Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

10/26/2009 (8:30 am)

Oh, Boy, Here It Comes

torch-obama1Now that Afghanistan is no longer the “war of necessity” and has become, instead, a ball and chain around President Obama’s leg, we can expect the mainstream press to start broadcasting just how badly we’re hated in Afghanistan, how badly we fit in, how incompetently we have handled the war, and how impossible it is that the war can be won. It’s not about national defense, there’s no anti-Western sentiment throughout the Islamic world that we need to address, nobody is trying to attack America [/sarc] — Obama does not need the trouble implied by all that, so now begins the public relations deluge to convince the American public that President Obama is actually defending America’s interests by withdrawing from Afghanistan.

Consequently, the LA Times published a story noting that “hundreds” of Afghans in the capital city of Kabul protested an alleged burning of the Koran by US troops. A rumor without evidence suggested that US troops had shot and then burned a copy of the Koran in the Wardak province. Demonstrators could not identify when, where, or by whom the Koran was burned. From the description, it was not a major event, barely newsworthy. But Obama has to be rescued from the inconvenient war, so…

It seems as though President Obama’s World Apology Tour has not completely silenced hatred of the US after all. They burned an effigy of Obama.

It’s not that the Afghanistan war is going swimmingly well, it’s just that with such a clear agenda to keep the Great One safe and loved, we cannot trust what the press has to say, and need to find reliable sources for war information. During the heat of the Iraq struggle, I found that independent journalists Michael Yon and Bill Roggio consistently offered the most reliable information, and I’ve been impressed so far with the analyses I’ve read at Stratfor. Your mileage may vary.

What practically nobody has been saying about the Afghan war is that the reason we’re in such a pickle there is that the US followed a strategy suggested by presidential candidate John Kerry during the 2004 election: we turned the effort over to an international organization instead of pursuing our own interests there. NATO was called in to handle the Afghan war. The failure is not a US failure (except insofar as the Bush administration consented to make it NATO’s war), but a failure of nations across Europe to send adequate troops, commit to the effort, establish an effective policy to improve the political or economic stability of the country, and so forth. Our allies send roughly half the forces they’re requested to send, leaving the US to shoulder some 2/3 of the staffing, and they shackle their troops with caveats dictating where they may be deployed and what actions they may take. As a consequence, the British and Dutch troops which occupy the bulk of the southern areas of Afghanistan have been ineffective in stabilizing those regions (by the way, notice how the article at this link, written in 2007, asserts that the effort has been successful so far, but lists all the factors that have since turned the situation sour.) The US has been more effective, but it’s not a US war, and the efforts of some are affected by the efforts of others.

And then there’s Pakistan, where al Qaeda fled when we ejected the Taliban from Afghanistan in 2002. The Pakistanis have been trying for years to push the training camps out of their own regions. Sort of. Maybe. Al Qaeda’s training camps continue to operate there, and a long-advertised effort to push them out of South Waziristan will probably just push them somewhere else for a while.

wrybobAll of which explains why it was so essential for the US administration to maintain a whole-hearted, fully-awake, long-term effort to rid the world of Wahabi terrorists of all stripes. It also explains why we might have been enticed to turn the effort over to NATO, because the effort, addressing a world-wide network of aggressive terrorists, cannot be carried out by one nation, cooperation is required. But NATO is the wrong vehicle; the Europeans, for the most part, lack our resolve and commitment to defending ourselves. We should have kept the leadership in-house, and involved other nations only insofar as their own interests permit them to cooperate, as we did in Iraq.

Nor can it be completed by the beginning of the top-of-the-hour commercial break, which means that people will tire of the war long before it ends. The current administration — like every Democratic administration — lacks the political will to suffer the hit to its ratings that inevitably occur when a President pursues a long-term war and people tire of it. George W. Bush was criticized for his persistence in the face of criticism and difficulty (“Cowboy!” “Lack of imagination!”) but his is the sort of resolve that an effort like this requires. It is not an accident that the escalating, world-wide pattern of attacks against US citizens halted for 7 years. It will not be an accident when it resumes.

