General McChyrstal, newish boss of the “Af-Pak” (Afghanistan-Pakistan) war – the latest of Our increasingly late-Roman overseas misadventures – now wants more troops.
William S. Lind, noted defense commentator, has some tremendously important insights on the matter and everybody who wants to get a better grasp of what’s going on but hasn’t read widely in military theory or history should check it out.
Just a few thoughts here.
If We are trying to accomplish any justifiable strategic objective at all over there, it’s to try to prevent Al-Qaeda from developing what United Fruit developed in the so-called ‘Banana Republics’ of the early 20th century and what the Mob developed in Cuba right after World War Two: a sovereign ‘state’ that they ‘own’ and whose sovereign authority they can buy to protect their activities and their interests.
Now the Mob was following the United Fruit idea. And to a certain extent United Fruit was following the American sugar-cane growing combines in Hawaii of the late 1800s, just before – lest We forget – the US government went in and engineered a coup to get rid of the Hawaian government and take the place over, which was also just before the US government ‘took over’ the Filipino revolution against the decrepit Spanish imperial authority and set up American shop there as well. A game-plan not lost on the just-modernizing Japanese, by the by, who then a couple-three decades later decided to make their play for the oil, rubber, tin areas of the Far Pacific (Japan itself is resource-poor), which included doing to the Americans at Pearl Harbor what Admiral Dewey had done to the Spanish squadron at Manila Bay. My how History does move!
So while, yes, We now find Ourselves in the unfamiliar and verrry incomfortable position of being resource-poor – at least in terms of oil, natural gas and such stuff – there is a certain measure of self-interest in the Bush Administration’s eager leap into the great Southwest Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, there is also a an actual element of immediate national-security concern: We don’t want Al-Qaeda to get what the Mob got in Cuba.
Well and good so far as it goes.
But there are some reeely reeely big problems.
First, Cuba had a government: Batista and his bunch ran the place with an iron-hand, and could guarantee that once they were paid they could do whatever had to be done to keep the Cuban people in line and maintain the profitable national ‘sovereignty’. Batista was a boss who could ‘perform’ – as the financial types say – once the check cleared the bank; he could keep up his end of the ‘contract’.
No such government – perhaps no such State sovereignty – exists in Afghanistan. (Pakistan, to be sure, has a government, which – by the by – is also nuclear-armed thanks to its ongoing disputes with India (also nuclear-armed) which stemmed from the unspeakable complexities aggravated when the British hastily ended the Raj and quit India in 1947 after the Empire had worn itself to a frazzle in World War Two). ‘Liberation’ and ‘empowerment’ in that instance was a reeely nice idea that wound up creating a volcanic abyss of frakking problems. Which bethump Us even unto the present day.
So McChrystal and the Beltway would like to pretty much make sure that their own ‘guy’ (or gal, theoretically, anyway) is running the Afghani State. Which, alas, does not exist, never has existed, and may well never exist in any realizable time frame (although there is always the hope, as the songster saith, that “in the year 2525 … if man is still alive” …
And at this point it also requires that We get a reliable guy (or gal, theoretically, anyway) on top of the Pakistani State as well. Although those folks are not as tribally free-wheeling as the Afghans and have a rather modern and self-proud State, having like the Indians learned much from British organization back in the day.
So in the Af-Pak adventure, We are up against a territory without a State and a State that intends to be nobody’s bought-patsy.
This is not something that the Special Forces, Mountain troops, the Delta Force, or the Marines (bless’em all and upon them be much peace) are going to be able to accomplish, nor any number of whoop-de-doo ‘smart drones’ operated by Air Force pilots from a strip-mall in New Mexico or Arizona or wherever on that stretch of old Route 66 they might be buying their burgers and lattes.
This is the equivalent of making an amphibious landing on an island that is not really an island and has no solid ground whatsoever. There is no place for the military operation to anchor itself. Except for the Pakistanis, who really aren’t interested in being part of a big foreign-controlled political regime again.
I don’t think this is going to work.
I don’t think it’s much of a Plan.
I don’t think that it reflects a great deal of sober competence on the part of the US military leadership or the Beltway’s political leadership.
I don’t think We are getting Our precious money’s worth for all the salaries, perks, bennies, and ‘contracts’ that We are pouring into the Beltway and across the river at the five-sided Battle Star.
I’m not saying that We could get better results from the first three thousand names in the internet White Pages, but I think that there are probably a lot of town councils dotted around this great land (as they like to say in the Beltway) who could come up with some better thinking.
So I propose that We do some thinking along those lines and see what We might come up with.
Americans are notoriously reputed to be un-historical in their take on things and their understanding of ‘life’, ‘reality’, ‘history’ and so forth.
This was because, it was often said, We are a ‘young’ country and always looking ‘to the future’, constantly seeking to “overcome the dead hand of the past”. History was past (an insight worthy of Yogi Berra and nowadays Yogi Bear). ‘Real men’ – you might say – look to ‘the future’.
We have also had forty years now of unremitting excitements during which overcoming “that dead hand” intensified exponentially, not only in scientific invention and practical application but also in doing an in-flight reconstruction of the very fundaments of American society and culture. Not even the US Air Force or Naval Air on its very best day would ever recommend changing an engine or wing or jiggering with the airframe while the aircraft was in flight. Especially if it is a passenger aircraft loaded with ‘souls’.
In such situations, only moderation and careful pilot planning will do, and even then nothing more than adjusting this or that wire or smallish component could be permitted. Anything else and you might – as it would be said – lose ‘airworthiness’, which when flying at altitude cannot but have unhappy results.
Indeed, as a justification and lubrication for their agenda-plans, many politically influential elements have been claiming that either a) History is dead or b) History is simply the work of ‘oppression’ and whatever the ‘oppressors’ had been doing should be ignored, repudiated, and also the opposite should now be done. Wheeee!
You can see where such a ‘philosophy’ or ‘strategy’ could go.
And you could be forgiven for thinking that it already has.
And of course, like all countries and peoples (think of the Germans after the Twelve Years of the Thousand-Year Reich) We don’t like to think about ‘history’ if it tends to display Our baaad things. The Germans of the late 1940s were only an unusually vivid example of what almost everybody tends to do when confronted with the consequences of baaaad actions.
But if We do not understand History We are bound to repeat it – because History is the result of forces and actions that humans set in motion.