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Friday, February 08, 2008

Afghanistan: It's Time to get out

Martin Meenagh, whose excellent blog I can heartily recommend, has been busy making lists.

Here is a list of all those major powers who have invaded Afghanistan at one time or another. I do not pretend that it is authoritatively exhaustive, but believe that it may be, and if you want to comment further I'd be happy to hear from you.

Alexander the Great
Arab Islam
Mahmud of Ghazni and the Ghaznavids
Genghis Khan
The Turks
The Moghuls
The British Empire
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics 1979-1989

Here is a list of those who managed to hold the place without any major massacres, corruption, devastation, or the ultimate collapse of their hold from exhaustion, bankruptcy or foreign invasion so far.


Here is a list of those who ended up being accused of overstretch, brutality, the collapse of self confidence, and folie de grandeur (and that was those of the group not remembered by a species prone to psychosis as monsters).

All of them."

Quite. As Seumas Milne writes:
The war in Afghanistan, which claimed more than 6,500 lives last year, cannot be won. It has brought neither peace, development nor freedom, and has no prospect of doing so. Instead of eradicating terror networks, it has spread and multiplied them. The US plans to send 3,000 more troops in April to reinforce its existing 25,000-strong contingent, and influential thinktanks in Washington are pressing for an Iraqi-style surge. But only a vastly greater deployment could even temporarily subdue the country, and that is not remotely in prospect. The only real chance for peace in Afghanistan is the withdrawal of foreign forces as part of a wider political settlement, including the Taliban and neighbouring countries like Iran and Pakistan.

But of course, the neo-cons and their liberal imperalist allies don't see it that way. They want us to 'stay the course'.

Rather easy to say when it's not you or your family doing the dying.


Karl Naylor said...

Well, to come back to a point I have raised before, Seamus Milne was on the editorial board of a journal called Straight Left which actually SUPPORTED the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

Time and time again I have challenged Milne about this on CiF and I have either been ignored ( whilst opening up a debate on this Orwellian style doublethink with other contributors ), only to have my posts deleted.

What a coward.

I have been accused of making defamatory remarks only for that to then disappear from the screen.

I drew attention to the Stalinoid nature of Milne's writing and the fact that much of his anti-imperialist pose is grounded in power worship for the Soviet Union as some bulwark against US Imperialism.

So, the people of Central Europe would still be under Soviet domination if Milne had his way.

Neil, I do not buy it that Milne is 'principled'. If you want an 'Old Left' figure who was look to Orwell who would have seen through Milne's propaganda.

If Milne is so principled , why does he see to it that I am banned continually from CiF despite not using bad language or directly insulting him.

Yet puerile jeers and insults ARE left on.

Could it be he hasn't gone beyond the level of student politics ?

When someone dissects his articles and draws attention to their not so secret admiration for totalitarianism and terror he gets uptight and has to resort to censorship.

Now I know how anti-Soviet dissidents felt.

Anything Milne writes about Iraq or Afghanistan has nothing to do about 'the reality on the ground' any more than neocon propaganda.

Despite being against so called 'wars of liberation' such as Iraq and Afghanistan, what disturbs me is the propaganda use to which such foreign policy failures are used by certain elements of the 'anti-war' left.

I write anti-war in inverted commas because Milne is clearly not a pacifist but clearly believes in a cult of violence, brute strength and martyrdom that he dresses up as informed commentary.

It isn't. Like his hero Lenin, the strategy is 'revolutionary defeatism' the notion that war is a 'mighty accelerator of events' that can be used to overthrow and destabilise the British state and foment resistance, terror and repression at home.

The umma are nothing more than a new 'wretched of the earth' to use Fanon's old words, who are an embryonic form of a new proletariat, the discontented who will rise up and dictate to the British state how foreign policy must be determined-or else.

It is possible to seperate two issues.

The first is the wisdom of certain British foreign policies no matter how high minded they might appear and which can be criticised.

The second is the exploitation and manipulation of what Roger Scruton calls 'transferable greivances' which are the anti-Western feelings Islamists have as well as some nihilists on the 'hard' left who seems to think the carnage in Iraq is the best news in years.

How on earth can you rail against US Imperialism in Afghanistan whilst being someone who supported journal that was intended to defends the Soviet Union as a fatherland right or wrong and, by extension, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, an invasion that led to the deaths of 2 million people?

