Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Three False Arguments to Stay in Afghanistan

Johann Hari presents the three most common arguments to continue the war in Afghanistan and debunks them.

...

afghanistanGI Argument One: We need to deprive al-Qa'ida of military bases in Afghanistan, or they will use them to plot attacks against us, and we will face 9/11 redux.

In fact, virtually all the jihadi attacks against Western countries have been planned in those Western countries themselves, and required extremely limited technological capabilities or training. The 9/11 atrocities were planned in Hamburg and Florida by 19 Saudis who only needed to know how to use box-cutters and to crash a plane. The 7/7 suicide-murders were planned in Yorkshire by young British men who learned how to make bombs off the Internet. Only last week, a jihadi was arrested for plotting to blow up a skyscraper in that notorious jihadi base, Dallas, Texas. And on, and on.

In reality, there are almost no al-Qa'ida fighters in Afghanistan. That's not my view: it's that of General Jim Jones, the US National Security Advisor. He said recently there are 100 al-Qa'ida fighters in Afghanistan. That's worth repeating: there are 100 al-Qa'ida fighters in Afghanistan. Nor is that a sign that the war is working. The Taliban or warlords friendly to them already control 40 per cent of Afghanistan now, today. They can build all the "training camps" they want there - but they have only found a hundred fundamentalist thugs to staff them.

Even if - and this is highly unlikely - you could plug every hole in the Afghan state's authority and therefore make it possible to shut down every camp, there are a dozen other failed states they can scuttle off to the next day and pitch some more tents. Again, that's not my view. Leon Panetta, head of the CIA, says: "As we disrupt [al-Qa'ida], they will seek other safe havens. Somalia and Yemen are potential al-Qa'ida bases in the future." The US can't occupy every failed state in the world for decades - so why desperately try to plug one hole in a bath full of leaks, when the water will only seep out anyway?

There are plenty of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan - but they are a different matter to al-Qa'ida. The latest leaked US intelligence reports say, according to the Boston Globe, that 90 per cent of them are "a tribal, localised insurgency" who "see themselves as opposing the US because it is an occupying power." They have "no goals" beyond Afghanistan's borders.

Argument Two: By staying, we are significantly improving Afghan human rights, especially for women.

This, for me, is the meatiest argument - and the most depressing. The Taliban are indeed one of the vilest forces in the world, imprisoning women in their homes and torturing them for the "crimes" of showing their faces, expressing their sexuality, or being raped. They keep trying to murder my friend Malalai Joya for the "crime" of being elected to parliament on a platform of treating women like human beings not cattle.

But as she told me last month: "Your governments have replaced the fundamentalist rule of the Taliban with another fundamentalist regime of warlords." Outside Kabul, vicious Taliban who enforce sharia law have merely been replaced by vicious warlords who enforce sharia law. "The situation now is as catastrophic as it was under the Taliban for women," she said. Any Afghan president - Karzai, or his opponents - will only ever in practice be the mayor of Kabul. Beyond is a sea of warlordism, as evil to women as Mullah Omar. That is not a difference worth fighting and dying for.

Argument Three: If we withdraw, it will be a great victory for al-Qa'ida. Re-energised, they will surge out across the world.

In fact, in November 2004, Osama bin Laden bragged to his followers: "All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen [jihadi fighters] to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qa'ida" in order to make generals race there, and we cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses - without their achieving anything of note!" These wars will, he said, boost al-Qa'ida recruitment across the world, and in time "bankrupt America." They walked right into his trap.

Yes, there is real risk in going - but it is dwarfed by the risk of staying. A bloody escalation in the war is more likely to fuel jihadism than thwart it. If Obama is serious about undermining this vile fanatical movement, it would be much wiser to take the hundreds of billions he is currently squandering on chasing after a hundred fighters in the Afghan mountains and redeploy it. Spend it instead on beefing up policing and intelligence, and on building a network of schools across Pakistan and other flash-points in the Muslim world, so parents there have an alternative to the fanatical madrassahs that churn out bin Laden-fodder. The American people will be far safer if the world sees them building schools for Muslim kids instead of dropping bombs on them.

He can explain - with his tongue dipped in amazing eloquence - that trying to defeat al-Qa'ida with hundreds of thousands of occupying troops and Predator jets is like trying to treat cancer with a blowtorch... [emphasis original]

Inserted from <Huffington Post>

I found all his arguments convincing, and I can add another argument:  I’ll just take this opportunity to officially announce that the winner of the runoff election that hasn’t happened yet is Hamid Karzai.

4 comments:

Brother Tim said...

The thing Hari doesn't mention, is that all those reasons are just smoke and mirrors. Anyone with an IQ higher than 60 can tell what the real reasons are.

You know how I feel about this hegemonic BS.

Brother Tim said...

The thing Hari doesn't mention, is that all those reasons are just smoke and mirrors. Anyone with an IQ higher than 60 can tell what the real reasons are.

You know how I feel about this hegemonic BS.

TomCat said...

Brother, nonetheless those are the stated reasons, so I dealt with them.

TomCat said...

Brother, nonetheless those are the stated reasons, so I dealt with them. ;-)