Afghanistan was wrong, II

I hope the Democrats are successful in stopping the Iraq atrocity. Out of Iraq. Now. But I must once again disagree -- strongly disagree -- with the notion that Iraq has distracted us from the "real" war against terrorism, the one in Afghanistan. This is a talking point of virtually all the Democratic presidential hopefuls and a distressingly large proportion of the progressive blogosphere. I must say again: Afghanistan was wrong, too.

That was the title of a post I put up in December 2005 at a time when Iraq looked less like the colossal screw up many of us knew it was. It was also a time when Afghanistan was relatively quiet, a success story. Unless you were an Afghan. We were going to post here an updated version and went back to look at the old one. Unfortunately we don't need to change it:

It is commonly said we were justified to go into Afghanistan because "they" were the ones who attacked us, contrasting it with the misdirected attack on Iraq who had no role in the 9/11 attack. I beg to differ. Not on the Iraq part. On the justification for attacking Afghanistan.

First let me get the (tiresome) disclaimers out of the way. I am not in favor of a Taliban style regime (hence I am not a big fan of Saudi Arabia or the current regime in Iran). Nor was I a supporter of Saddam Hussein. Nor, for that matter, am I a supporter of Robert Mugabe or Kim Jong Il or Pervez Musharraf or Putin or the Chinese oligarchs. They are bad (sometimes evil, if I may be so bold as to purloin that word from Fearless Leader) and have done incalculable harm (at least I don't want to try calculating it). The question is, does that justify bombing the living shit out of their countries and then occupying them?

Afghanistan is different, you might say, because they attacked us on 9/11. Not as far as I know. Taking the Administration's word for it, the most the Afghan government did was provide a safe haven and moral support for those who did attack us. If that kind of support for terrorists were a warrant for attacking a country, then we would have also (or instead) have attacked Saudi Arabia and Pakistan (instead of giving them special favors).

Yet our sole justification for attacking Afghanistan was that they physically harbored terrorists who attacked us. As President Bush said after the 9/11 attack, we will go after any country that provides safe haven for terrorists, any terrorists. This is a global war on terrorism. There are to be no exceptions.

Except, of course, there are numerous exceptions. We don't attack Florida for giving safe haven to anti-Cuban terrorists. We didn't let the British attack South Boston because it was a hotbed of IRA sympathizers, supporters and financiers. We don't bomb Montana because it harbors anti-government militias of the type that killed 168 Americans in the Oklahoma City bombing. No, instead we attacked Afghanistan because it was essentially defenseless, was geopolitically important (at least the Russians thought so), it was politically expedient for our military-record challenged President to show how tough he was, and it was a neocon warm-up for the main show, the planned establishment of American military power in Iraq. There is no global war on terrorism, of course. Just more neocon imperial policy.

Attacking Afghanistan was wrong (too).

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Few will agree with you on this one.

Let us go back to late 2001.
The Taliban were effectively protecting the masterminds of the operation. These masterminds to all intents and purposes appeared to be actively planning future attacks. The Taliban were offered a deal, turn over OBL (or let us in to get him ourselves), and you are off the hook.

Sure individuals who were involved came from S Arabia, etc., but that clearly was no reason to attack the terrorists mother countries.

On a humanitarian ground (which was not the justification) it was estimated that approx 1.5m Afgani's were going to starve that winter, a product of a severe drought, and Taliban activity. At least in the case of Afghanistan our intervention has saved substantially more lives han it has cost.

bigTom: Wasn't looking for agreement and didn't necessarily expect it (although of course it would be welcome). But I don't know if Afghanistan netted out ahead or that we did. Remember what happened to the Soviet Union there (with our help). The stories I hear of the fate of the civilian population there is not an obvious blessing. But if saving people were the objective, how many places would we be bombing? (in order to save them, of course).

And the masterminds? Where are they now? Living with our allies in Pakistan? We didn't even pursue them when we had the chance.

