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As another general calls for more troops in Afghanistan it is time to re-focus on the large pieces of known information. Vietnam is not a very good comparison for the current US efforts in Afghanistan. The Soviet debacle of the 1980s however does provide such an example. Most importantly, it should be clearly pointed out that the Soviet Union lost in Afghanistan after years of effort and Afghanistan was on their border at the time as opposed to halfway around the world. A little British history would not hurt either.

Today's Washington Post article by Bob Woodward highlights General McChrystal requests for more troops. You can see the article Woodward on Afghanistan.

Let's start by playing devil's advocate, and assume for a moment that force can work against an insurgency. The last insurgency the US won was the Philippine insurrection in the early 20th Century. It was a nasty little war all by itself, but the US possessed a distinct technological weapons advantage and it still took over ten years to win. The Philippines were previously a Spanish colony, and were fairly centralized when the US arrived. The Philippines benefited from extensive trade for centuries and were connected to the outside world.  Afghanistan, by contrast, with pretty extreme isolation and significant de-centralization presents an opposite example. In addition when you add the benefit of the solid weapons readily available now to insurgency forces, (AK-47s, extensive and diverse IEDs)advantage turns again to the defender.

More Importantly, the Soviet Union spent the better part of the 1980s trying to subdue Afghanistan.  They lost even though they possessed the distinct advantage of proximity--something you do not hear anyone talking about. It is not merely an issue of lives, both American and Afghani, but the US simply cannot afford the extreme cost of ramping up this conflict to a level where some type of "victory" is possible. The diversity of the insurgency makes for no simple strategy. Moreover, the widespread corruption in Afghanistan makes any "victory," even if it were militarily likely, a Pyrrhic one at best. Whatever government we manage to prop up is decades away from being able to provide any type of national civil society.

As the Woodward article implies, the public support for more US troops remains doubtful. Bombing will not dislodge the diverse insurgency. It is time to get out. Unfortunately, recent statements by Osama bin Laden say the same thing, and that will make it even more difficult politically to do what needs to be done. I rarely disagree with Robert Fisk, and his article this morning is a must read. You can see it here: Everyone seems to be agreeing with Osama Bin Laden.

From Fisk's article:

And what do America's Republican hawks – the subject of bin Laden's latest sermon – now say about the Afghan catastrophe? "More troops will not guarantee success in Afghanistan," failed Republican contender and ex-Vietnam vet John McCain told us this week. "But a failure to send them will be a guarantee of failure." How Osama must have chuckled as this preposterous announcement echoed around al-Qa'ida's dark cave.

Afghanistan clearly presents a losing situation. It is a loser for Afghanis, it is a loser for the US and all their allies still helping us there. Unfortunately it's a loser for Afghanis whether we stay or go. It is painful no matter which course we choose. It is a loser politically no matter what Obama does. Because of these reasons, it is far better to get out now than drag this on for the futile hope that the game may change. When gambling, sometimes one has to walk away from the table, because doubling down in a rigged game only puts you deeper in the hole. Sometimes you have to take your lumps, even though no one will likely thank you for it.

Originally posted to FrankCornish on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 05:25 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (17+ / 0-)

    You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife and you may ask yourself, "How did I get here?"

    by FrankCornish on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 05:25:55 AM PDT

    •  this is the monkey trap. (6+ / 0-)

      Monkey puts hand into jar to extract filberts, seizes fist-full of nutty treats, closes fist, and can't extract hand.

      Even when the trap-maker, as in this case, helpfully points out the nature of the trap, the monkey is not capable of releasing itself, and so sits starving until the ice-weasels come.

      It would be an unworthy opponent who created a trap from which it was possible to escape.

      You'll pay me the 8s I won of you a-betting?

      by Boreal Ecologist on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 05:34:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thank you for this excellent diary... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gogol, trashablanca, kurt, FrankCornish

      I stand in full agreement with you and with the sources you cite. I had hoped that when Obama took office, he would have withdrawn US forces from Afghanistan and let US failure there be a Bush legacy, as it properly should be, rather than adopting it as his own. Unfortunately, we have relied on military force as our first choice in international policy for so long, diplomacy has become a vestigal organ...so sad for the US, even sadder for the rest of the planet.

  •  Ouch. (7+ / 0-)

    This is the one issue where I've seriously disagreed with Obama's strategy (rather than his tactics or methods.) I've tried to give him benefit of the doubt, but it's getting much harder to do so.

