Should I stay or should i go now?
if I go there will be trouble
and if I stay it will be double
so come on and let me know
The indecisions bugging me
~ The Clash
I’ve been busy with other matters the last week or so and a bit lax in monitoring the blogspace…John Birmingham’s Blunty had an article last week on Australia’s commitment to Afghanistan and, in the comments, refers readers to “…a great piece by my old boss, Gen. Jim Molan…” Interesting to get some more local opinions on the global debate on Afghanistan and the way ahead. I googled for the lyrics from The Clash and was amused to see this comment on the web site – although posted years ago, it’s still pretty pertinent to today’s discussion:
|Mr. Peabody||08/03/2006 07:59:18|
|Really getting sick of this overplayed tune. Should you stay or should you go? Here’s a clue: If you have to ask, get off your knees, salvage what little you have left of your dignity, and GO!|
Although anyone who is genuinely interested should read the original articles, there’s couple of extracts I considered worthy of quoting direct. Firstly from Blunty:
Mr Flinthart’s comment bears a stand alone response. The definition of war aims has never been settled in Afghanistan, and from that has flowed much waste and tragedy, including a new and wholly unnecessary war in Iraq, a war which has crippled our ability to win this first conflict, and to deal with the Iranian regime’s pursuit of WMDs.
So what are the aims?
To destroy the Taiban and AQ? If so, FAIL. As long as the Pakistani Interservices Intelligence Agency is using Omah and bin Laden as their glove puppets, there will always be a competitor for the Afghan government, such as it is.
To contain them, denying Fascist Islam a state from which to plot and launch more attacks? More reasonable and defensible as a strategy, and yet it also rides the Fail Whale because the Bearded Enemy already controls a number of significant state actors, some of which are pursuing WMD capabilities quite openly. Why do they get a free pass when Afghanistan doesn’t. It’s best if war aims are internally consistent.
As for the ‘Afghan’ people, Mr Flinthart is correct. This conflict, or rather this element of the wider conflict, is lost without them. But rather than asking what do they want, a precursor question is probably ‘Who the hell are they, anyway’. Desk Jockey, I think, made the telling point about long standing and often hyper local ethnic and religious enmities underlying the greater geo-strategic architecture. Afghanistan does not have ‘a people’ it has an atomised, massively riven enclave of tribes, families, ethnic groups, war lords, state sponsored criminal gangs, foreign jihadi and so on. Is it even possible to speak of enough of them wanting enough in common to begin building a coalition from which a rough patchwork state might be fashioned? Probably, but it’d be a helluva job.
And in the end, pointless, because we’re not willing to fight.
JB | Outer Angrystan. – December 03, 2009, 9:40AM
And from Gen Molan’s piece in The Australian:
Australia is assisting Afghanistan for any number of reasons: as part of our alliance responsibilities; for our own self-interest in combating terror; for humanitarian and moral reasons, and because we are there and it is harder to withdraw than to not commit initially…If we think that we have a special relationship with the US, and every aspect of our defence and security policy is based on this assumption, then now is not the time to hang back, hoping not to be noticed.
The crux of the matter remains what are we there for? I have to agree with JB “…The definition of war aims has never been settled in Afghanistan, and from that has flowed much waste and tragedy…” Operation Enduring Freedom achieved its aims in dealing to Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan by the end of 2002 – sadly it seems that more people hung their hats on the name of the operation and not it’s objectives. The most common justification for maintaining commitments to ISAF is now the difficulty of extraction although it is a fairly safe call that many will learn from the US drawdown in 18 months as the pressure starts to come on to those nations that have been dragging the chain…did someone say Europe and the Islamic states?
The absolute #1 rule of warfare is to have a clear and visible mandate…no one ever said it better than Princess Leia “When you broke in here, did you have a plan for getting out?” The #1 rule of COIN/CIT/CIA is to address the underlying causes of the conflict. The #1 rule of COIN is NOT to promote the rule of government! That is but one of many means to the end of addressing the core issues and creating governance as an absolute leads directly to the mess that Afghanistan has become – how do you promote the rule of something that simply does not exist? One of the comments to the Blunty article asks “…why not Balkanise this so-called nation? There are minority groups who would probably be delighted with that outcome. Maybe it would be easier to define and defend the aspirations and rights of, say, the Hazara and allow the Incredibly Medieval Bearded Nutters to concentrate in one place? Surrounding and relatively enlightened statelets might provide a refuge for the perpetually oppressed (women, gays, atheists etc)…” Not quite as polished perhaps, but certainly a similar theme to that of Jim Gant’s One Tribe at a Time proposal: instead of building something new that is not working, why not build on what is already there?
Even though, 18 months is not nearly long enough to develop anything sustainable which brings us back to the original question: Should I stay or should I go now?
And under the FFS heading this morning, there has just been an article on Breakfast that the NZ Army is adopting a crocodile from the aquarium in Napier as it’s new mascot…google a little more and it’s actually all of the Army, not even all of Linton Army Camp…in fact, just one little movements company..see Stuff here…
Pakistan truly is at a cross-way right now, and it is high time we charge forward with our heads held high. We have seen enough death for anyone to tell us to do more, and we realize our shortcomings. We have heard plenty of mothers crying and observed too many fathers burying their sons for us to wait and see what happens next. Tomorrow is another day, another start; it is up to us what we make of it. Those who threaten the very essence of our survival do not have the control over our decisions. Now is not the time to settle our political or religious differences, but rather the time to work and make Pakistan a better place.