Neil Clark said...

I don't agree with you on this one.
Why does it matter what positions people took in 1979? We're living in 2008. Seumas is implacably opposed to the neocon war agenda, whatever position he took or did not take in the late 1970s re the Soviet Union is of very little relevance. Seumas has no admiration for totalitarianism and terror, secret or otherwise. Why are you targetting someone who is passionately opposed to the war agenda?
Minden jot,

Karl Naylor said...

We'll agree to disagree on this one, I think.

The point here for me is that opposition to messianic doctrines of permanent war and regime change imposed by military force has to be done on a principled basis or it loses credibility in the eyes of those who might other wise be drawn into the right-left coalition you propose.

It's just my belief that any right-left coalition must also include a staunch belief in liberal democracy AND national sovereignty. So more of a left-liberal-right coalition, or a movement for civic renewal and a defence of liberty authoritarian police states.

The reason why I'm against Milne is that it does matter what people thought in the past unless there is clear evidence they have broken with it.

Censoring those who even raise that issue is dodgy. It's just not on, though I maintain a sense of humour about it.

Any opposition to the take over of power in Britain by New Labour and an unholy alliance of militarism and American nationalism that reduces Britain to a satellite and client of the US must be based on defending national sovereignty and Britain's interests in co-operating with European states.

I do not see how glorifying global Islamist resistance contributes to that. It just rachets up social and sectarian pressures and makes it easier for the government to erode liberty in the name of some 'war on terror'. It must be understood that some on the wilder fringes of the left have followed that tactic.

Al Qaida might be an extremely violent form of Islamism but the psychopathology which links fringe radicals and violent Islamists is based on a common hunger for apocalyptic revolution and the destruction of British state power entirely, including the ability to protect its citizens, so that they are forced to follow the partisan agenda.

Even if you disagree with me here, my point is that do you really think the kids I saw waving Palestinian flags and wearing mock suicide belts on that Anti-War march I went on in 2003 are 'anti-war'. Not really. Nor are those who support Islamists in the MAB or MCB whose politics are fundamentally full of cold and fanatical hostility to Britain as a nation state.

The MAB is a British offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood whose ideological pedigree has connections to Hamas, Al Qaida, and Jamaat i Islami, though they differ. Exiled Muslim Brotherhood activists, followers of a militant and puritanical and Salafi version of Islam, were instrumental in fundraising for the mujahadeen.

Incidentally, the same jihadists who massacred Serbs in the Yugoslav wars ( yes, shamefuly given aid and logistical support by the CIA and MI6 !! )...

But now, in accordance with doublethink, those whose worldview is part of the same global Islamist 'resistance' as those who kick started the whole thing back in 1979 and are now feted and encouraged to write in the Guardian by Milne.

Why because my enemy's enemy is my friend if the enemy is the USA ?

Such a strategy is problematic.

That's why any anti-war opposition to New Labour must be based on principle-not the creation of pseudo-realities, ideological schizophrenia, doublethink, nihilism, a chilling fanatical zeal for destruction and the importation of Islamist politics into the mainstream in Britain.

Anonymous said...

A serious question for Neil: what would you have done if your country had been hit by the worst terrorist atrocity in history - and, while the culprits didn't claim to represent a particular state, they were nonetheless being sheltered and defended by the then government of Afghanistan, which had also knowingly supported their military training activities?

Doing nothing would clearly have been electoral suicide, regardless of who was President of the US at the time. In fact, it would doubtless have been suicidal in lots of other ways, since it was at least partly Clinton's low-key responses to Al-Qaeda atrocities of the 1990s that emboldened them to try something on the scale of the September 11 strikes.

So given that doing nothing wasn't on the agenda, and that Al-Qaeda wasn't open to negotiation, what do you suggest the US should have done?

(And by that I mean "the US", not George W Bush - as I don't seriously think any other President would have behaved differently in these circumstances).

Anonymous said...

Why does it matter what positions people took in 1979? We're living in 2008.

So as a working journalist, if you were to discover that Gordon Brown (or any other current politician) was an active National Front sympathiser in the 1970s, you'd ignore a potentially career-making scoop for the reasons you've just expressed?

I've just looked out of my window, and a truly magnificent pig has just landed in my back garden - its wingspan must be at least six foot.