“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."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Sign of Defeat?

In Congress and over the radio waves, Democrats and Republicans argue over dates and mile stones for progress or withdrawal from Iraq. The NATO allies argue over whether France and Germany are pulling their weight in Afghanistan. Out here in the hustings, we have to glean the web for bits and pieces of the puzzle. Here are a couple of observations from Der Speigel's article, "Hearts, Minds and Body Bags: NATO Battles Rising Hostility in Afghanistan".
Caught as they are in the middle of the conflict between the Taliban and international forces, life has become difficult for the residents of southern Afghanistan, who don't know to whom they should turn for protection. The government is too weak, NATO is often fighting primarily to preserve its own security and the Taliban is infiltrating the villages.
Clear and hold, clear and hold, clear and hold. We're not doing it. Not in Iraq and not in Afghanistan. Here's what we're doing in Helmand Province:
Five months ago, the British signed a regional truce after heavy fighting and many losses. Under the terms of the agreement, tribal elders agreed to keep the Taliban out of the region. But when the British withdrew, the agreement fell apart and, by early February, the Taliban were back in control.
That's pathetic. The British signed a regional truce with the Tribal Elders and it fell apart. Who woulda thought that as soon as we leave an area, the Taliban would come back and, like the Viet Cong, strong arm the locals into submission?

The problem is that we are trying to win the "hearts and minds" and the Taliban thugs are enforcing discipline.
The main objective of the new NATO offensive is to secure the Sangin Valley and the Kajaki dam in northern Helmand Province. If the plan succeeds, they hope to repair a major power plant that could supply electricity to almost 2 million Afghans. The NATO-led ISAF troops, and even the Americans, have now realized that they can only win the "hearts and minds" of their Afghan allies by significantly improving their standard of living.

The Taliban, for its part, is trying to impede technological progress at all costs, knowing full well that its power will dissipate as soon as Afghans see improvements in their lives or be able to find jobs. But if the extremists manage to up the number of civilians killed in battle, the Afghans will be more likely to stand behind the Taliban.

In short, this is far from a holy war and never was here in the permanently ungovernable south. The Taliban has entered into a strategic alliance with the powerful smuggling mafia that operates between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Far from supporting the establishment of a caliphate, the smugglers are only interested in drugs, weapons, women and holding on to power.

Electricity is well and good if you are alive to enjoy it but security must come first and the article reports that, from the Afghani perspective, the prospects for peace aren't looking too good:

Just what the foreign soldiers are good for is difficult for the rural population to tell. They speed through the dusty landscape in their outlandish vehicles, periodically engage the enemy, and then return to their fortified bases. In the strategically important Panjwai district in Kandahar Province, entire villages have been leveled because Taliban fighters were using them for cover.

Poor security is still the Afghans' biggest problem. The police, rarely on hand when they are needed, make convenient targets for the Taliban, interested as they are in intimidating the locals. Miserably trained and poorly paid or not paid at all, Afghanistan's police officers often abuse their power to extort bribes from the very people they are meant to protect. It's a situation that results in many villagers preferring to see the Taliban keep the peace. They say that although the Taliban may not have brought development to the country, it did provide stability. The current government has been able to offer neither..

Does it make sense to pour millions of dollars into a public works system that the "insurgents" can knock out for a few hundred dollars? Does it make sense to expect cooperation from a people who know that you're not going to stay and protect them? No.

So why are we trying to buy victory? We don't have the manpower so we're throwing away money by the shipload thinking that will do the trick and somehow win a war. What a waste of money and lives. We may think we live in a modern era, but the enemy doesn't live or fight by our rules and they can get a lot more bang for their buck. There's no substitute for the old fashioned goal of total victory and if we can't achieve total dominance, we need to get out because ultimately the other side will prevail. Damn the political arguments about milestones and goals because all we're going to see are signposts pointing the way to hell and defeat while the other side enjoys the electricity we provided them on our way out.

sidebar: Mujahideen Consider American Elections a Sign of U.S. Defeat in Iraq


  1. As he flew over Iraq for the fourth time this past weekend, Rep. Ken Calvert says he saw clear signs of progress: crops in the field.

    "I saw more agricultural activity than I've ever seen in the four years I've gone to Iraq,'' said Calvert, who spent two days in Iraq with three other members of the Armed Services Committee.

    Calvert, R-Corona, said four years ago the irrigation canals were "choked with reeds and weeds and unusable. All that has been cleared out and thousands of acres are under cultivation.''

    Progress in Iraq

  2. "America respects the rule of law, but I remind my fellow citizens that family values do not stop at the Rio Grand"
    Ok send YOUR family into one of the Urban War Zones, Mr. Rogers.
    Go get YOUR medical care at one of the many bankrupted hospitals in Los Angeles.
    What an asshole.
    If we truly lived Under the rule of law,
    should be impeached.

  3. aQ moved 100km west, we called it victory.

    That was the first sign of defeat or should we say, not winning.

  4. Or perhaps "Slow Failure" describes it best.

  5. Give the guy a break, those retirement villas in southern France are expensive.

  6. rufus,

    I remember hearing a "cutting edge", "out of the box" lecture in 1968, wherein a gentleman made the argument for cornering the heroin market by paying American farmers to grow poppies instead of subsidizing land banking. Given the effiencies of American agriculture, he said, the bottom would drop out of the opiate market.