So brace yourselves. We’re about to face the same flood we’ve faced in every war since 1970, as Democrats muster the usual ammunition to entice the nation to buy into defeat . We’re the bad guys. There’s no real need. It can’t be won. They hate us. They don’t want us. It has nothing to do with the 2001 attacks. The military is corrupt. We’re only there because of greedy Republican Orcs. We should never have liberated Iraq. Blah blah-blah blah-blah blah blah.

And then, once they’ve weakened our defenses and allowed our enemies to multiply and prosper, they’ll lose an election, and a Republican President will take office — only to be greeted by a successful attack against American interests somewhere on the globe, possibly even here in the US. For which the Democrats will blame the Republicans, just the way they did in 2001, because what they did to embolden and empower the enemy notwithstanding, it happened when the President’s registration said “R,” and history began yesterday. Democrats are predictable.

Which is why the American people cannot trust Democrats with any war. Ever.

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October 26, 2009 @ 8:49 am #


I’ll track down a couple of the articles, but I’ve read from some conservatives that treating this as a frontal war was a wrong-headed strategy in the first place; we could likely get far more done if we treated it as a full-on war of intelligence, armed the CIA to infiltrate Wahabist groups, and used our resources in this way.

If we shifted our strategy this way, I don’t think drawing down the frontal war should be seen as a sign of weakness, but intelligence. I have been hoping for this shift, though I know the conservatives would seize on anything but endless feeding of soldiers into the frontal war as a sign of weakness.

Bevin Alexander’s “How Wars Are Won” is particularly useful here:


October 26, 2009 @ 10:39 am #

I know the conservatives would seize on anything but endless feeding of soldiers into the frontal war as a sign of weakness.

Which explains the uniform rejection of the “surge” strategy by conservatives. Right.

Have you decided to try on “demonizer” shorts for a few weeks? ’cause it seems like that’s the mode you’re in…

October 26, 2009 @ 11:06 am #


Putting my frustrations (and your frustrations with them) aside, what about that frontal war question? I haven’t heard anything about Obama taking it more covert, but would that be a better strategy?

October 26, 2009 @ 11:17 am #

“More covert”….

Do you have _any_ idea what you’re talking about?

Spies from the CIA?? Oh sure….we have just scads of Pashtun speaking linguists who’s familial/religious background would allow them to just fit right in.

Do you understand the word “tribe”? “village”? This is the part of the world where the “begats” began – but you want a CIA agent to fit right in?

October 26, 2009 @ 11:45 am #

Someone besides me has seen where this is all going. Let me state some facts:

1. This conflict can end with a successful US outcome.
2. Failure in afganistan is failure of a US political and US military nature. Whom do you think is the weak link there?
3. Great military minds find a way, they just need the resources.
4. The Democrats have been handed victory in Iraq, and near victory in Afganistan. Do you want to be they will find a way to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory?
5. Defeat in either theater, will result in future US loss of revenue and soldiers on return.
6. No Democratic POTUS has successfully resolved an armed conflict since Harry Truman in 1945. BTW, Harry Truman ended his POTUS terms 1-1, LBJ 0-1 (vietnam), Jimmy Carter 0-1 (Iran). Democratic POTUS have been a combined 1-3 in wars since 1945.

October 26, 2009 @ 11:53 am #


No, I don’t by any means claim any expertise in the area of covert operations in the Wahabist areas – that’s why I had mentioned the articles that I had read (and I hope I get a minute to find where I stored them!).

If you have a more complete knowledge of what we have done in the past in this area, please share!

October 26, 2009 @ 11:59 am #


So, in your understanding, is Afghanistan “winnable” in the same sense as WWII? What would victory look like there?

I’m asking these questions because I admit, the sociology of the society there makes it hard to fathom winning in a conventional sense. It seems like it would have to involve developing some kind of litmus test for the extremists, then shooting those, yet still keeping the good will of the rest of the people.

