6 Dec 2009

Obama's War

I like Barack Obama. He says a lot of fine things. But I am starting to wonder if the warm rhetoric can be bolstered by effective judgement. And I amm not the only one.
Things are about to get increasingly bloody. He's decided to pour another 30,000 soldiers into Afghanistan as if their presence there will magically give the illusion of a war being won just in time for the next presidential election in 2012.
It sounds so seductively simple doesn't it? Just add more military power and the 'war' can be won. But you could very easily add another 300,000 soldiers and it won't make very much difference. Because Afghanistan has never been and never will be a country which can be readily conquered. It is too complex, too tribal and too hardened to resisting occupation.
The price worth paying, in terms of blood (Afghan and Western) and money is way too high for the ends which might be achieved.
There are many better, much smarter and more effective things which can be done to improve Afghanistan.
First, start with the corruption and pitifully low legitimacy of Hamid Karzai's government. Compel him to devolve power. Force him to expose and punish large scale corruption where it has taken place.
Second, think economics. The reasons many young Afghan men fight for the taliban is money. They are not necessarily comitted to the radical ideology of wanting to murder all infidels. They just get paid more in a desperately poor country where alternative opportunities to earn money are virtually non-existent.
Third, remember that intervention and occupation in a foreign country will always be unpopular as long as the ordinary people can see no benefits. If they have no water, electricity or indeed security, then of course they will be angry and more motivated to get rid of foreign occupies trying to impose their own values and ways on them.
Think more about political and economic solutions rather than military ones.
Fourth, lets just either drop or demolish this frequent and righteous line that having more soldiers fighting in Aghanistan somehow makes the streets of Britain safer. It is tenuous at best and misleadingly disingenuous at worst.
The taliban are not about to invade us any time soon. We may not like them, but then there's lots of rulers around the world who we may not like. We don't go around making excuses to get rid of them. Nor should we. Unpalatable as it will be, we may have to deal with the taliban politically.
Besides when it comes to terrorist attacks on British soil and keeping 'the streets safe' (the favourite phrase of lazy politicians), it was the breeding of homegrown extremism which was the principal fuel.
British soldiers are in Afghanistan because we always have to follow what America does. Our leaders have been too timid in being candid about the realities of winning in Afghanistan and understanding both day to day inside the country and also its history.
Finally, something that is mentioned very infrequently. Fighting wars and occupying other countries is extremely expensive - something like one million dollars per soldier per year. Could that money not be better spent on something more effective at home?
Both America and Britain have never been closer to bankcruptcy. They cannot really afford grandiose foreign adventures. America is losing its leverage and influence in the world just like Britain lost its after Suez in 1956.
Is it not better to accept and manage that reality sooner rather than later before hundreds more people lose their lives for no sensible reason?
How about less invading and more intelligence?

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