Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What Else is New?

This is from a column in the New York Times, today, April 7, 2010. The "alternative strategy" for the war in Afghanistan is merely a repeat of the US strategy in Vietnam in the 60s and 70s. It did not work then and it probably won't work now. After all, as in Nam, the US has to leave at some points, while the Afghans don't and of course won't. Also, the column, which recommends getting tough with Karzai or even getting rid of him, reflects the same delusional thinking that prevailed in Nam, viz., thinking of leaders not as reflections of the broader situation in the country but rather as variables that can be changed at will. To say Karzai is corrupt is misleading in that what Karzai is is what the situation demands him to be to maintain his power and the power of his government. "Corruption" in Afghanistan, like corruption in Nam, is not like a tumor that one can cut out as one would cut out a tumor from a human body. Corruption there, just like the corruption in the US, is part and parcel of the political system. In order to get rid of it, it would be necessary to create a new political scheme - which is why ending "log rolling" in the US never seems to work.

"The United States ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, was guilty of understatement last fall when he told Washington that “Karzai is not an adequate strategic partner.” Still, getting rid of Mr. Karzai at this point wouldn’t be easy, and any major upheaval would clearly imperil President Obama’s plan to start withdrawing American troops next summer.

The Marja offensive, however, may have shown us an alternative approach to the war. For one thing, it demonstrated that our Karzai problem is part of a broader failure to see that our plans for Afghanistan are overambitious.

The coalition is pursuing a political-military strategy based on three tasks. First, “clear” the guerrillas from populated areas. Second, “hold” the areas with Afghan forces. Third, “build” responsible governance and development to gain the loyalty of the population for the government in Kabul. To accomplish this, the coalition military has deployed reconstruction teams to 25 provinces. We may call this a counterinsurgency program, but it’s really nation-building."

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