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Thread: Afghanistan War in Retrospect.

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    Senior Member Makers!*'s Avatar
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    Afghanistan War in Retrospect.

    How are historians casting our most recent involvement in the county? maybe someone in a relevant field can shed some light. Or maybe it's too soon. Personally, I hope to God the country can maintain order. That's probably a reoccurring sentiment among most who spent years over there, restructuring the government as it were, developing civic institutions that may or may not last. Now is a pivotal point. Elections are at hand, and the news is reporting periodic car bombings but nothing to prevent thousands of citizens-- including women who'd been brutalized by the Taliban--from voting despite the threats. This makes me optimistic, like we had a purpose that's being realized, that all the human costs will amount to more than the turmoil that has plummeted Iraq, thereby justifying rage and claims of imperialistic motives when that invasion is historically assessed.

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    TJ TeresaJ's Avatar
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    I would be extremely wary of saying that we had a purpose that is being realized. For that, one would have to weigh it against a series of alternate scenarios. What if we had done nothing? Or what if US international policy called for monetary support of economic development and socially progressive policies minus the warfare? E.g. micro-lending with conditions of female empowerment and education.

    Which isn't to say that nothing positive came of it, just that a positive outcome doesn't indicate that it was worth the cost, if that outcome could have been achieved by less destructive means.

    Anyway, it's not like a vote by itself indicates any particular degree of democracy. What are all of the conditions surrounding the vote? Who controls the candidates? How will the winner(s) operate in the context of the whole government and society?

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    Senior Member Makers!*'s Avatar
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    So far as the candidates, who knows really? But this gal is noteworthy.



    Her name is Habiba Sarobi, and never mind her gender. After the Russians left, the Pashtuns systemically killed anyone of her ethnicity, Hazarra. This was not many years ago. And considering that Pashtun represent the largest group and compromise most of the Taliban's ranks, its amazing she's been able to remain on the ticket, I think.

    (I've been inside those Buddha's btw. Or what's left of them)
    Last edited by Makers!*; 04-13-2014 at 09:32 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Makers!* View Post
    I've been inside those Buddha's btw. Or what's left of them
    It's amazing what people can do in the name of religion. So many people with so many different beliefs are so absolutely convinced that they are right. This applies equally to politics and anything else where "belief" is strongly expressed yet contradictory facts ignored. In a stochastic universe, rigidity and absolutism are usually wrong. The older I get, the more convinced I am that I've been wrong too often. That's why I now feel less obligated to have an opinion about everything, to be "right" about anything, and to say "I'm sure." When it comes to war, it seems that the only righteous, beneficial wars are those like WW II, which, for many nations including the US, was an existential threat.

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    Mens bona regnum possidet ferrus's Avatar
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    Well, one can justify the use of force for many different reasons. On the old realist perspective that force is about an anarchic world order where countries are at each others throats seeking to get ahead in the world and where might makes right... You have to say even on this basis the US has frittered away much of its strength on an essentially quixotic scheme against an abstract threat that bears little to real security issues except in the over-exaggerated horror-house imagination of the average voter.
    Quote Originally Posted by Thevenin View Post
    The older I get, the more convinced I am that I've been wrong too often. That's why I now feel less obligated to have an opinion about everything, to be "right" about anything, and to say "I'm sure."
    Many of the decisions of the great and the powerful are based on mistaken notions too. Much of history is written by those whose decisions were based on the least erroneous assumptions.

