What’s behind the controversy in high places over U.S. foreign policy in Afghanistan? It’s not whether the United States should even be at war. It is how to conduct the war, and how a president who won office backed by anti-war constituents can get away with betraying their expectations.
Obama and his party aren’t stupid. They know that adding troops is throwing oil on a blazing fire. It will inflame Afghan resistance to military occupation, increase bloodshed in Central Asia, send the U.S. even deeper into debt, and put the globe at risk of world war.
Escalating warfare could also make the Democrats as unpopular as Republicans were in 2008. In fact, the demand for more troops couldn’t come at a worse time. The 21,000 soldiers Obama dispatched early in his administration have already upped the level of violence. In October alone, 55 U.S. soldiers were killed, the most fatalities since the U.S. invaded in 2001.
Meanwhile, the U.S. puppet regime of Hamid Karzai has been thoroughly exposed as a corrupt and weak U.S. sidekick. Karzai’s vice presidents are former warlords from the Northern Alliance, infamous for their corruption and brutality towards women. Life is no better for poor and working women now than it was under the Taliban thugs. Keeping these crooks and killers installed can hardly be defended as a “just” war.
Despite the weight and humanity of these arguments against war in Afghanistan, Democrats will betray their anti-war supporters in favor of serving big business, which benefits from war. The corporate elites who ultimately call the shots on U.S. foreign policy are not about to relinquish control of a region that is so strategically important to the economic power they wield around the globe, especially through the flow of oil and armaments.
Different options are on the table in the White House, and the main questions are: which strategy can “win” the war with the least U.S. bloodshed, and which is least likely to spark active opposition from the public?
Different strategies, same ending.
Topping the option list is a proposal by General Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s appointed commander in Afghanistan, who wants at least 40,000 more troops. McChrystal asserts that a troop “surge” will enable U.S./NATO forces to “stabilize” Karzai’s regime until Afghan military and police are trained to take over. It’s dubbed “counterinsurgency.”
Republicans John McCain and Dick Cheney also champion this strategy. A key architect of the plan is Frederick Kagan, an analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, which is run by corporate top guns such as the Carlyle Group, world’s largest private equity investment firm.
The problem is that this strategy is certain to spur opposition at home and in Afghanistan, because it will lead to more deaths and injuries of Afghans and U.S. soldiers. And because counterinsurgency by definition is counterrevolutionary. It means police-state powers (foreign or native) attempting to crush progressive rebellion led by unions, leftists, women, and peasants.
Until recently, the surge proposal also would have been difficult to implement without a military draft. But with joblessness spiraling among youth, an economic draft is in full swing, and the military is reaching all recruitment goals for the first time in years.
The other main option is backed by Democrats like Vice President Biden, and is called the “counter-terrorism” strategy. It emphasizes the use of high-tech drones (un-piloted planes), other sophisticated weaponry and covert operations to “surgically” strike at al-Qaida. It is very expensive and leads to the same result as option one – bombing and killing civilians.
Other proposals include bribing and negotiating and trading power with the Taliban; doing the same with tribal leaders and militias; concentrating troops in urban areas and abandoning rural military activity, sending more troops as “advisers” and trainers. In sum, all the options are different versions of the same song – up the U.S. ante in Afghanistan.
The only truly different choice is the one not on the table – to withdraw all U.S. troops and mercenaries.
War spreads east.
As Obama & Co. deliberate on Afghanistan, the U.S. has quietly expanded military intervention into neighboring Pakistan. In October, while mainstream media focused on the farcical Afghan elections and McChrystal’s proposal, Congress passed the Kerry-Lugar bill, a package of $7.5 billion in U.S. aid to Pakistan.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton followed with a visit to pressure the government to attack the Taliban more aggressively in the country’s northern region.
Pakistan’s military has already sent troops into Swat Valley and South Waziristan, causing a grave refugee crisis as people fled their homes. The government is also permitting flights by U.S. drones over these areas. More than 500 civilians have died from U.S. bombs dropped in Pakistan. This has fueled Pakistan’s war with the Taliban, which is “retaliating” by bombing civilians in urban centers.
The U.S. also has plans for a dramatically expanded new embassy in Islamabad, complete with armored vehicles and contractors, such as the hated mercenary company DynCorp to guard U.S. diplomats.
All this makes Pakistan’s government increasingly unpopular. And a recent opinion poll showed Pakistanis rating the U.S. as their number one enemy. During Clinton’s recent visit, one woman journalist bluntly told the Secretary of State, “It’s not our war. It is your war.”
No peace under capitalism.
As the U.S. ramps up war in Central Asia, the human cost is increasingly hard to ignore on the home front. State and local governments are gutting social services because the federal government is spending all the tax revenue on war.
The strain is also showing on U.S. armed forces, which are already stretched thin, and may yet be called upon to serve in Colombia for a little “counter-insurgency” work. The November shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, by an officer about to be deployed, showed how U.S. residents are not immune from the violence of a war being waged against peoples abroad.
As the ruling class is fully aware, this tense state of affairs gives anti-war militants an opportunity to absorb a critical lesson – getting a Democrat into the White House won’t stop war. Only the massive pressure of a movement can do that, reinforced by solidarity with those fighting oppression in Central Asia.
But the analysis needs to go further and expose the destructive nature of the economic system that both the Democratic and Republican parties represent.
Capitalism is in an era of permanent decline with no exit from more frequent crises – except through war. The last century is living proof. Humanity can’t survive another 100 years of even greater war perils, compounded by urgent issues from climate change to food shortages.
War and barbarism? Or a world without capitalism? Those are the real options.
U.S. out of Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Bring the troops home now!