We bombed Afghanistan because we could. We used our post 9/11 "capital" to (make Bush) look strong. Then to Iraq for? ? ?

But where are the results? ? ? A single minded focus to capture Osama and pals was what we needed and we STILL haven't done that. . .


You maybe weren't looking for agreement, but I can't find anything you said that I disagree with.

Some people at scienceblogs like to talk about framing. Framing the attack on Afghanistan as part of a global war on terror was the mistake. It was perfectly acceptable for us to attack a country that was wilingly harboring those directly responsible for an attack on the United States that killed thousands of people. Not just acceptable, but proper. The reason we gave should have been simply that. It is also perfectly acceptable to criticise the way we have done it. It was done just as incompetently as our unwarranted attack on Iraq. In this case, the end definitely fails to justify the means.

To attack a group that is being harbored by another country seems necessary. To occupy that country and attempt to train a local police force or army so that we may "honorably" withdraw seems impossible. This is one area where Vietnam and the current adventures are similar. The tribal family/sect differences put us in a no-win situation.

By baryogenesis (not verified) on 27 Jun 2007 #permalink

Yet our sole justification for attacking Afghanistan was that they physically harbored terrorists who attacked us.

And they continued to harbor them after 9/11, which is more than enough justification to attack and find them. In fact, I find it hard to think of a more clear-cut justification.

Jumpin' Jesus on a pogo stick! Is there any situation where you'd think that military force is justified, if not in Afghanistan? The masterminds of the first attack on American soil in 60 years, an attack that killed nearly 3,000 people, were being protected by the Taliban regime. The Taliban were given the chance to turn them over or let us get them and they refused.

We can bitch about how the administration bungled things (relying, for instance, on the Northern Alliance too much rather than our own troops to try to capture bin Laden), but I supported the decision to go into Afghanistan 100%, and I still do. Given the diminishing returns of our being there though, whether we should continue to remain in Afghanistan nearly six years later is a reasonable topic for debate, however.

revere: No problem, as gentleman we can disagree. Now if we were politicians we would be throwing mud at each other! Life would be boring, and discussion pointless if we all ageed.

I can only imagine what you would have said during World War II.

"10,000 Allied casualties, including 2500 dead! Impeach the President. Get us out of this quagmire! It's not our war! Germany never attacked us!"

Stick to the science, buddy.

And by the way, those numbers are just for D-Day.

AF, excuse me, but Germany did attack USA' It was Germany that declared war and started to send subs to the US coast.

bigTom, the Talibans did offer to hand over Bin Laden to a court in a neutral country, just like Libya had done after being suspected of the Lockerbie bombing. Bush just ignored the offer claiming it was too little too late.

Attacking Afghanistan was the right thing to do... it also benefitted the Afghan people. For example, about 2 million refugees in Pakistan were able to return home. Also, Afghanistan in 2002 was not at peace. In fact, the Taliban were about to wipe out the Northern Alliance, which would probably have led to genocide of the Tadjiks who live in that region. To intervene on one side in an already-existing war is not the same as invading a quiescent country, even if it is a brutal dictatorship.

I think Bush was right to reject any Taliban offer to send Bin Laden to a neutral country. On what grounds should he accept their word? Even if one faction wanted to hand him over, they was probably another faction who would defend him. Much the same thing happened with the Tehran hostages in Jimmy Carter's time. Every time an Iranian approached some sort of agreement, he would be ousted by a more radical faction. It was well known that Bin Laden was high in Taliban counsels, and had his own supporters who would back him up. I suspect they were just buying time, and the "negotiations" to "hand over" Bin Laden would have been spun out indefinitely.

Of course, Bush and his idiots had already lost the plot, and were planning the invasion of Iraq, but that's another story....

