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Do Americans understand insurgencies?

Comment on New York Times article
Robert Maier
Monday 31 December 2007

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The New York Times today had a list of the presidential candidates’ stands on various relevant topics. Of course, Iraq was near the top of the list. It was disappointing to see that the the Times only mentioned troop removal as the solution to Iraq’s problems. A more comprehensive plan that included an intensive re-building of infrastructure: education, sanitation, energy, health, transportation, and a judicial system would be more productive than just getting the troops home as soon as possible. And though this sentiment is on every Democratic candidate’s website, it was completely neglected in the Times article. Perhaps it is too complex an issue for Times readers to grasp?

The multiple failures following the West’s support of a mujahedeen insurgency against the USSR in Afghanistan invasion should be an enduring lesson that you can’t simply arm factions, then walk away to let them fight it out. There are good alternatives to a military occupation that can build an enduring peace. Afghans would not follow the Talibs, if their basic human needs were being met by the Western coalition.

Even the U.S. military is taking this position more and more, but American politicians and media pander to the uninformed majority that see either “winning the war” or “getting out of the war” as the only solutions. Both are absurd: it is impossible to win or to ignore a war of insurgency. I would love to hear just one politician say “every soldier who leaves Iraq will be replaced by a doctor, lawyer, engineer, carpenter, mechanic, accountant, etc. etc. etc. and have the media repeat it.

Sadly, that goes against the grain of so much of American culture which says that winning only comes through force and submission. That may have been true in the pre-Internet, jet-plane, satellite, nuclear age, but we face a new paradigm where crazed men with a few sticks of dynamite become “Armies of One” (to borrow a U.S. Army recruiting slogan) with more power than a division of thousands—or a Humvee with a few unlucky soldiers. Hopefully our leaders will explore more solutions than running away or sacrificing its best for an impossible “victory.” Hopefully the media will support this, and not promote simplistic solutions.

Kabulpress English pages editor, writer, video producer and educator.

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  • Good comment, thanks

  • I agree whole heartedly that there are more tan two dimensions to an insurgent conflict. Some of then are 1- military, 2- political, 3- basic human needs, 4- economic growth. The premise of the goals are to give the people a stake in the country and society. "the hearts of those who have a stake in the country are fixed, and if they are not fixed they will go to extravagance and vice."-Mencius. Thus the goal is to fix the peoples hearts the means are the four dimensions. Ref at: http://incapp.org/mencius.htm

    It follows then that anything that takes away men’s stake in the country should be avoided at all costs. Such things include but are not limited to, making people dependant on government, endemic corruption in the workings of government, high inflation, high unemployment, and lack of personal safety.

    Take lack of personal safety, Machiavelli said that "a corrupt people can never be free" what he meant and explained was that in a corrupt society, there is no personal safety. when there is no personal safety, people will turn increasingly to a more tyrannical government in hopes that in tyranny they will find safety. With fewer checks on it’s power, Government will naturally become more corrupt. Creating more corruption in society. Increasing the call for tyranny. and so forth.

    The obvious answer is to insure a clean government. The reason that America has such a high standard of living is not our intelligence, or luck, or that we seal from others. It is that we haven’t allowed endemic corruption into the workings of our government. Until lately that is.

    The means to the end of creating a government that is free of corruption is of the utmost importance. All other means skirt this basic truth.

    John Pepin
    johnpepin incapp.org

    View online : http://incapp.org/

  • I think the idea of "withdrawing the troops to replace them with professionals" is an unrealistic view if we assume by "professionals" we mean American or European professionals. No American or European would want to work in a country as unstable and unsafe as Afghanistan. Let alone a professional.

    i think, the idea can be partly effective if we assume by professionals we mean "Afghan professionals". In that case, to produce those Afghan professionals the Americans and the Europeans would have to grant scholarship to Afghan scholars to study in their respective countries (or fund a better education in Afghan universities. After graduation the scholars, who now be professionals, should be returned to Afghanistan to serve their country.

