Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Complexity, and Duplicity of War Make "Victory" for the U.S. in Afghanistan More Elusive than Ever

I am old enough to remember the conflict in Vietnam, which is still regarded by many as the first clear military defeat
of the U.S in history. There were multiple reasons for this demise, including the fact that national liberation struggles (remember, America also began one in 1776) are far different in character for conventional armies just throwing down on the field of battle.

But another factor in the U.S. demise in Vietnam is the fact that the Vietnamese resistance ( that is, the "enemy') was like a Chimera-elusive, ghost-like, and taking on multiple disguises-including the uniforms of those who presented themselves as U.S. 'allies" against the North Vietnamese and the indigenous anti-imperialist forces in South Vietnam better known as the Viet Cong.

Something similar seems to be going on in Afghanistan now. It would be a dis-analogy to say that the Taliban are the equivalent of the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese Army under the command of Hanoi, but the situations do have some commonality. The Taliban have infiltrated the "regular" Afghan Army and conduct some of their operations in both Afghan army uniforms and-lately-U.S. Army uniforms as well. Add to the mix the release last month of the Wikileaks classified internal Pentagon documents that specified the suspected collaboration of Pakistan intelligence operatives with the Taliban resistance in Afghanistan.

And now, this week, we have witnessed the successful Taliban attacks on 25 NATO gasoline tankers headed to Afghanistan from Pakistan. It seems to me like somebody with ties to the United States might, in fact, be "dropping a dime" on American military war plans from the inside.

War, of course, is about stealth, intelligence and counter-intelligence, and keeping one's adversary guessing about troop movements, supply movements, tactical and strategic plans, and the like. Commanders on both ( or should I say, all) sides of the war in Afghanistan, clearly understand this. But war, as Clausewitz so profoundly said in the 19th Century, is simply the continuation of politics by other means. And the convoluted politics of Afghan political corruption, double-dealing, and obscure objectives, may prove impossible for even the massive firepower of the U.S. to overcome.

Now, we have reports that the weak and failed government of Hamid Karzai is in negotiations with the Taliban. The objectives and prospects of these "preliminary" talks are not clear. But if a cease-fire comes between the Taliban and the Afghan government, it will be very hard to explain to the families of American troops killed in the conflict the reason for their sacrifice, or why some of their "allies" were working both sides of the war.

The Taliban are not "liberators", or progressives, either in the context of Islamic practice or the positive evolution of Afghan civil society. But the Taliban are also neither unified nor ideologically monolithic. And it just may be remotely possible for some agreement to be reached with some elements of the insurgency that could end, or at least radically reduce, the tragedy of killing and destruction in Afghanistan.

If this is the case, then war will truly not have been the answer, and the American government will be hard pressed to justify their enormous, and likely failed, investment in a military solution to the internal Afghanistan "problem".

No comments: