In normal circumstances, such a failure of analysis would have been a sloppy, irresponsible omission. In this particular case, the omission was made even more outrageous for at least two reasons: First, building a national army that puts loyalty to the state ahead of tribe, clan, and family in Afghanistan’s ancient clan based vendetta culture would be, in the most ideal of circumstances, a highly dubious proposition, because its goal would go against the traditional perquisites implicit in an ancient, highly-evolved culture. At the very least, this challenge ought to have been subjected to the closest anthropological and historical analysis. Second, conditions are hardly ideal. Indeed, it is common knowledge that the current Afghan security forces are already riven by corruption, the conflicted loyalties of warlordism, drug trafficking and murderous criminality, not to mention the central fact that Afghanistan’s Pashtun plurality, whose alienated hearts and minds are crucial to the success of any counterinsurgency strategy, is grossly underrepresented in the army and police forces.
In short, MacChrystal’s cavalier portrayal of the Afghan National Security Forces at the center of his plan ought to have been a show stopper. Moreover, the fact that it was leaked by a politically motivated military officer or a civilian powerbroker to increase pressure on the President for its approval ought have resulted visible discipline. But of course, the huge hole in MacChrystal’s plan was ignored and is now forgotten. No one was hung for crass insubordination. So, it should not be surprising that the Afghan War Question devolved into an evermore formless debate.
A recent AP report by Ben Feller and Anne Gearan introduces two interesting points that will add to the confusion:
Rather than lowering the boom and acting as if it was controlling the events it should be controlling, the White is now retaliating by leaking like a sieve. Unnamed officials now tell us that Obama senses (correctly) that he is being railroaded and, in secret diplomatic cables, Ambassador Eikenbury recently injected his objections to the pervasive corruption infecting the government of Hamid Karzai. Obama, reportedly, is using Eikenbury’s objections as leverage to slow down deliberations and to justify his demand for a timetable laying out how long a continued US presence will be needed.
On the other hand, the report, in what is no doubt a trial balloon, says Obama is leaning toward a “compromise” position of authorizing an increase of 30,000 troops, including three Army brigades and an unspecified USMC contingent. Included in this “compromise” head count of 30,000, however, would be an authorization for the bloated overhead of a huge new headquarters housing 7,000 or more troops. Such a headquarters will no doubt necessitate a huge outlay in construction dollars to house it, a quantum increase in the thru-put of logistics pipelines, and a large increase in the number of field grade and general officers to man it. Therefore, this approval also implies an approval for an increase in the size of and vested interests in an open-ended commitment.
President Obama has been accused of dithering by delaying his decision to escalate, but his politically costly purchase of time is not serving to bring clarity to the debate. He has allowed the huge hole in MacChrystal’s incompetent plan to remain unaddressed, except perhaps obliquely by Ambassador Eikenbury, and to metastasize into a festering state of confusion. This confusion has opened the door to the displacement of rationality by emotion.
Not surprisingly, given the growing tolerance for irrationality in Versailles on the Potomac, the war mongering proponents of immediate escalation are becoming increasingly hysterical. If the mindless mutterings by the likes David Brooks (New York Times) and Michael Gerson (Washington Post) are representative, the proponents of escalation have now reduced themselves to emulating the irrational exhortations made by Adolf Hitler, from the depths of his Fuhrer Bunker cut off from reality, about victory being merely a question of willpower.
This kind of lunatic ranting should not be surprising, because as my good friend Werther recently explained, the triumph of the will over the intellect is an example of the Right Wing’s historic preference for emotion over reason. This kind of ranting also sets the stage for a future stab in the back argument that blames Obama for losing what was in reality a collosal Bush screw up.
Of course, the histrionics of Brooks and Gerson do not come close to rivaling the emotive power of the torchlight Nuremberg parades immortalized by Leni Reifenstahl in her artistic classic, “The Triumph of the Will.” But the feebleness of their imitation makes it all the more pathetic when a man as intelligent as Barack Obama, a gifted speaker who has all the advantages of the bully pulpit together with the awesome status of commander-in-chief, lacks the moral courage to lift his nation out of their kind of darkness into light of reason. (Posted by Bulatlat.com)
Franklin Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon. He currently lives on a sailboat in the Mediterranean and can be reached at email@example.com