November 19, 2010

The War On Terror Is Over: Synopsis

Filed under: Afghanistan, Global War On Terror — Tags: , — Russ @ 2:58 am


I don’t write much about the wars anymore, simply because I can’t write about everything and had to whittle down my topics. But I wanted to sum up the rational case against the war in one short post, perhaps as the basis for a set of talking points if anyone wanted to use it that way.
I won’t go again into the true corporatist nature of the war. I’ve written extensively about that in the past, for example here, here, and here. Let me just again cite two choice pieces of evidence: War Secretary Robert Gates assuring an audience of weapons racketeers that the administration’s main priority is escalating Pentagon budgets solely for the sake of spending escalation itself, i.e. for the sake of corporate welfare; and Nick Turse’s account of how Pentagon contracting extends to a whole menagerie of “civilian” consumer goods and services companies. This gives an overview of how the military-industrial complex extends much further than most people think. The corporate-militarist state has already become far more integrated than it ever was under classical fascism prior to WWII.
So here’s the basic facts:
1. Terrorism is not a real threat to America. If you don’t believe a pinko like me, how about the neocon consultant corporation Stratfor? Stratfor, unlike some blowhard in the jingo NYT or WaPo, actually gets paid for the actionable quality of its opinions. That’s how it makes its living. And as it’s an imperial consultant, for Stratfor to support war would be talking its book.
Yet according to this and many other pieces, terrorism “does not represent a strategic, existential threat”.
In fact, Stratfor’s basic position on the Global War on Terror goes as follows:
A. Terrorism is not a strategic, existential threat.
B. Al-Qaeda’s capabilities have been greatly degraded.
C. Whatever diminished action international terrorism can undertake, it can undertake it outside Afghanistan Yemen, or any other particular place.
D. Most Afghans reject the Karzai government. (So according to Petraeus’ and McChrystal’s own counterinsurgency doctrine, which declares the necessity for a legitimate indigenous client government, the Afghanistan war cannot be won.)
E. The Taliban cannot be defeated.

Nietzsche wrote that, “The most fundamental form of human stupidity is forgetting what we were trying to do in the first place.” The stated U.S. goal in Afghanistan was the destruction of al Qaeda. While al Qaeda as it existed in 2001 has certainly been disrupted and degraded, al Qaeda’s evolution and migration means that disrupting and degrading it — to say nothing of destroying it — can no longer be achieved by waging a war in Afghanistan. The guerrilla does not rely on a single piece of real estate (in this case Afghanistan) but rather on his ability to move seamlessly across terrain to evade decisive combat in any specific location. Islamist-fueled transnational terrorism is not centered on Afghanistan and does not need Afghanistan, so no matter how successful that war might be, it would make little difference in the larger fight against transnational jihadism.

So we have Stratfor making the whole case right there. We should end the wars and get out.
And it’s not just them. Even arch-neocons like Zakaria admit that terrorism is no threat remotely commensurate with what we’ve lost and spent in pretending to fight it.
2. Any actual war on terror element of the “war on terror” has already been won. Administration experts themselves say so:
CIA chief Leon Panetta: “We’re looking at 50 to 100, maybe less” al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Terror “czar” Michael Leiter: Maybe “more than 300” jihadists in Pakistan.
National Security Adviser James Jones: “Fewer than 100” AQ in Afghanistan.
ABC news quotes an intelligence official who sums it up: the DoD, CIA, and other intelligence agencies agree that there are at most around 100 jihadists in Afghanistan and several hundred in Pakistan.
So actual jihad has been smashed, like Stratfor says. The US government and military agree. The actual war on terror is over. It was won a long time ago.
3. The one and only thing now driving insurgencies and what little jihadist sentiment is left is the imperial war itself. This Pew study demonstrates that jihad is unpopular in Pakistan, but that American aggression is even less popular. The same public opinion is common throughout the Muslim world. Most people are sick of jihad and don’t want caliphates. The only thing they’d prefer it to is Western domination. And the one thing which causes them to look favorably upon insurgency and jihad is Western aggression.
In July the NBER released a study which found that the Afghan occupation itself is the driver of insurgency.
“Local exposure to violence from Isaf [NATO’s “International Security Assistance Force”, i.e. the invaders] appears to be the primary driver of this effect.”
Meanwhile as Petraeus took over from McC, he was mulling whether to relax McC’s relatively restrictive rules of engagement. Those were the same rules under which McC himself admitted they were doing little but slaughtering civilians:

We’ve shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force . . . . [T]o my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I’ve been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it.”

From the report: “When Isaf units kill civilians, this increases the willing number of combatants.”
That’s the main thing driving the insurgency, and it’s the only thing still breathing life into jihad. And Petraeus wants to escalate it. What did they say this war was about again?
4. The people are increasingly realizing this and are turning against the war.
So anyone who starts to doubt the war should be told that he’s not alone. On the contrary, he’s joining the majority, although you’d never know it from the normal MSM coverage.
So the war on terror is over and has been won. Terrorism is no strategic threat. The power elites admit as much. Whatever the real reason is for the “war on terror”, it’s not to defend against terrorism.
Maybe the best way to educate against the war is to start, not by directly calling it a corporate imperial boondoggle and war crime, but by proving that whatever it is, it’s not a war against terror.
In the same way that people are coming to reject the banks as they realize how the banks produce nothing but are only parasites, maybe more people will reject the wars as they realize how the wars have zero to do with terrorism or any other kind of defense, but are only a project of corporate aggression. (And maybe focusing on the “corporate war” angle can help do an end run around residual “patriotic” delusions about the wars.)

