Thursday, February 2, 2012
The war in Afghanistan fares poorly. And yet we have given our word as a nation that we will not abandon them. Yet as the days continue in the War, and more lives are lost, and we are more than ever becoming aware that this has been going on for a long time. And yet there is so much to be said about the fact that we have the "shame" of Vietnam still hanging over our heads. April 30th 1975, when Saigon finally fell, was the first time the US had ever really been perceived to have "Lost" a war. I would argue that we didn't lose but, for all effect we pissed away 58,000 American lives, in the belief that the South Vietnamese people deserved the same freedoms that the people of the US have.
The difficulties of Afghanistan are compounded by the fact that we are working against a culture that doesn't really understand, nor endorse our concept of "Freedom". Even our own concept of Freedom has never remained the same from generation to generation, so how could we possibly hope to simply give it to people to whom they could have no possible frame of reference? In our ventures not only in recent years, but going back a long way, the American people always see themselves at the Paladin. The paragon of Virtue, that has come to do right. One of the main reasons the Civil War was so awfully bloody, is that both sides firmly believed they were in the right, and though History has castigated the Confederacy their acts of valor, are no less heroic, or American, than those of the Union. In that war both sides were Right, and both sides were Wrong.
Now in this war we face an even larger problem. We desire to give something that can not be smelled touched, heard, or seen. Only felt. When you are Free, you feel it. It comes, *always* from within. This fundamental failure of perception has cost us dearly in our War on Terror, and its two main TO's Iraq and Afghanistan. We failed to grasp in 2004, and 2005 what a monumental thing it was that so many Iraqis voted, and fundamentally we failed to grasp the scathing irony that we could barely muster 50% of our own population to vote. We failed as a nation to give this War a larger context. Yes we used the stick, and quite effectively, but we should have been wary about how we used the carrot.
In my own experiences we gave ungodly amounts of money to sheiks. But buying their loyalty. Sure the "Sons of Iraq" thing worked out, but if we're really honest with ourselves that had more to do with them than with us. It was the Iraqi people, not the Americans who said "enough is enough". In Informational, and Propagandistic fronts we utterly failed to make this a struggle between what We (Us and Them together) could build, or they could let AQI, JAM, Badr Brigade, and the Quds destroy. By opening schools (and keeping them open) and giving children a reason to smile, we did more to take away the power of those ass hats, than if we had killed a million Jihadists.
Afghanistan, is not nearly as built up. In some of the best places they're living at least 100 years behind the times. In some of the worst, they're probably living 400 years in the past. It doesn't help that we don't speak Urdu, or Pishtu, or that the differences a mountain range make, can create almost a completely unique culture. Afghanistan was never a country as we would define it, and has never had a national history. Reminding them of the things the could take pride in would be problematic, because we would be in the exact same role as those they defeated (Alexander of Macedonia, and the Soviets for example). Even the Silk Road, which was vital in most of human history, bypassed most of Afghanistan.
So how do we win? How can we possibly win? Simple. You use the carrot. Work with them. Teach them new ways of building. Find Carpenters, and Masons, and Auto-mechanics, and work with them. Teach them things they never knew. Instead of simply giving them the tools they need, make them earn them. Start with having them build improvements for US bases, then slowly shift to building things for themselves. Find some folks that really need work and teach them about an assembly line. Not by shipping them to Detroit, to overwhelm them, but the same way Henry Ford did it. Build a base somewhere, have them build their own factory, with their own labor, and slowly work them into creating things themselves. If you have to work them, from start to finish on building (no shit here) a model T. We have to think like we are living in Henry Ford's time, when dealing with the Afghans. This is not 2012, to any but the most elite.
This does not have to be limited to manufacture, but is does have to be a widespread program, and you can't simply hand out cash for doing the job. You have to do something else as well, and that is leave them with the tools, but more importantly the know-how, and the sense of direction, that they so lack. Economics is just as effective a weapon against our enemies as it is a boon for our allies. Let us use this. If, we can do this in the easier to get to areas, say Kabul, and suddenly Tribe X is doing way better than Tribe Y, living better, looking healthier, etc, then Tribe Y is going to do one of two things. They're either going to dig their heels in (which they might all do initially) or they're going to ask what the hell Tribe X is doing that they're living so well. The end result Tribe Y will come to US and not the other way around.
The problem is that until we implement something like this we are pissing away money, and lives. There are many that are tired of it all. They want to pull out now. Given our own economic woes, why should we give a shit? The answer is actually quite simple.
Do you really think American Credibility will survive a repeat of this?