Friday, July 25, 2008

Could Afghanistan become Obama's Vietnam?

Over on economists view, "anne" has been vigorously denouncing Obama's speeches about Afghanistan and Pakistan, and indeed it was a centerpiece of his dramatic speech in Berlin yesterday. Of course he has been able to effectively beat Bush and McCain over the head with how going into Iraq let the US not catch bin Laden and mess things up in Afghanistan, and clearly it is good electoral politics in the US now to take a hawkish position on Afghanistan/Pakistan. The question is whether it will prove to be such a good idea to follow through on all this hawkish talk if he does get elected (which is far from obvious, given that polls have actually been moving towards McCain in this week when Obama has had it about as good as it gets, while McCain has bungling around all over the Sausage Haus of Columbus, Ohio).

After all, as "anne" points out, it was Democratic presidents, Kennedy and then Johnson, who really got us deep into Vietnam, pushed by a pressure not to appear "weak on Communism." If he gets in Obama will certainly be feeling such pressure about being the "War on Terror," which most of us know is a bad misnomer, especially if he does follow through on seriously removing troops from Iraq. Maybe things will go well in Afghanistan/Pakistan, but there are plenty of reasons to be worried, especially about the Pakistan part, where the central government does not want us going in unilaterally, but clearly where the guys we most want to get are hanging out. While Karzai wants us in Afghanistan, the situation there seems to have been gradually deteriorating, and it is far from clear that increasing US (or European) troop presence there will help more than it will hurt by alienating the local population, as happened in Iraq before (and Vietnam longer ago). Overly ambitious promises and an unresolvable situation on the ground could indeed sour an Obama presidency, making those countries his Vietnam. Let us hope not.

11 comments:

Sara said...

Look how occupation forces have been doing in Afghanistan ever since Alexander the Great.

The Macedonians weren´t allowed to stay for long, same with the Brits, same with the Soviets. Zbigniew Brzezinski has argued that the war in Afghanistan (that he helped to finance from the other side) was what brought the Soviet economy to bleed and collapse.

Doesn´t look very good for Obama with much less troops there than the Soviets used to have. May be good for economies that compete with the US, though.

Shag from Brookline said...

Yes, to the extent Vietnam became Nixon's war (but for Watergate).

vendetta said...

For an interesting read on Blacks & Barack click the link

http://www.grannyvendetta.blogspot.com/

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Vietnam went on for an awfully long time, long enough to bog down Nixon as well as wreck the presidency of LBJ. Of course, there is an ongoing debate over whether JFK would have pulled us out of Vietnam or not if he had lived, with Jamie Galbraith being a strong advocate of the view that he would have.

Along with his buying into the "Iran has a nuclear weapons program" baloney, all this hawkishness is somewhat worrisome (although he remains looking good on Iraq. Of course, he probably does have to buy into this stuff for the campaign (and McCain's hawkishness seems to poll better than Obama's positions) in order to get elected. Again, I hope he is careful about it, if he gets in, and backs off from some of this stuff.

Brenda Rosser said...

"...clearly where the guys we most want to get are hanging out..."

Barkley, who are these guys?? Could it be members of a local population that don't like their country being invaded by a foreign power?

"...The US government Energy Information fact sheet on Afghanistan dated December 2000 says that.."Afghanistan's significance from an energy standpoint stems from its geographic position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. This potential includes proposed multi-billion dollar oil and gas export pipelines through Afghanistan, although these plans have now been thrown into serious question........In order to do business with dictators and despots, Halliburton has skirted US sanctions and made considerable efforts to eliminate those sanctions. Halliburton's pattern of doing business with US enemies and dictators started before Dick Cheney joined the company, and may well continue after his tenure as CEO...."[ list of Halliburton's dealings with disreputable governments follows]

Oil and Afghanistan
http://members.localnet.com/~jeflan/jfafghanpipe.htm
By Jon Flanders

Brenda Rosser said...

And while the US and Australia are in Afghanistan let's add up the CO2 emissions from this war. Oh, and the time and effort drawn away from building a renewable energy infrastructure.

“The implications are profound,” says Hansen, “and the only resolution is for humans to move to a fundamentally different energy pathway within a decade. Otherwise, it will be too late for one-third of the world’s animal and plant species and millions of the most vulnerable members of our own species.

“We may be able to preserve the remarkable planet on which civilization developed,” Hansen continues, “but it will not be easy: special interests are resistant to change and have inordinate power in our governments, especially in the United States..."

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Brenda,

Those guys are Osama bin Laden and the top leadership of al Qaeda. They are reputedly hanging out in Waziristan in northwestern Pakistan, where they are not local people at all. However, they clearly have the support of some of the locals. It is definitely messy, and the locals do not particularly like even their own (Pakistani) central government's troops going in there.

