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18 March 2012

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William R. Cumming

A post that "nails it" IMO! Thanks Hank!

SEH

This is a wonderful summary of the situation, but I would like to summarize it by saying that the blame lies with all our national level leadership - those who pushed to carry out mistaken actions and those who failed to actively (not just passively) stand up and oppose these actions. This whole mess is a reflection of total lack of leadership.

SteveB

Actually, this Democrat says that it's simply not a war that was winnable and that the blame belongs to all the adults who should have known better and didn't stop it--Republicans, Democrats, and the fourth estate alike.

steve

Unfortunate that it will be the subject of partisanship. As a result, the only "lesson" learned will be to elect more democrats or more republicans either of whom would have "won" in some sense.

Thus, it is a given that there will be no fundamental critique of what is of course a bipartisan failure, ensuring that there will only be more of the same in the future.

Charles I

re false patriotism.

What's a civvy to do when they meet a 21st century soldier? Spit? Look away, as with disabled who pang us some uncomfortable place? Jingoistic jig? Being humanly conflicted, hate the sin, love the sinner politician's tools, who did their best, is real for many of us, as is the near universal human blame avoidance you so presciently write of. That's progress over what Pat and others have reported during after Vietnam, for a drafted forces no less. Normal life encompassing relief at your kid not being in a hopeless war, or home in tatters, cripes, that's the freedom supposed to be fighting, voting for. The Canadian government, as yours, has milked the hell outta this spectacle, slandered and blamed any but themselves. Perhaps false war equals false patriotism but I think you are too harsh on many of your fellows in this regard.

On the other hand, electing Bush II a second time wasn't just looking in the mirror, it was right on through.

Can anything be learned, about the world, or ourselves, after the blamefest is settled? Or if the blamefest is inevitable, can it be harnessed for the good of the troops, the country? Lemonade out of this bitter pill?

Basilisk

I think you have to have something before you can lose it. I know this discussion about who lost Afghanistan will go on and on just as the one did about China, but it is feckless.

We never had Afghanistan. Even just after 9/11 with all the tactical and strategic airpower on the planet and the whole Northern Alliance receiving briefcases full of cold cash, and Gul Agha Shirzai installed in Kandahar, we never did more than rent a small part of Afghanistan.

Graveyard of empires, indeed. Thanks, Col Foresman, good, clear statement of reality.

greg0

The Republican candidates are urging a "commitment to winning Afghanistan", to "finish the job".
Too bad they are short on specifics. Maybe if a couple million evangelical Christians could be moved in, aka population transfer by Stalin?
Realism is not a big strength with politicians anywhere.

r whitman

I wonder if 5 years from now(assuming I am still here)we will be debating the question of who to blame for the big mess of a war we are in over in Iran??

We, the USA, are about to make the same mistakes again.

Walrus

Can anything be learned? Who will be blamed? What are the lessons?

The one single sorry lesson is that the American self image of who it is, what it stands for, and its place in the world are seriously and perhaps fatally flawed.

This is summed up in the one single flaw in Col. Foresmans' nost excellent piece: In the last sentence; the last phrase; he accuses the Afghans of being at odds with, wait for it, "modernity". This epitomises our conceit and thus our problem: most of the world is totally at odds with our concept of "modernity".

I will leave out the Jeremiad about the Americans who are also at variance with this concept - from the theocrats to those who think waterboarding isn't torture and that detention in secret without due process is a good idea. Then of course there are the Strausians. You can read Glen Greenwald if you want a critique of those "modern" ideas. The reality is that secular humanist democratic ideals are deeply foreign and alien to most of the population of this planet, and it's time we acted like we know it.

We may think that Afghan society has no redeeming virtues, but I submit, as William Golding did, that if we were asked to organise ourselves in an Afghan environment - little arable land, Islam, good defensive terrain, continual threats of invasion by a multitude of foreigners and the temptation of the occasional raid on the plains, we might organise and govern ourselves the same way as the Afghans. To put that another way, our relatively humane system of justice in which the penalties involve incarceration is an artifact of our wealth. Primitive countries can't afford much more than rough justice and neither could we until relatively recently.

We are not "modern" we are just lucky.....for now. Our behaviour and concepts are regarded with deep suspicion by most of the planet, even as they are enraptured by our technology. That is the lesson to be learned.

Hank Foresman

Thanks.

Hank Foresman

Walrus, you made an excellent point which I have corrected above, it is now in script in the main portion of the article.

