Saturday, October 31, 2009

Who Tried to Hustle the East?

Afghanistan is much in the news as the day of decision nears. President Obama will decide in the next couple of days whether the US will pursue Gen. McCrystal's 'all-new' strategy of defending the cities of Afghanistan. The decision is ultimately about how many more troops will be required to, hopefully, light the light at the end of the tunnel. Obama has already committed 17 000, which, if they're there yet, haven't shown much progress at all, and the General is calling for up to 80 000 more.

Remember the Taliban forces arrayed against them have been estimated at no more than 7 000 and many of them are classed as the $75 part-timers. So when the close to 70 000 US troops on site are matched with NATO's 30 000 and adding in the again estimated 100 000 'contractees' the Taliban should have given up - even if they don't know figurin'. For it's not just the boots, there is the whole panalopy of modern war from AFV's to artillery, Navy Seals and Special Forces, riverine units and massive air power arrayed, and well-used, against them. And that's not counting the 250 000 in Afghan police and army units who are, apparently, as much use as tits on a bull. Despite the lobsided opposition, the Taliban seem to be waxing when by every standard in God's great scheme, they shouldn't be there at all.

And there's the rub. They weren't there at all after Operation Enduring Freedom chased them into Pakistan. But US mismanagement in the form of some 'payback' for 9/11 by citizen soldiers who had no idea what they were doing, aroused the Afghan populace and 'hey presto' the shootin' war was back, but nothing like the one that SF and a handful of Afghan militias won the first time. This time it wasn't the Taliban government, it was the Afghan people. And so this notion of 'killing the bad guys', with all the mean spiritedness and ignorance that went with it, has made all of Afghanistan, even the Northern War Lords' territory, places where no white man is safe. Kid oneself not, the Americans didn't "ignore Afghanistan to go after Iraq", they actually increased the forces in Afghanistan in an effort to 'wipe 'em out'. No, the US military bungled a really good chance to move forward by insisting on doing what they do best .. shooting.

And now the military are back again, blaming the Taliban for their lack of success. And they're saying that the war will be 'lost' if they don't get more resources. And so what if it is a loss? Well there's NATO to think of. NATO that got us through the dark days of WW2 and the gray days of the Cold War. Now looking like some bloated  Mickey D's addict - NATO, which includes virtually every nation in Europe, has decided its work is no longer the North Atlantic, is job is in central Asia. The white man's burden is now to civilize the Asiatic .... again. And this will be as successful as it always has been.

Americans make the noise that they're 'being really careful' to avoid the mistakes the Russians made, the biggest being 'going it alone'. If memory serves didn't President Bush tell the world that, if the world wouldn't fight terror, America would "go it alone"? And didn't he also mention 'with us or against us' as a choice? But that's horsepellets anyway for, if there is a country that should have been able to subdue the Afghans, it is Russia. Everything, except the 'stingers', were pointing its way and even the Afghan allies it had were willing to fight. But Russian militarists 'goofed' just like their US counterparts are 'goofing' now. The US has a myth about its 'stingers', but those Afghans would have beaten the Russians even if they had been on their own, it just would have taken longer. Just like now - they're fighting, and lousing up NATO and no one is helping them.

Kipling had a point when he wrote:

"It is not wise for the Christian white
To hustle the Asian brown;
For the Christian riles
And the Asian smiles
And weareth the Christian down.

At the end of the fight
Lies a tombstone white
With the name of the late deceased;

And the epitaph drear,
A fool lies here,
Who tried to hustle the East."


Speaking of those tombstones white, Canada had two more soldiers killed this week. The Canadian CO, Brigadier Jon Vance had some kind words to say about them. He said of the most recent a young Sapper called Marshall, "He had an incredible sense of humour and a contagious grin that never left his face, even during the most difficult moments. He would embrace any situation and always found and shared that silver lining with his mates."

Considering the soldier had been in Afghanistan for a week, I wonder how the Brigadier could know a sapper that well. It's not like they golfed together. But then the Brigadier paints all his boys as grinning innocents, just over there to 'make a difference'.  I don't know about you, but I think a guy with a gun is inclined to make limited varieties of difference, and most of those negative.

The BG continued, "A stable environment is the best defence against insurgents, because they have no way to counter the positive effects that soldiers like Steven bring to bear. ... [H]is death will also sadden the Afghan community where he worked to bring them a better life."

Well they do have some negative ways to counter all that positivity, and for some reason they're willing to use them on guys who are 'only there to help'. Why? They hate our freedoms? They want to abuse their women and don't like children? They're scumbags? Maybe it's because, as a Southern Rebel in America's Civil War told his northern captor when asked why he was fighting, "It's cuzzen you'all down hyah."

Maybe Sapper Marshall and his mates are dead because they were 'over there' and the Afghans didn't appreciate all the help. I would be surprised if the Afghan community were saddened by his parting, he'd only been there a week - hardly enough time to make any difference to their life - for better or worse. Maybe he's dead because somebody thought it was time, again, to hustle the east.

The US is taking casualties at the rate of 1000 per month in Afghanistan, they're dying in handfuls now instead of ones and twos. And winter's coming on. Traditionally that's a time when the Afghans would hunker down and stop fighting. Last winter, for the first time in recent history, they didn't. It remains to be seen if they will take a break this winter. Afghan winters are nasty and NATO troops are hard pressed to operate in the winter mountains. My bet is that the Taliban will be destabilizing, trying to make sure NATO is off-balance again come spring. That's when Mr. Obama's troop reinforcements, if he chooses to send them, would really go into effect.

I hope he's not of a mind to go hustling too.


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