BTW, Juan Cole is now claiming that part of the problem in NW Pakistan is a bad wheat shortage that has the local population more restive than usual.

Brenda Rosser said...

"Those guys are Osama bin Laden and the top leadership of al Qaeda..."

Does it make sense to start a full-scale war in a country to chase a few terrorists???

This has all the hallmarks of a disinformation campaign waged by the Bush administration with the complicity of the mass media.

I would like to see the evidence of 'al Qaeda' in Afghanistan. There is certainly good historical reason to question a justification of war set forth by an extremely concentrated global mass media and a US administration dominated by and funded by oil and gas interests such as Halliburton (Cheney), Chevron (Condoleesa Rice), Bush himself etc. Follow the money.

The Money Trail. June 16, 2001
http://www.thedubyareport.com/money.html

+

In 2004 the BBC (British Broadcasting Commission) showed a documentary titled 'The Power of Nightmares'
http://www.wakeupfromyourslumber.com/node/5113


"...top ranking CIA operatives admit that al-Qaeda is a complete and total fabrication by the CIA.
top ranking CIA operatives admit that al-Qaeda is a complete and total fabrication by the CIA. They plainly state that NO SUCH ORGANIZATION HAS EVER EXISTED AT ANY TIME. The fantasy was spun in January 2001 by Jamal al Fadl, a Sudanese who had been with Bin Laden in the early 1990s. Jamal al Fadl stole money from Bin Laden, and then sought protection in the USA. The FBI and CIA paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars to create the al-Qaeda fiction. In fact, al Fadl invented the name al-Qaeda….
Who Bin Laden really was, what he thought, and what he really did. He was never a leader, never had any organization, and never took part in any act of resistance. He simply provided money for several resistance groups in Afghanistan that dreamed of overthrowing corrupt regimes in places like Chechnya, Uzbekistan, and so on.

• The power struggle in Afghanistan between Palestinian Sheikh Abdullah Yusuf Azzam (who favored peaceful Islamic resistance) and the Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri (who favored armed resistance).

• Tora Bora, Afghanistan. Here the pro-Bush Northern Alliance claimed that “Islamofascists” (the Taliban and visiting Arabs) had vast underground cities, like the old NORAD base in Cheyenne Mountain (closed on 28 July 2006). Cheney is shown spreading this fantastic lie, claiming that such cities exist all over the world, like giant underground UFO bases. Whenever the US military found nothing, the Bush regime and the Ziocons expanded the myth. They use lack of evidence as further “proof” of how evil and cunning the “Islamofascists” are. The less something exists in physical reality, the more it "really" exists as a "global threat."

• Where most of the victims in Guantanamo and CIA torture centers came from. Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance kidnapped anyone that looked remotely Arab, and sold them to USA for fun and profit...."

Brenda Rosser said...

You can watch 'The Power of Nightmares' here:

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/video1037.htm

Written transcript:
The Power of Nightmares - Part III. ‘The Shadows in the Cave’
The Shadows In The Cave
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/video1040.htm

Sara said...

The US and its allies haven't been able to find Bin Laden for seven years of occupation - what are the chances that they'll find him under Obama?

More bombs means better recruitment grounds for terrorism and other types of resistance against the West. See Newsweek's latest edition for an illustrative example:

"The insurgents are closing in on Kabul, not in order to overrun the capital but to terrorize its residents and drive away investors. It's working".

"We"'re paving the way for a stronger future Taliban regime than the last one. Obama's plan would only accentuate that fact. A stronger Taliban movement, more dead/maimed Afghan civilians, more dead/maimed Western occupation soldiers - that is the most likely outcome.

The moral question should be clear: get out of both Iraq and Afghanistan - the wars create more terrorists than they stop or kill, not to mention all the surplus civilians that die in the country because of the Western involvement. Regardless of whether Bin Laden should be caught against all odds.

The economic question for an intensified occupation should be just as clear: costs for blown-up pipelines by the Taliban, costs for worldwide drug abuse and addiction because Afghans will be more and more dependent on opium/heroin production (with more than a little help from "our" Afghan "friends" in power), health costs for Western societies associated with injured and mentally destroyed war veterans and refugees, destroyed human capital because of all the casualties, diversion of government money from more urgent issues towards endless warfare.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

About to leave for airport.

I did not say al Qaeda was in Afghanistan. I am also very leery of engaging in incursions into Pakistan, where supposedly he is, without the support of the Pakistani government. "Full-scale war"? No, not in Pakistan, and probably not in Afghanistan either.