All the while hoping the extremists don’t just fold into society while we’re doing the testing.

What does a victory there look like?

October 26, 2009 @ 1:13 pm #

>>What does a victory there look like?>>

That’s a good valid question.

We won in Vietnam – militarily. We lost when Congress refused to authorize the financial and military help we promised them in the terms of the peace treaty.

So…if we go in and bomb the heck out the country so that there are no living Taliban/Al Qaeda members, have we won? If Afghanistan remains an islamic democracy, have we won? If the governmental corruption continues to exist as it does in nearly every other islamic country, have we won? (heck…_our_ government is approaching the same corruption levels – we’re hardly in a position to consider that a measure of “acceptable” government)

So what _does_ victory look like??

I’m not sure I know. I am sure, though that just withdrawing will look like we’re the weak horse. For sure.

I think I’d trust McChrystal for now at least. He’s an expert – I’m not. And Obama is _certainly_ not. Nor any of his administration.

Sometimes, you just have to have faith, and choose the person in whom you have faith wisely.

My first step – if I had anything to say about it – would be to spray all the opium poppy fields with herbicide. Pay the farmers for their loss – but don’t let the opium get into the hands of the Taliban/Al Qaeda. It supports destruction – by its actions alone, plus the financial support it gives the extremists.

October 27, 2009 @ 7:50 am #

Me, then Phil:

>> I know the conservatives would seize on anything but endless feeding of soldiers into the frontal war as a sign of weakness.<<

— Which explains the uniform rejection of the “surge” strategy by conservatives. Right.–

No, Phil, I meant opportunistically, right now, in a way that is trying to make Obama look bad.

But I found the link to the best article about fighting the war on terror as an intelligence war, from the Cato Institute:


This approach seems so much more intelligent than a frontal war…which in the end, I believe will prove ineffective.

October 27, 2009 @ 8:59 am #

Hey, Suek, more fruit for some good discussion. The Cato Institute, last month, discussed a reasonable exit strategy from Afghanistan, and why:


October 27, 2009 @ 11:22 am #

>>This approach seems so much more intelligent than a frontal war…which in the end, I believe will prove ineffective.>>

What approach? Ferreting out cells that exist within the Western nations? Well sure – that’s a necessary step, but what you – and the article – seem to be suggesting is to destroy the cancer cells that are circulating thoughout the body without destroying the main tumor that’s continually casting them off. That’s sort of a definition of perpetual conflict.

It seems to me that the article correctly defines the problem, but I don’t see that it offers a solution to the Afghanistan problem.

It does suggest that we need to somehow succeed in convincing the majority of the muslims that the radical members of their sect should be isolated and shunned. Great idea. It does _not_ however, account for the terrorist aspects of those radicals. Unless your average muslim – or his tribal leader – has someone he can turn to to protect him, his family and his property, he’s a sitting duck. If we’re not there – who will do this? This is where we succeeded in Iraq. The terrorists overplayed their hand – they were _so_ brutal that even the much despised kafir was preferable. We had demonstrated to them that we were _not_ brutal, and they had reached the point of desperation. If they had not had the Americans to turn to, they would have been compelled to accept whatever terms Al Qaeda demanded.

Honestly – unless we’re willing to eradicate them or at least isolate them, not only will they continue to proliferate in Afghanistan and other strongholds, but they’ll succeed in creating jihadists among the dregs of society that end up in our prisons. They have a really appealing program to offer – “live as you’ve always lived, do what you want to do, but target the right people and you’ll be rewarded in the afterlife. Great. Just what we need – sociopaths given training, direction and blessings in our prisons.

(I don’t have sound on my computer at home – I’ll have to wait till later to listen to the video on the second link)

October 27, 2009 @ 12:13 pm #

darkhorse, et al —

I’m a little curious to know where the talk about “frontal war” is coming from. From where I sit, there has never been a frontal war in Afghanistan, and nobody sensible ever suggested that there ought to be. Nobody, that is, since, that complete bloody idiot Al Gore tried to play the military expert in 2002 in a vain attempt at the 2004 nomination, by claiming we should have captured bin Laden at Tora Bora.