Okay, I dont generally bail Revere out on war related issues but at least I am going to throw him a life jacket here. We went into both Iraq and Afghanistan based upon a lot of electronic eavesdropping intelligence. We knew OBL was threat but so was the Taliban. Both would have happily overthrown our country if they could. This really goes back to the time of the Saracens and how they conducted themselves. Join our movement as a member of the sons of God ...or else. You could apply that to our fundamentalists churches and GWB, just put a turban on them and change that cross to whatever symbol you want.

Yes Orac, going in there was a good thing and it has stabilized the country but now we have the one true player out there and its not OBL, its Iran. We could have gone into Afghanistan, broke all the toys and left and the effect would be what is starting to approach now. NATO is for all intents and purposes in charge there now for security, training, feeding them etc. We got Iraq by default.

The assertion that going to both was a colossal screw up is based upon a read of what happened after the war was over. It went Vietnam on us and we gauge everything now by Vietnam, except for me. We deposed a dicator which was good, we instituted a civilian government by the people in our image. But you have to want to play in the band if you want to make music and they are still in the tryouts.

Finally though its the assumptions of what success IS. I would say that the operation was successful from the military standpoint, we win all the battles but we still will lose the war. These are peoplse that are guided by mullahs who only know the things of the 10-16th centuries and that is kill all the unbelievers. The one guy who could help the most, Al-Sistani is trying to keep the boat in the water but is unable to keep it on an even keel.
That key player in Iran is the one that is causing all the problems and we have to decide whether to stay or not. If we stay, we have to hit Iran. If we leave, we hit Iran very shortly thereafter. If we stay we hit Iran before springtime and hard. There simply isnt any other choice in the matter.

The Democrats keep trying to treat this as if its a policing problem. Most of your thugs in the world are not trying to build a nuke. They just want to steal something and intimidate people. The Iranians are going to build a bomb, intimidate people and then steal something piece by peace by piece by peace.

Revere is right. This entire war has been a screwup and its because we simply cant bring ourselves to kill one hell of a lot of people to force our will upon them. Its the simplest part of the equation and the most important. Some say it will add to their recruitment. I say not if they are dead. We all fundamentally disagree on this one single part of the equation across the board and we push and pull over it often. But, Revere is still right and that it is a screwup and it can only be fixed by making a lot of people dead. At some point in time after they pop a nuke or take another big building out in the US/EU or a city they will figure this part out on their own and that is that they have to do SOMETHING and negotiations will not be on the selective list that day.

Forget GWB. Its the next hit we take that bothers me and it will be based in large part what we do in Iraq. We cant stay without doing some major non-uniformed people elimination. They are civilians as a result of designation and we are criminals by condition of having to kill them to win.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 27 Jun 2007 #permalink

orac: And Saudi and Pakistan and Indon and etc. continue to harbor them. You want to go in? Be my guest. The Soviets learned what this means. Apparently you didn't learn anything about your preferred method of solving these problems. We didn't go in with a small delta force to apprehend international criminals. We invaded and bombed and occupied and now we are stuck. Some people never learn. And when another Taliban style gov't takes over, this time supported by the US in the name of "stability", the Afghans will have learned we have nothing to offer, that life under an oppressive theocracy is better than life in chaos.

Randy (M. Randoph Kruger, to those new here) and I disagree on most things military and foreign policy, but I agree with him that the logical and practical consequence of using this kind of policy is that it leads inexorably, if its logic is to be followed, to killing a hell of a lot of people without mercy.

Toby: On what grounds should we have accepted the word of the Taliban? On the grounds that we would know quickly whether they would keep it and a lot of lives would have been saved. As it is, OBL got away and the afghans will wind up worse off, not better off. I am not of the view this was just incompetence, although there was plenty of that to go around. It was the wrong policy and the results are consistent with that.

So if it's morally justified to use overwhelming force against the ordinary citizens of a country because certain elements within that country supported or enabled terrorist attacks, when do we in the UK get to nuke Boston and Philly for all the backing they gave to the IRA over the years? When does Fidel get to bomb Washington for supporting terrorism against his regime?

