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10 March 2013


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Nasreddin Hodja

Attempts at nation building were a consequence of the intervention, not the cause of it.

The US went into Afghanistan because a) it urgently wanted to do SOMETHING after 9/11 - to seriously kick Muslim butts seemed a good way to make an example; b) the mullahs refused to extradiate OBL, who enjoyed guest's protection under Pashtunvali, the medieval Afghan code of honor, without proof of his involvement in 9/11; c) Afghanistan was fair game, because the international community did not care less what happened to it, including its civilian population.

The US stayed in Afghanistan for so long because a) neither GWB nor BHO dared to leave, for fear of being blamed of precocious departure in case a terrorist attack originated in Afghanistan b) BHO felt the need of posturing in order to avoid accusations of being soft on national security.

Of course Karzai wants to "feather his bed" for the time after your final departure - to save his a** would be a better expression in the light of what happened to Najibullah after the Soviets chickened out and terminated the flow of funds that kept Najibullah going for a while.



Thanks for putting words in my mouth. (more irony). It is true that we went into Afghanistan in the pursuit of AQ but the principal motivation for the long war developed into another example of the COIN stupidity. pl

stanley henning

Yes, Kipling's poem still rings true:

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.

stanley henning

Looking back at the Afghanistan fiasco which followed the Iraq fiasco I think our so-called leaders have revealed a total amateurism which ignores the fact that survival of our nation should be the real goal, not mindless revenge on people who have essentially nothing to lose. We have a lot to lose and we have lost lots of it recently. Wake up “leaders” and those few with some common sense speak up and don’t hold back like General Powell did.

Nasreddin Hodja

The irony is appreciated..

However, I think the principal motivation for the long war was, sadly, political posturing. Nation building was an attempt to give sense to the occupation.

I agree that except a few exceptional cases, COIN is a senseless undertaking, because most of the time you have to do with a national uprising against foreign occupation, colored or not by some ideology..

Sure as hell you are the enemy as long you are there..

COIN is based in a major part on French textbooks from the Algerian insurgency. But the French were wiser: having completely dismantled the FLN on the ground, they quickly negotiated a withdrawal from Algeria with the exiled leaders of the FLN and left Algeria shortly after the agreement (with the exception of some gas fields in the South). And the French position was infinitely stronger: they had one million plus loyal colonial settlers in place (many of whom were bilingual), they had been there for about 130 years, and Algeria is a couple of hundred miles off the French coast. The French have managed to keep urban terrorism at bay ever since by infiltrating the would be terrorists.



Weren’t you there in Saigon in the early 70’s when Nguyen Thieu was in the same situation as Hamid Karazi; waiting for the Americans to leave? Instead of Boston, Hamid will end up on the Rivera. Another variation on the same theme in history plays out.

There also will be a repeat of the 1970’s draw down. The Sequester is the first step. The trouble is, 40 years later, America is broke and almost 20% of its citizens are out of work. The Corporate takeover of government at the expense of American citizens can’t be papered over much longer; especially, when the government pushes policies, such as Austerity, that are proven to make things worse.

History has shown that when young men of good expectations have nothing to loose, revolutions happen.


When countries get unstuck, it is very difficult to fit them back together. When minds get unstuck, it is equally difficult. The same holds for coalitions of convenience get unstuck. We are - and will continue to experience all three phenomena in Afghanistan. Pity that careers will not get unstcuk in the process.


Thieu's situation was quite different. The US had largely defeated the NVN/COSVN coalition (contrary to lefty mythmaking). We destroyed their main forces in the field and the CORDS COIN operation all over the country in every province and district severely damaged the VC agitprop structure. Thieu had an effective armed force of hundreds of thousands of men, many of whom fought very bravely for the RVN. The US withdrew in the context of an armistice with the enemy which they felt compelled to accept. I was there in 1972 and had many talks with senior VC and NVA officers about their situation. They were very happy to get an armistice. So far as I know Thieu did not negotiate with the enemy. We did. The armistice brought two years of peace with the NVA in sanctuary areas near or across the border. Then, after two years the Congess made the "De Gaulle- Algeria" decision and forbade by law that we would ever under any circumstances help the RVN again. This massively demoralized the ARVN and VNAF and the NVA took our hint and over-ran the country. How is this like Afghanistan? I fail to see the resemblance other than in the feckless stupidity of the government of the US. pl



