Tuesday, February 09, 2010

How The Peace Talks Lobby Gets Afghanistan Backwards And Why It Doesn't Even Notice

The thing about the “Talking to the Taliban” is it’s a grand lark that works wonderfully so long as you pretend there are no real human beings involved. There are Dungeons and Dragons varieties and egghead editions, but you always have to supply your own suspension of disbelief.

The downmarket version is like checkers: Troops out, then go back, do some deal with the Taliban, war is over. In this one only the bad guys can win. The best upmarket version is still the December, 2008 treatise by the scholar Barnett Rubin and the journalist Ahmed Rashid. Prepared for the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, the Rubin-Rashid scenario has a surprise ending. Any peace will have to come at the expense of sharing power with the Taliban, and the troops don’t even get to come home. If they don’t stay, it doesn’t work.

As for the latest version, which I take apart to see what's inside, in today's National Post, the Taliban’s lunatic one-eyed leader Mullah Omar already hacked its software when he sent a team of suicide bombers into downtown Kabul last month. Abdul Salam Zaeef, a former Taliban ambassador, says the main glitch with the new version is that there’s just nothing to discuss.

In its real-world iteration, the Taliban is the opposite of a 1960s-type Third World liberation movement. In the Afghanistan that exists in the real world, the revolutionaries are with the counterinsurgents, writes David Kilcullen, the brilliant Australian counter-terrorism strategist and senior U.S. State Department adviser, “while the insurgent fights to preserve the status quo.”

Get these things backwards and it's the peace talks lobby you'll be backing, and you'll be serving Afghanistan’s reactionary status quo. You'll fancy yourself all "progressive" while you're supporting failed remedies first concocted by crazy right-wing U.S. Republicans, and you won’t even know it.

I prefer the real world, in all its shabby and splendid limits and possibilities. I'm rushing off just now to the airport, headed back to Afghanistan, so posts around this place will be a bit sparse for a while.

No pasaran.


Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

All the best, be of brave heart.


2:01 PM  
Blogger Christopher W said...

Well said, Terry.

P.S. There's an "N" missing in the title ("Even Notice").

2:56 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Fixed, Chris, thanks. You too Mark.

4:43 PM  
Blogger 消炎 said...

If you can not be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.............................................

4:58 AM  
Blogger Robert G. said...

Watch your ass, dude.

7:53 AM  
Blogger IceClass said...

Battered & bewildered and hoping you'll be back soon to explain the unfolding mess.
Stay safe.

9:58 AM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

Good luck and be careful Terry.

1:48 PM  

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