The McChrystal Report on Afghanistan

The big news story today is Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s report on Afghanistan, leaked to the Washington Post, in which he basically gives Pres. Obama an ultimatum: Give me more troops or we lose the war.

The commentary on the WaPo article is voluminous, but this piece by Ann Jones at The Huffington Post is a must-read. Jones has spent a lot of time in Afghanistan, and understands what’s going on there perhaps better than most media talking heads:

The big Afghanistan debate in Washington is not over whether more troops are needed, but just who they should be: Americans or Afghans — Us or Them. Having just spent time in Afghanistan seeing how things stand, I wouldn’t bet on Them. 

Frankly, I wouldn’t bet on Us either. In eight years, American troops have worn out their welcome. Their very presence now incites opposition, but that’s another story. It’s Them — the Afghans — I want to talk about.

Afghans are Afghans. They have their own history, their own culture, their own habitual ways of thinking and behaving, all complicated by a modern experience of decades of war, displacement, abject poverty, and incessant meddling by foreign governments near and far — of which the United States has been the most powerful and persistent. Afghans do not think or act like Americans. Yet Americans in power refuse to grasp that inconvenient point.

Digby is spot on about the bullshit reasons we are being given for escalating what is now being called “the AfPak war”:

For me, this one is easy. Afghanistan is the most unlikely place to win a war on the planet. To apply the lessons learned in Iraq (such as they were) to this country seems insane to me — especially the concept of “counter-insurgency,” so beloved by the McChrystalites, which is being bizarrely misapplied. But more important than that: whenever you hear people saying that the primary purpose in continuing a war is because “to leave would send the wrong message” and declaring that “perceptions” are the reasons for continuing a slaughter, you know you are in Pentagon NeverNever land.

Perpetual war, of course, has become the U.S. foreign policy norm (emphasis in original):

It’s hard to overstate how aberrational — one might say “rogue” — the U.S. is when it comes to war.  No other country sits around debating, as a routine and permanent feature of its political discussions, whether this country or that one should be bombed next, or for how many more years conquered targets should be occupied.  And none use war as a casual and continuous tool for advancing foreign policy interests, at least nowhere close to the way we do (the demand that Iran not possess nuclear weapons is clearly part of an overall, stated strategy of ensuring that other countries remain incapable of deterring us from attacking them whenever we want to).  Committing to a withdrawal from Iraq appears to be acceptable, but only as long as have our escalations and new wars lined up to replace it (and that’s to say nothing of the virtually invisible wars we’re fighting).  For the U.S., war is the opposite of a “last resort”:  it’s the more or less permanent state of affairs, and few people who matter want it to be any different. 

The factions that exert the most dominant influence on our foreign policy have only one principle:  a state of permanent warfare is necessary (the public and private military industry embraces that view because wars are what bestow them with purpose, power and profits, and the Foreign Policy Community does so because — as Gelb says — it bestows “political and professional credibility”).  In his 1790 Political Observation, James Madison warned:  “Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded. . . . No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”  Can anyone doubt that “continual warfare” is exactly what the U.S. does and, by all appearances, will continue to do for the foreseeable future (at least until we not only run out of money to pay for these wars — as we already have — but also the ability to finance these wars with more debt)?  That proposition is indisputable; it’s true by definition.  Doesn’t turning ourselves into a permanent war-fighting state have some rather serious repercussions that ought to be weighed when deciding if that’s something we really want to keep doing?

If you want (and can stand) more analysis, Steve Hynd has a good roundup.

4 Responses to “The McChrystal Report on Afghanistan”

  1. You can be sure this delay will put more of our troops in harms way! UGH.

  2. don nash says:

    Gen. Stan ‘the holistic mad bomber man’ McChrystal is doing his best impression of William Westmoreland. “Gimme more grunts or we gonna lose!” The U.S. has been there done that and the Afghaniscam will turn out exactly like the Vietnam. History does repeat itself. Not so far down that Kabul Highway, America will bolt. Disgraced, defeated, humiliated, and rightly so. Empire Amerikana is broken by the weight of it’s own immorality.

  3. ObamaLied says:

    Own Immorality Don Nash?? What about the morality of the Taliban? Care to compare the 2? No you won’t, nor can you because it would interfere with your purposeful misperception of America as the great immoral evil out there. Ever put a brain cell into thoughts about the immorality of Islam and the Taliban??

    We could wipe out the Taliban if unleashed. How many of you, especially women, would want to live under the Taliban? I condede that we’ve wasted years in Afghanistan, thanks mostly to Progressives who stand against any forceful action. But there still is hope, why flush the lives of so many Afghani people who probably just want to live in Peace? Shouldn’t people be allowed to live without oppressive dictates like the Taliban? I thought Progressives cared about people? Some day Afghani people may even have Health Care!! .. and Jobs !!

    Where’s Bin Laden?? Wasn’t that the cry of Progressives attacking Bush? didn’t Obamba promise to get Bin Laden?? Well he’s done little or nothing different. Obamba lied.

  4. if says:

    If the U.S. and Israel get behing a Central Asian Union consisting of Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikstan, Turkmenistan, Krgyzstan and Uzbekistan the problem would be solved. A union like this modeled after the European Union would give Iran another buffer on its backdoor. A buffer that would be supported by Russai, China and the U.S. It would also show that Israel is committed to peace in the region overall.

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