    Which is why I think an attitude, or ability to accept that you can be wrong, to allow yourself to be influenced by and affected by rational arguments of other people, even if you dislike what they are saying and to be swayed by evidence that you might not want to see, and to be skeptical of your own beliefs and motivations are highly valuable mental faculties. They go against every human instinct though, so are hard or impossible to develop fully... but even an attempt to put yourself in this position is better than adamantly refusing to see your own fallibility.
    Die Logik ist keine Lehre, sondern ein Spiegelbild der Welt. Die Logik ist transcendental. - Wittgenstein

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    objective-means-purpose wise fool's Avatar
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    Afghanistan Elections and the Illusion of Progress

    One must not dig deep to discover the truth of Afghanistan’s once promising past, the US-backed armed conflict that destroyed it, and the resulting dark age it suffered through as a direct result. PBS provides a timeline of women’s rights in Afghanistan that begins in 1907 and ends in 2011. The highpoint was in the 1960s and 70s when Afghanistan was the benefactor of Soviet influence. The rollback of these achievements occurred with the rise of the Taliban, an alliance that was bolstered militarily by the United States in its bid to challenge the Soviet Union via a costly proxy war.
    [...]
    Ironically, NATO troops, led by the United States, have been fighting the very tribesmen they had funded, armed, and trained for a decade in a proxy war with the Soviet Union. The common saying, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” is often the crutch proponents of US aid to these tribesmen cite, but in reality, the Soviets were attempting then to implement many national reforms generally considered “Western” and “progressive” in nature. The decision by the West to intervene by association with tribesmen who diametrically opposed these reforms, was based not on principles, but on a desire solely for geopolitical power.
    [...]
    What might Afghanistan have looked like without billions of dollars in funds and weapons poured into rural tribesmen, eager to overturn reforms implemented by a Soviet-backed government in Kabul? Decades later would Afghanistan still be teetering between progress and regression, on the razor’s edge between a dark age and a renaissance?

    For those around the world, particularly those who have followed the conflict in Afghanistan or have in fact, participated in it, suffered and sacrificed for it, eyes must begin to open and see that power, not principles, drive the West’s ambitions globally.



    From Afghanistan to Syria: Women’s Rights, War Propaganda and the CIA:
    As described by the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA):

    The US and her allies tried to legitimize their military occupation of Afghanistan under the banner of “bringing freedom and democracy for Afghan people”. But as we have experienced in the past three decades, in regard to the fate of our people, the US government first of all considers her own political and economic interests and has empowered and equipped the most traitorous, anti-democratic, misogynist and corrupt fundamentalist gangs in Afghanistan.
    [...]
    Religious schools were generously funded by the United States of America:

    Education in Afghanistan in the years preceding the Soviet-Afghan war was largely secular. The US covert education destroyed secular education. The number of CIA sponsored religious schools (madrassas) increased from 2,500 in 1980 to over 39,000 [in 2001]. (Ibid.)
    [...]
    Unknown to the American public, the US spread the teachings of the Islamic jihad in textbooks “Made in America” developed at the University of Nebraska:

    … the United States spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan schoolchildren with textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation.

    The primers, which were filled with talk of jihad and featured drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, have served since then as the Afghan school system’s core curriculum. Even the Taliban used the American-produced books…

    The White House defends the religious content, saying that Islamic principles permeate Afghan culture and that the books “are fully in compliance with US law and policy.” Legal experts, however, question whether the books violate a constitutional ban on using tax dollars to promote religion.

    … AID officials said in interviews that they left the Islamic materials intact because they feared Afghan educators would reject books lacking a strong dose of Muslim thought. The agency removed its logo and any mention of the U.S. government from the religious texts, AID spokeswoman Kathryn Stratos said.

    “It’s not AID’s policy to support religious instruction,” Stratos said. “But we went ahead with this project because the primary purpose . . . is to educate children, which is predominantly a secular activity.”

    … Published in the dominant Afghan languages of Dari and Pashtun, the textbooks were developed in the early 1980s under an AID grant to the University of Nebraska -Omaha and its Center for Afghanistan Studies. The agency spent $ 51 million on the university’s education programs in Afghanistan from 1984 to 1994.” (Washington Post, 23 March 2002)
    [...]
    Acknowledged by US foreign policy Advisor Zbignew Brzezinski, Moscow’s action in support of the Kabul pro-Soviet government was to counter the Islamist Mujahedin insurgency supported covertly by the CIA:

    Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention [...]

