AFGHANISTAN-- STILL THERE BETWEEN PAKISTAN AND IRAN... AND AS SCREWED UP AS EVER
When I tell people I spent the better part of a year in Afghanistan they assume I was in the military. I'm a bit old for that-- not to mention temperamentally unfit-- and when I mention it was in 1969 and 1971 when I was there, they write it off to eccentricity. I don't purport to be an Afghanistan expert, but recent history will bear out my claims to know a lot more about the place than Bush, his ill-starred regime or the self-serving mooks and clueless imbeciles whose advice the U.S. government has followed.
When the U.S. attacked Afghanistan after 9/11-- a target Rumsfeld and Cheney felt was unworthy of the mighty U.S. military-- almost everyone thought it was, aside from being just, a good idea-- everyone, that is, except people who know their Afghan history... and even more especially, the people who could factor in their knowledge of Afghan history with their knowledge of the Bush Regime's dearth of leadership abilities and monumentally breathtaking incompetence and arrogance (a bad combination).
"Here the for will not meet us in pitched battle, as other armies we have dueled in the past, save under conditions of their choosing. His word is worthless. He routinely violates truces; he betrays the peace. When we defeat him, he will not accept our dominion. He comes back again and again. He hates us with a passion whose depth is exceeded only by his patience and his capacity for suffering. His boys and old men, even his women, fight us as combatants. They do not do this openly, however, but instead present themselves as innocents, even as victims, seeking our aid. When we show compassion, they strike with stealth."
An American politician? No. An American general. Guess again. A Russian general in the 80s? A British general far earlier? No... Alexander the Great addressing Macedonian troops fighting in Afghanistan more than 300 years before Christ. Well, it's actually author Steven Pressfield's version of Alexander in his brilliant and timely (2006) latest book on the history of the ancient world, The Afghan Campaign.
The kind speaks of will-- our own and the enemy's. The foe, he declares, has no chance of overcoming us in the field. But if he can sap our resolution by his doggedness, his relentlessness; if he can appall us by his acts of barbarity, he can, if not defeat us, then prevent us from defeating him. Our will must master the enemy's. Our resolve must out last his.
It's never gonna happen. The Macedonians couldn't pull it off-- and their leader was brilliant, heroic, charismatic and beloved, as well as mortal-- nor did the Russians or Brits or anyone else who tried, at least not for the long run. Bush's resolve and will? The American people's? Hillary Clinton's? Mullah Omar and his boys aren't going anywhere. How many Americans could point out Afghanistan on a map-- even with my clue in the title... even if their life depended on it?
The following is neither an American nor a Russian; it's Pressfield's Alexander rallying his people again:
The types of operations we are now compelled to wage; methods of pursuit, of capture and interrogation; the treatment of so-called non-combatants; all actions we take in this theater-- these are war too. Are you are warriors who must perform these acts.
Those who don't know history are condemned to repeat it. Someone should have grilled Bush on what he learned in Yale, instead of speculating on whether he or Al Gore would have been more fun to have a beer with.
"The instrument of counterguerilla warfare is the massacre. Its object is terror, to make oneself an object of such dread that the foe fears to face you ever. This practice has worked for the army of Macedon across all Asia. It does not work here. The Afghan is so proud, so inured to privation, and so in love with liberty that he prefers death to capitulation."
Americans were once that in love with liberty as well-- which is how we kicked the British imperialist dogs out of our original 13 states. Now we're in love with comfort and safety and would exchange liberty for the chimera of security offered by avaricious political manipulators.
UPDATE: SHOCK! WE'RE NOT THE ONLY ONES WHO REMEMBER AFGHANISTAN
And we're not the only ones who have noticed it isn't going as swimmingly as the Bushites want you to think. In fact A.P. reports that "U.S. military deaths, suicide bombings and opium production hit record highs in 2007. Taliban militants killed more than 925 Afghan police, and large swaths of the country remain outside government control." The A.P. story sounds like it could have been written by a Greek scribe 2300 years ago.