    Even though our dream is not yet completed... we are not quitters... and we are not through. Ty'Sheoma Bethea

    by Nowhere Man on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 05:53:22 AM PDT

    •  I agree, (7+ / 0-)

      I've generally been giving the benefit of the doubt too. Earlier, however, I had hopes of a government in Iran that Obama could work with. Now that the election debacle is pretty much over, we're not going to get anything useful in terms of co-operation with Iran. They hate the Taliban more than anyone, but I don't see any coordinated efforts in the near future. So, we need to get out--nothing we can do is going to work there.

      You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife and you may ask yourself, "How did I get here?"

      by FrankCornish on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 05:57:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  it's still dragging on (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FrankCornish

        i'm not sure if you caught anything about the quds day protests, but they were huge (1mm+), which gives me the impression that there's not really going to be anybody to negotiate with over there beyond khamenei himself.  and, yeah, that wouldn't go over well with anyone.

        re: afghanistan, the problem is osama.  comparing the soviet invasion to the us invasion is apt if you're assuming that the us wants to colonize, but i get the impression that we've never really been after that in afghanistan (now iraq, on the other hand...).  we've been trying to decapitate al-qaeda, and for good reason.  without bin laden, there's no leader to al-qaeda -- he's their one charismatic, rallying figure -- and hell, most of the other heads they had have already rolled anyway.  so the question becomes: how best do we kill one man on the opposite side of the planet, while he is a guest in a muslim's home?  as you can tell by my coercive wording of the question, there is no answer.

        worse yet, we've fueled the fires plenty.  i don't think we can really 'go back' anymore.  as long as osama is alive, he will be a symbol of the fight against 'western evil,' and will be able to bring impressionable and desperate people to his cause.  so option 1: endless war until he dies, which, unfortunately may leave enough time for another rich charmer to give up his billions and become the next figurehead for holy war.  option 2: we leave afghanistan, maybe send in some special ops to try to take him out, but nothing overt.  the hope would be that the jihadists would start to fragment after a while, but given the destruction we've caused in the last 8 years, i think they've got ammunition for another 20 years of hating whitey.

        it seems the only solution that doesn't involve excessive bloodshed and insecurity would have been to go back in time to 2001, and tell GWB to stay classy, and not be a retaliatory jackass.  if we had done that, al-qaeda probably wouldn't exist by now.

        i'm up early 'cause ain't enough light in the day time...

        by keonhp on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 07:56:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Al Queda doesn't work like that (3+ / 0-)

          One man does not make the organization.  I doubt that Osama has been anything more than propaganda for several years.  

          The Taliban is our main issue here, and they do not depend on Osama.

          And in Iran, there were far more pro-government protesters than pro-reform ones.  

          •  how is the taliban our main issue? (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            gogol, truong son traveler

            you do realize we armed the taliban.  and other than not caring about al-qaeda being within their borders they haven't even done shit to us.  so wtf does the taliban have to do with anything?

            and yes that really explains why the shouts of "marg bar russiye" were louder than the shouts of "marg bar amrika" that preceded them.

            and yes, al-qaeda does work like that.  the movement essentially started bc osama giving up his wealth to fight the west made him a martyr in the eyes of many disenfranchised arabs.

            i'm up early 'cause ain't enough light in the day time...

            by keonhp on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 08:31:03 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The Taliban is our main issue (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              gogol

              because they are the ones behind the insurgency, and they are the ones that feed Al'Queda with fighters.  Who do you think we're fighting in Afghanistan?  It isn't Al'Queda; it's the Taliban.  When we attack, we attack Taliban figures, not Al'Queda ones.

              Al'Queda is a loose network, not a centralized group.  Osama's messages are not unique ones.  Osama made the organization, but he is not what makes it anymore.  

              By the way, Osama did not give up his wealth.

              •  the insurgency and fighting the taliban (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                truong son traveler

                is the us getting sidetracked, and not doing what they invaded for.  yes, for the past couple of years we've been fighting the taliban, but that's because we're an occupying force on their land.  we're not there to destroy the taliban, or depose the taliban, or any of that shit.  well, we might be now, but it's bullshit and won't do anyone any good.

                al-qaeda is a loose network physically, but has centralized leadership.  that was the whole point of the group in the first place.  without strong, charismatic leadership and mass tragedy they don't have ideas or recruits.

                yes, i'm sure he enjoys an extremely posh lifestyle bathing rarely and living in caves.  definitely comparable to his existence as a royal in the house of saud.

                i'm up early 'cause ain't enough light in the day time...

                by keonhp on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 08:44:25 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Osama is not a member of the House of Saud. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  gogol

                  Nor has he ever been one.  He is a member of a wealthy construction family.  He is not a royal.