If you're going down that route, there is a very long queue of nations around the world that have suffered US-backed terrorism.

America - You are not a unique, special flower. You are not appointed by God to enlighten the benighted savages of the world. You have absolutely no right to order the world according to your wishes, especially when that involves killing large numbers of entirely innocent people who just happen to live in the wrong place. Morally, you're no better than any of us, and significantly worse than most.

One major reason that the US and allies are failing in Afghanistan is their insistence on eradicating poppies and thus destroying the livelihood of millions of Afghans who subsequently find themselves acutely impoverished. Furthermore, the countries who sent troops to liberate Afghanistan from the Taliban are not providing adequate alternative development solutions. Providing a solution to poppy eradication would be a huge step towards helping the Afghan people. There have been several suggestions about possible alternative counter-narcotics policies - one of the most innovative is that of The Senlis Council who propose that poppy growing be licensed as it is in Turkey and India, and that the opium be used to produce essential medicines such as morphine and codeine of which there are acute shortages worldwide. For further info, see their recent report on the Poppy for Medicines project -
Maybe it's time for our governments to start supporting projects that put the needs of local communities AND international troops ahead of limited political objectives.

I think that the ties between al Qaeda and the Taliban were much tighter than you suggest. Yes, the two were independent in some sense, but they were financially and operationally closely linked. My understanding is that al Qaeda and Taliban soldiers trained together and fought together.

I don't recall the humanitarian argument being the justification used for entering Afghanistan, except in a circuitous sense. Al Qaeda took refuge there because it was a failed state, and without addressing that structural problem, al Qaeda or its equivalent would simply return. Ending the civil war and establishing a strong central government would be humanitarian, but the point would be to block the reconstruction of terrorist training camps and infrastructure.

Could Afghanistan have been a success if we hadn't invaded Iraq? Hard to say, since a competent government would have done a lot of things differently. The Arabic speaking special forces troops would have remained on the hunt for al Qaeda, rather than chasing mythical WMD in Iraq, and a bigger US presence in Afghanistan might well have helped avert the resurgence of the Taliban. Or not, who can say?

It is clearly possible in principle for an international force "[t]o occupy [a] country and attempt to train a local police force or army so that we may 'honorably' withdraw" (cf. Germany and Japan after WWII, East Timor and teh Balkans more recently). Whether it is wise or necessary to take that route is debatable, whether it is possible is not.

Josh: Actually I didn't suggest whether there were ties or not, whatever ties means in this instance. There were certainly ties of sorts with Pakistan and Saudi, too. The military response to 911 in Afghanistan is in my view entirely unjustified in terms of logic (if we use that logic how many places would we be invading and why that one rather than others?), practicality (ask the Soviets and now NATO and US forces) and morality (we decide what kind of government, except we won't get to decide, of course; and what the price to be paid and by whom should be). If the goal and justification is anti-terror then there were other more worthy targets and there are such targets in the US (Florida, for example). Why don't they count? Because other considerations weighed in, considerations which fingered Afghanistan (and later Iraq), considerations which can't be made explicit because they discredit both the motive and the outcome. Given this, I am unclear what it means for this to have been "possible in principle." What's the principle that is being invoked here?

I cant recall which of the philosophers stated that to have a democracy you had to have a large well educated middle class and that all power from the bottom up resided in the one vote rather than the majority.

This is what is fundamentally flawed in Iraq. Aghanistan I think is okay. But indeed, getting tribal leaders to go along might take Mafia style tactics for several years. Question....Do we really want to or do we go home and run in there every couple of years and hammer people into the ground?

As with all things military all the way back to the days of Rome the politicians wont let the military win a military role war. They simply wont be attacking anyone if they are dead, logical conclusion to the processes of assumption. My bet? Pakistan falls in short order as its being subverted by OBL in the western part of the country. An Islamic superstate is formed between Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iran. Pakistan has the bomb, Iran has the bomb, and above all those missiles can hit a carrier battle group in the Gulf or as far away as Diego Garcia. Call it what you want, but Iraq is the opening act in this theater and even the Russians might get antsy about a new supercountry that would be as big as 2/3rds of the US.

