Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Jonathan Steele on Afghanistan: "The War is Unwinnable. It is a Stalemate. There is No Military Victory"

From Democracy Now:

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about what is happening today in Afghanistan. You have covered it for 30 years. What should we understand today about what is happening there?

JONATHAN STEELE: Well, two days after 9/11, I wrote a column in The Guardian saying that if the U.S. reaction was to put boots on the ground in Afghanistan and try to occupy that country and to bring about regime change, they would suffer exactly the same fate as the Soviet Union. And I’m afraid to say that I’ve been proved right on that, because they’re following exactly the same techniques as the Russians. It’s what I call the garrison strategy. You hold the main cities, you try and keep the roads going open between them, and you make little forays into the countryside and try and push out a bit. But it doesn’t work, because you create new resistance by being there. The resistance comes because you’re there; you’re not there because of the resistance. The occupying force itself creates the resistance.

And so, the crucial thing now is to recognize that the war is unwinnable. It is a stalemate. There is no military victory. And this is the lesson that I’m afraid President Obama hasn’t yet learned from what the Soviets did, because Mikhail Gorbachev came into power in the Kremlin in 1985, after five years of war, when 9,000 Soviets soldiers had already died. He inherited somebody else’s war from his predecessor. And he realized immediately that the war was unwinnable. He consulted his military. They also said the war is unwinnable. They didn’t say, "We want a surge." They didn’t say, "We want new troops, new equipment, you know, more scope, more money." They recognized that the thing is a disaster. Obama hasn’t yet recognized that. And in fact it’s worse than that, because people like General Petraeus are still convinced that there can be a military victory. He has the ear of the President. He’s the head of the CIA, sees him virtually every day. And so, it’s really important, I think, that the American public—and we know from the polls that more than half are against this war—really make their voice heard.


AMY GOODMAN: That was General Stanley McChrystal. Jonathan Steele?

JONATHAN STEELE: Well, it’s an amazing admission. I mean, I think he speaks for everybody in the administration. He’s at least had the honesty to say that. I mean, the people who took this decision to go to war, it was very similar to Iraq, in fact. It was done out of complete ignorance, without any real thinking about what happens on day two. First, you topple the regime. Then what do you do? You end up occupying the country, trying this nation building, and resistance grows, and eventually you’re forced to withdraw.

Watch, read, or listen to the rest here.

And I do urge you to click through and read the rest. It's not just that the Soviets, and the English for that matter, twice, failed utterly to pacify Afghanistan: Steele goes into great detail as to why our folly there was ill fated from day one. You need to know this stuff, if only to argue with the few hawks still remaining.

But stepping back from Steele's analysis for a moment, the Afghan war is fucking stupid at just a glance. There are some twenty to thirty odd ethnicities, tribes really, that we're supposed to unite as a nation through use of force, diplomacy, and aid. Why on earth, after ten years, do we think we can pull off what the Afghans have never pulled off themselves? Why do we think we can create a real modern nation where there has never been one before? We can't, and it is amazingly insane that the complicated network of corporations, special interests, lobbyists, and political operatives and parties that we collectively call "the establishment" want to keep trying. I mean, it's obviously bad for America that we keep wasting ginormous amounts of money and the lives of highly trained military personnel for a cause that will never provide any real payoff for us. But somehow it must be good for the establishment, although I'm not really sure why anymore.

Oh yeah, it's immoral, too. Can't forget that.

Put Afghanistan together with wealth inequity, the financial meltdown, government's inability to do anything to solve our economic problems, and on and on, and we have a stark picture of a political system that is totally dysfunctional. Now, more than ever, we really need Occupy Wall Street to save all our fucking lives. I mean, nobody else appears to give a shit.