Please post things only once. I forgot to inquire about the welfare of your donkey, you know, the one who became a civil servant. I see that your IP is in Switzerland. You are quite right in all you say about COIN. I was so fortunate as to be taught at Bragg by many of the French writers on the subject; Trinquier, Galula, Ausaresse, Fall and many of the others. The Brits were there as well. After that I took part in trying to employ this philosophy in the 60s and early 70s in Latin America, Africa and SW Asia, and of course, in the big one in Indo-China. We foundback then that unless there are exceptional circumstances it does not work. For COIN to win you have to have an exceptional national leader as head of the effort, someone like Magsaysay I suppose. You also must have a situation in which the insurgency has not yet become a great national movement. What's the chance? In both Iraq and Afghanistan the COIN thingy was not seriously adopted until defeat was staring us in the face. It was not enough. It could not be enough . It takes too long, it is too brutal and costs too much money unless you own the country. pl


Shortly after 911, and long before the alleged decision to go into Iraq was taken, a friend working at the local Boeing plant told me that the U.S. Defence Department had just maximised its order for F18 aircraft wing flaps - a carbon composite structure that has a definite "life" that is/was made here.

The operative words according to my colleague were: "We will take everything you can make as fast as you can make them".

Look no further than Boeing, Lockheed, L3, General Dynamics, United Technologies, Raytheon and a slew of other military/Industrial contractors as the architects of both wars. The military industrial complex is alive and well and it feeds on American taxpayer dollars.

The accelerating militarization of American police forces suggest that the complex is about to turn completely parasitic and feed directly off its host.

Neil Richardson


"There also will be a repeat of the 1970’s draw down. The Sequester is the first step. The trouble is, 40 years later, America is broke and almost 20% of its citizens are out of work. The Corporate takeover of government at the expense of American citizens can’t be papered over much longer; especially, when the government pushes policies, such as Austerity, that are proven to make things worse."

Well by 1980:

The United States had abandoned the Gold Standard and the Bretton Woods regime had collapsed.

Stagflation was a new phenomen hitherto unknown to economists (Damn the Phillips Curve)

Our East Asian allies thought we were a rapidly declining power after the withdrawal of the 7ID, the twin "Nixon Shocks", and of course April 29, 1975.

Long gas lines in 1973 and 1979, price controls, a hollow Army and a major political party that had lost its mind (During the 1972 Democratic Convention, Mao received a vote for VP nomination)

and finally the seizure of the embassy in Tehran and Desert One. (Of course the US hockey team beat the Ivans and that made us feel just a littler better. Bless those guys)

Liberals have believed that historical progress tends to be linear. Realists on the other hand think that nations often repeat the same mistakes.

"History has shown that when young men of good expectations have nothing to loose, revolutions happen."

Well at least our cities aren't burning yet unlike the late 1960s.

Babak Makkinejad

Algeria was not a colony, it was a Department of France - sort of like a prefecture or governorate.

In Algeria, in spite of 130 years of effort, the European Enlightenment project failed when faced with Islam. That was the lesson that US did not absorb - unfortunately.

We are witnessing the unraveling of its remnants in Tunisia and shortly in Morocco.



And unless memory fails Thieu never said we were the enemy of his country, his people or their culture. pl


Col. sir,

The other "western imperialists" did not have to give a hoot about "human rights" or "collateral damage".

"Pax Americana" has it tough.



I think that is over-stated. A lot of what we have done is every bit as bad as the things that happened in the end-of colonialism wars. You also have to remember that there are two sides to these things. In Algeria the FLN liked to crucify French and Algerian soldiers by nailing them to doors in the shape of a cross. They also liked to cut their prisoners' throat, emasculate them and line their bodies up on a road with their heads pointed toward Rome with their genitals stuffed in their mouths. In VN I have seen VC agitprop teams run show trials against small landowners in villages out in the boondocks, make the "enemies of the people" dig their own graves and then force villagers to beat them to death so that they are all responsible. A hell of a lot of Algerians and Vietnamese fought for France. They were not forced to do so. pl

Nasreddin Hodja

Actually, the FLN was mainly a secular movement, with a penchant for Arab Socialism. They were not very supportive of militant Islam. And later, in the 90s, the FLN in power fought a ferocious war against the islamist insurgency, employing even more brutal methods then the French back in the 50s and 60s.