They would be quite formidable and it would take on the order of 55 divisions (which we aint got) to control the country. Nor are we going to get them. So that leaves breaking toys and heads via conventional bombing and surgical strikes. Most people dont see where this is heading in relatively short order. They are for the better part against the war in this country. Not really the war so much as how its being fought. In the South at least the general call is to screw the Geneva Convention and if we are fired upon from an area.....take it out.

But thats based upon assumptions. Its simple enough really. Take out the leadership in Iran and you would set them back about 20 years. Hit the refinery and nuke facilities and you might see an uprising and they do it themselves.

Above all. Dont put one soldier on the ground in Iran. Send Jimmy Carter instead.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 28 Jun 2007 #permalink

Posted by: Jo - "Maybe it's time for our governments to start supporting projects that put the needs of local communities AND international troops ahead of limited political objectives".

Jo: Let's not delude ourselves into thinking or believing that this would happen, although it's an excellent idea. And if it does happens, in my lifetime, then I'll eat my words.

MRK: It would be extremely interesting to be witnessing the aftermath and discussions that would follow if the war(s) had been or were fought the way you suggest.
It's a tough one to admit to, your suggestions that is. You're a brave soul and most likely right as no other method has provided any appreciable results, at least through my eye.

Where to begin?

Lets start with stability in Afghanistan. One way might be to measure stable growth in their main economic export, here we see a steady growth. The world drug report ( ) has just been released and shows Afghanistan produced 90% of the worlds illicit opium (up from 30% in the 1980s) with a healthy growth from 4,000 tonnes in 2005 to 6,000 tonnes in 2006. Helmand provinces that well know stable coalition controlled area has show exceptional growth (70,000 hectares under cultivation, 3 times more than any other country in the world) with excellent prospects for the future.

Jo: I am all for your suggestion just a little dubious as to how well it is working.

Dunc: Yes

Revere: Yes

Randy: No as always. If your government is genuinely interested in protecting its citizens from further attacks then it might want to try a change in foreign policy. If you are despised by most of the worlds Muslims and hated enough, by a minority, for them to want to kill you for just being American could there be a reason? Perhaps a little thing like not sending munitions shipments to Israel while it is cluster bombing southern Lebanon might be a helpful start or not trying to undermine the elected Government in Gaza by supporting their corrupt opposition. Not supporting Israel when it ignores UN resolutions while vilifying and attacking Arab countries for the same crime. Just a few suggestions.

JJ-With all due respect I think you ought to ask the people of New York City if they think we ought to Rodney King radical Islam. Or maybe the people in the Madrid subway, or the bus explosion in London of which two fellow Tennesseans were hurt.

It goes like this JJ. Either they stop, or the price they pay might be an entire city in the middle east going up in a flash after they hit one of ours. As Revere posits, it costs too much to maintain a conventional military. There are those in the left who think that we should just sit down and see what they want. This is the same group that always want the US to be the bad guy because it serves a political goal...gaining of power. That is in the face of the fact that regardless of whether they are recruited or not, they are already inclined to act the way they are. So recruit them, allow them to build up and then simply wipe them from the face of the earth each time the do. Stealth, Cruise, Stand of Land Attack Missiles, Particle weapons and lots of other goodies including RPV can ruin their day. We should target them every week and it just becomes another report on the news.

JJ you also posit that the US should change its foreign policy to protect its citizens. So what would you have us do besides leave Iraq? We werent in Iraq when New York was hit, so that argument doesnt follow. We werent in Iraq when our embassies were bombed so that doesnt follow either. A leftist was in office when those embassies were hit so your whole suggestion is pretty on out there and he was also in office when those same guys tried to knock the WTC's down the first time. They would have used a nuke if they had one JJ. They are very sorry and I am glad they didnt.

