Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A stupid proposal

'A Modest Proposal [John Derbyshire]

I suggest a Constitutional Amendment to the effect that the United States not engage in any war longer than the Revolutionary War. That was 8 years and 137 days, Concord to the Treaty of Paris. The Afghanistan War would then be unconstitutional after February 21 next year.

We've been thrashing around in that worthless sinkhole of a country for eight years — twice as long as it took us to defeat Germany and Japan. And the Taliban is busily active in 80 percent of the place? HEL-LO . . .'


I think he's serious. Wait, let me amend that- he is seriously making this completely arbitrary trivial point. The United States went to war in Korea on the 25 June 1950. There is still no peace treaty in that war, only a temporary cease-fire which has held (pretty much) since 27 July 1953. Thats fifty nine years.

It seems almost too obvious to need pointing out, but you fight wars until they are won. Five years, ten years, fifty nine years. Every war, every circumstance is different. How long would the war against Japan have rumbled on if a) there hadn't been any nukes and b) if the Japs had followed through on their decision to fight for every square inch of their islands? It could be still going on!

The Iraq intervention was over within weeks; except that a three-cornered fight broke out in the political vacuum created by the collapse of the Ba'ath party. Predictable? Yes. Was it predictable that the combatants would carry on fighting long past any possible chance of success? No. In Afghanistan, the Taliban/tribes are now used to fighting all year every year. Young men grow up in Afghanistan with the tension and fear of war as a constant. They seem addicted to it. My guess is, they will carry on fighting until most of them are dead.

I'm pretty phlegmatic about that, but are the people who run the US? There does not seem to be any clear distinction in Afghanistan between 'civilians' and the people who do all the shooting and bomb-laying. Especially in the Pakhtun areas, pretty much everybody is hostile. But the rest of Afghanistan is not able to escape from the Pakhtuns malevolent orbit. What to do?

My sense is that there is no opportunity in Afghanistan to separate the civilians from the combatants cleanly. How do you run a counter-insurgency when that is true? You can't. The only alternative is what the British used to do, which is punish areas which disturb the peace outside their own borders, and leave them to their own devices. Rope them off to the extent that that is possible, and do something very positive with the Hazara and Uzbek areas of the country. Oh, and destroy every last poppy field and heroin processing facility.

No comments: