“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Bridge Too Far?

The BBC Worldservice Thursday aired a report from Afghanistan. Their correspondent was taken by the Taliban for a "long drive through the desert in a convoy of new 4x4 SUV's guarded by confident men with Kalishnikovs and RPG's." The "Taliban Leader" was boasting that the locals welcomed him into the area and remarked that he could travel "anywhere day or night without even a pistol; something the Government couldn't do." The WorldService also reported that the Afghan National Army was reverting to it's corrupt, old ways of "shaking down" highway travelers at gunpoint. A Taliban leader told the BBC that trucking companies had hired the Taliban to take care of the problems with the Army. It was reported that civilian deaths from recent NATO actions are causing a backlash and another Taliban leader said that they had hundreds of volunteers for suicide attacks and warned of as many as a half-dozen martyrs striking simultaneously.

Other news reports indicate that the Taliban are settling in nicely next door in western Pakistan where they have in certain areas already formed an ad hoc government and are levying taxes on "petrol and six-month trucking permits."

Friday, it was reported that the Saudis are on elevated terror alert levels with oil facilities being the target. This reminded me of an article at I read earlier this week at which warned that Islamic terrorists had determined that the Saudi Royals are not devout Muslims, are allied with America and will now be increasingly targeted.

From a the same website Michael Scheurer observes the growing crime rate in Afghanistan, the Musharraf brokered Taliban haven in Waziristan, and the traditional Afghan intolerance of foreign rule and concludes:
Overall, the increasing pace of the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan suggests it is only a matter of time until the commanders of the U.S.-led coalition are faced with telling their political leaders that a decision must be made to either heavily reinforce coalition forces—it appears that more than the 120,000 men Moscow deployed to Afghanistan in the 1980s would be necessary—or begin preparations to withdraw from the country. If taken now, such a decision would be made in the context of polls showing popular opinion in Canada and Britain turning decidedly against continued participation in the Afghan war and media reports that France may begin to withdraw its special forces from Afghanistan next spring (Associated Press, October 15).

In these gloomy days, it is looking more probable that US led efforts to bring "freedom and democracy" to Iraq and Afghanistan will fail as the US public decides that the goal just isn't worth the effort.

It was a noble effort but was it doomed from the start? Was it "Mission Impossible" for the west to attempt such a change in the heart of the Islamic world? Was it a bridge too far?


  1. Who woulda thot if you let enemy leaders run free, don't shoot until fired upon, catch and release, play whack-a-mole for years, leave bomb making and training sanctuaries untouched, make empty threat on top of empty threat, things don't go well.

  2. I hate to think we're that incompetent.

  3. There's got to be more to this.

  4. Why do we care what "Islam" does or does not allow?

  5. Are these "Islamic" prohibitions followed in Indonesia and Malaysia?

  6. These people are illiterate and for the most part ignorant. Who's to say what is "Islamic" and what is not? And why are the Islamists a factor. Why are they not killed as soon as they're encountered?

  7. The Soviets thought there might be value there. If it's of no value to us, why did we not let the Soviets do the killing for us there?

  8. Pakistan and Iran would be next. Again, why did we not let the Soviets do the killing for us there?

  9. Pakistan and Iran have no oil. The oil is concentrated in the Gulf near Iraq. There are a lot of mountains to cross before you get there.

  10. By area, 99% of Iran is without oil. The oil is concentrated on a strip of land 50-100km from Iraqi border.

  11. Not if the Soviets aren't heading west.

  12. Is it more Fun watching our boys coming home in caskets?

  13. Wife's birthday party in full swing.

  14. If we aren't killing Jihadis, why are we still there?

    Habu1, what Rufus said.

  15. I believe it was Rufus (it usually is on energy matters) that made the observation that if we reduced the import of oil by three percent per year, it would have a dramatic affect on oil prices and US dependence. That should be as high a priority as an strategic decision.

