The first paragraph of the column reads:
Why can't Afghanistan be more like Sweden? It is insufferable that this miserable statelet can reject liberal democracy despite the efforts of 70,000 Nato and NGO staff kicking their heels in Kabul's dust for eight years. We have blown $230bn of US and UK taxpayers' money and left 1,463 soldiers dead. Everything has been tried, from gender awareness courses to carpet-bombing Tora Bora. Thousands of Afghans have been massacred. Yet still the wretches won't co-operate. They even fiddle elections.All very tongue in cheek. His next line is: "That sums up the west's response to the election staged last August by the Afghan ruler, Hamid Karzai."
Here is the last paragraph of Sir Simon's article (note: I am not sure how he means the term liberalism; i.e., in its American form or its European form):
Western leaders seem unable to resist the seduction of military power. They think that, because they could defeat communism and fly to the moon, they can get any poverty-stricken, tin-pot country to do what the west decides is best for it. They grasp at nation-building, that make-work scheme of internationalism against which any people, however pathetic, are bound to fight. All is hubris. The arrogance of empire has mutated into the arrogance of liberalism.Pretty strong words.
Commenting on this article, Chuck Spinney, says"
... Obama has landed himself a no-win situation that is completely absurd from a grand strategic point of view. I would add that there is probably no hope for Mr. Obama, because extricating himself from the foreseeable trap he helped to set for himself with his short sighted election tactic of distinguishing Afghanistan as a good war ignored in opposition to a bad Iraq war pursued. Extrication now requires a stark, sudden about face. Such a shift would be completely alien to Obama's well-honed predisposition to compromise and shade differences as a means to find a middle, non-confrontational path forward. Moreover, his national security team in the Pentagon has neither the wisdom nor the character to even suggest an escape option.There is some truth to the fact that then Candidate Obama did talk up the Afghan war, as opposed to the Iraq war. On the other hand, the blanket condemnation of the Pentagon underrates Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen.
I think the analysis is overwrought and the situation not quite so desperate, but the fact is, we are spending a lot of treasure and had better know what we are spending it on.
One of the things I think about when I read items such as that by Sir Simon is how it squares with our own Declaration of Independence. From that founding document I get the idea that, at a basic level, people are all pretty much alike around the world. We all long for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Sir Simon puts down the idea of democracy and voting for Afghanis. I, on the other hand, believe that while Afghanistan may not be a perfect democracy, it is a nation struggling in that direction.
Further, the idea that Afghanistan is a made-up nation, foisted upon the locals by Europeans, is wrong. It has been an ancient kingdom and the crossroads of civilization for thousands of years. The modern state of Afghanistan dates from 1747.
And, this is NOT "Obama's War." This is our war. We shouldn't let our representatives on Capitol Hill duck their responsibility for this war. If they were not mired down in Health Care, they might be calling for a renewed Congressional authorization for the commitment of US forces to this UN sanctioned NATO operation in Afghanistan.
Regards — Cliff