Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Contribution to "Afghanistan 2050"

I was invited to submit an entry to my third Chicagoboyz roundtable discussion. These have been fun, so I quickly agreed.

Here was the "mission order":
First, each participant will start the post with one paragraph which will be an “excerpt” from a college level American history text in the year 2050. The paragraph will summarize the American effort in Afghanistan, including the end of the campaign (if it has ended) and the consequences over the ensuing decades of the American campaign.

Second, the participant will then commentary and discussion of this historic, backward looking, stage-setting paragraph.

Today was D-Day. My paragraph is here:
. . . Thus ends our discussion of the military aspects of the Afghan campaign. The political roots of the campaign and how they developed – everyone obviously has their own individual story as to how their own family was affected by the momentous events this war helped to set in motion – are not so easily discernible today. President Bush’s decision to invade the country and overthrow the Taliban government in 2001 seemed a logical response to the events of 11 September, but was in reality predetermined by decades of ideological and political confusion which only came to its inevitable end with the withdrawal of Successor States forces in 2018. In effect American policy makers fancied themselves metaphysicians capable of driving human historical events/the development of political cultures through the use of military power. While the tendency among Bush Studies academics is to argue that Bush represents a unique model followed by his three successors, this puts too much influence on the man and not the times, nor the history which made those times what they were. It is difficult to imagine today, but in the waning years of the US Empire three great tendencies came together and imploded pretty much simultaneously. The first was the notion that the US, alone among the political communities of the world, possessed a special mission from God to influence and change the world; we can refer to this as the “shining city on the hill” delusion. The second was the “liberal”/Enlightenment view of the US as a new start, the perfect humanist society which would reform the corruption of the past; refer to this as the Founding Fathers’ assumption. The last was the powerful complexus of interests that formed the Empire’s National Security State which had developed after 1945; let’s call this one by Fulbright’s famous term: The Arrogance of Power. Who was to know in 2001, or even up to the very end, that the first two tendencies provided the poison which destroyed the third, and vice versa? “Afghanistan” is where all three essentially ran out of gas (both literally and figuratively): the scales fell from the people’s eyes, the support of the “too big to fail” Empire collapsed, and a new phase of our people’s history was set in motion that we are still experiencing today. Graveyard of Empires indeed.

And the analysis (for what it is), is here:

Analysis I will leave to the reader. I think it pretty much speaks for itself. This view – following Clausewitz and Max Weber – sees “political states” as social action orientations. When individuals, in this case the citizenry of a state, no longer orient their actions in terms supportive of the state, the state ceases to exist. Afghanistan in itself is of little consequence to the US, just as Vietnam was 50 years ago. It is rather our own policies and the background/causes of those policies which are of actual importance.

I also assume an educated, well-informed citizenry capable of not only critical thinking, but also clearly identifying their own communal interests.

. . .


  1. I also assume an educated, well-informed citizenry capable of not only critical thinking, but also clearly identifying their own communal interests.


    And . . . .

    It is rather our own policies and the background/causes of those policies which are of actual importance.

    Just saw this yesterday. Isn't it amazing how often news stories like this pop up after the "Professional Left" tells us we need to eliminate the Pentagon.

    At first, the news from Yemen on May 25 sounded like a modest victory in the campaign against terrorists: an airstrike had hit a group suspected of being operatives for Al Qaeda in the remote desert of Marib Province, birthplace of the legendary queen of Sheba.

    But the strike, it turned out, had also killed the province’s deputy governor, a respected local leader who Yemeni officials said had been trying to talk Qaeda members into giving up their fight. Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, accepted responsibility for the death and paid blood money to the offended tribes.

    The strike, though, was not the work of Mr. Saleh’s decrepit Soviet-era air force. It was a secret mission by the United States military, according to American officials, at least the fourth such assault on Al Qaeda in the arid mountains and deserts of Yemen since December.

    Goddam useless acts and dangerous fools treading where angels fear.

    One symptom of failed empires is flailing about helter skelter for no gain.


  2. KABUL, Aug. 15, 2010 (Reuters) — Afghanistan said on Sunday it had discovered an oilfield with an estimated 1.8 billion barrels in the north of the war-ravaged country, where U.S. and other foreign forces are trying to tame a Taliban-led insurgency.


  3. basil-

    What do you think? If you check out the posts which followed, I think I got my message across . . .

    "Thinking outside the box" . . . what else would one expect of one of my background?

  4. You know, 2012 is just a year and a bit away?

    I don't think policy plotters and politicians really care that much about the effects of foreign policy upon their own narrow worlds. I recall one famous line that went something like this "the US ought to pick up some little country and splatter it against a wall just to show the rest of the world that we're not to be messed with", or something to that effect.

    I do enjoy your works here, but my own personal opinion these days is that in a few short years we'll turn into a "RoboCop" world where corporations rule and the rest of us survive on crime, or the liberation of corporate funds, just to live.

    "Fierce Advocates" for the people these days seem to be quite rare. As if the people deserved them. Note my :D above in my first comment.

    However that and those may be, I'm feeling depressed. Last Monday was the first day of school for the teachers in our district, and for the first time in 36 years I'm not part of that. I didn't think that would bother me, but it did.

    No pity pot here though. I'll be out walking the neighborhood asking folk to vote for a decent fellow to replace the Speaker of the Kansas House, a Republican whose kids I had in class a few years ago. That will perk things up.

    I'm to the point where I really don't care what happens outside my corner of the universe. And daydreaming stuff like, "Hey, I used to know the Secy. of Defense! We corresponded and discussed things on a blog!"

    That's my "thinking outside the box", and my box has a lot of sand.