Sunday, September 14, 2008

In The Guardian: Lauryn Oates Patiently Explains The Folly Of Taliban-Appeasing

In a debate between the Guardianista (and my occasional correspondent) Conor Foley and Lauryn Oates (one of my co-founders with the Canada Afghanistan Solidarity Committee), Conor attempted to make the same case that serves as the basis of the New Democratic Party's entire Afghanistan policy. Of course Lauryn won, but the debate vividly illustrates how the Let's-Talk-With-The-Taliban approach collapses like a house of cards the instant it's subjected to proper scrutiny.

Here are the best bits:

The elected Afghan government has indeed reached out to the Taliban – and the Taliban wholly rejected the overture, except under conditions which the government could only reject. That strategy has been attempted more than once before; it's time to move on. Your proposal failed with the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the seven long years between 1994 and 2001, when the UN and the "international community" wasted everyone's time brokering truces that never lasted, all in aid of bringing the "warring factions" to the table around a negotiated solution. If there is any lesson at all in any of this, it is that talking truce with fascists is a failed idea.

. . .In the same vein, the term "anti-government insurgents" is ludicrous in the specific context of the failed "power-sharing" approach that you say should be revived and imposed upon the Afghan people with the collusion of Iran and Pakistan, with the "international community" serving as some sort of head waiter to the proceedings. The ludicrousness stems from deftly avoiding the ahistorical and illogical core of your proposal. It obscures what the Taliban really are, and what they really want. They want to plunge Afghanistan back into a nightmarish seventh century dystopia, and to slaughter everyone who has stood in the way of their savage vision these past seven years.

. . .I'll close with one last bit of evidence for the ahistorical folly of Taliban-appeasing which comes in your presumption that "some elements" of the Taliban "may one day sign up for talks." The evidence is twofold. The first is that more than 50,000 "insurgents" have already been reconciled with the Afghan government. They surrendered and participated in rehabilitation and reintegration programs under the UN – this has been going on for years. The second is that if there are elements of the remaining hardcore Taliban leadership that may one day "sign up for talks," it will only be because the alternative they face is death, either at the hands of Afghan or ISAF troops.

In the meantime, the only thing to negotiate with the Taliban is their surrender.

To be fair to Conor, while his argument here collapses under the weight of its own absurdity, he doesn't always ride horses this ludicrous. Following this post a while back, Conor recently brought to my attention a Guardian column he'd written, which I hadn't noticed at the time, and it still stands up stoutly: "Pipe Dreamers: It's time the conspiracy theorists accepted that oil had nothing to do with the US invasion of Afghanistan."

UPDATE: Tangentially related: "Canadian New Democratic Party Leader embraces the lunatic fringe." Symptomatically related: "Layton twice publicly acknowledged us and that Barrie Zwicker is a friend of his and that they have had conversations about 9/11."

2 Comments:

Blogger The Plump said...

Of course Lauryn won

Won? She slaughtered him. This is not someone to pick an argument with lightly.

The absolute clarity with which she cuts through the verbiage used to coat an untenable position with a tone of reasonableness is impressive. I liked this example:

...let me clarify that conceding power to a plague of bloodthirsty, heavily-armed fanatics and criminals is not "what democracy is all about".

And yes, it is a microcosm of a wider political debate where murky sophistry needs to be confronted with just such clarity. Bravo!

3:02 AM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Lauryn's the best. She's been at this for more than ten years, she's just come back from her 12th trip Afghanistan, and she is, I believe, 26.

9:05 PM  

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