    That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. (The CIA’s Intervention in Afghanistan, Nouvel Observateur, 1998, Global Research, October 15, 2001)
    [...]
    The undeclared US-NATO war on Syria (2011-2013) in support of Al Qaeda affiliated rebels appears to have a similar logic, namely the destruction of secular education and the demise of women’s rights.
    Last edited by wise fool; 04-14-2014 at 11:57 AM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Makers!*'s Avatar
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    The article makes it sound like there is nothing to be gained from current developments. Progress from 60 years ago may be an illusion, but 10 or 20? I don't think so.

    Failure will result from an American public using cynicism to disengage.

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    Minister of Love Roger Mexico's Avatar
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    The Taliban and the Carter/Reagan-era Mujahedin are not synonymous. The former emerged in the 1990's as a sort of splinter faction from what was always a tenuous alliance of groups with only narrowly overlapping interests.

    This was a good book which I unfortunately lost my copy of before I finished it, but needless to say the history is quite complicated.

    As far as the thread question, I'd personally go with "it's too soon to tell." Whenever the US military does pull out will be the beginning of our ability to truly assess the lasting impact of what they did there.

    Trying to prop up a crap government that had no domestic legitimacy was one of the major mistakes in Iraq, with effects that seem to have lasted beyond the point of holding elections to choose a new government. I wonder how much Karzai and co will turn out to have fallen into a similar category.

    I had an Afghani professor in grad school. When he's not teaching in the States he's over in Afghanistan trying to get schools established. He talked about it a lot, and among his commonly made points was the idea that people there have a sense of it as a place which several empires have tried and ultimately failed to conquer, and a sense of pride in that fact. Meaning that they obviously do want to develop their country and are glad to accept outside help, but not if the help seems to be part of a foreign military occupation. He was especially critical of US military forces trying to tap NGO's as a source of intelligence about the Taliban. He said groups like, say, Doctors Without Borders were generally welcome even in areas with lots of insurgent activity until this started happening--once people got the idea that talking to a DWB or Red Cross volunteer was equivalent to spilling the beans on who in the village was working with the Taliban, cooperation dried up and people trying to do things like, well, build schools in remote areas saw their jobs get quite a bit harder.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ptah View Post
    No history, no exposition, no anecdote or argument changes the invariant: we are all human beings, and some humans are idiots.

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    I just want to climb there without getting my head cut off.

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    Minister of Love Roger Mexico's Avatar
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    Something that tends to get lost in discussions of the long-term impact of wars is the intrinsic harms of simply having a war fought in the place where you live regardless of the context of why that war occurred or how it ended.

    For instance, here's a short clip from Russia Times (admittedly I'm not familiar enough with this news agency to have an opinion on its reliability, but this doesn't seem a dubious claim to me) noting that the United States military has now become a major contributor to the problem of accidental deaths from leftover land mines and unexploded bombs that have accumulated around Afghanistan during its modern history of repeated foreign invasion. The US contribution alone is said to represent 800 square miles (roughly twice the area of New York City, as noted in video) covered in unexploded ordinance of one sort or another.




    I think there was some scientific controversy over this, possibly, but the unexploded ordinance issue and its long-term implications if not dealt with call to mind the numerous observations that cancer rates seemed to spike in Iraq shortly after the 1991 Gulf War--possibly because the country was littered with fragments of munitions that had been cased in depleted uranium. (Which emits low enough levels of radiation to be considered safe for handling and use without special protection, but would lead to increased levels of radiation exposure over the long term if you were surrounded by it for a prolonged period of time--or that's what I read, anyway, not being a chemist/physicist/biologist myself)
    Quote Originally Posted by Ptah View Post
    No history, no exposition, no anecdote or argument changes the invariant: we are all human beings, and some humans are idiots.

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