Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Afghanistan Not For Sale

Some American actions in the area also alienated villagers, like the wholesale destruction of villages that commanders decided were too riddled with booby traps to safely control--NY Times, March 13, 2012

Our military and intelligence services have been killing Afghans for the last ten years. God only knows how many thousands our boys and girls have popped by now. A few days back, an army staff sergeant wasted another 16 of them, including nine children, by bullet and knife. He apparently took this initiative on his own hook without orders from above. There’s been consternation about it in Washington.
It is the expectation of our leaders that surviving Afghans make fine distinctions about how and why we kill them. They are expected, first of all, to appreciate that we are making war in their country for their own good. They are supposed to know whether our targets are bad guys or good guys, intended or incidental, or simply random like the sergeant’s tally. And, since our motives are ever benign, we expect them to give us the benefit of the doubt on each lethal occasion lest we suspect them of actually being bad guys.
The trouble is the Afghans don’t meet our expectations. Instead of accepting our careful categories, they tend to lump together our violence and destruction as all bad rather than as beneficial, understandable or regrettable. Worse, they stereotype us as “occupiers” and “infidels.” All in all, they seem to be ingrates.
President Obama and Hillary Clinton have repeatedly gone out of their way to apologize to the Afghan president and people when inadvertent or un-called for killings have occurred. Rather than graciously accepting these apologies, the Afghans make impossible demands. The most recurring of these is to subject American citizens to Afghan law for the crimes they commit in Afghanistan. They fail to understand that if we permitted that we would be unable to conduct military operations in their country. Neither do they recognize that as “the greatest country” we can do whatever we want in their nation or any other.
Until the recent incident of the over-eager sergeant, the problem that captured the headlines was the increasingly frequent attacks on NATO troops (a term of art usually denoting Americans) by their Afghan trainees and allies. This was a new one to the American empire. As a rule, the subordinate troops we trained and armed in our client states remained trustworthy, if only for opportunistic reasons.
With our Afghan “friends” as dangerous as our enemies, we are obliged to guard our forces from those they are instructing, never knowing when they will turn on us. Not only that, we can have no expectation that Afghanistan will continue to do our bidding once our forces are gone. In a word, the situation is as hopeless as our decaying position in Iraq.
When we jumped head first into this mess after 9/11, I wrote a piece suggesting that folks quit following the war news and instead pick up some histories of the Crusades. A commonplace comment in those accounts of bloody battles and endless treacheries is that people in that part of the world can be rented, but not bought. It’s a lesson that a nation like ours devoted to the sales effort sees no point in learning.

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