    Well, obviously, that didn't happen - just as your recommendation will not happen. Our political system is too much corrupted by the drug trade. While cynical, admittedly, I have always thought those most favoring the "War on Drugs" were those most likely to benefit from the status quo - similar to prohibition.

  7. On what was otherwise a dismal 2006 election night for Republicans, one GOP senatorial candidate won a competitive race against a well-known and savvy Democratic opponent who tried to run to the center in a red state. Bob Corker, the only GOP freshman senator, did what George Allen, Conrad Burns, and Mike DeWine did not — win in a state that once was considered a safe bet for Republicans.

    He first won a tough three-way primary with 48 percent of the vote, defeating Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary, each popular with social conservatives and local tax-reform advocates. He then went on to beat Harold Ford Jr. by 50,000 votes (51-48 percent) in November.

    What does Bob Corker know that Republicans should keep in mind as they look ahead to House, Senate, and presidential races in 2008?

    For starters, the Corker campaign knew Tennessee voters were not pleased with the job Washington politicians had been doing. This was a year, as his fellow Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander points out, in which “the voters were unhappy with the conduct of the war and of Washington in general.”

    Man of the Nitty Gritty

  8. Subsidence farming:
    Fair weather farming under sunny, subsiding skies.

  9. Bob,isn't that a song by Phil Collins?

  10. He said packing lettuce in Mexico gave him a Sunny Feeling:
    "It was a lot of fun, one of the high points of my presidency."
    Talk about lowering the bar!
    Our Wartime Leader,
    George "Wuss" Bush.

  11. j. willie, just when I think that the bottom has been plumbed, I realize that the previous thump was just another piece of the hull giving way on the continuous slow miserable dizzying death dive to the inevitable crush somewhere far further below.

  12. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has already said that if the surge produces results he could begin drawing combat troops down in the fall. In truth, if the surge is not working by then, it's not going to work period.

    If the surge does produce demonstrable, verifiable results - and not the sort of "progress" reported by Bush loyalists on quick in-and-out visits to the heavily fortified Green Zone - then the Democrats can, and should, rethink their war plan. In the meantime, the plan may do some good whether it passes or not.

    U.S, ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalizad said the plan may help negotiations there because, "It does send a message to the Iraqis that the patience of the American people is running out and that is helpful to my diplomacy."

    War Plan

  13. When Mr Gates was before the Senate he testified that if the Surge did not work the "Plan" was for US troops to "Get out of the Way"
    Falling back to the mega-bases.

    While the level of violence ahould be down by summers end, the Iraqi Army will not be ready, not if they are not ready today.

    US standards of military behaviour can not be taught in six months, just can't. Or they already would have been.

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  15. "Defense Secretary Robert Gates has already said that if the surge produces results he could begin drawing combat troops down"

    Have I got this right? If the surge works we won't do it anymore???

  16. Yep, whether it works or not, it be over in six to eight months, or so he said.

    No telling if it's the truth or not. Deception on the Homefront being paramount in War.

  17. Are all Western Armies infected with fagots? You have to wonder about these NATO commanders and why their dead corpses have still not been fed to the dogs. If a population is not with you, then they are against you. If in this case being against you, means that they are with AQ and the Taliban, then that population should be eliminated. Slaughtered, wholesale.

  18. So old school, mat.
    Almost Biblical

    Not the postmodern view, not at all.

  19. mat, pretty simplistic black and white view of the world you are presenting there which hardly accounts for all those shades of gray we encounter, not to mention all them blasted colors.

    Speaking of 'faggot infestations' I was struck by Pace's depiction of homosexuality as immoral. This coming from a guy who's chosen a profession where one tries to achieve the most efficient means of killing - hardly a moral endeavor. *ooops time to duck and cover* ;)

  20. If it was up to me, Ash, you would not be posting here. How's that for black and white.

  21. Hey Mat, if President Clinton should declare war on the lack of health care for illegal immigrants will you shut up and toe the line because the CIC told you to?

  22. I'll try this again for all those who don't read previous posts or simply know things.

    General Pace simply reiterated the policy of the United States per the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). READ Articles 125 & 134, with accompanying explanations.

    According to the UCMJ, homosexuality is, among other things, "unnatural" and "immoral". For those, like Senator Warner, who find the language offensive, change it; but for goodness sake, quit pretending it doesn't exist or that General Pace acted in a renegade fashion.

  23. If the General thought he was in the right, allen, he'd not have apologized.
    Or the apology has no meaning, serving only to belittle the General for being a liar.

  24. d'Rat

    You say this as though Generals are above having to take orders, and salute.

  25. General Pace's thoughts and feelings have nothing to do with the clear meaning of the statute.

    The Article (125) speaks to "Sodomy", including within its perview, pet buggery. General Pace may have no problem with buggering parakeets; however, under existing law, one may not bugger the family pet.

    General Pace's apology was vacuous. There is nothing new in that. We live in the age of the empty man and his empty jesture.