Subject: [SocialistWorker.org] Abandoning the excuses, continuing the war
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======== ABANDONING THE EXCUSES, CONTINUING THE WAR ==========================
The virtuous goals once used to justify the war have become "Afghan good
June 6, 2012
THE OBAMA administration is deploying a new phrase to justify the horrible
shambles created by years of U.S. war and occupation in Afghanistan: "Afghan
The basic idea, elaborated in an article by top military adviser Anthony
Cordesman, is to lower expectations that Afghanistan will ever be anything
other than a war-torn and divided society, while aiming to secure at least a
portion of it for extended use as a platform for future U.S. military
Cordesman's cynical calculations escaped much commentary even among the usual
critics of U.S. military adventures--perhaps because the Obama administration
has been so successful in creating the impression that the U.S. war in
Afghanistan is winding down.
The /New York Times/ report on the mantra of "Afghan good enough" 
explained that the phrase is "making the rounds at the White House, State
Department, the Pentagon and inside the many research organizations scattered
around Washington." The /Times/ also quoted an unnamed administration
official who spelled out the full implications, complete with overtones of
racial superiority: "Look, this is Afghanistan. Is it going to be
Switzerland? No. But is it good enough for Afghanistan? That's where we need
to get to."
But getting to "Afghan good enough" is not part of a plan to finally withdraw
U.S. forces from the country. On the contrary, it's a strategy aimed at
finding a way--both politically and militarily--to continue the project of
establishing a U.S. military beachhead in critical region, as part of the
Obama administration's larger strategy of focusing on future political and
military conflicts in Asia.
We won't, however, be hearing the soaring rhetoric used to justify the early
phases of the war in Afghanistan. Gone is the promise to free Afghanistan
from the grip of the Taliban. Likewise forgotten is the idea that the U.S.
invaded to liberate the women of Afghanistan--though their plight may be
mobilized as needed to further the idea that "we can't hope to make them
civilized like us."
None of these justifications for George W. Bush's "war on terror" were ever
true, but in their place, U.S. military strategists now seek something far
less ambitious, though equally noxious: replace one set of warlords with
another in order to safeguard at least a part of Afghanistan as a platform
for carrying out the Obama administration's redeployment to Asia.
This trajectory--of noble-sounding promises abandoned while the mailed fist
remains--should be remembered whenever the U.S. next promises to use military
force for the purpose of "humanitarian intervention."
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IN HIS article "Time to focus on 'Afghan good enough,'"  Cordesman
explicitly argues that the new racist catchphrase doesn't mean the U.S. plans
to leave Afghanistan any time soon.
Instead, he argues that the drawdown of U.S. troops can go hand-in-hand with
the continuing pursuit of U.S. aims by building up the warlords of the
Northern Alliance, shoring up to a limited extent Afghanistan's weak central
government, and deploying divide-and-conquer strategies for control:
>If there is a solution, it lies in accepting the reality that the present
>strategy will almost certainly fail to secure the south and the east of
>Afghanistan. This does not mean giving up, but it does mean concentrating
>U.S., ISAF [the International Security Assistance Force, under NATO's
>command] and Afghan government resources on the areas already largely under
>Afghan government control.
>It means seeking to exploit the differences between the pro-government
>Pashtuns and anti-government elements, and it means deliberately rebuilding
>enough of the elements of the Northern Alliance so they can act as a
>counterbalance to Taliban pressure once U.S. and ISAF forces are largely
Though he presents his plan as a dose of realism, Cordesman's vision still
relies on building an Afghan military to safeguard U.S. interests on the
cheap--a strategy that so far has failed spectacularly as U.S.-trained Afghan
soldiers turn their guns on their trainers in numbers that antiwar writers
Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse called  "historically unprecedented in the
Cordesman also sprinkles his paper with laments about Afghan corruption and
"fears" that U.S. aims may be frustrated if the U.S. and its allies "make
pledges [to give money that] they will not keep, particularly if their
publics and legislatures see the money wasted or moved outside the country
through corruption." Conveniently left out is the fact that the U.S. has for
years relied on some of the most powerful and corrupt warlords , whose
influence has reached right into the heart of the central government.
But this isn't even the bad part. According to Cordesman, in a passage that
makes reference to the fact that the central government of U.S. puppet
President Hamid Karzai has little influence outside the capital of Kabul:
>Grim as the prospects are in some respects, it also means accepting the
>rebirth of local militias and forces, as well as armed power brokers.
