The Locals Win Again
The cashiering of Rambo McChrystal and his replacement by the bazaari Petraeus, announces that our Afghan adventure is no longer a war but has become, as is common in that part of the world, a haggle.
The collapse of the war part, like that in Iraq, marks yet another failure for the world’s most expensive murder machine. In both places, the conundrum was the same: kill abundantly and makes lots of new enemies or kill selectively and make fewer of them. A third option, making loyal compradors and satraps of the inhabitants, was no more possible than Salt Lake City accepting domination by an occupation army of Upper West Side atheists.
The great universal of human history is that people everywhere want to be ruled by their own kind. Interestingly, some are more or less admandant than others. My father came from Dubrovnik, the “pearl of the Adriatic.” It remains among the most perfectly preserved and gorgeous medieval towns in Europe. One reason, according to local folklore, is that its citizens kept siete bandiere in the attic. If the Venetian fleet appeared on the horizon, up went the Venetian flag. If it were the Turks or the Austrians, their respective banners soon carried on the mistral breeze. The burgers of Dubrovnik, known as the city-state of Ragusa in those days, waited on the dock, wearing smiles and bearing tribute. Thus, the town was never sacked, let alone having its cattle raped and its women rustled.
On the other extreme, the peoples of western and central Asia enjoy a multi-millenial rep for conquest and resistance to same. The clear lesson of history is don’t mess with them. But we Americans prefer not to mess with history. So we keep getting ourselves into easily avoidable disasters like Iraq and Afghanistan. When our imperial wars go bad, they occasion internal ones. The battle raging today in Washington is between those retaining enough sense to haggle our way out of Kabul and those who want to keep the highly profitable show on the road, even if we have to pay tribute to local warlords. The demission of McChrystal and the rerise of Petraeus signals that the sensibles have won, at least for the time being.
The winner of our Iraq war was Iran. Today’s Times tells me that Pakistan will be the winner of our Afghan war. This is for the obvious reason that those with the greatest incentive to provide advice and aid to war-shattered nations are their largest and closest neighbors.
For the last decade, a major goal of the Pentagon has been to prevent the rise of regional powers that might locally challenge the U.S. claim to total global domination. First under Bush and now with Obama, Washington has managed a perfect failure in this endeavor. We have entered the multipolar age. The proof is that regional powers like Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and Brazil, not to mention hemispheric hegemons like China and Russia, are not only growing in influence, but see no need to challenge us. They can simply ignore us while we self-destruct.
Note to my reader (not you, honey, the other one): I am running late on the blog owing to my continuing research into the American health care system. I spent the first half of this week checking on the cardiac services at Yale New Haven Hospital. I got two new stents as souvenirs of my visit. That’s a grand total of nine since 1998. I made sure to have my card punched so that the 10th one is free. With so much metal in my ticker, I plan to introduce myself at future formal events as Pierre Coeur de Fer.