Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Afghanistan writings 

James Wolcott quotes from a couple of good articles about Afghanistan and what it means to the United States -- and to us, too, of course.
First, a July, 2006 article by Stewart Nusbaumer "Unfinished Business" at the American Conservative magazine:
. . . in Afghanistan and Iraq the Bush administration was clueless about the wars it faced, declaring victory before the real wars began. The neocons wrote a silly script that had Afghans and Iraqis pulverized by our hi-tech war machine and quickly capitulating, as if the Vietnam debacle never happened, as if the world's guerrilla fighters never learned how to stymie and slowly bleed the world's premier conventional military.
Then a flashback to what Ted Rall wrote in December, 2001:
'It would take billions of dollars to even begin rebuilding this country,' an American officer who refused to give his name noted while his driver worked on a flat tire. 'Billions of dollars and many, many years. We don't have that kind of attention span. Bombing Iraq will be a lot sexier than teaching Afghans how to read.'
And so we've lost this war, not because they're good or we're not, but because of who we are. The American Empire can't spend the bodies or the time or the cash to fix this crazyass place, because in the final analysis, election-year W. was right—we're not nation builders. Guys who once called themselves Talibs switch to something called the Northern Alliance, and we call this a victory. We know it isn't so, but like Nixon's peace with honor, it'll have to do.
Both the Russians and the English lost everything to Afghanistan, but it doesn't have to end that way for us. After all, the same thing happened to us in Vietnam, our first Afghanistan, but we survived it. True, our economy was never the same. Undeniably, it replaced an American Century with postmodern alienation and ironic detachment. But if those estimates are correct and this war is costing a mere billion bucks a month, we ought to tally our dead, write up our losses, and count ourselves lucky to still be called a superpower.
At the end, Wolcott notes "Five years later, our luck may have run out."

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