You Want Me to Believe That This War Can Be Won?

On July 2, 2010 the US Senate 99-0 voted to spend $37 billion more dollars to fund the war in Afghanistan. Not long before that vote, the US House Appropriations Subcommittee announced that it would cut off $4 billion in US aid to Washington’s client regime in Kabul, Afghanistan. The reasons cited for this decision center around the widely publicized corruption of that regime. For some reason, the subcommittee’s action was met with cheers from some elements in the moribund US antiwar movement. It’s as if this attempt to blame the US-sponsored Karzai government for the corruption endemic in Afghanistan is the beginning of the end of the US assault on the Afghan people.

Of course, the exact opposite is the more likely truth. Obama’s dismissal of McChrystal does not seem to be about admitting a failed policy as much as the appointment of Petraeus appears to announce that the US military plans on ramping up its bloody assault. One can call it a surge or one can call it something else, but what occurred under Petraeus’ command in Iraq was simple. First, the US rules of engagement were relaxed. Then, the US provided support–tacit and active–to certain armed political factions within Iraq. These factions in turn attacked their enemies, killing thousands while dividing the nation along sectarian lines that continue to simmer. Meanwhile, US forces assisted in these endeavors by putting up concrete barriers dividing neighborhoods, and arresting and killing Iraqis who opposed the factions favored by Washington.

According to a paper published by the Afghanistan Analysts Network, some key support for the Taliban and other resistance groups in Afghanistan comes from communities “who have prisoners in the Guantanamo system.” If this is the case (and it makes perfect sense), then it is also fair to assume that the upcoming escalation of the war and the accompanying increase in the arrest of insurgents will enhance this type of support, as well. Still, when one reads the current scenarios about the next few months in Afghanistan, it seems as if the war planners believe that, yes there will be an upsurge in resistance at first but that the US and its escalation will prevail. It’s as if they believe the military might of the US-led forces will prevail over whatever the insurgency can put up, despite the fact that the insurgency has been able to stalemate all of the forces arrayed against it for almost ten years.

In recent weeks, the call to relax restrictions on the US military’s rules of engagement in Afghanistan has crescendoed. What began as articles in establishment papers and on television quoting various officers lamenting the requirement that they ask for permission before they bomb villages has now become a general assumption that that and other requirements will be gone soon. According to Petraeus and his cheerleaders in Congress and the media, this change in policy will make the war “safer” for US-led forces by “refining” current tactics. How exactly is not really clear. After all, if more Afghans are being killed by the occupying forces, then it seems only reasonable to assume that more members of the occupying forces will end up dead and wounded, also.

There’s an argument I have had repeatedly with retired military officers who fought in Vietnam that goes something like this. If you disconnect the politics and the morality of the war from its military aspect (a feat that I am unable to perform), then you have to admit that one of the primary reasons the US lost the war there was because virtually every air strike had to be approved by someone in a higher command. The men on the ground, goes the argument, did not have the leeway that they needed to perform their task at hand. The most obvious response to this fallacious argument is –are you trying to tell me that if US forces had killed four million Vietnamese instead of the two million they killed that the US would have won? Occasionally, the answer to my question is yeas. Most of the time, however, the conversation ends.

How long will it be before there are similar conversations about Afghanistan?

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground and Tripping Through the American Night, and the novels Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator's Tale. His third novel All the Sinners, Saints is a companion to the previous two and was published early in 2013. Read other articles by Ron.

5 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. MichaelKenny said on July 8th, 2010 at 9:34am #

    Amusingly, if you’ll pardon the expression, French Indo-China veterans are still using the same “we wuz robbed” argument in regard to their own defeat! They still blame it on a lack of manpower and a lack of political backing from Paris. And, of course, the defeat in Indo-China precipitated the fall of the Fourth Republic and the return of De Gaulle to power. De Gaulle, in turn, disappointed the generals and the colonists in Algeria. The former tried to overthrow him and the colonists are still spitting on his grave! Being on the wrong side of history is something people get it very hard to accept. The defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan will, naturally, be spun as famous victories, at least initially, butmay well precipitate an agressive president into the White House, determined as Reagan was (and Hitler!), to efface the “shame” of defeat. That will simply make things worse. Quite an encouraging prospect, in fact!

  2. teafoe2 said on July 8th, 2010 at 3:37pm #

    uh, “French Indo-China”?

    what kind of “anti-Imperialism” is this that thinks in such anachronistic vocabulary?

    No such place ever existed except in the minds of European racists and those who accepted their pre-WWII colonialist view of reality.

  3. Maien said on July 8th, 2010 at 10:13pm #

    So, the US is changing procedures in order to kill more efficiently.

  4. mary said on July 20th, 2010 at 7:05am #

    I have just been watching the oft rehearsed arrival (live on the terrestrial channels) of the four coffins containing dead troops at RAF Lyneham and their placing into hearses for onward public display in nearby Wootton Bassett.

    As the BBC commentator droned on with his platitudes, the ticker at the bottom of the screen was saying

    Breaking News – A renegade Afghan recruit has killed 2 US civilian military trainers and 2 Afghan soldiers in a shooting at a weapons training area in Northern Afghanistan. !!!!

    In the repellent Daily Mail, there is praise for the Afghan soldier who decapitated his victim. All but 2 of the 28 comments when I read them were gung ho and in favour of his action.

    This is definitely a war that should never have been waged and will never be ‘won’.

  5. mary said on July 20th, 2010 at 8:08am #

    Correction – it was a Gurkha who decapitated his victim. The Gurkhas are favourites of Joanna Lumley the actress. I wonder what her views are on this.