    But the scholarship go to be granted in massive numbers...
    Things can be complicated given the tendency of Afghan scholars to stay in developed countries.

    Even if the idea of "withdrawing troops to replace them with Afghan-professionals" is made practical, there would still be the need for troops to maintain security. Or Afghan army need to be trained in large numbers to carry out the function.

    • I agree very much. The outside professionals would need to come to Afghanistan to teach, for a year or two. In my experience Afghans are quick, astute and energetic learners. They only lack teachers, texts, and tools. It costs well over $200,000 a year to post and equip one US soldier in Afghanistan. Teachers would cost less than half that, and in one year one teacher could pass on their knowledge to hundreds of Afghans. Before long Afghanscould become nearly 100% self-sustaining. Of course some troops would be required for security.

      This will be very difficult because the US is controlled not by academic text publishers or instructors, or educational institutions, but by military suppliers like Blackwater, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, General Dynamics, a well-paid officer corps and military bureaucracy, and hundreds of US communities financially dependent on huge US-based military installations.

      The US military costs $640 BILLION a year. Those who benefit mightily from that huge feed trough will not easily give it up. This is the real problem in the world, not terrorists, not angry mullahs, or zionists. If only 10 percent of that money were diverted to education, then peace and justice would at least stand a chance.

  • I’m sad to say this, but Americans do not care about the people of Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, it would be safe to say that Americans do not much care about foreign lives in general. The issue with "troop winning" and "troop withdrawal" has more to do with American soldiers’ lives and the general cost of the wars to the American taxpayers.

    • You are right, to a certain extent. But there are 360 million Americans. More than 75% do not like President Bush. Many millions of them disagree with how US Foreign affairs are run. It is too easy to include all Americans in the pot. It’s like saying all Afghans, and all Iraqis and all Muslims. There is no such thing, and to say so implies an intellectual laziness that is a much greater problem around the world than blaming "the Americans."

    • You are absolutely right. American’s don’t really think about the lives of other people in other counties very much at all. We are far too lost in our own travails and triumphs. Just as are every other people on the planet. I challenge you to find a people who consider the well being of the people of other nations when they make decisions about their lives. We are all human beings, flawed and seeking grace. In our daily lives we find distraction from our inexorable ride to the undertaker.
      So.. you are absolutely right, we Americans don’t think about the lives of other people around the world that much. When we do however, think about the lot of our fellow man, we think about somehow improving their lives. We are ham handed, and some times stupid as a box of rocks in our attempts to protect our interests while trying to help others. I believe that we have in many ways hurt the very people we were trying to help.
      What if car were to magically appear in ancient Rome. The Car would be gawked at. Then someone would take the car as his personal vehicle. If the air cleaner were to plug up what would the Roman do? He might surmise that the machine worked on ethanol and air. He might smell the exhaust and smell too much ethanol. Aha! the machine is getting too little air! and he would then remove the air filter. Eureka, the machine would work fine again...
      Rushing madly into any undertaking is foolish, hopefully, we will learn from our past mistakes...

    • I think American’s do care about the people of Afghanistan but sadly there is little knowledge about what is really happening over there. It takes wanting to know and wanting to understand and being willing to watch news stories and read books and articles and surf the net. After having done all of that it is then necessary to decide as an individual what sense you make out of what you have read and heard. And then even with a concern for the people of Afghanistan and an awareness of the problems that exist there is the age old question of "what can I do?". Truly from where I am in the United States I don’t know what if any foreign agencies provide help to the people of Afghanistan. Are there ways to donate warm clothes and shelter in winter? Food to the hungry? Help with literacy programs or provide books and/or necessary things for learning to occur?

      Before you assume that I, or other Americans, don’t care, try to understand that are abilities to demonstrate the caring and concern that may be present comes from a lack of awareness about what to do. Suggestions about how to help?

  • i know what to do, make 5 lookout rooms in the aphganistan mountains and just use the 5 chopper generators for the electricity and air conditioning.

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