Last month, the International Republican Institute released the results of a survey of Afghan opinion that showed a mood of heightened optimism about security, the Afghan economy, and the country's prospects for the future. But it isn't until you get to the last paragraph of the IRI's findings index [pdf
] that you encounter this:
"When asked which organizations, groups or countries they view favorably, the ANA ranked number one at 67 percent favorable, followed by the United Nations at 58 percent and the United States at 28 percent. Iran ranked at minus 10 percent followed by the Taliban and Pakistan at minus 49 and minus 50 percent respectively."
That sums up my own views almost exactly. I'm beginning to feel a bit warmer about the Americans, though. They've recently made a clear and final break with the "We don't do nation-building" idiocy that encumbered the previous American administration for so long. Moreover, the American who now heads up the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan is General Stanley McChrystal. This is someone who finally gets it.
The "war" in Afghanistan is a liberation struggle, and should be waged as a people's war. In the words of McChrystal's own Counterinsurgency Guidance
document, you fight like this: "Embrace the people. . . earn their trust. . .seek out the underprivileged, the disenfranchised, the disaffected. . . work with the children and students. . .shield the people from harm. . . live and train together. . . plan and operate together. . . be a positive force in the community. . . confront corrupt officials. . . listen and learn from our Afghan colleagues. . . improve daily."
This is nothing like conventional warfare, because we've already won that war. As a conventional fighting force, the Taliban were thoroughly and utterly crushed, years ago. It is worth remembering that in June, 2001, the Taliban massed 25,000 heavily armed fighters and another 10,000 Arabs, Chechens and other foreign mercenaries against the Northern Alliance. They couldn't try anything like that now.
"Assymetrical warfare" doesn't quite capture the current state of affairs. The Taliban are arrayed against the Afghan people (among whom perhaps four per cent are Taliban supporters), the Afghan National Army, the United Nations, an embryonic Afghan state, and soldiers from 41 ISAF countries. But all it takes is maybe $2,500 and four or five mentally-retarded 11-year-olds in order to carry out a wave of suicide bombings that can be counted on to set off an eruption of defeatist panic and hand-wringing hysteria in pretty well every English-language newspaper on earth.
Typical of the establishment sentiment in Canada is the plaintive reverie emanating today from Rick Salutin
, who resorts to Peter, Paul and Mary's Where Have All The Flowers Gone
? in order to attempt some kind of argument for retreat. All that results is the spectacle of an otherwise serious newspaper pandering to the bourgeois vanity of its aging readers with a contemplation of Canada's role in Afghanistan that is inspired by what is quite possibly the most maudlin excretion of moral exhibitionism in the history of popular nursery rhymes.
Salutin wants to know where all the flowers went, and he doesn't want "Islamism" as an answer: "How come the 'other' side there seems to run an effective military and an efficient court system while 'our' Afghans, despite endless training, never seem ready to go into battle alone, and the legal system is corrupt and despised? What does Islamism have to do with any of that?"
The second question is actually answered by the first.
By placing parentheses around "the 'other' side," Salutin plucks loudly enough on his ukelele that his dull readers won't likely notice that the "effective military" the other side is running has been reduced to the gallantry of roadside bombs. Its "efficient court system" consists of beheadings, lynchings, and the lash for any woman who would want to know how to write her own name or walk to the bazaar unsupervised by a man. Islamism has everything
to do with that.
Salutin can also sneer about the battle-readiness of "our" Afghans so long as he leaves it unsaid that there wasn't even a regular Afghan army five years ago. Islamism had rather a lot to do with that, too, and as for the business about Afghans despising their legal system, in fact they would appear to have no less charitable a view of their courts than Canadians have of theirs: Here's another poll that's worth reading
. Among other things, the poll shows that Afghans are rather more
enthusiastic about democracy than is stylish among Canadians of the kind that would take Salutin seriously. When asked, three in four Afghans agreed with the statement: “Democracy may have its problems, but it is better than any other form of government”.
I suspect the Afghans' unpleasant experiences with Islamism may have put that idea into their heads, too.
Tarek Fatah, for whom it's all Islamism, all the time, reckons that the folk-pop ditziness that has become the preferred method of coming to terms with Islamic fascism has so enfeebled us all that it's already too late, and we should withdraw our troops now
: "If we and our American-British allies do not have the spine to challenge the Islamist doctrines, send our soldiers home. To fight malaria, we need to drain the swamp, not kill individual mosquitoes, one at a time. Our young men and women must not be gun fodder for the profiteers who befriend the Saudis, but bomb the Afghans while trading with the Iranian ayatollahs."
And so, by disagreeing with Salutin, Fatah ends up agreeing with him, in the way that convoluted arguments always defeat themselves. And while we're all amusing ourselves in this way, and the Italians are wetting their trousers
, the Canadian soldiers doing the fighting know good and well what the real story is. Col. Jean-Marc Lanthier explains: "If we were not successful, we would be marginalized. [The Taliban] would ignore us. Because we're having success, we're bringing stability. We're showing to the Afghans that democracy is possible, that security is possible. They, therefore, have to take action in order to break that perception of security."
And they, therefore, must be hunted to the ends of the earth, and the struggle must be waged for as long as it takes.
The hunt for the mastermind of the Bali bombings lasted seven years, but it ended yesterday: Noordin Top was all ready to escape when police got to him. He was carrying a backpack with a laptop and documents, and had a gun and bullets in his pocket. His body was found in the bathroom of the bullet-riddled house in Solo.
That's how it's done, and it's not over until they're gone to graveyards, every last one.