Afghanistan is a nation that swallows armies. Believe it or not, the US military knows this. So does the CIA, having been instrumental in helping it to swallow the Soviet army in the 1980s. Consequently, the US has never attempted a frontal war in Afghanistan, and will not.

So, come clean: what are you imagining is the relevance of speaking of “frontal war” in Afghanistan? Were you under the impression that that’s what was being fought all along? And seriously, do provide at least 3 conservative writers claiming that that’s what Obama ought to be fighting, or do please stop with the tiresome slander. Nobody is doing what you claim, you’re just playing your mindless little “moral equivalence” game to buttress your delusion that both sides in political America are equally evil. No matter how many times you say it, Jim, it will not be true.

October 27, 2009 @ 3:09 pm #

Also concerned that Obama does not even appear to be consulting with McChrystal on any kind of regular basis.

Put aside that Democrats pilloried Bush for not listening to the advice of his generals, because they would have lashed at him no matter what he did. It may be that he is speaking to McChrystal and other people on the ground on the QT, but as of a couple of weeks ago, it seemed like he was not really engaged, and that for him it is purely a political problem.

October 27, 2009 @ 5:54 pm #

So, Phil,

Apparently you are absolutely incapable of reasoned discussion with me now? I apologize for any frustration I caused you, but I’m trying. Thanks for talking down…WAY WAY down…to me.

October 27, 2009 @ 6:41 pm #

Phil, as a clarification,

Grant me the civilized demeanor, if I’m using the wrong term with “frontal war”, to correct me. Whatever we’re doing right now in Afghanistan, with the upcoming surge (and if that surge happens, does Obama get credit at all?), just doesn’t feel like the right strategy.

No games. None.

What of the articles I posted? If I’m dense and they’re non-topical, don’t just ignore them; just say so!

And if you’re too busy to really look at them and participate in reasonable discussion, that’s fine too! Only, don’t bother jumping in just to belittle me for asking the questions. What is that all about?

October 28, 2009 @ 10:43 am #

Re: frontal war.

I assumed that it meant an organized war, so to speak. Troops vs troops. So I did a search, and found little to define it. Is that what you meant, darkhorse? And Phil, if you say that Afghanistan is _not_ a frontal war, then why not? I understand that the Taliban/AQ forces we encounter aren’t exactly an organized military force as we comprehend it, but it is still an organized military action. If you consider it a troops vs guerilla war, would you have a different name for it? Is that the difference?

Anyway…in searching, I ran across this article which I found very interesting – though not especially related to the topic and also very long. If you have time to read it, it’s concerning the Israeli-palestinian conflict and discusses the arab societal background. It’s from a presentation made in 2004. It would be nice to hear his opinion now – he concludes that Iraq cannot function as a democracy.


November 3, 2009 @ 9:48 am #

And Phil, if you say that Afghanistan is _not_ a frontal war, then why not? I understand that the Taliban/AQ forces we encounter aren’t exactly an organized military force as we comprehend it, but it is still an organized military action. If you consider it a troops vs guerilla war, would you have a different name for it? Is that the difference?

Yes, suek, you’ve got it. Frontal war is a war with fronts. I believe the new name for what we’re engaged in is “Asymmetrical war,” and if you want to study up on it, search for those terms.

Afghanistan may be becoming a frontal war as the Taliban gains strength and numbers. If it does, we will have to treat it like one.

My point to darkhorse was that I don’t think it’s correct to imagine that the US has ever considered Afghanistan a frontal war; I think they’ve always recognized the social and political complications on the ground, and the asymmetry of the action.

November 3, 2009 @ 8:56 pm #

>>Afghanistan may be becoming a frontal war as the Taliban gains strength and numbers.>>

How? Why? (not why do they wish to, but why are they gaining)

This is certainly a question to consider….

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