So unless we are willing to go out and wholesale murder whole blocks of Baghdad as the Germans did in Warsaw for revolting, we have to leave. Leaving is inevitable and its sooner than later. Me I would go fo the big win and simply tell Teheran and do it on national TV that the insurgency stops or they get popped continously as they did in Baghdad for a week or until every target worth hitting including civilian ones is gone. It is as I said no way to fight a war. Its not a police action, its a war pure and simple with ramifications for the economies of the world that are so far reaching that it will touch even an aboriginal tribe in Africa.

So what to do? I say GIVE it to them in the most horrendous manner possible short of a nuke. Your position is one that I would consider to be multi-lateralist and thats okay in some positions. It was when Kuwait was invaded. It might have been during Clinton but even he acted unilaterally to kill OBL and in doing so attacked a sovereign nation-Afghanistan. He did so to his credit but ah, theres that electronic eavesdropping and it didnt work out. He spent more in one night for defense than he had in the previous 7 years and the ho-hum about the WTC attack 1.

The logical conclusion is that the world is run by the think tank elitists. They'll sit back and pontificate and tell you that you are wrong that you can negotiate with terrorists. If the briefings I got before and after the military are true then one or more major cities in the world are going to suffer and soon. I dont slam anyone JJ if I can help it, but the days of "why cant we all just get along" are over. Its what got us into Iraq, it is why we will do Iran and its also the reason we HAVE to do them now. They have attacked the assets and the honor of the biggest dog in the pen. Alpha male. Losing in this war means total destruction of a population center of not less than 500,000 somewhere on this planet and without the willingness to do the unthinkable (destruction where they live) we aint got a chance. We will just get peppered over and over again with attacks until they hit the weak spot and we go down to one knee or we go all the way to the ground. They dont wear uniforms so we have to just kill people who arent wearing them to win it. Failing that, we should just sit back and increase defense spending and human intelligence gathering and then surgically hit them whenever and wherever they come from in measured responses. The Islamic superstate is just around the corner. Nassers UAR is going to become the Islamic Republic States.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 28 Jun 2007 #permalink

Randy, the suggestion that an 'Islamic superstate' is at all possible in the region is ludicrous. As if the Arab Syrian baathists and fiercely nationalist Persian Iranian islamists would submit to any sort of federated government!

Likewise the suggestion that a US attack might spark a rebellion. You're dreaming if you think a bombing campaign would have any effect other than to marginalise pro-democracy forces, and bring the islamists, monarchists and secular republicans into alignment to defend their national integrity.

Why do I get this stereotypical image in my brain of a cigar-chomping, red -faced, Robt Duvall-like General spewing vitriol...

By baryogenesis (not verified) on 28 Jun 2007 #permalink

Randy there is a basic cause and effect principle at work in a very complicated situation here. You seem to think the only cause is religious ideology. You also seem to think bombing the shit out of entire countries will fix that. By your own admission, when theyre all dead.

The average person does not WANT war. They are driven to it. For a number of reasons. By bombing the hell out of countries that dont play (base)ball youre sending a message. Our way or the dead way. WE dont give a damn if your countries have continually been meddled with by previous US administrations actions which have fostered hate and resentment amongst your communities and driven your people to readily accept terrorism against us as a means of rebellion. We dont care if weve repeatedly sponsored terrorists and dictators helped topple democratically elected leaders in your countries as a means of securing our political and geopolitical interests. Just stop resisting it and accept we dominate you, or well use bombs to prove it.

Now whether you agree that this is the case or not is entirely irrelevant. The fact is thousands neigh millions of people who do agree with it. And bombing them until theyre dead will only give birth to thousands neigh millions more. It becomes a circular problem. Someone needs to stand up and stop it and your solution does nothing but help the snowball gather snow.

