Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Empire assimilates Obama

What's hard about watching Obama cave in to the imperial military project in Afghanistan is that he has given ample evidence that he's smart enough to know better. Our previous ruler, you could never be sure: maybe he was just excited by flight suits and believed the nonsense Dick fed him.

But this one -- you know he knows that Afghanistan is hopeless. The local clans don't have the military capacity to throw us out. But unless we are prepared to make Afghanistan the 51st state, they can pick off our forces for a long time, keep the place ungovernable, and wait the latest invaders (us) out.

The last few months have provided an endless stream of evidence that the Karzai "government" is a corrupt, illegitimate sham. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointed out last week, "we don’t have a connection to a reliable partner..." (Wonder if she'll backtrack out of party loyalty or represent her overwhelmingly antiwar constituents for once?)

For goodness sake, Pakistan -- a real country with a real army on the ground and support from the vast majority of its citizens -- can't control the parts of its own territory that are much like Afghanistan. Thinking that throwing more of our troops and some contractors and some reluctant Europeans into the mix is going to change things is delusional. And you know Obama is smart enough to know this.

The best description of the "consultations" Obama has been conducting about Afghanistan for months now came from Rory Stewart, a Brit who is a professor of human rights at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Working for the British Foreign Service, he served as governor of a province in occupied Iraq and also walked across Afghanistan in 2002. He describes the experience of "being consulted."

They listen politely, but in the end, of course, basically the policy decision is made. What they would like is little advice on some small bit. I mean, the analogy that one of my colleagues used recently is this: it's as though they come to you and they say, "We're planning to drive our car off a cliff. Do we wear a seatbelt or not?" And we say, "Don't drive your car off the cliff." And they say, "No, no, no. That decision's already made. The question is should we wear our seatbelts?" And you say, "Why by all means wear a seatbelt." And they say, "Okay, we consulted with policy expert, Rory Stewart," et cetera.

Unhappily, the realities of the Afghanistan situation -- and having a President who is capable of understanding them -- are having next to no impact on the inertial forces of empire. Once involved, our elites believe the U.S. can and must prevail. Any Democrat must prove he's not a wimp. Upholding the myth of U.S. capacity to shape the world to our elites' liking must outweigh over any realistic assessment of national interest. The military budget must never be reduced. Most countries do better by trying to get along with others, but that's not for U.S.

We'll get some pretty words. Maybe the long suffering women of Afghanistan will be dragged out again as a pretext of occupation.

We can count on Obama to thump his chest and threaten Al-Qaeda. He's shown that he knows that making peace with the Islamic world would undermine these guys more than any number of brigades. But that wouldn't satisfy the drive to domination; empire wins.

Regardless of what cover Obama tries to give himself in the way of "off ramps" and "timetables" and "metrics," the reality remains simple: the way out of Afghanistan begins with not going further in. Every escalation, every new tactical innovation, every hopeful development scheme our military comes up with will only lead this country further in. The way out requires turning back. It usually does when you've gone down a wrong path.

Since apparently we don't have a President who will get us out, once again the people will have to take the lead in opposition to a ruler who chooses empire over us. Oh yes, the U.S. will leave Afghanistan -- that's only a matter of time and national bankruptcy. The people's job (and interest) is to make withdrawal happen sooner rather than later.


Nora Leah said...

Great post. Feeling like all of us who helped him get elected were "consulted" as well.

John Kirkley said...

Well said, Jan. Thank you.

sfmike said...


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