    The error in the WOT was that it did not stop there. Mission creep and the concept of nation building was the error. It was probably worth trying. It was useful in that it showed us something we did not know. It revealed the underground danger and incompatibility of Islam with the West.

    We must learn from that. It is imperative that we restrict all further Islamic immigration. We need to look at it for what it is and not what we would like it to be. It cannot be treated as another form of Christianity. It is fundamentally a cult. It is worthy of a separate classification and needs to be treated as a hostile intruder.

  16. By the way Whit, outstanding Post.

  17. It was probably worth trying, but not in the way we went about it. We should have armed our militia(s) and let them loose to carve their dominion over Iraq.

  18. Same with regard to Waziristan.

  19. More yutes, Obviously Altar boys on the way home.

    Woman burned in France bus attack.

    A bus in Blanc Mesnil, north of Paris, set on fire on 27 October
    At least six buses have been set on fire in Parisian suburbs this week
    A woman has been seriously burned and three others are suffering from smoke inhalation after youths set fire to a bus in the French city of Marseille.

    A group of teenagers reportedly forced open the doors of the vehicle and threw flammable liquid inside before fleeing.

    There have been several attacks on buses over the past week, coinciding with the one year anniversary of riots in poor suburbs across the country.

    The riots were sparked by the deaths of two teenagers in the capital, Paris.

    Minor skirmishes were reported in Paris on Saturday. An additional 4,000 officers had been deployed - six were injured and 47 people were arrested, according to the interior ministry.

    At least six buses have been set on fire in suburbs around the capital this week in an upsurge of violence ahead of the anniversary of the riots.

  20. Check out his wife and you won't feel sorry for him anymore.

  21. sharp said...
    Did anyone read the interview at Opinion?
    I usually skip the Kurdistan articles since they do not seem to be of much help, but I don't know how to interpret the "permits the Iraqi". Know the name? I assume he is not the only Sunni in the government.
    Gee the guy agrees w/me:
    Not killing the enemy causes problems.

  22. Bobal,
    Did he do a Hula in the Endzone?

  23. I feel like a captive fan of Train Wreck USA.
    Devoid of Common Sense.
    Full of PC Bull.
    Where's Zell when we need him?

  24. You know Youths are dangerous, Rufus, Cmon!

  25. I think the choices of "nation building" vs "kill them all" fail to capture the dilemmas we face in both Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the easily mocked GWOT.

    The idea is to create local security that can sufficiently batten down the Islam that wont go away short of genocide. The kill em all option is never developed beyond how good and right it would feel to do that. Numbers are cited. They are called victory and the mechanism is left to be vindictively imagined.

    The most valuable entreprise is to keep adapting in this fight and we know aircraft carriers and JDAMS are not universally useful for even the "kill em all" option. For one, we need to know where the bad guys are first. As the Taliban Funeral showed, we do need to depart from the nation-building enterprise and build local forces that would have deterred the Taliban from venturing into those parts, for they knew what awaited them.

    It is silly to think we could deter terrorists with nukes. Rat's points on this ring true to me. But we can deter emaciated groups (i.e. once they suffer sufficient losses) from attempting to establish new safe havens. Or we can demonstrate the defeat of an upstart who presses his luck. Safe havens in the gap are one of the best asset they have.

    We need to develop these local pockets of security to project a kind of divergently afghan or iraqi force that buds from some more preferred (US security-increasing) basis. Maybe the idea is to keep the cultural conflicts as ethnic and not civilizational.

    Somalia, pre 9/11 afghanistan, the Sudan and Waziristan are what await the failure of these local security entreprises. They welcome the AQ entreprise of civilizational terror.

    Democracy was probably putting the cart before the horse. Its a lesson learned. When Maliki is advocating to control the military, he may be seeking to exercise the nascent local capability and do so without the ridiculous ROE doug has alluded to. A testable something well soon get a read on...