It goes like this Randy. Either you stop, or the price you pay mat be an entire city in the mid west. Your military appropriations request if granted would be greater than the rest of the world combined and from a starting point of overwhelming military superiority but what good does it do you. At present you are picking fights with peoples that can not fight back in terms of conventional warfare, and who believe that giving their life to attack the bully is a guaranteed first class ticket to heaven. You may be able to bomb a nation back to the Stone Age but those that survive, and those that look on, will view this as a gross act of international terrorism and you will replace the dead enemy with a new live one. At some point you will pick a fight with someone who can do more than plant a roadside bomb or the on lookers will decide that continued appeasement of US terrorism is no longer the best option. The UK is at a point where it has to decide whether it wants to replace its nuclear deterrent and 10 years ago I would have voted for stopping being a nuclear state but having seen US behavior over that time I now think this would a mistake. I am not worried about an Iranian bomb I am worried about being unarmed if we decided not to kowtow to some future US position and am equally worried about how gracefully the US is going to except its demotion form global top dog as it first losses its top spot as global economic superpower and then military superpower. The current administrations stated position of perpetual military top dog and unilateral declaration of a right to preemptive war are sending chills down the rest of the worlds collective spine our mutual problem is how to stop the US doing what it likes. With the benefit of hind sight we should have asked long ago why America was arming like a country about to go to war when it had no military opponents. Perhaps now is the time to listen again to President Eisenhowers farewell address on the dangers of an unchecked Military-Industrial complex.

You talk a lot about Tehran but as a military man have you tried to look at it from their position. Here is a country with a proud history that was the seat of one of the worlds great superpowers, it democratically elected a popular leader in Mossadegh only to have him overthrown in a CIA backed coup and replaced by the Shah who like many US imposed puppets ruled until he became so hated he was replaced by a radical regime in a backlash against the imposed leader. All of the above leaves the US with yet another country that hates and distrusts the US. Coming up-to-date the Iranian leadership are faced with a hostile US that has backed and armed a vicious dictator in a neighboring country (one S Hussein) in a war against it. Now they have attacked and partially control that country and are making bellicose noises against Iran again. The threats against Iran are based on one Irans nuclear program and two its support for insurgency in Iraq.
In Irans position I would be advocating both of these programs given the USs previous behavior. Firstly I would feel threatened and justifiably so I know I can not win a conventional military war which leaves me with two options acquire a deterrent or tie down the US conventional forces elsewhere so they are not free to attack me. Having said that Iran claims not to be seeking a bomb (true or otherwise this would be a mistake in my view) they are in the NPT and say they are willing to accept IAEA inspection. Their enrichment program is not in breach of any treaties and their crime to date is not to be on good terms with the US & Israel. They are understandably a little peeved at the USs application of double standards, it is a bit rich to be denounced by the US president while he is standing next to the Indian prime minister to sign a nuclear technology exchange with a country that has secretly developed a bomb outside the NTP. The message the world is taking from this is get a deterrent lest the US turn on you. Particularly in the light of the fact that there are some in the US who think the best option to deal with decent might be that used by the Nazis in Warsaw or Gitmo (sorry I meant Dachau).
The Arab countries do not want a super-state and they would only form one if they felt they were in real danger of being picked off one by one by some external enemy (I wonder who that might be).

JJ and Graham. You guys just proved my point and this morning in the UK proves you both to be highly idealistic and people that society in a perfect world should have, as with Revere. I have absolutely no problem with what you are saying. There is the problem though that none and I mean none of the world plays by those rules.

Amazing that I posted last night and this morning we are seeing another friend in the world getting the near hit. Again, I hope that we dont see something bigger.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 29 Jun 2007 #permalink

Randy: Maybe if we confiscated guns we'd see the same stories here in the US. In fact we find people with arsenals. We don't call them terrorists. We call them gun owners exercising their constitutional rights. Doesn't make the news.

Randy: I cant speak for Graham but my point is that the terrorist actions against us are reactions to state terrorism by the US, supported by the UK, and that the solution is to stop acting as terrorist states rather than to become more aggressive terrorists. If we continue to give them grounds for hating us then we will continue to suffer the consequences.

