Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Wordy Silence

This blog - ever since late summer 2006, when I started mouthing off over the electronical Internets - has been about three things: My family. Whatever amuses and entertains me. And geopolitics.

The sixth post ever - and I'm inching towards 900 now - was called "Saturday morning 4am" and was about the utter fucked-up-ness of a Western democracy trying to make a Western democracy out of the Ottoman dogs-dinner that was and is Iraq.

Since then I've posted, hell, I don't know - hundreds of little snippets about war and peace, the Middle East, politics and policies. And I've read hundreds more, written by others who have studied and learned a lot more about war and peace, nations and policies than I ever will. And talked with dozens of smart people, many of whom have commented here, about all of this.

And y'know what?

It doesn't seem to make a difference.

Letters and phone calls to representatives and senators, letters to the editor, comments on blogs and websites...it just doesn't seem to make a difference.

Because it seems to me pretty simple. This isn't fucking rocket science. I can't believe that the people in power here in the U.S. don't know this stuff. IT has to be that there are other reasons - good reasons, for them, but... - for the decisions they're making.

Let's take Afghanistan, for example.

First of all, let's deal with the "all in or all out" nonsense that seems to have suddenly become conventional wisdom inside the Beltway lately. Horseshit. Nations and people have been doing little and limited and "cabinet" wars since the first Sumerian satrap send a gaggle of his expendable young studs off to the next kingdom to conquer (fine, more loot for me) or die (also fine; fewer of the horny little bastards making babies and raising the number of poor and untaxables...).

The bottom line for us in central Asia is that the whole "all or nothing" mantra is the WORST two options we could take.

So what IS going on in Afghanistan?

A civil war, basically, between one group of Afghans we don't like (the Talibs, plus various assorted Islamic and/or Maoist and/or who the fuck knows groups plus tribal bands and outright mercenaries, probably) and a group that we can "work with" (the "Northern Alliance", pretty much a perennial band of also-rans and never-weres, Tajiks, Hazaras, etc., who typically got ass-raped by the Pashtun tribes in that traditional Afghan sport/home entertainment "Double-cross your enemies and take their stuff".

Anyone but a fool could figure out that shoving 20,000 (or 40, or 60,000) foreign troops into the middle of a civil war would be dicey. You risk getting dry-gulched if you're not Roman enough and getting stuck with a dysfunctional ally unable to rule his own country without you if you're too Roman. Add to that the honest history of this voodoo warfare we've taken to calling "counterinsurgency", which has two tracks:

1. The "native" track, where the local hard boys murder, rape and burn out their insurgents until the latter are all dead or wish they were, and at that point (as George W. Bush would say) "let freedom reign"!

2. The "foreign" track, where a Western invader tries to do the same thing.

The native version of COIN can work pretty well lately. It succeeded in Sri Lanka, in several Latin South American nations and shows no signs of wearing badly. The foreign version worked pretty well up until 1945, when the land mine, the automatic weapon and the mass media effectively prevented the Westerners from doing it the Roman way - making a desert and calling it peace.

So if we were looking at this rationally, we'd figure out that:

1. The only way we can "win" a conventional military fight is if we depopulate much of the country, which we cannot and will not do.

2. BUT...assuming that we have a national interest in who rules Afghanistan (arguable and which presumes that 9/11 was a direct outgrowth of who ruled and that preventing future attacks on our country depends on ensuring that the world is entirely populated by nations that either love us, fear us or defer to us) then the commonsense solution would be to...find a "native" partner, arm it to the teeth, and then step back and let it do a Sri Lanka and the Talibs get to be the Tamil Tigers.

As my six-year-old would say...DUH!

So why don't we?

Look, in the big picture, the amount of blood and treasure we're spending in central Asia is pretty tiny - it pales, for example, next to the truly silly amounts we spend on "Star Wars" antimissile crap, designed to foil the next invaders for Mars or something.

No, I'd opine that the only real damage is to ourselves (and the dusky heathen we kill, burn out and otherwise fuck over), in that to really do COIN right you have to assume that you know better than the locals what is good for them.

That's the attitude of an imperial power. And since our nation is supposed to be about liberty and justice, to let ourselves become an imperium would be to betray our very selves.

So the real reason we seem determined to ram our maneuver unit weenie into the Afghan warp drive has nothing to do with Afghanistan and everything to do with our own fucked-up inability to make rational political decisions because domestic politics now drives the bus the way his boner drives a 16-year-old's personal behavior.

But none of this seems to come up, anywhere other than the oddball fringe of the blogosphere.

As with Afghanistan, so with "health care reform", financial regulation, economics, employment, geopolitics. There seem to be a number of common sense options available. But the U.S. public seems confused, stupid or indifferent and the people in power seem to have no interest in the commonsense solutions - they're too busy scoring debater's points and racking up electoral wins to, y'know...govern.

I just don't know what more to say. I feel like I've said it all, to all the people who should be listening...and they shrug, or, worse, don't seem to even hear.

I don't feel like I can make a difference anymore.

So maybe it's a good time to sit back and see what the next couple of months are like. Post about my family, whatever interests me, soccer, keep up with friends...talk about various fucked-up political news comes across the wire. But as for geopolitics, economics...the "big picture" issues? I think I need to stop talking and just look and listen.

A lot of people voted for Obama last year because they wanted "change", because they were sick at heart of what Dubya and his cronies were doing. I was skeptical then and I'm skeptical now; Bush wasn't the disease - he was the symptom. I truly believe that this nation has gone too far down the road to oligarchy to "change". I think Obama's people may be the last chance, short of violent revolution, to make any sort of change.

So I think we need to see what happens in the next 13 months. Because if the current wars in central Asia, warrentless surveillance, trial-less detention and economic kleptocracy continues?

What do you think..?

"War is peace. Freedom is slavery." - that's right...we're going there, in our own slow, meandering way.

So this is my way of saying that the reason you haven't been reading much about war, or politics, or economics around here lately is because I just don't have any more to say. I've said it all. I'm still blogging, but those subjects - unless something REALLY interesting and new and unusual turns up - just don't animate me any more. I want to see what happens, and I don't feel ready to comment much until I do.

But stay tuned. It'll be an interesting year.


Pluto said...

Agreed on all counts.

Lisa said...


Serving Patriot said...


Yep. Those tired of saying the same thing over and over again -- and getting bashed for doing so! -- are checking out and doing something they can do...

Its bad. We need these voices and people just to hold off the crazies!

But I understand completely why.


Ael said...

The mistake Chief makes is that he thinks that there is someone in charge to make rational decisions.

The US government is set up so that nobody is in charge.

A committee will make decisions where every single person on the comittee will agree that the decision is a bad mistake.

FDChief said...

"However, what vexed the people more than this or anything else was the erection of a temple of Concord by Opimius; for it was felt that he was priding himself and exulting and in a manner celebrating a triumph in view of all this slaughter of citizens. Therefore at night, beneath the inscription on the temple, somebody carved this verse: "A work of mad discord produces a temple of Concord."

from Plutarch's "Lives of the Gracchi"