Départements or not, Algeria was a colony. The farmers with European background were called "colons européens" - which they were.

As far as I know the King of Morocco is "Amir al-Mu'minin", the Commander of the faithful.


The strong do as they can & the weak suffer what they must...

Sayeth that Ol' Hellenic...



Yes, they were mostly secular but they loved the cltural trappings of Islam. pl

Nasreddin Hodja

By the way, belated thanks for your inquiry.. Hey, you know the story with the vizier and his secretary in Damascus? Of course you must know it as a Turcopolier.. a telling name evoking a special type of warfare.

Farmer Don

The main thing is these money pits are coming to an end. For the first time in over a decade the USA can count on three years without wars.

My guess is that this will cause a welcome boost to the general and financial well being of most Americans.

Babak Makkinejad

Then please explain why Algeria is not French in everything but name?

You are under-estimating the role of Islam in the FLN and indeed the Algerian Revolt; in my opinion.

No doubt the King of Morocco has a very good chance of creating an Islamic Constitutional Monarchy - if he is willing to cede real power to the "out" people.



I have been trying to teach the himar to speak for a long time. The turcopolier domain name is a conceit from a time when such things interested me. pl

William R. Cumming

Nation building? And here I thought the US interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan and most of the rest of MENA was to promote sectarian violence against followers of ISLAM!

I believe some commenters on this blog have indicated over four [4] dozen sects exist in Islam. Christianity too many to count but certainly at least 600 not including the MORMONS.

Without a POPE to police heresy not sure how that works right now!

Nasreddin Hodja

@ Babak Makkinejad

(Sorry Turcopolier, this will be slightly off)

Algeria is not French because:

1. De Gaulle - very wisely - decided to leave it alone. (Maybe he could have kept a couple of French enclaves around Algiers, Oran, and Bône.) With hindsight, it was a wise decision: the French have enough problems today with the integration of a few million Algerian immigrants in France - just imagine the problems they would have had they kept the three Départments plus the rest. In 1962 Algeria had a population of 11 million people, today it has 36 million. French Algeria would be a fiction, Algerian France a reality..

2. The 60's were a time of a leftist surge in Europe. A long colonial war was hardly sustainable - the majority of the French were against it. (Today they would gladly let go Martinique, Guadeloupe and all the rest as well! But these territories stick to France, for good reasons I guess.)

3. The United States by and large supported the decolonization movement - idealists say to support freedom, cynics say to get rid of its rivals. In any case, it had to take over the burden of policing the world. This is a continuing story.

As for the Algerian insurgency, the FLN, and Islam, it was a complicated story. The oulemas wanted only cultural liberation, but not a secession. The FLN was led mostly by secular nationalists. Their Islam was of a quite moderate blend. And a large portion of the Muslim population was pro-France. In a sense, the movement of emancipation was hijacked by a radical minority.

William R. Cumming

Sorry to ask Neil Richardson but what important happened on April 29th, 1975?

Is there a good analysis of exactly why Islam was defeated in the largely Catholic areas of Western Europe and failed even after several centuries to defend the areas they had seized? Was the win at the Battle of Poiters largely a fluke with Christendom being very lucky in its timing and Islam unlucky? Victor Davis Hansen seems to think so as expressed in his writings!

I seem in my 70's to have become a full adherent to the notion that wars are lost not won and given that sentiment exactly why has Islam had to resort to "military" tactics and strategy to control the fate of what is fast becoming 2B people?

Is Africa the only continent on which the faith of ISLAM is spreading to new terrority [sic] today?

Are they any good histories or analysis of the control of Islam by the Han Chinese or Russians?

If the spread of religion today [and in the past?] is largely a function of demography perhaps the Birth Control doctrine of the Catholic church makes more sense?

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