>Ethnic, tribal and sectarian forces should be tied to the central government
>in "Kabulstan" to the maximum degree possible--and any aid should be clearly
>tied to minimizing their past abuses of power--but containing the Taliban
>cannot be done by the central government alone. It requires countervailing
>centers of power with clearly different interests, and these are ethnic,
>sectarian and tribal.
In his concluding paragraph, Cordesman asserts that "this kind of 'Afghan
good enough' falls far short of the goals the United States and its allies
once set," and then adds disingenuously that this "offers at least some hope
of holding together and protecting large numbers of Afghans." But there's
only one thing that the U.S. cares about protecting: its thrust into Central
Asia as a way to confront its chief global competitors in China and Russia.
Earlier this month, according to the /New York Times/ , Defense Secretary
Leon Panetta provided some specifics of this strategy during a speech in
>The Navy, Mr. Panetta said, would reconfigure its forces from a 50-50 split
>between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific to 60 percent of the Navy's
>assets assigned to the Pacific Ocean. The renewed emphasis on the Pacific
>would involve six aircraft carriers, and a majority of the Navy's cruisers,
>destroyers, littoral combat ships and submarines. These would be fortified
>by an increase in the number and size of military exercises in the Pacific,
>and a greater number of port visits.
Though Panetta didn't discuss the growing use of unmanned aerial vehicles--or
drones--in his speech, the increase in the use of armed and unarmed remotely
piloted aircraft is unmistakable. In 2000, the Department of Defense
projected that its inventory of 90 drones would grow by another 200 in the
next 10 years, but at the start of 2012, the number of U.S. drones stood at
more than 9,500.
It's easy to see why the Pentagon would be so enthusiastic in embracing this
new war-making technology. "Combatant commanders and war fighters place value
in the inherent features of unmanned systems--especially their persistence,
versatility and reduced risk to human life," according to the Pentagon's Dyke
Reducing the loss of life by U.S. troops in combat has been a chief component
of U.S. war strategy ever since the Vietnam era. But while drones may allow
the U.S. to offload the toll of death and injury among its own forces, new
risks loom large. For example, repeated drone attacks that have claimed
countless lives inside Pakistan--combined with an air strike last November
that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers --led Pakistan to close the main supply
routes used by the U.S. to truck in the massive amounts of hardware needed to
sustain its military operations.
As a consequence, the U.S. must now move its supplies through a single,
Soviet-built tunnel that connects the northern Central Asian republics to
Afghanistan. According to a /New York Times/ report :
>So a tunnel built to handle 1,000 vehicles a day, and until the Pakistani
>boycott against NATO in November handling 2,000, now tries--and often
>fails--to let 10,000 vehicles through, alternating northbound and southbound
>truck traffic every other day.
>"It's only a matter of time until there's a catastrophe," said Lt. Gen.
>Mohammad Rajab, the head of maintenance for the Salang Pass. "One hundred
>percent certain, there will be a disaster, and when there is, it's not a
>disaster for Afghanistan alone, but for the whole international community
>that uses this road." He said 90 percent of the traffic now was trailer and
>tanker trucks carrying NATO supplies.
So after more than a decade of war, with countless lives lost, the future of
the U.S. occupation depends on trucking supplies through a tunnel carved in
the mountains by its former rival.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
ONE WAY or another, the U.S. will have to be forced to abandon its plans to
stake out a long-term presence in Afghanistan as part of its larger
geopolitical strategy in the region.
This may take the form of a tunnel collapse, more fierce resistance within
Afghanistan, or an antiwar movement in the ranks  of the U.S. military and
in the streets of U.S. cities , or some combination of these.
In the meantime, it's essential to remember the way that virtuous goals are
used to justify "humanitarian intervention"--whether in Syria or anywhere
else. Because at the end of the day, the fact remains that the only reason
the U.S. deploys its military is in pursuit of its interests.
Take it from Gen. Smedley Butler, whose military career spanned countless
interventions during the early 20th century: "I spent 33 years in the
Marines, most of my time being a high-class muscle man for big business, for
Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism."
Butler also exposed how the real motives for military intervention must
always be carefully shielded from public view because it would be impossible
to convince the vast majority of the population to support the real reasons
for imperialist war:
>Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent out to die. This
>was the "war to end wars." This was the "war to make the world safe for
>democracy." No one told them that dollars and cents were the real reason. No
>one mentioned to them, as they marched away, that their going and their
>dying would mean huge war profits.
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