Confused In And About Afghanistan

I admit to being stymied on the political front this week, particularly as it relates to the issue of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, and the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

First, I must confess to a knee-jerk dislike of Mr. Assange.  His face bears (to my mind) an unmistakeable imprint of narcissism.  His statement about wanting to crush bastards strikes me as, well, arrogant.  The whole notion of someone being able to leak 92,000 classified documents, and Wikileaks publishing them, is worrisome (and kind of repugnant).  I understand whistle-blowing and uncovering cover-ups, but so far, the documents do not seem to be truly revelatory.  The war is not going well;  the goals are confused;  our “friends” – the Pakistani and Afghani governments – don’t really like or trust us, and we would be stupid to trust them.  Does this actually surprise anyone?

Can there ever be a true handing over of power in this area?  Possibly, hopefully, but it is doubtful that the handees will have the same priorities and goals as we do.  (Any gains in women’s rights, for example, seem unlikely to be safeguarded, and bases for terrorists seem likely to continue in force.)

Putting questions relating specifically to the leaked documents aside – questions of their benefits, the morality of leaking, the mantle of self-aggrandizement of the publishers- they heighten the focus on the Afghan conflict.  So what about it?

For my part, I hate war.  When Bush first announced the invasion, I wept.  But (call me partisan),  I cannot believe that Obama has continued the conflict carelessly.  I just can’t accept that the guy who went to Dover so soberly in the middle of the night reinforced the war effort because he did not want to seem insufficiently macho, or tough on terrorism, or inconsistent.   While I certainly worry that Obama could have been over-influenced by the sanguine hopes (or despairing predictions)  of military advisors, I have to believe that Obama himself (and even most of these advisors) are sincere in thinking something good or, at least, necessary can result from this conflict.

(What really scares me though is that, if push came to shove, I’d probably have to say the same thing about Bush;  that, for all my disagreement with him, he thought something good or necessary was to be gotten from these wars.)

Which means that I’m not willing to accept Assange’s characterization of all those involved as “bastards.”  At the same time I also know that if I had a child killed or injured in Afghanistan (God forbid), I would not be able to understand why.  My grief would not be mitigated by some sense of meaning, my distress would not be comforted.

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2 Comments on “Confused In And About Afghanistan”

  1. David Feldman Says:

    My take on all this differs from yours in a number of respects.

    Nothing has ever convinced me of the original rationale for entering Afghanistan. Though I see many reasons to dislike the Taliban intensely, my reading indicates that they see themselves as nationalistic isolationists and have no inclination for international adventurism. When Bush demanded that they turn over Osama, they said, “show us the evidence of his crimes.” Anyone who could find Mecca on the map understands the centrality of hospitality in Islam. The Taliban could not turn Osama over simply to fend off an ultimatum. I don’t think anyone in the Bush administration dreamed they would. So I think the war was a done deal, perhaps as soon as minutes after the 9/11 attacks — when we started getting comic book-style “this looks like the work of Osama!” pronouncement before anyone could possibly have had time to investigate. So then we invaded, and rather rapidly apprehending Osama becomes a low priority. But back during the Bamiyan Buddha episode, I read in places like The Nation about the importance to Big Oil of running and controlling a pipeline through Afghanistan. And recently we had report of $1,000,000,000,000’s worth of strategic mineral reserves located there. As attractive as the idea of winning the war their to secure the rights of women might might seem, I don’t see any reason to believe either that such noble objectives motivate our leaders or that they see the slightest hope of achieving such objectives through military means. A much more limited military success will yield long term US military bases in the region and enough clout to exploit the various resources.

    As for Obama, I don’t even pretend to understand how he thinks. But it does seem obvious that he has good reasons for avoiding any action that his enemies will read as radical, any action that will identify him as a hero of the left, and even any action predicated on a radical critique of the previous administration. One can hope “his heart is in the right place” (though what good that does if his actions don’t follow his heart I can’t say) as he battles the entrenched elites in the state department and the military even as he watches the poles. One can hope we wants to get us out of Afghanistan – but public sentiment first has to turn sharply against our engagement there. One can hope that privately he takes the leaks for good news, for it will make at least some centrists newly skeptical about that war and that might provide the opportunity he wants.

    As for the narcissism of Julian Assange, I believe that the upper echelons of power teem with narcissists, mostly more dangerously charming than Assange. I think we should judge the impact of the leak on its own merits and leave Assange’s personality disorders, if any, to Assange has his mental health counselors. The soldier intent on leaking this information would have found some way to do it regardless.

    • manicddaily Says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. We are probably not so far apart (though I really don’t care much for Assange, but that’s pretty trivial.)

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