When the 'Right' War goes Wrong

When the 'Right War" Goes Wrong

William Pfaff

 
Paris, June 8, 2010 --The Obama Administration has at last issued its own National Security Strategy, a 52-page document 
that takes the place of the strategy statements published by the 
George W. Bush administration, beginning in 2002. Those were notable for their 
belligerence in proclaiming America’s policy priority to be the 
“defeat” of “terrorism” and their assertion of the claim to a right of unilateral pursuit of 
American interests. They expressed determination to preempt by war any 
threat to the United States when this might be deemed necessary, and 
also to prevent the emergence of any rival superpower.
 
Those Bush documents demonstrated both anger at the wound 
inflicted on the United States by al Qaeda, as well as a reassertion of 
triumphalism not heard since the defeat in Vietnam. They were 
primarily military in tone and preoccupation at a time when the 
global American military base system was being developed, with 
“regional commands” spanning the globe and individual commanders-in- chief 
implicitly charged with keeping the world in order.
 
America was a nation “at war;” George W. Bush was “a war president,” 
but his administration's war came to resemble the one 
implanted in their consciousness by the colossal error of the late 
Samuel Huntington in asserting that the “next world war” would be a 
war of civilizations – actually, his grandiose extrapolation of the 
war between Israel and the Arabs. The Israelis were invested with 
the honor of embodying western civilization while Arabs, who make up 
only a fifth of the world’s Moslems, were conflated with all the 
world’s Moslems, most of them actually Asians and Africans.
 
The new Obama administration document was received by 
its critics as one in which an Obamaesque expression of liberal 
idealism cloaked the actual militarism of his unaccountable 
presidential campaign enthusiasm for “the right war” in Afghanistan
in contrast to the war in Iraq. The latter seemed winding down, with 
its sectarian and regional conflicts left unresolved, by general 
concession. To set up a government in Baghdad unifying Shias, 
Sunnis, and Kurds, as well as reconciling the American superpower 
looming over the region, was a task left for another day, which
might never come.
 
 
The “right war” then proved more of a wrong war even than Iraq, more 
difficult to “win” than Generals Stanley McChrystal and David 
Petraeus, with their “clear and hold” refurbishment of classic anti- 
insurrectionist strategy, seemed to expect. They have found that 
they could “clear,” since the Taliban were quite willing to make way 
temporarily for them to move into a contested area -- but by a steady 
reapplication of pressure the Taliban made it impossible for them to 
stay.
 
The American abandonment of its two principal Korangal Valley bases 
and their five satellite outposts in April , followed the withdrawal, 
for identical reasons, from two other combat bases and their 
satellites in eastern Afghanistan in 2007 - 2009, one located in the 
Waygal Valley of Kunar Province and the other in the Kamdesh region 
of Nuristan Province. All are cases in point of what may reasonably 
be expected in the promised Helmland offensive by NATO forces.
 
In each of these earlier cases NATO troops, usually accompanying 
Afghan government troops (nearly always ethnically non-Pushtoon, in 
predominantly Pushtoon regions) attempted to rally the residents to 
recognize and cooperate with the U.S.-sponsored Hamid Karzai central 
government in Kabul – a step in the U.S. policy of establishing 
democracy in unlikely places.
 
In each case they failed, usually not because the people of the area 
were Taliban sympathizers but because they did not like foreigners 
interfering in their lives, and they called in the Taliban to help 
rid them of this intrusion. Since their arrival in the Korangal 
Valley until their departure earlier this year, 42 U.S soldiers had 
been killed , and “hundreds” wounded, mostly during the 2006-2009 
period. General Stanley A. McChrystal is quoted by The New York 
Times as having concluded that the attempt to hold these valley 
outposts did more to create insurgents than defeat them.
 
This can scarcely be a surprise. The more recent, and important, 
case of American interference with local arrangements in Afghanistan 
has, of course, been the so-called peace jirga of traditional leaders 
and elders recently called by President Karzai, in which he issued an 
appeal for a ceasefire and peace with the Taliban. This has been 
ferociously opposed by the American authorities in Afghanistan 
because the only condition on which the Taliban would discuss such a 
solution is that foreign forces leave the country.
 
One might think this a reasonable proposal, if the government agreed, 
conveniently fulfilling President Barack Obama’s promise to withdraw 
all American and NATO forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2011. 
However the jirga was condemned by U.S. officials and contemptuously labeled 
as a gathering of Mr. Karzai’s dependents and cronies (which may 
have been so; but so what?). What followed was the president’s 
dismissal of two of his three top security officials (ostensibly 
because they had failed to prevent an attack on the jirga, but 
according to other reports, because they were considered American 
collaborators. )
 
There is, in short, a struggle going on between the Afghan president 
and the American authorities in Afghanistan, in which President 
Karzai says that he can bring an end to the war. The Americans 
contend that this would mean a surrender to the Taliban – but much 
more importantly, that it would end the American role in 
Afghanistan, and presumably in Pakistan as well.
 
Even though Barack Obama, in his introduction to the new National 
Security Strategy document, writes that America cannot allow the 
burdens of the 21st century to “fall on American shoulders alone,” he 
similarly cannot accept that the United States deviate from the 
globalist ambitions emphasized in the published strategies of both the 
Bush and Obama administrations. In the final year of the Bush 
administration Condoleezza Rich defined this as “to change the world, 
and in its own image.” President Obama’s new strategy statement is 
an elaboration of how this is to succeed.
 
© Copyright 2010 by Tribune Media Services International. All Rights 
Reserved.
 
 
 
This article comes from William PFAFF
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