Posted on September 21st, 2010
The occasion for last weekend’s elections in Afghanistan is a good opportunity to reflect on what the US and NATO are really accomplishing in that country. What has Obama accomplished? For about two years, I have argued in several WAIS postings that the US has lost the war in Afghanistan and that any resources that the US and NATO throw to that lost conflict are wasted in the sense that their goals will never be realized for the duration. It has been a remarkable journey to observe how that doomed war has gradually strengthened Iran, India and China, while weakening Pakistan and of course leaving Afghanistan in an increasingly chaotic mess from which it will require many decades to recover. The most recent public opinion poll CBS/NYT of 16 September 2010, indicates that only 38% support US involvement while 54% are opposed. Given that one in seven Americans is living below poverty (mostly minorities, women and children) and given that official unemployment is around 10%, given that 45 to 50 million (depending on the source) have no health coverage, given that prospects for a “jobs-growth economy” is not on the horizon even if Obama gets a number of bills through Congress, the Obama administration is continuing the lost war in Afghanistan to placate right-wing ideologues who have a mass following primarily in the South and rural areas throughout the states, and to appease disparate conservative groups that exercise immense influence through the media and campaign contributions. While the US and NATO are wasting precious resources on a lost war with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, the real power struggle is heating up between China and India, both of which have ambitions to become economic, military, and political powerhouses of the 21st century. This is where the US should have been focused, not on mountain rebels whose religious fanaticism only complicates matters for US and EU security with Muslims everywhere seeking the excuse to randomly hit Western interests around the world. Because so many US and NATO officials as well as independent analysts are immersed in Cold War dichotomous thinking and because that is where their career and pocketbook interests rest, there is lack of realistic assessment in foreign affairs. The ubiquitous theme that “America is going soft” is very old and very Cold War, and yet it carries as big a punch today as it did during the early Cold War. In terms of geopolitical/strategic, economic, and political influence, is Afghanistan the belly of the beast for the US and NATO, or is it the new chosen Vietnam after Iraq because there must always be a Vietnam to validate American power (and its limits)?