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Home Objectiveless in Iraq and Afghanistan

Objectiveless in Iraq and Afghanistan

The dominant question on everyone's mind is when are we going to get out. Out of Iraq and out of Afghanistan. Liberals who voted for Obama with the certainty that both wars were the product of some evil plot hatched by Cheney in the White House subbasement are confused and frustrated as to why the US hasn't just pulled out. Of course those are the same people who were never troubled by Taliban atrocities or Saddam's rape rooms, and aren't going to be too bothered when the Iranian puppet Mahdi Army and the Taliban come back in for a bloody takeover. And if they do, George Galloway or Robert Fisk will be by shortly to explain to them that it's just the oppressors getting exactly what they deserve.

The Obama Administration has no commitment to either war. Much of the Administration from the top on  down, shares Jeremiah Wright's assessment of the last ten years, as a case of the chickens coming home to roost. But it's also concerned enough about its popularity to underwrite a year or two of bloody battles between Allied forces and the Islamic insurgents in both countries, just in order to time a Mission Accomplished pullout before the next Presidential election. This brand of amoral cynicism is in some ways worse than that of a Galloway or a Buchanan, since unlike the Bush Administration, Barry, Biden and Jim Jones are not fighting a war they believe in. They're sending troops into battle for a cause they don't believe in, to boost a reelection campaign.

And so what started out as two straightforward wars to rout a brutal Islamist gang, capture Al Queda terrorists, and remove a tyrant, morphed into nation building exercises in the Bush era, and have now become completely detached from any strategic goal, but that of "Re-Elect Obama-Biden in 2012". It's straightforward enough to see that the more the real goals drift away from that of defeating the enemy, the harder it will be to achieve it. The military is essentially a blunt tool. It is best used for blunt objectives. You can only apply so much finesse with a hammer, until you either break what you're trying to fix, or render the hammer unusable. But for the last 7 years we've been trying to use a hammer with finesse, and the body count has climbed horrifically as a result.

The problem is that we've never gotten over WW2 and its nation building aftermath as a victory condition. And so we shifted from winning wars, to rebuilding infrastructure and winning the hearts and minds of the population. In 1939, the conventional wisdom was that if only an isolationist America had agreed to stay on in Europe, the whole mess of WW2 would have never happened. But while that conventional wisdom might not be wrong, it ignores the fact that we don't know what would have happened if the US had made the kind of investment that Wilson wanted. Or the kind of investment we did make after WW2, maintaining bases for generations, and become the permanent guarantors of European security. History would probably have turned out differently, but there's no way of knowing exactly how.

In 1948 the conventional wisdom certainly said that we had to save Western Europe by rebuilding it in order to keep the Commies out (except for the conventional wisdom coming from the left, which demanded that we get our imperialist asses out and let the "people's parties" who had resisted the fascist beast claim their right to rule). And so we did just that. We saved Western Europe from the Commies-- only to hand it over to the Islamists, rampaging into the senescent remnants of what had once been great nations, who had forgotten how to stand up for themselves. But is it typical enough of the FDR-Eisenhower era that the people in charge could never comprehend that a nanny state turns men and women into children. And that protecting others too much weakens them so that they are unable to protect themselves.

What implications does this have for Iraq and Afghanistan? Once again we repeated the same mistake we made in Vietnam, cultivating tame useless armies of soldiers who won't stand and fight, because they know Americans will do the real fighting for them. We've schizophrenically tried to set up or back governments whose only real agenda is stashing away the dollars we've injected into their economy with our nation building efforts. And we have no idea how to fix any of that, because none of it is fixable.