    I think its unfair to characterize the whole Afghanistan and Iraqi affairs as profound failures: it makes good headlines but I don't think it captures what is most valuable to accomplish over there.

    I'd hope actual experts have an idea how to create these assets - police, military, humint etc - but how can anyone expect the creation of these assets from backwards superstituous rural folk to be simple?

  26. The Taliban Funeral was a perfect example of where we once again failed to kill the enemy.
    Do that enough times, all respect and thus all power to change things is lost.

  27. Scratch that - still in nation building mode

    afghans are gonna love teh NATO casualties when they see what awaits them when we leave.

    flaying, raping and other beastial unspeakables

  28. Rufus,
    Just meant I'm glad FBI is protecting us from Dangerous Phd Candidate Youths of Suspicious "White" Ethnicity, w/possible Christian Connections.
    Dangerous Youth for sure.

  29. Those were the good old days, weren't they, Bobal?
    Life was so simple and straightforward.
    Ah, well.

  30. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  31. Whit, Could you go into the post edit and see if you can see the next post? I cannot.See If you can correct it and delete the other. If you can please do so and take over till I hear from Blogger.. thanks

  32. Morning whit any lluck on your end?

  33. The leader of Nigeria's Muslim community is reported killed in a plane crash.

    Habu! Habu, where are you?

  34. rufus,

    re: Your 12:10 AM


    That's what I've been trying to say. These guys are going to cause some serious damage to the Republican Party. With the challenges facing the country in the ever closer future, the country is going to need a non-Socialist (Marxian) alternative.

  35. In Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the US has limited its reach. US leadership has permitted its military operations to become trapped within a discrete geographic or political local. Consequently, the US has been unable to inflict a strategic defeats on its enemies, rather than there proxies. US adversaries, in each case, understood US weakness and therefore used sanctuaries from which they would sally forth, inflicting enough damage to bring either stalemate or defeat in the form of disengagement and withdrawal.

    Someone should look at the campaigns of Alexander, who began in modern day Iraq and ten years later found himself in Afghanistan, having fought strategic engagements which yielded to the Macedonians, Egypt, ME, Iran, Afghanistan, etc.

  36. There is not much that can be done now except vote. If the Republicans get by on the skin of their teeth, they will, or should be chastised. If the Democrats get it, then the American public will be reminded about what they are all about in time for 2008. Maybe we can get right.

  37. Colonel David Hunt just appeared on Fox. His take on current military leadership: “They are good guys, but most of them have never heard a bullet wiz by their ears. This lack of experience has found its way into training and doctrine.” (More or less, but definitely much to more.)

    This became a concern to me when I heard a young Marine interviewed during the battle of Fallujah. He was in a building, where he discovered some bad guys in a room. Rather than charging into the room, he did the sensible thing: he chucked in a grenade. That grenade was instantly tossed back at him, detonating. The Marine had not been taught that before using a grenade at close-quarters the following method is preferred: 1) the pin is pulled, 2) the spoon is let fly, 3) the thrower counts, “One, one thousand—Two, one thousand—Three, one thousand”, 4) the grenade is thrown and 5) the thrower hits the deck.

    Whoever trained this young man had never been in combat, and himself had not been trained by a combat veteran.

    You can bet grenade training has been improved because of lessons learned. Whether military leadership has adapted as well as the kids remains to be seen.

  38. The Republicans should offer Lieberman Frist's job to come on over.

  39. rufus,

    re: SCOTUS

    Near term, this is the most important concern of a Democrat Senate victory.

    If the Dems do take the Senate, watch for two SCOTUS retirements, especially Ginsburg.

  40. I think Blogger has duct taped this thing back together.

  41. 2164th,

    re: Lieberman v. Frist

    Lieberman could certainly be no more ineffective.

  42. As a plug for the good guys ;-), it is thought that 30,000 - 40,000 Jewish mercenaries fought for Alexander, many coming over after their previous boss, Darius was defeated.