should be as that is what it is intended to be. But a "middle ground" between what? Apparently between a large reduction in force - NB: not a pull out - and a large increase in force, ala' General "I helped cover up the Tillman incident" McChrystal. One interesting facet of these reports is that the "middle ground" is almost always between two options that make it seem that the "middle ground" is the only one that makes sense. As if we don't really have a choice. "Oh yeah, Obama is seeking the middle ground. That is good because the last thing we want is something 'extreme.'"

This is, for those who don't remember or don't know, exactly the kind of "thinking" that went on with regard to Viet Nam, where by taking the "middle ground" we ended up with over 500,000 troops there, i.e., the extreme [and ended up getting our asses kicked anyway]! Now, how did this happen in Viet Nam if our presidents were always taking the "middle ground?" It is logically and practically impossible to take the middle ground and end up at an extreme. Something was not being said back then and something is not being said here and now. Could it be that the "middle ground" is a creation of abstract thinking, that is, of thinking that does not actually take into account what is possible in Afghanistan? "Afghanistan" in this mode becomes an abstraction, a "nation" and the Taliban a group of calculating human beings whose behavior we can change by the appropriate application of force. It is or becomes all a matter of logistics and because we like to think of ourselves as the master of logistics we must prevail. The "middle ground" will be enough because the enemy, having seen the "middle ground," does not want to see the extreme!

This could all be little more than wishful thinking. It is certainly abstract thinking, leaving out the reality of "Afghanistan," which we like to think of as "backward," just like we thought of Viet Nam. And, of course, "backward" places do not defeat "developed" nations, do they? No, that doesn't happen. Viet Nam? Oh well, we weren't defeated there by the Vietnamese but rather by ourselves, the peace movement, the media, our alleged "hands tied behind the back" strategy, etc., etc.

I recall a scene from the Godfather [and I am not sure which one but I think it was "godfather, part II], where Michael Corleone is in Cuba for a meet and on the way somewhere when a small group of rebels, Castro's rebels, attacks the motorcade. MC watches as the these men die as they knew they probably would. MC, having seen this, knows that, in all likelihood, Cuba will "fall" because men who are prepared to die for their cause are difficult to defeat. Needless to say, Michael C. severs his ties with those doing "business" in Cuba, and thereby cuts his losses when Cuba does "fall." Had he adopted the "middle ground" he would have lost quite a bit of money. In Afghanistan it is not only money we will lose. We will lose some of our best young men and women. Having done this before you might think we would smarten up.

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