Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Peter Hartcher, and the sky is falling in, or we'll all be rooned, or it's the decline and fall of the Roman empire all over again ...

(Above: enough of your defeatism Mr Danziger. You need a good stiff serving of armchair backbone from hard working, keyboard pounding armchair warriors infused with fear and blessed by washing machines capable of good frothing, foaming action).

Of all the detestable war mongering you might find in The Australian about the war in Afghanistan surely Peter Hartcher's outburst in West's failure of nerve is a win for Islamic terrorism takes the cake.

Oh hang on, we got that totally wrong, damn you researcher monkeys, you and your Gerard Henderson inspired willingness to work for a single peanut.

It's actually in the Sydney Morning Herald, the dum to the dee, and we don't think we've read so much hand wringing and we'll all be rooned said Hanrahan scribbling since, why since perhaps we had to endure the same sort of gibberish about the war in Vietnam, or perhaps since John O'Brien first published his immortal poem back in 1921, or perhaps a phased withdrawal from Iraq was announced.

Vietnam is perhaps more instructional than the poem, since at the time the war ended in disaster, there was much wailing and lamentation, and there was for a time, a period of ugly payback, before the communist government got with the agenda and decided that material prosperity was the only way to say in power, and discovered that inviting Australians and Americans back to the once devastated country can be a handy earner ... (and yes, here at the pond we're thinking of making the trip too).

But Hartcher won't hear any consolation, since all is rooned, even though American and allied forces have spent nine long years rooning Afghanistan, and have now comprehensively alienated the people they were meant to be saving, while saving the lamentable ruling class of warlords, who least deserve the saving ... not to mention the opium growing business, well saved and blooming, which testifies to the deep corruption and impotence of the improper, fraudulent Karzai regime.

How does Hartcher cope with all this? Why be throwing his arms in the air, and doing a Chicken Little routine, running around with his lips flapping, to tell us how the sky is falling in:

The West has just confirmed the central fear about why it is ill-suited to deal with the Islamic fundamentalists who seek to destroy it. The fear? That extremists will fight for their dream as long as they're alive, but the West will fight only as long as the opinion polls hold up.

Yes, it's an existential crisis, and the fundamentalists are on the move, never mind that galumphing and clod hopping through Afghanistan these past nine years has created a perfect climate for fundamentalists posing as liberators ...

Presumably Hartcher will only be content after United States and allied forces have spent another nine futile years in the killing fields. You see, it seems that everybody has finally had enough, and there's talk of forces getting out by the end of 2014.

For Hartcher, this is white feather waving of the first order. Will someone please reassure him that with a year's training, he can still make it to the killing fields by the end of 2011 for three solid years of toil waving a gun and trudging through the desert and exposing himself to IEDs ...

It seems it will take that kind of personal gesture to save the west:

The announcement seems reasonable on its face, but in reality it is tantamount to a declaration of surrender. It represents a threshold declaration that the West does not have the strength of purpose or the stamina to meet its stated goal of depriving the violent, repressive international jihadists of a territorial base from which to operate.

It means the Taliban and its al-Qaeda ally are succeeding in their strategy of ''discredit, exhaust, inherit''.

Never mind of course that the Taliban and its al-Qaeda ally have quite happily set up camp in Pakistan and been playing havoc with civilians there, in a curious echo of the way Nixon bombing Cambodia back to the stone age sent reverberations through southern Asia ...

Never mind that the extremists who produced the Bali bombing came out of Indonesia. Never mind that the terrorists who have produced the biggest effect in the west have either been home grown, inspired by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or imports capable of living within the west while covertly conspiring to deliver random terror ...

Never mind that satellite and missile technology is such that if al-Qaeda these days decided to set up a training compound, they could be targeted much more efficiently than they are now, content to hide out in the hills and use civilians as bait ...

Never mind that the United States in another time was busy funding the fundie ratbags with money and weaponry as a way of undermining the Russian invasion of Afghanistan ...

No, no Hartcher is determined to see in this the decline and fall of the Roman empire ...

Although the full consequences of this moment will not be evident for years, it is an unmistakeable sign of the strategic fickleness of the great Western powers. It sends the strongest signal across all contested political territories of the world that they cannot depend on the strength of the West. Like Karzai himself, leaders everywhere now see they must reach their own terms with the jihadists.

Karzai? That corrupt clown? Isn't about time he worked out he should reach some terms with his civilian population, rather than strut about like an impotent bandit?