Enjoyed reading what you wrote Graham, there's a great deal of truth to it. However, American's are now more against the war, any war, because we are not winning. Just like any other human being on the globe, we hate to lose. That's when the tides started to turn inside the heads of American's and not before.

Can't tell you the exact moment when it sunk in that we wouldn't win this war, like the wars of past, but it was fairly early on when the radicals proved to be better at jungle/urban warfare than the soldiers. That changed the course of this entire drama and until the radical individuals/groups are dealt with in a decisive manner it will continue.

I agree, but I think another major element in turning the tide was when people started realising they were mislead over the reasons for going into Iraq in the first place. I think that's in large part why there is growing public voice calling for the troops to be pulled out. But you're right, if America was winning it would be a different story.

Idealistic, yes. But the day we abandon idealism is the day the human race resigns itself to extinction. I think emotion and idealism aside - logic suggests that bombing people into cooperation is a flawed methodology. What needs to be changed is the cultures of hate and misunderstanding that have been fostered by unlawful and exploitative actions on both sides. This is significantly harder than pushing a button, and will take a lot longer, but it is the only long term viable solution. If the US wants to see itself as the 'ruler of the free world' then it should start leading, stand up and admit to its faults and open dialogue to establish a way of co-inhabiting. The problem is not just ideology, it's economical.

JJ and Lea: The Poppy for Medicines idea could work according to the model given on the website I mentionned in my last post - it seems like a pretty practical approach, which gives Afghans a real stake in their country's future and economy unlike other solutions proposed like eradication or buying up poppy crop. What the proposal needs, like anything, is the political will from the countries who have involved themselves in Afghanistan and say they are committed to helping its people and government, especially the US, the UK, Canada and other countries leading major forces in Afghanistan. If the international community wants to really face up to terrorist organisations like the Taliban and combat them effectively, it has to show it is on the side of ordinary people as reconstruction can only happen from the ground level up. At the moment, the Taliban are paying several times the salary of a teacher or a policeman while the international community are spending millions on eradicating farmers' livelihoods. Poppy, when made into medicines, can be a resource for Afghanistan rather than a burden and the current 100% diversion rate can be stemmed by a licensing system which would bring farmers and the government into a cooperative relationship. This seems to be a very practical approach to a specific problem that takes into account the reality in Afghanistan rather than importing an eradication model from the US's 'war on drugs' in Columbia, which has clearly failed in Afghanistan.

In regards to what bigTom said about starvation in Afghanistan that winter: I took part at college in a 24 hour fast (not very long, I know) followed by individuals each fasting for 24 in an ongoing relay, to draw attention to this problem. Thing was, aid agencies were begging us not to bomb when we did, because there were only a couple weeks left to get trucks of food aid in, before snows closed the mountains. The truck drivers, understandably, refused to drive in when the country was being bombed.

We didn't wait. Some would say we couldn't wait to go in and root out Al Qaeda/Bin Laden, but we'd already let weeks go by since September 11th. And furthermore, after we invaded, we pulled out the guys who spoke Urdu, who'd spent months cultivating local contacts, who believed they were on the verge of finding Bin Laden, and sent them to Iraq to look for Saddam Hussein. We replaced them with guys who didn't know the language or the people. Is it any wonder Bin Laden is still at large?

Worst of all, Afghanistan was used as PR prop for invading Iraq, by lying to us about how we'd reconstructed Afghanistan and would do the same for Iraq. If you read Ann Jones's book, Kabul in Winter (which I highly recommend for an unflinching account of life there), you'll read of a group of NGO workers watching Fox News on a generator-powered tv in Kabul, hearing them say how Afghanistan had electricity and all the things they lived without. (One woman wept; they changed the channel to the BBC.)

Awhile ago, I tried to find out using Google how many the predicted famine had killed in the winter of 2001-2002, and had no luck.