Monday, October 12, 2009

The Ninth Year of Afghanistan War

After eight years of war is it time to change sides?

Last week America's fighting involvement in Afghanistan began its ninth year. This is longer than the USA was involved in World War I and II.

As we learned in Iraq, men bent on killing American soldiers can be persuaded to change sides. It took about three hundred dollars a month, per Sunni, to get the Sunni Iraqi to switch to our side. This could be one way the US could use to get out of Afghanistan.

The reason this approach might work in Afghanistan is the fact that the Taliban is not a monolith. They have no supreme commander or war lord leading their fight. The Taliban groups are many. They have different motives and agree only on one thing: ridding their country of foreigners.

The Taliban have shown they can switch sides with little difficulty. They did it with the Soviets until they wore them out. They want to be on the winning side, so war lords or scattered groups switch back and forth, going with the one they think has the best chance of winning. "Changing sides is the Afghanistan way of war", writes Fotini Christia and Michael Semple in the July-August, 2009, issue of Foreign Affairs

Last August the people of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (President Hamid Karzai's government) held a presidential election. Two months later, both leading candidates claim to have won. The UN observers have documented fraud and corruption during and since the voting.

Democracy, elections, our four freedoms are completely foreign to the Karzai brothers. President Karzai's brother is well-known to be involved in corruption and the opium racket. American ideals cannot be pre-packaged for use anywhere, nor can they be force fed; they must be born out of the hearts of those seeking such ideals more than life itself.

The US did not go to Afghanistan to introduce democracy. I doubt the idea of killing so many civilians or staying this long was in the plans. Just one object: get ben Laden. The ill-conceived over-the-top US air raids on October 7, 2001, was only to capture or kill ben Laden, the mastermind behind the al Qaeda hi-jacked airliners that crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Sept. 11, 2001.

The 9-ll attack was not a cause for war, though wars have begun with less provocation. One general is reported as saying, "bomb them back to the stone age." The knee-jerk reaction of the US president, vice president and congress was not one of our nation's greatest hours. Those in charge let revenge bubble to the top. An old sage reminds us: When hunting a particular rat, you don't need a large caliber weapon like an elephant gun.

Someone needs the inspiration of original thinking if this unnecessary war is to cease. Win over enough of the Taliban and together put an end to the al Qaeda in their Pakistan hide-away. Bring the troops home and turn loose the CIA to get ben Laden with as few civilian deaths as possible. This is the way criminal mass murderers are brought to justice, not with massive military force.

If the US could make friends with the Taliban (get out the money clip and force a smile), together we just might defeat al Qaedia, our original purpose. As a friend, the Taliban might institute a more just and favorable government. (Granted, this could be called wishful thinking.)

During the Korean War, had General Douglas MacArthur crossed the Yalu River into China as he said he was going to, the US would have really had a long-lasting war. Because President Harry Truman fired him, we averted such a catastrophe. MacArthur was a hero at the time. But the president was smarter. Wisely our Constitution keeps the final say on war in civilian hands.

President Obama must handle his generals as Truman did. Gen. Stanley McChrystal thinks adding 40 to 60,000 more troops will give us more time. More time for what? More time to see more innocent people die? More time for America and NATO soldiers killed? More time to undermine the new American president's desire for a peaceful world?

Changing sides is the Afghanistan way of war. Entering the ninth year of war, giving a look at the wisdom of the locals might be a good thing. The decision is with the president and congress, not the generals.


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