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Afghanistan as a folly « Previous | |Next »
September 30, 2010

It is hard to believe but the Coalition has just proposed a major expansion of Australia's military role in Afghanistan, saying the nation should send in hundreds more troops as well as Tiger helicopters, Abrams tanks, mortars and artillery. It's a military solution to a political problem that looks like imperial nostalgia. It's folly.

This proposal by the neo-conservatives indicates that the Coalition has no intention to rethink the strategic stakes at issue in Afghanistan, to help them understand why the current U.S. strategy isn't working, and to outline a plausible alternative approach.

MoirAAfghanistan.jpg

As Stephen Walt observes the situation in Afghanistan has gone from bad to worse since Obama took his advice from his military for a surge:

Obama began escalating the U.S. commitment in Afghanistan shortly after he took office, and since then we've had a fraudulent presidential election, an inconclusive offensive in Marjah, a delayed and downgraded operation in Kandahar, and a run on the corrupt Bank of Kabul. Casualty levels are up, and aid groups in Afghanistan now report that the security situation is worse than ever, despite a heightened U.S. presence.

So what is the point of the war? What we there for? Fighting, not for victory but to not to lose? In all likelihood the US will build up the Afghan army to the point where they think it has a reasonable chance of surviving on its own (albeit with continued and massive US support, including both air power and money to buy off local Taliban commanders), and will then declare victory and withdraw all or most US ground troops.

In all likelihood the US will build up the Afghan army to the point where they think it has a reasonable chance of surviving on its own (albeit with continued and massive US support, including both air power and money to buy off local Taliban commanders), and will then declare victory and withdraw all or most US ground troops.

European NATO governments, like the Australian government tell their populations that their troops are in Afghanistan because Afghanistan is a threat to them. That's nonsense. The only really important reason for sending troops to Afghanistan is to help maintain the alliance with the US because Australia, like the Europeans, is incapable of guaranteeing their own defence against a future resurgent China or Russia. This dependency-driven contribution is publicly called “saving NATO”, and in turn logically justifies Australians and Europeans doing the absolute minimum necessary in Afghanistan to keep the US committed to Australia and Europe.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:51 PM | | Comments (11)
Comments

Comments

The Coalition is now a vocal advocate of escalating the Australian involvement in Afghanistan. The inference is that the current U.S. strategy isn't working and requires even more surge.

Presumably they think that the current conflict is a struggle between the Karzai government and an insurgent movement? Do they think the reason for intervention is preventing Afghanistan from becoming a “safe haven” for terrorists, and assuring that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal does not fall into terrorist hands.

It is more than likely that the Afghan central state and army will wither away again in the aftermath of a US withdrawal. The anti-Taliban warlords backed by US arms and money will in effect run small semi-independent statelets or principalities across much of Afghanistan.

What of the Taliban, with their deep rootedness in the society of rural southern Afghanistan, and control in the Pashtun areas? The Taliban are the local society in the southern Pashtun countryside.

The Taliban's main desire is to get the US and Western forces out of the country – a desire obviously strengthened enormously by the loss of relatives or neighbours killed by US bombardments.

Their next desire is to implement their agenda of seizing power in order to create an Islamist regime.

Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Cuba, Nicaragua, Libya, Vietnam, The Philippines, Cambodia,Korea,Grenada,Panama Republic, Laos, Somalia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Angola, Yemen.

"Do they think the reason for intervention is preventing Afghanistan from becoming a “safe haven” for terrorists..."

Seriously, I don't think it matter to the Coalition one way or the other.

What DOES matter to the Coalition is the politics behinds the issue. What matters to them is what the Australian public is willing to buy... and scoring some points with the US Republicans.

The Afghanistan debacle is a political issue HERE as well as Afghanistan.

But maybe it's really, truly something crucial to our safety. In that case.... bring back conscription I say!

Mars08 is right to say that Afghanistan doesn't matter to the Coalition one way or the other. It is just an issue to wedge the ALP with.

I do have to smile every time Afghan boat people get a mention on the news. There are our Australian troops in Afghanistan waging war and creating refugees, and here is the Govt. in Canberra agonising about what to do about those wretched boat people. The whole idea of cause and effect seems to have been suspended as far as the consequences of the Afghan war are concerned. The idea of stopping the refugees at source by stopping the war just doesn't get a mention.

wrt Mars' point, the coalition is also saying they don't trust the opinion of the head of our defense forces, rather the opinion of soldiers on the ground. Nor do they trust treasury or science. Is there a pattern developing here?

Gary I question whether Europe is truly 'incapable of guaranteeing their own defence against a future resurgent China or Russia'. If you look at defence expenditure, you find that it is roughly consistent across the post-industrialised world, with a few exceptions like Israel. It's the USA that is the huge outlier. Take it out of the analysis and you'd conclude that Europe's spending is about right and it could handle any foreseeable threat from Russia.

As for Australia - well it's hard to see how we could ever get into a conflict with China EXCEPT ON ACCOUNT OF OUR ALLIANCE WITH THE USA. In other words the relationship which we claim to value because it will keep us safe is actually having the opposite effect, as our involvement in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated. It's a weird logic that argues we have to ally ourselves with the USA, which is potentially going to drag us into a conflict with China, to protect us against threats from China which would be negligible in the absence of the alliance.

Australia's interests are best served by establishing strong positive relationships with Indonesia and Singapore, and patient mentoring and support for PNG. If we have friendly relations and mutual interests with the arc of island nations to our north, our security is pretty well guaranteed; but our policy-makers remain locked in the mental models of the Cold War and dependency on a great and powerful friend.

On the main point of your post - yeah, Abbott is following the Howard precedent of using military interventions for domestic political advantage. However as you imply, he's almost certainly misjudged the politics this time. Polls suggest most Australians want troops out of Afghanistan, not increased.

I love the way we worry about a "resurgent" China and/or Russia as potential military threats to Europe or to us.

We never worry about the single Power which has proven itself far more warlike than either China or Russia, which is currently waging wars, overt and covert, in numerous countries and which has shown repeatedly how much it despises and rejects international law.

Yes, you guessed it, the USA. There is better reason to believe that we will find ourselves in conflict with the Americans than with either Russia or China, but that's the obvious point that nobody wants to talk about.

Funny that... eh, Gordon.

But what's even funnier is that the Chinese have already established their domination without firing a single shot! Quite likely we're going to be shedding blood for the team that has already lost.

http://qanda.abc.net.au/_Who-is-Obama/video/1360899/30560.html

Look people dont even understand who Obama is let alone how Bush got us into Iraq / Afgan