For one thing our goals are completely detached from reality. Creating stable working governments is a long and painful process. Even in the United States, it took a long time to get to the Constitution, and we had to discard a previous system as unworkable. And that was in a country which had a tradition of working local governments. While we're dealing with regions where the only form of power is either tribal or tyrannical, usually some combination of both. Despite all the horrors of post WW2 Europe, we were still dealing with countries that had been reasonably functional and understood how democratic systems of government worked, and were our equals in most areas. That is again not the case in Iraq and Afghanistan, where we are not rebuilding, so much as trying to recreate them into shapes that we find acceptable. And without an extensive colonial project, that is simply not going to happen.

But none of that even matters anymore. As a former resident of the Muslim world, Obama understands these things himself already. He's simply pandering to the Americans who don't, and throwing away the lives of American soldiers, in order to withdraw on a high note. Obama doesn't expect to break the Taliban, only to demonstrate enough resolve so they'll cut a deal that will avoid any mobs chasing after departing embassy helicopters. He's deluded on that note, because where the Taliban might have cut such a deal with McCain, they won't with Obama, who is just too weak to be taken seriously. Obama's outreach to the Taliban turned Karzai into a loose cannon, further destabilizing the network of tribal alliances, and making it even more impossible to get the job done.

But what is the job anyway? As a blunt tool, the military was never a good choice for winning the hearts and minds of the population. Nor should that have been the goal in the first place. The leftover ideas from WW2 about nation building might seem fine in theory, but are virtually unworkable in reality without turning into a vast multi-generational colonial project on the British model. And such a project would change us, as much as it would change them. And that is the twist in the hook. Because the war we are fighting has already changed us. It has imported Islamic and Middle Eastern culture in a way that we are mostly not aware of. That is the flip side of all such efforts, that they change the conquerors almost as much as the conquered.

Colonialism is not an American project. On the other hand destroying the ability of our enemies to harm us, is. And a strategy that hinges on keeping the Islamists out by reconstructing their countries plays to their strengths, while exposing our weaknesses. We don't need multi-generational nation building projects to stop them. We had the Taliban on the run in the first wave of attacks, and we removed Saddam with very few casualties. Our mistake was trying to step in and take over their jobs. Our strength is not running backward third world countries, it's making it clear that if they pose a threat to us, we will destroy enough of them to end that threat. It's hard to build WMD's or invade your neighbors when you lack basic infrastructure. And tribal leaders who support the Taliban should know that we will bomb them without regard for the collateral damage. It's crude. It's blunt. And it creates a stalemate that favors us.

Beyond that our real war was not in Afghanistan, which was a staging ground for the Islamist proxies of oil rich Middle Eastern states and the Pakistani intelligence service. We've been suckered into fighting a proxy war, while the emissaries of the real enemy in Saudi Arabia take meetings at the White House, and advise us on how we can lose. The enemy is being armed and funded with our money. The money that we send overseas in exchange for oil that was ours to begin with, before a bunch of burnoosed thugs seized it and used it to fund their own terror armies. For every billion that we spend, all they have to do is spend a few thousand to keep us on the ropes.

The same thing goes for the Shiite side of the equation, where Jimmy Carter's support for the Ayatollah has culminated in the ascension of the Revolutionary Guard to the de facto rulers of Iran, with an Allah sent mission to expand and confront the Great Satan. The bulk of our troubles in Iraq come from Tehran. Our passivity in that regard has emboldened Iran to push on into Afghanistan. Iran is now regularly carrying out ambushes in Iraq, whether of US troops, American backpackers or Kurdish guerrillas. And treating this as a problem that we can solve with more Iraqi reconstruction is exactly the wrong thing to do.

The terrorists are the sharp end of an oil spear being plunged into our bellies. And we're choosing to replay the same Cold War strategy we used against the USSR, that required us to fight a long global cold war for two generations, and several botched hot wars against Communist proxies. And in the process we're selling out our real allies and putting our faith in Muslim dictatorships, including the same ones funding the terror networks, to see us through. It's bad strategy as we pay in blood, cash and oil, while they just pay in cash.