VietnamVet

This post is a excellent rehash of the current reality. I agree with Walrus. I was very lucky. I grew up when America was full of oil and jobs. I survived a war. I worked for 42 years and retired with a defined pension plan.

This ends when the Massive Ordnance Penetrators rain down on Qom’s nuclear sites.

The Western Elite's addiction to oil, power and wealth overpowers any moderation and grasp of the reality of living on the blue Earth with billions of other humans.

Lee

Walrus, that was really great food for thought - just to clarify though, the William Golding you are referring to is the Lord of the Flies author?

Babak Makkinejad

That is all fine and well but I submit to you that there is a thing called "Modern Medicine" that will be accepted and indeed cherished by all the various peoples of Afghanistan.

There is also another thing called "The Internal Combustion Engine" that has potential to materially affect the lives of Afghans everywhere for the better.

Last, but not least, is the "Electric Communications" that, likewise, will enormously benefit Afghans.

Afghanistan, in 1970s, had a functioning state that supplied basic services in transportation and communication infrastrcuture, in the administration of justice, in education, an in urban and rural security.

Afghanistan, in my jedgement, has been a victim of Cold War; just like Cambodia was.

Walrus

Thank you Col. Lang, Col. Forsman for an illuminating topic.

I guess Col. Langs observation about the Egyptian Islamists "One Man, One Vote, One Time." also serves to illustrate the point about the alien nature of our values to many.

I agree with Babak as well - Western Medicine, the IC engine, electronic communications are all examples of highly prized Western Technology. I suspect that they are also part of the problem; how do you operate an Islamic Theocracy, especially the censorship part, when you can pack the equivalent of a Thousand Playboy magazines on a tiny USB key?

Yes, William Golding = Lord Of The Flies.

Farmer Don

Getting out of the wars is the first step.
The next is to quit living in fear.
Realize that the terror threat to the people and contry of the United States is way less than the damage of the loss of civil rights and the waste of resources of a high survelence society.

turcopolier

Farmer Don

Gonna read the new book? Claude is the same suffering soul as always. pl

Farmer Don

Thanks for the prod!
Have been kind of hibernating up here for the Winter.
Will get a copy and dig into it.
Best Regards
F.D.

Charles I

Claude is the same . . maybe to the authour, but not to this reader, his arc was excruciating, his license more extreme to my sense.

crf

Here's a copy of the speech by Bush made at the beginning of the Afghan war:
http://www.putlearningfirst.com/language/20rhet/bushat.html

It's interesting to go through it and to look at what the goals of the war initially were, and whether they were accomplished. Also, it's obvious that the goals morphed in the years the war went along. I think there is much less evidence of the neo-con nation-making agenda in this initial speech, which was careful, and seems to set limited goals. Clearly those neo-con people gained more sway as Bush's presidency went on. They are to blame: Bush was just their willing tool.

Another interesting tid-bit in the speech is Bush calling Islam a great religion. It's telling how continuous, pointless and incompetent war making has so toxified western culture that no republican (or Democrat) would dare use those words now. The Neo-Cons are still the most important force in US political culture.

Bill H.

Yes. It was never ours to lose.

Morocco Bama

Lessons never seem to be learned. Next up for Afghanistan? China, perhaps? Why not? It would make it a Trifecta.

Babak Makkinejad

You wrote:

"how do you operate an Islamic Theocracy.."

That is the problem with your mentality and approach; laden with very explicit value-judgements.

There are only 25 democractic states in the world and almost all of them are Christian polities.

Leave the rest of the world alone to make their own decisions and choices.

toto

There are 27 countries in the EU alone, and all of them are at least broadly democratic.

brenda

It practically makes me cry to see this question being asked by the army, as if already preparing their defence.

The ones who will never ask this question of themselves are the architects of the war, political ideologues who would use a fine army to achieve their own perverse ends.
What on earth is a professional soldier to make of a "war on terror" anyway?

These same neo-cons who are now busy trying to gin up the country for another war, an even bigger show. Aided and abetted by the mainstream US press. Makes ya' wanna' cry alright. The wrong people are agonizing over the post-mortem on Afghanistan.

btw, Col. Foresman, not all of the American people were out shopping. Some of us actually marched against the Afghanistan War before it got started. And also, there are important unanswered questions about 911, the raison d'etre for this misconceived, unwinnable war. But overall, I liked your piece, very fine.

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