But you see, Hartcher is determined to validate the wind blown rhetoric of deluded revolutionaries, and give them all the strength of their fly-blown posturing, since words are cheap:

The West's decision vindicates the remark of a radical US-born Yemen-based Islamist leader, Anwar al-Awlaki, in al-Qaeda's new English-language online magazine, Inspire: ''America cannot and will not win. The tables have turned and there is no rolling back of the worldwide jihad movement. On the eve of 9-11 it was Afghanistan alone. Today it is Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and the list is growing.''

Dear lord, it's in an English-language magazine online. Surely this proves we're all doomed.

Yes, but while we're kicking the shit out of Afghanistan, where's the massive signs of jihad in the actual west? Bugger all, as we've worked out that ammonium nitrate, in its anfo way, should be kept out of the hands of the deluded, and planes should have actual effective locks on the cockpit.

You see, in the end, when you set up a client state, that's corrupt and doesn't treat its civilian population in a civil way, you begin to think about catching a boat to Australia, to be given a cold shoulder there. (UN asks Labor why fewer Afghan claims accepted). And after decades of war, you might, even in a war-inclined tribal society, be inclined to yearn for a little peace, instead of having your door kicked in by whichever band of troops happens to be passing ...

But back to the alarmist blather:

Any leader who had counted on the West's staunch support against the jihadists can now see he can expect to face the extremists alone.

Well perhaps said leader can rig another election, and so stay in power, or perhaps he can just bugger off, no doubt having a nice Swiss bank account handy for a rainy day.

Meanwhile, where are we at?

Of course, the Western politicians meeting in Kabul today will fall over themselves to tell us the withdrawal will be strictly ''conditions-based and phased''. But it's just an unseemly political retreat that bears no relation to the successful progress of the allied strategy on the ground.

Uh huh. So what's the successful progress of the allied strategy on the ground?

Because the strategy has not yet been shown to be succeeding. After nine years of fumbling and failing and a good deal of gratuitous death on all sides, the US finally settled on a new counterinsurgency plan for Afghanistan this year, and sent General Stanley McChrystal to implement it. McChrystal has been replaced by General David Petraeus, but, more importantly, the strategy is under strain.

Nine years, and the strategy is still under strain? Could it perchance be a dumb fuck strategy? Why yes, so it seems:

In a much-publicised showcase for the new strategy, 6000 US troops ''took'' the town of Marja in February, forcing the Taliban into retreat. McChrystal boasted that an Afghan ''government in a box''' would move in immediately to supply basic security and social services.

But by April the Taliban were back, forcing at gunpoint any locals who had registered for government assistance to eat their official papers. The Marja offensive had failed. McChrystal conceded: ''We did it less well than we would like to do it for the future.''

As a direct result, the big climax of the new counterinsurgency strategy, an assault on Afghanistan's second city of Kandahar, has been postponed.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, described the forthcoming Kandahar assault as ''the cornerstone of our surge effort and the key to shifting the momentum''. So even with the strategy, the surge and the ''cornerstone'' still in serious doubt, the West is announcing its withdrawal date.

So what's Hartcher's strategy to stop the sky falling in? Why it's more of the same, shoulder to the grindstone, nose to the wheel, and never mind losing a little skin or the odd gratuitous meaningless death on all sides, since it's the business of scribblers to scribble, and soldiers and civilians to die:

This is clearly not a serious commitment to a task. It is plainly a retreat in the face of a failure of political will. Afghanistan is the field, but this is not about Afghanistan. It's about the strength of purpose of the West and its credibility. It is in the very act of failing on both.

Yes, it's all about some Hitlerian triumph of the will (that's a dollar in the Godwin's Law swear jar) or perhaps a Nietzschean exercise in political will, since as we all know, The world itself is the will to power - and nothing else! And you yourself are the will to power - and nothing else! And so we have the coalition of the willing, who will themselves to no ill will but to a winningly willing way to move forward ...

Actually it's about whether the West is doing more harm than good in Afghanistan, and it's about the usefulness of the war, and it's about whether there's any actual endpoint to it, and whether there's any point traipsing up and down the desert for another nine years, alienating the population and propping up a corrupt puppet regime ...

There's likely to be a hard rain fall at the end of it, but as the British and the Russians found, prior to this latest crop of post colonial warriors bursting on to the scene, Afghanistan has tended to the intractable ...

If the only argument Hartcher can muster is a Chicken Little proposition about the sky falling in, perhaps it's time to see if Chicken Little is right ... and then work out how to prop up the sky ...

Meanwhile, if you want an alternative view of the spiffing war that Hartcher wants everyone to keep fighting, why not dip into US military build-up in Kandahar will bolster Taliban, warns security monitor?

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