Sunday, September 16, 2012

Certain Maxims of Hafiz

"Now it is not good for the Christian's health to hustle the Aryan brown,"
For the Christian riles, and the Aryan smiles and he weareth the Christian down;
And the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of the late deceased,
And the epitaph drear: "A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the East."

~R. Kipling

My friend Labrys is infuriated that the Afghan muj have, once again, proved that our "strategy" for Afghanistan is about as cunning as that of the sixteen-year-old rube who has pushed into the traveling carnies' poker night. He - and we - are fools for the plucking and will, and are, being plucked. The only tragic part is that our losses are in blood and lives as well as treasure. We are the rubes in this central Asian game of double- and triple-cross, and are surely proving that we are unwilling to learn by others' example.

We were fools and more than fools to imagine that in a decade or two and with a force that wouldn't have made up a corporal's guard in Alexander's or Baibur's armies we could do what those ruthless conquerors couldn't do in lifetimes.

I really have nothing more to add on this subject. In a polity that had genuinely well-moderated public fora, a robust political intelligence, and a competent popular press the "wisdom" of trying to Hustle the East would have been taken out back and shot twice in the head years ago.

Being the nation we are, and being the public we are, we will manage to kill many more of the locals, and our own, before we accept the inevitable facts.
And, while tragic, this is entirely to be expected. I wish I thought I could change that, but I cannot. I wish I thought I could viciously punish those who are going to perpetuate that, but I cannot do that either.

All I can do is sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the deaths of kings.

"If He play, being young and unskilful,
for shekels of silver and gold,
Take his money, my son, praising Allah.
The kid was ordained to be sold."


  1. SSDD. We've been looking for a honorable way out of this thing for a long time now and it looks like we settled on the strategy of a timetable where we setup a house of cards that stands just long enough to get us out the door. A lot of blood left to be spilled between now and then, a sacrifice that will have little material effect, all because politicians don't want to hold the hot potato of a withdrawal that's perceived as a loss.

    I guess it's "progress" that neither candidate is at all interested in talking about the subject (which country is that again?) which I intepret as a tacit admission that they've finally realized this war is a big fucking loser. You don't even hear the neocons blustering much anymore.

    I'll likely be back there next year, or maybe the year after, hopefully for the last time.

  2. Chief,
    Recent events prove that the lack of strategy and use of mindless violence is coming home to roost.
    The US can't have a DOS policy divorced from the DOD policy, and both are bankrupt in all senses of the word.

  3. Andy: True dat. I just keep hoping that at some point someone will be willing to speak up and just SAY that. The punitive expedition had a point; the "occupation"? C'mon...

    And may you return with your ruck and not on it, my friend. I will be thinking bad thoughts towards the muj' marksmanship while you're out in injun country.

    jim: Yep.

  4. Chief,

    Thanks, but I wouldn't worry to much about me. I'm not allowed outside the wire, so the most I'd have to worry about are the usual IDF attacks and attackers breaching the base.

  5. FDC, Kipling is never far from my mind.

    "When you're wounded and dying on Afghanisan's plains,
    and the women come out to cut up what remains,
    just roll on your rifle and blow out your brains
    and you'll go to God like a soldier."

    As for the strategy, I don't think you can look at only the foreign piece of strategy. There is an equal internal/domestic piece at play such as the Neo-con agenda, the religious right agenda, American visions of exceptional moral and physical vantage a'la the city on a hill. None of that stands up to scrutiny either. Strategy is not only about what we want to accomplish in the badlands or the wastelands; it is a larger statement about who we want to be as a political body. The initial people in charge wanted to be victors, nation makers, champions of freedom (&ca, &ca). Now the people in charge want to retain the unilateral ability to take out bad-dudes in the "global battle-space" as simple consequentialism comes to drive more foreign policy.

    So, did the nation making work in the foreign arena? No. Did the nation building rhetoric work domestically? Possibly. It certainly made the Podhoretz/Krauthammmer crowd happy, and in turn energized the GOP faithful while alloying liberal fears. Will a consequentialist tail-chase work as a coherent foreign policy?** I don't think so. Will it play well domestically? Well that's why its called consequentialism--you can pick your actions based upon what will have manageable day to day/cycle to cycle consequences.

    **To be fair, some of the policy moves I've seen in the form of DOT moves to fiscally constrain the IRGC and Pasdaran (Quods Force) are actually very coherent and pretty elegant. Unfortunately, their sophistication means they make for terrible tele-drama. Strange that DOT could be some of our best "quiet professionals."**

  6. Given recent events and the fact this is an election year, I think we'll be mostly gone from Afghanistan next year. We'll be marking time for the remainder of 2012 and then we'll GTFO. I don't really see any other alternative.

  7. Given the way our putative friends in the ANA and ANP are acting mad, bad, and dangerous to know the danger may already be inside the wire.

    Here's to loyal friends and incompetent enemies.

  8. I hope Andy is right in his prediction. Unfortunately I suspect that we will stay into 2014 so will be still taking casualties from our so called friends there up until the day we depart.

    Gotta love Kipling. He knew strategy as well as poetry. We should learn to follow what he early on recognized as a strategy of basic arithmetic:

    BTW Andy - thanks for the great tip on the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver. I browsed for hours and picked up some good reads unavailable here and that I had been searching for a long time.

  9. Mike,

    Glad you enjoyed it! Tattered Cover is one of my favorite places!

  10. Jeremy, couldn't agree more with your statement about Treasury's Office of Intelligence and Analysis (OIA). Some really amazing stuff in the world of Threat Finance and "following the money." Really impressed with what they are doing, a very powerful use of intelligence.