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Afghanistan and the media « Previous | |Next »
March 25, 2009

Pratap Chatterjee's account of divided Afghanistan in The Atlantic gives a different account to Afghanistan as the official one of Afghanistan being the haven for Islamic terrorists who threaten our national security.

The reality is that most American taxpayer money is actually spent on US troops, not on poor Afghans to provide them with electricity, water, healthcare, a steady food supply and jobs. The Obama administration's policy is one of escalation of US military presence in Afghanistan and the continuation of drone attacks in Pakistan. Australia will tag along whilst offering advice about nation building and remaining silent about the lack of a coherent strategic plan by the US in southwest Asia.

Will the media coverage of Australia's war in Afghanistan glorify this war and mostly show the pro-Government side? Will our largest media outlets (News Ltd, Fairfax, Channel Nine etc ) continue to pay people who receive their talking points from government press releases to pose as independent experts? Will the media raise the question that Australia's interests in southwest Asia are minimal and do not require major social engineering.

Stephen Colbert's speech at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner spells out the rules:

But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works. The President makes decisions. He's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration? You know, fiction.

The illusion in the media world--ie., the political media establishment--- is that there is an built antagonism between the government and the media. Yet what is on display on the Sunday morning talk shows (Insiders, Meet the Press etc ) is the insider savviness, professionalism and coolness, coupled to a desire for a deep respect and appreciation from the audience, whose proper role in one of blissful ignorance and populist emotionalism.

Yet what drives these media stars is the desperate-to-be-close-to-power neediness, and they fight tooth and nail as gatekeepers to deny that access to power to others. The gatewatching is about access. This is a relationship that presupposes that experts in defence, national security and foreign policy make the decisions because they know best. So much for the checks and balances provided by the establishment-loyal, political media. The media stars ignore the criticisms of their behavior in acting as conduits for political leaks, and they often act to suppress their amplification of government spin.

What needs to be said is that wading deeper into Afghanistan and Pakistan is a fool's errand, and it is a policy that Australia --and the Obama administration--- will regret. Australia has no vital interest in determining who actually governs in Afghanistan.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:08 AM | | Comments (8)


Kevin Rudd goes to Washington to talk to Barack Obama about the global economy, Afghanistan and global warming--the big issues of the day. The Australian media gushes about how warm their relationship is. They bond and talk the same talk etc etc. Spare me.

On Afghanistan do you think that they will get around to discussing an exit strategy? What is the Rudd Government's real position---that Australia's interests are best served by saying yes to a US call for more support. Rudd has a reputation for being a little American.

It's wouldn't be so bad if Australia's interests (whatever they may be) WERE being served by out continued contribution. It's just that I can't see what we're getting out of it.... Apart from some lovely photos of our pollies shaking hands with the great and powerful.

I think it's pretty apparent from Jonathan Pearlman's report in the Fairfax papers earlier this month that the fundamental economic issue is not being addressed: creating an economy where the farmers can live adequately with crops other than illegally grown and traded opium poppies (which also provide a handy source of income for the Taliban).

A big advantage of raw opium is that it doesn't get stale or rot and it's compact to transport because of its high unit value.

One way to address the problem would be to legalise the opium business and channel the product into legal manufacture of analgesics, as has happened for years in Tasmania.

The US is a huge obstacle and so are China and Russia to a lesser extent, so probably matters will just continue as they are with no worthwhile investment in Afghan infrastructure and the Afghans intermittently irritated by sporadic US efforts to destroy poppy crops and US war planes occasionally wiping out a wedding party with a guided missile.

The twenty-year-old Taliban fighter our troops are facing today was just a kid when Bush sent the troops in.

One way of ensuring a military victory is to kill them quicker than they're born. Having a FINITE number of enemy would certainly make things easier.

there's not much chance of a NATO lead military victory in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is the last place on earth that a great power wants to occupy. The situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated to the point where the Taliban now controls more than 50 percent of that country, and the United States has turned into an occupier

For the Taliban the issue is simple---. getting rid of foreign occupation.In the short term the Taliban want total control of at least 10 Afghan provinces (most of the south and southeast); a fixed timetable for total withdrawal from Western troops; and the release of the thousands of prisoners now congesting Bagram airbase.

yes, the emphasis is still on a military victory. That means the killing of innocent civilians by special operations forces commando raids and airstrikes will continue. The strategic review ordered by Obama looks set to expand the Central Intelligence Agency-operated drone war to new areas; increase the assorted CIA and special forces cross-border attacks; more carrots for the Pentagon-friendly Pakistani army (and Inter-Services Intelligence);and more US troops in Afghanistan. More of the same.

Although the Bush administration is responsible for the current situation in Afghanistanmost of the Democratic Party's foreign policy experts supported the invasion and its rationale.

As John Mearsheimer points out the Democrats supported the use of U.S. military to re-make the Middle East in America's image. He asks:

Why was there a serious conversation about creating an American empire among adults who grew up in the latter half of the 20th century, when all of the European empires turned to dust

They didn't pay much attention to underlying strategic reality as they saw the issue more in ideological terms.

The interests of the US is that it doesn't want terrorists using this territory to organize attacks on U.S. soil, and it wants whoever is governing Pakistan to keep its small nuclear arsenal under lock and key.

Australia's interests are those of the US. We are a loyal ally.