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Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Didn't we just talk about this a few days ago?  Of course we did.  And we should be talking about it a lot more.  Here is an Opinion Piece by retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters that talks to Afghanistan.

As an up front caveat, I don't really agree with much of what Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters writes, from his novels to his columns.  He tends to be parochial and he tends to favor violence over reaching out.

Even so, this column (in The New York Post) is worth thinking about.  Colonel Peters talks about our commitment to the war in Afghanistan and the fact that 80% of our supplies for the troops travel through Pakistan.  Pakistan, as he notes, is not a good place for us at this time:
I'm convinced that the recent flurry of successful attacks on supply yards in Peshawar and along the Khyber Pass route were tacitly - if not actively - approved by the Pakistani intelligence service (the ISI) and the military.

Previous attacks were rare and unsuccessful.  Suddenly, in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks, our trucks were burning.  The Pakistanis were making the point that we're at their mercy:  They wanted us to rein in a (rightly) outraged India.
Our efforts to run our supply lines in from the north of Afghanistan are too successful either.  We have been banned from one airfield.

But, be warned, Ralph Peters is pretty sarcastic about the Afghan commitment.
Instead of setting a realistic goal - mortally punishing our enemies - we decided to create a model democracy in a territory that hasn't reached the sophistication of medieval Europe.

And our own politics only complicate the mess.  Since Iraq was "Bush's war," the American left rejected it out of hand.  For Democrats seeking to prove they're tough on terror, Afghanistan became the "good war" by default.

Yet partial success in Iraq could spark positive change across the Middle East.  Success in Afghanistan - whatever that is - changes nothing.  Iraq is the old, evocative heart of Arab civilization.  Afghanistan is history's black hole.
I am not sure that Afghanistan is "history's black hole," but it is definitely the black hole of invading armies, from Alexander the Great (and probably before) to the British and then to the Soviet Union.  But, like the recent president, I like to believe that people around the world wish to live in peace and with democracy.  Perhaps we can help them along the road (and every time someone throws acid in the face of some young girl for going to school I get a little firmer in my resolve).  Only time will tell.

While time may turn out to be on our side, it is possible it is not.  The problem is, we are not having the national debate on Afghanistan that we need to be having.  As the Broadway Tune goes, "Is anybody there?  Does anybody care?"

Regards  --  Cliff

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