October 9, 2009

No Good “Options” in Afghanistan

Filed under: Afghanistan, Global War On Terror — Tags: , , , — Russ @ 2:32 am
Earlier this week Obama met with a Congressional delegation to discuss the war in Afghanistan. In spite of rhetorical assurances that the White House team was discussing “all options”, the real point of this meeting with Congressional cadres was to assure them that none of the options being discussed involved devolving the troop presence or the war. (Indeed, the only persons invited to the meeting were varying species of hawk, but no one who is demanding an exit strategy.)
According to reports, the options on the table are the McCrystal plan for a large troop escalation and a broad shift in strategy from search-and-destroy (“terrorist-hunting”) to Vietnamization (counter-insurgency and “nation-building”); a fuzzy middle-of-the-road combination of some of McC’s recommendations with muddling through as we are now; or the Biden proposal to wind down troop activities and focus on the video game war of drone assassinations.
Obama still hasn’t made up his mind what he wants to do here; unlike his all-in policy for domestic corporatism, and unlike his earlier bland jingoism, he seems to be getting squeamish as he has to face this war up close. Clearly the proximate reason for this meeting was to assure the Congressional chickenhawks, and by extension the neocon establishment and MSM, that no matter what happens, even if he broadly accepts Biden’s proposal, there will not be any troop de-escalation. At the very least Obama is committing to “stay the course”.
(It is interesting, though, that he felt the need to do this. It seems to indicate that there was at least the perception that troop reductions were “on the table”, and it definitely means that Biden has gained on McC in the terrorist-hunting vs. COIN (counterinsurgency) sweepstakes.)
Obama declared that the choice between “doubling-down” or “leaving” was a “straw man”. Of course that doesn’t mean he won’t still double down as McC demands, he just won’t call it that.
Everybody’s still sifting through the debris of McC’s alleged power play. His public declarations, his leaking of the policy report, even the personal insult of wearing fatigues to a meeting with Obama on board Air Force One, all are taken to represent a pattern of at least pressuring Obama to enact the proposal, and probably of insubordination as well.
I suppose it is “insubordinate”, and everyone assumes Obama must be furious. There’s plenty of Truman-MacArthur comparisons going around. But we who don’t respect the prerogatives of the imperial presidency and who care about transparency and small-d democracy can be content with McC’s publicity campaign. There are certainly no military secrets involved here, only politics. If the only thing at stake is McC disrespecting Obama, that’s fine.
(And I doubt McC is in much danger of being fired. He’s Obama’s guy after all; O picked him to make exactly the kind of proposal he’s made. If O now is leery of that proposal, it means O changed, not McC. All the evidence indicates that even if he doesn’t really want to escalate any more he’ll cave in anyway. And there’s no evidence that he’d ever have the backbone to fire anyone other than lower-level public interest activists like Van Jones and ACORN.)
So how do we sum up all this? It’s all political nonsense firmly within the policy bounds of continuing the war. Ending it is off the table. But should we end it? What’s the point of it?
National Security Adviser James Jones himself says there are fewer than 100 Al Qaeda cadres in Afghanistan. Meanwhile according to the Pew Research Center Pakistanis support their own government’s efforts to expel Afghan and Arab militants, but do not support doing so in military conjunction with the US or to serve the imperialist purposes of the US. (They give the US a 16% favorable rating, and 76% oppose partnering with the US for drone attacks.)
When you couple this evidence with the administration’s own testimony that there’s only a vestigial Al-Qaeda still active in Afghanistan, it looks like the real war-on-terror aspect of the Global War on Terror has been won. We can wrap it up and go home. But to continue to seek corporatist, imperial goals, which is all the GWOT does by now, can only incite further resistance and militancy. If the real goal is anti-terrorism, by now the return on investment is becoming negative.
We can tolerate the Taliban if they’re unwilling and/or unable to reproduce the terrorist sanctuary they previously offered. Common sense says they’re likely to be unwilling, after what AQ has already put them through. In spite of sympathies, Jordan kicked out the PLO in 1970 when the heat got to be too much.
And now that we know what we’re dealing with and have this counterterrorist infrastructure in place, it should be possible to monitor and target any recidivism of the terrorists in Afghanistan. Contrary to neocon propaganda, it’s not clear why counterterror requires maintenance of current troop levels in Afghanistan. It seems we can garner sufficient intelligence regarding AQ in Pakistan without such troop levels there. Neocons would argue that the troop presence in Afghanistan somehow facilitates intelligence in Pakistan, but this is only asserted, not proved or even evidenced.
We don’t need to combat the broader social movement, which has been gradually and steadily losing support on the Muslim street, just the terrorists’ technical capabilities. The polling in Pakistan is just one piece of evidence that the Muslim people don’t support the jihadists, except where American imperialism drives them to. That’s just as true today as it has always been, right from the start.
As for the costs, we can’t afford them. This war is being fought on credit. Just like every other rathole down which we’re throwing trillions of dollars, this one only accelerates doomsday for the dollar. We could be using what wealth we still have, including what remaining credibility the dollar has as reserve currency, to prepare for the hard times ahead, to help make them somewhat less hard.
But even as Obama draws lines in the sand on health care reform having to be “deficit neutral”, he perpetuates the Bush crime of off-budget debt financing for the war. Meanwhile normal Pentagon and weapons expenses never have to meet any deficit standards at all. All the same Republican and right-wing Democrat scum who are such budget hawks wherever money could be spent to help people don’t care about throwing infinite wealth into this bloody pit.
It’s very simple: You can’t be serious about the debt and still support the war. If you support the war, you forfeit all right to complain about the debt.
From today forward the American imperative must be to roll back every stupid bloated expense – bailouts, war, the existence of the health insurance racket, and everything else which distills to corporatist looting.
Meanwhile the insurgents are getting an excellent return on investment from cheap Kalashnikovs and RPGs.