Wednesday, December 02, 2009

An indecent proposal

Yesterday I returned from eight delightful days in London. I was too jetlagged to watch Obama's speech last night defending his escalation of our intervention in Afghanistan. Suffice it to say that I am opposed to the escalation, which will effectively consolidate the work of George W. Bush (that Manchurian candidate) in wrecking this country--probably irretrievably.

Al Qaeda operates in many countries--in Afghanistan only minimally. Stamping out its remnants there will make no appreciable contribution to our national security. That argument is specious. Of course, Obama is on record earlier in advocating an intense effort in that country. Had that been done immediately after our invasion the effort might have had a chance of success. Yet by diverting resources to Iraq, Bush spoiled that chance. There is no turning back the clock to 2002.

Had he been able to muster the courage, Obama would have acknowledged that the opportunity he once claimed to envision--carrying the work in Afghanistan to term--is simply not there. His plan is unfeasible. But he did not--does not--have this courage. So he has basically capitulated to the jingoists and warmongers. Nothing very much ever changes in Washington DC.

Looking at the morning paper I note (as usual) very little discussion of the issue that is actually central to any attempt to resolve the Afghan conflict. That is the matter of opium, the country's only significant export.

Currently the Taliban and the government are engaged in a contest over who will control the vast river of cash that accrues from this form of agriculture. Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, headquartered in Kandahar, is said to be a (perhaps the) major kingpin on the government side.

The corruption, about which we hear so much, is a direct consequence of jockeying over shares of this lucrative resource. Follow the money trail. The main reason we cannot subdue the Taliban is its control over a significant share of this traffic. If we were to achieve a truce with the so-called moderate Taliban, we would have to leave them in the possession of their share. Otherwise, why would they deal with us?

The issue is much broader: the only way the war on terror can be won is to abandon the war on drugs. These stimulants should be decriminalized in all western countries, with their distribution placed under strict control. Two wars is bad enough, but when the military effort is are yoked to the unwinnable war on drugs, the prospects are truly hopeless.

In Afghanistan, Karzai should be deposed and replaced by his brother, who will act energetically to centralize control of drug production and export. He would drive the Taliban out of the business.

Whatever happens, drugs will be what determines the outcome of the Afghan conflict. The matter cannot be ignored. Does anyone have a better idea?

UPDATE (Dec. 6). Siince his early warmongering days vis-a-vis Iraq Andrew Sullivan has come a long way. Not far enough, though. In a piece at his Daily Dish blog entitled "The Morning After" he rightly says: "I think this strategy is doomed. But then I think any strategy that does not pledge to colonize Afghanistan, pour trillions of dollars into it and stay for a century is doomed."

Then Sully does an about face and endorses the president's plan. Why? Well, somehow it would be too embarrassing to pull out now. So there must be another 18 months of futile loss of our lives and our treasure--all in order to prove something we already know. As Sullivan admits, the neocons will never listen to reason on this issue. They want us to stay in for another hundred years. These maniacs must be confronted; if not now, when?

Sullivan's posting is one of the worst pieces of cognitive dissonance I have seen. Men and women are dying every day in Afghanistan. Why must more die to continue a quixotic mission that Sullivan himself admits is doomed? Maybe one needs to have a Catholic education, Jesuits and all, to propound so glibly this tissue of absurdities.

UPDATE. Here is a sage comment from The Onion:

"Heroin Addicts Pressure President To Stay Course In Afghanistan
November 19, 2009 | Issue 45•47

LOS ANGELES—As the White House considers sweeping strategic shifts in the war in Afghanistan, heroin addicts across the nation called on President Obama Monday to stick with the current U.S. policy, which has flooded the world market with low-price narcotics. "There's no need to change nothing, Joe Biden," said addict Reginald "Bones" Dillow, who, when conscious, is an outspoken proponent of the U.S. military strategy that has resulted in a nearly 40-fold increase in Afghan opium production since the end of Taliban rule in 2001. "Everything is so cheap—it's all totally fine like it is, right? Over there, I mean. Why would you want to…do the…[garbled]." Obama is reportedly looking into economic incentives that would both persuade poor Afghans to cease opium cultivation and benefit chemically dependent Americans, the most promising of which involves constructing facilities in the war-torn country for the manufacture of methadone."



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