Instead of thinking of innovative new ways to dress up the same old nation building hearts and minds strategies, it's time to confront the real source of the problem. Bluntly and forcefully. For too long our Muslim allies have been playing both sides, soliciting our protection, while they nurture and feed the terrorists who are killing us. This double game is business as usual in the Middle East.

The same Kuwaitis who enlisted American PR firms to sell us on Gulf War #1, enlisted more PR experts to portray Guantanamo Bay as a gulag and force the release of the Kuwaiti 12. The Saudis whom we protected in that same war, went on funding Jihadi mosques and just plain Jihadis. Beyond the Middle East, the Pakistani ISI service which we used to fund the Afghan resistance, helped build the Taliban, and it's still playing a complicated double game, complicated further by internal rivalries in both countries. Trying to sort through this mess, just tangles us in it even further. The only way is to decisively cut the Gordian Knot, to end the games and make it clear how we will respond to terrorism. Unless we do that, we'll continue to be stuck in the same objectiveless limbo, fighting hosts of ghosts and shadows, rather than striking at the real enemy.


  1. Another decades long war for stupid made up reasons.
    Its insanity all of it.
    Just bomb the whole area out of existence.

  2. Did you know that most of America's oil now comes from Russia, the Arab states are exporting to China. Even Iraq which was fought for oil, is sending her oil to China.

    It's easy to say bomb the place, but where will that leave us? Our economy is owned by China, and we have a deficit, the US military is the reason for it's downfall, it cannot last a few days without oil, which it does not have.

    I don't agree with the theory that bombing the dictators in the Mid EAst would be a solution, because that would exactly what Russia would need to get control there. Either way, the US suffers.

  3. Anonymous7/7/10

    I agree with the comments of Lemon and would add that at the same time we should not ignore those moslims residing in the West, who are blatently refusing to respect our laws and imposing their habits on us let alone rioting, murdering and torturing.

  4. then take the oil back

    it was American oil in the first place

  5. Greenfield, Iraq was a prime opportunity for that, The US can't take the oil back from the Arab states, it will spark a war with China and Russia on the same side. There is serious talk now of dumping the dollar, something that has never been done before. If the US wasn't so weak, Turkey would not be attempting flotillas like it is. It would be suicidal for the US, China already owns the US, and Russia supplies the oil.

    A better option is to develop the shale. Doesn't the US have the greatest shale deposits in the worold, and why are they not being developed? No importing would be necessary. The Arab dictators could go to hell then.

  6. Greenfield, check out the latest at Elder of Ziyon, it illustrates my point. More and more Americans (due to the sorry state of the economy) are questioning Israel's value. The point being, Israel may be better postioned to take the oil than the US. Israel could then present a fait accompli. This would also make her invaluable as an ally.

  7. Russia and China are not going to actively fight the US, certainly not in the Middle East. Russia has extensive supplies of its own, and we could cut a deal with China, let them do some of the policing, which would stop the PRC from worrying about their own energy pipeline

  8. It’s a long shot Greenfield, it could work or could have had it been attempted twenty thirty years ago, but unlikely to work today. I’m surprised you’re not aware that the Saudi oil fields are rigged with nuclear weapons, in case anyone ever tries to take them. The Arab dictators have prepared for that eventuality.

    This was exposed by a German intelligence magzine in 2003 I think, They have a whole city, shown on satellite images. The German magazine blew the secret much like Vananu blew the cover on Israels nuclear weapons. That was then, with Iran now, who knows what else the Saudis have. It's ironic, they don't recognise Israel but never really saw her nuclear weapons as a threat. Even the weapons they have, are rigged to blow up the oil fields, not for their defence. They got them from Pakistan. Funding in exchange for know how.

    I doubt China would cut a deal with the US, China is close to the Arab states, and Pakistan, as well as Iran and with Russia with whom she shares borders in Eurasia, and the Arab states,(read the latest on what Pakistan is planning with China to exclude the US military), and that’s even without Russian pressure on China.

    It may work if the US, Russia and China were all on the same side, and it was a joint effort, and if the Saudi’s didn’t have their fields ready to explode if invaded.

    With all the risks above, the gains would be minimal if any.

    I did read a Time report once that said the shale was abundant and should be exploited. Unless of course, another source of energy is discovered, that may well happen too.

  9. to Avi, about US shale deposits:
    the Environmentalists work hard at blocking us from tapping our own energy deposits.
    That is why we now have a gusher which is so far offshore, it is too deep under the ocean to work on stopping it.

  10. it can work rather easily, the Saudis are protected by the US and their fields are worked by foreigners anyway

    all it will mean is cutting the royals out of the loop

  11. Greenfield, cutting the Royals out of the loop, would mean they'd blow the fields up. This was the real reason they didn't/won't invade Saudi, or it would have been done after 9/11. The fields are rigged to blow up if anyone tries to invade, and depose the royals. When this first came out in the early 2003, it was reported that Pakistan was nuclear too, but nobody took it seriously, until pakistan actually did fire nuclear weapons in response to India's threat. In any case US military intelligence were aware, because they were stationed there for some time, which is what pissed off Bin Laden.

    The only way round that now, would be if Israel were to take control of the surrounding gulf countries, but not Saudi, so giving the Saudi's a chance to call upon the Americans, rather than blow the fields up. If America did it, the saudis would vapourise the area and turn it into an irradiated mass. No oil. Thus the excercise would have been futile on top of that the US would be facing world wrath. There is an if here, in that the Saudi's would not trust calling in the US and go ahead and blow up anyway. They have a whole city built underground, the Pakistanis built it at around the same time there were doing their own. all done secretly. The US had no idea till it was revealed, just like they havn't a clue where bin laden is. Our intelligence is lousy.


    Yes. Isn't it strange, that the whole economy can be whored to China, yet we cannot exploit shale. But is that because it isn't viable? Geologists say the shale would cost more to bring out of the ground and refine than what it will sell for. But so what, if you can whore out industy, it can't be that bad to the environment. Mayb a strong shale lobby should do it.

  12. Greenfield, I forgot to mention, that the Saudis are protected by the Americans, yes, but they were smart enough to protect themselves from the Americans too. America did not know that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were working on nuclear technology together until long after Saudi Arabia had secured her oil fields to destruct should any hostile country (America) try to take them. It only came out in 2003, but they secured long before then. But even then America didn't take it seriously till Pakistan exploded weapons in 2007 i think it was with India threatening war.

    Don't think that it's just the oil countries, Pakistan is just as dangerous, and with Afghanistan under Pakistan control makes the situation even more precarious.

  13. the Saudis don't have nuclear weapons on their oil fields. They don't need them. They have American troops through their control over DC.

  14. Anonymous8/7/10

    Hi Knish, this is an interesting commentary. My two cents, if I may

    There are those who say that the Saudi's blackmailed the west using the nuclear card (as Gerald Posner wrote in his book) when they did not have any protection other than American, but subsequent events proved otherwise. These same people used to dismiss the islamic bomb threat until pakistan (the enemy the US should flatten for spreading nuclear technology) proved them wrong.

    Daniel Pipes believes the Saudi rag heads, do have a nuclear oil deterrant, as did Zeev Schiff the Israeli military analyst, who used to be a Haaretz columnist.

    Pipes said:
    “The Saudis collectively and individually should not be disdained but respected as a very worthy adversary. (May 11, 2005)”

    Don't Underestimate the Saudis
    by Daniel Pipes
    May 11, 2005

    Might the Saudis Blow Up Their Oil Infrastructure?
    by Daniel Pipes
    May 11, 2005

  15. Greenfield, we do not have hard proof that the Saudis have their oil fields rigged with nuclear weapons, so they may not be.
    But I was just wondering why you’re sure they are not? There have been reports from credible people not consiparacy mongers.