                  We invaded Afghanistan with the express intent of deposing the Taliban because of their support for Al'Queda.

                  Al'Queda does not have a strong central leadership, it never has.

                  •  i'm just going to point out one thing (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    truong son traveler

                    to someone with even a minimal understanding of arabic (which i have less than), this sentence goes beyond absurd into moronic:
                    "Al'Queda does not have a strong central leadership, it never has."

                    yes.  of course.  [the center] does not have central leadership.  that wouldn't make any sense.  it also wouldn't be the point, or how they have managed to carry out directed terrorist attacks against high-profile targets.

                    osama is not a royal, that's true, however his family held close ties with saud, and made all of their money through those ties.  it's pretty well known that the laden family and the house of saud are inextricable.

                    next you're going to tell me that turks are considered intellectual powerhouses in tehran.

                    i'm up early 'cause ain't enough light in the day time...

                    by keonhp on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 09:56:02 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I didn't say (0+ / 0-)

                      that Al'Queda didn't have central leadership.  I said that it wasn't strong.  There is a very large difference.  They give their groups a lot of latitude to plan and carry out attacks, and give funding as needed.  Al'Queda in Iraq is a different story.

      •  Iran wants us to fail in Afghanistan (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gogol

        there is no reason for them to try to help us again.  Iran reached out right after 9/11, and instead of getting the help of one of the Afghani neighbor that hates the Taliban (who has been fighting the Taliban for years), we ignored their help and brought in more Western armies.  Once we fail, Iran can step into that vacuum, just like they're stepping into the vacuum in Iraq.  I doubt Iran will try to help Afghanistan; they don't have the same affinity with Afghanistan that they have with Iraq.

        •  wtf are you on about? (0+ / 0-)

          I doubt Iran will try to help Afghanistan; they don't have the same affinity with Afghanistan that they have with Iraq.

          i see i wasted time responding to you.  you're a fucking idiot.  affinity for iraqis my ass.

          i'm up early 'cause ain't enough light in the day time...

          by keonhp on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 08:32:38 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm Iranian (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            gogol

            are you?  We have an affinity with Iraq because Iraq was the western half of Iran for centuries.  The ancient capitals of Persia were in modern-day Iraq.

            Learn your ancient history.  We Middle Easterners have a very long collective memory.

            •  yeah, and apart from marja sistani (0+ / 0-)

              i'd offer that those affinities were effectively cut by the iran-iraq war.  i'm not saying that there's some kind of deep-seated hatred for iraqis that lasts centuries or anything, but the fact that martyrs from 1985 are still celebrated and mourned publicly in tehran doesn't point to any special affinities with iraqis.

              "The ancient capitals of Persia were in modern-day Iraq." hamashoon?  takht-e-jamsheed ham tooye araq bood?  martike boro khafe sho.

              i'm up early 'cause ain't enough light in the day time...

              by keonhp on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 09:42:18 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  So What's In It for the Military? (6+ / 0-)

    Just basically a make-work program, and keeping open the revolving door for leaders of public service into private consulting jobs?

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 06:03:58 AM PDT

  •  Fatal flaw in the comparison (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FrankCornish

    Afghanistan is a nation, like Iraq, cobbled together from various ethnicities/nationalities by an exterior colonial power.

    By comparison, Vietnam was more of a "natural" nation, partitioned by external powers.  So the indigneous war in Vietnam was for national reunification.  

    Way different matter that, and always will be.

    Grab all the joy you can. (exmearden, 8/30/09)

    by Land of Enchantment on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 06:41:33 AM PDT

    •  I'm not comparing Vietnam. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      esquimaux, mochajava13, pinkbunny

      Vietnam is not a very good comparison for the current US efforts in Afghanistan

      I'm comparing Afghanistan with Afghanistan. Soviets, then US.

      You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife and you may ask yourself, "How did I get here?"

      by FrankCornish on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 06:50:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You aren't. Right. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FrankCornish

        But the comparison has been brought up with more and more frequency lately.  Those TV chatterbox people do it a lot.  So I threw in the observation.

        Grab all the joy you can. (exmearden, 8/30/09)

        by Land of Enchantment on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 07:02:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree that the (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wonmug, Land of Enchantment

          Vietnam comparison is spotty at best. However, someone has to come up with a succinct answer as to why we need to get out now.

          Just because we have no good options should not be the reason that we do not exercise the best possible option. At this point, although it needs to be packaged more gracefully--"cut and run" is the operative term for our best option.

          You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife and you may ask yourself, "How did I get here?"

          by FrankCornish on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 07:09:10 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I should have expressed that better. (2+ / 0-)

        I'm not disagreeing with you.  Rather I'm expanding on why it's not a good comparison.

        Grab all the joy you can. (exmearden, 8/30/09)

        by Land of Enchantment on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 07:05:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The reasons for our involvement in Viet Nam (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gogol, ybruti

          and in Afghanistan are very dissimilar.

          However regarding our situation on the ground, the tactics we use and the relationship with the people and the fact that we support a corrupt government which is seen as a US puppet by many Afghans, I see many parallels with our involvement in Viet Nam.

          This article describes it very well and fills in the details.

          East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet ... Kipling

          by truong son traveler on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 09:07:23 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I wasn't referring to our country... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            truong son traveler

            ... or the reasons for our involvement.  I was talking about differences in the places.  Very different social dynamics in a cobbled country versus a partitioned on.

            I've noticed, over the years, that most of the news coverage in the U.S., about anyplace else in the world, turns out to be about a debate in the Congress about it - or some such.  Very little about those other places in much of the news.  Seems like you might be leaning towards the error of making it too much about "us" in how you're looking at it.

            Grab all the joy you can. (exmearden, 8/30/09)

            by Land of Enchantment on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 11:18:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  I don't agree with that (0+ / 0-)

      Afghanistan is a nation, and has been for a very long time.  I'd agree with you about Pakistan, but not Afghanistan.  The Afghani people have been around for a very long time, and have existed as a group since ancient times.  

  •  Did Woodward mention the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FrankCornish

    fact the the US was supporting Afghanistan during that episode?  We trained Bin Laden and his forces.


    The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

    by nupstateny on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 06:49:04 AM PDT

    •  Woodward's article (4+ / 0-)

      is about the current military requests.

      I drew the Afghanistan comparison to the Soviet efforts there in the 80s. I guess I did not make my main point too clearly--the Soviets lost even though it was on their border. We are so blinded by thinking we are always the "good guys" that I think we completely dismissed the Soviet experience as valid.

      You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife and you may ask yourself, "How did I get here?"

      by FrankCornish on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 06:53:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  No lesson from that history. (0+ / 0-)

    a) we are not trying to "subdue afghanistan, and
    b) there's no comparison to the Russian army's underequipped draftees.

    Only some conservatives are racist. The rest are merely enabling racists, allying with racists, and hoping they win the next election with racism.

    by Inland on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 08:15:20 AM PDT

    •  Aren't we trying to subdue them? (4+ / 0-)

      We're trying to subdue the Taliban and the insurgency (anyone fighting against us).  We may have more firepower, but we are not up to this fight.  We are trying to fight a modern-day nation state, which does not exist in Afghanistan.  Our tactics were doomed from the beginning, we lost Afghani support the day we installed Karzai, and we lost any hope of winning the day we invaded Iraq.  

      •  Not ALL of them. (0+ / 0-)

        I think that's the difference.  

        Unless, of course, you think that the taliban represents the country.

        Only some conservatives are racist. The rest are merely enabling racists, allying with racists, and hoping they win the next election with racism.

        by Inland on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 08:32:37 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  We may know that (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fly, gogol, wonmug, truong son traveler

      we are not trying to "subdue" Afghanistan, but there is no reason for Afghanis in the streets or in the countrysides to think that.

      The point is that military action will fail, the country to too remote, too underdeveloped, and too de-centralized to handle the situation. If we put in 500,000 troops from day one, then maybe; but we didn't and there is no point in just sitting around trying to stick our fingers into the many holes in the dike.

      You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife and you may ask yourself, "How did I get here?"

      by FrankCornish on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 09:42:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  No "and then we will have won" scenario (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ybruti, FrankCornish

    exists. No one is even talking about one. No matter what happens between now and when we leave, as we inevitably must, there will still be Taliban in Pakistan ready to go back in and start the war again. There will still be drug lords as this is a central part of their economy. There will not be much infrastructure and the populace will be very poorly educated.

    No matter what happens militarily there is no scenario with even a slight chance of being realized where things in Afghanistan a month after we leave look much different if we stay another week or year or decade. I challenge anyone to come up with one. I have not seen one even offered.

    If we have no scenario that is even being suggested where we end up winning a war then we are damned stupid to keep fighting it when we do not have to.

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