    I usually agree with your thoughts Greenfield, but this one belies a detatchment from reality, If the US were to do what you suggest above and even if there no nuclearised fields in Saudi as you believe, what about Nato? Europe which is unofficially a Moslem contintent now, will cut ties to the USA, as would the rest of the world. Taking arab oil by force wouldn’t even have been a workable propostion thirty years ago, for Russia would have unleashed nuclear weapons.

    Moreover, I’ve been following Iran’s weapon developments closely, and I believe that Iran too is already a nuclear power, just looking for a way to make it public. That is only my own opinion though.

    As a side note, if North Korea has nuclear weapons then probably Pakistan has already shared with China too. it’s unconceivable that North Korea managed to become a nuclear power whilst being such a poor country yet the billion strong booming economy China who is close to Pakistan and Iran is not. China would never want the USA controlling oil in the Middle East. She too prefers the dictators

    But lets play out your analogy, suppose the Saudis are sitting ducks, and China would cut a deal with the US, who in the USA is going to authorise this when the dominant left wing see Islamists as victims and bend over backwards to accommodate their “grievances”, and get cheap oil in return.

    I think that would be the major problem even if none of the above existed.

  16. Unlike Israel, the Saudis don't need to lie about their capabilities. If they had nuclear weapons, they'd be on the table.

    The Saudis are not worried about the United States, because they've successfully controlled US foreign policy for some time now. It's a rare Sec of State who isn't one of their people.

    The Saudis rely on the US to protect them against threats.

    NATO stopped being necessary a while back, and many European countries, particularly Germany, would welcome a chance to escape Russia and OPEC.

    Russia would not have used nuclear weapons to stop America from taking over one of America's own client states. They didn't even use nukes to stop us from fighting Iraq twice, which was one of their own client states. If they didn't do it for Saddam, they sure as hell aren't going to do it for the Saudi royals. They'd just supply, arm and train terrorists, etc

  17. Russia at that time was not a member of the OIC, things are different today.

    of course the saudis are not going to lay it out on the table, as you say, why would they? it would open a pandora's box from the UN to the IEE and draw a lot of unnecessary attention to themselves. If they were going to do that, they could have just asked the Americans to do it. They didn't want that, they wanted protection from them. They probably would come clean if they saw a threat from the Americans.

    They own the state dept yes, but they don't trust the USA. That's what you don't understand, they're not as gullible as you believe either. They're building a world class university in their country, and they're also at the forefront of alternative nucleaer projects in western universities.

    So it's only your own opinion? Israeli military generals believe the fields are rigged, and their intelligence is better than America's bungling CIA. Even the Russians were expelled by the Pakistans ISI, the CIA alone had no clue how to deal with the Afghans they merely funded.
    But there is no point us speculating either way. Until Saudi Arabia lays out and comes out clean or does a desert "samson option" we wont' know for sure.

    Mark my words, when Iran does explode a nuclear weapon, we will see that she had them all along.

    Have a good day, gotta rush now.

  18. Avi, for what it's worth I think you're right.

    Just my opinion but after Sept. 11 al Quaeda reportedly received criticism in the Muslim world for not giving the US sufficient warning and opportunities to convert.

    Sounds twisted but we're talking about Arab Muslim mentality. The repeated talk about Iran having nukes could be their form of warning the west, at least in a twisted, Islamic way.

    As I said, it's sick and twists but bin laden was criticized for not offering Bush sufficient opportunities to convert etc.

    I think Iran and possibly other Arab nations are doing the same thing. Every time they mention nuclear war they're sending a warning.

    Muslims might be liars about a lot of things but when it comes to killing Jews and Christians (ie. Israel and the US) they're speaking the truh. Why we don't treat the threat as we would if they were Nazis I can't say.

    I think they plan on using it regardless.

    Just my opinion, though. I could be wrong. I not particularly saavy when it comes to foreign affairs.


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