Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

September 18, 2009

Afghanistan: When Ralph Peters and Daniel Ellsberg Agree…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 2:48 pm

When my favorite conservative, well, realist, military analyst Ralph Peters of The New York Post agrees with the “The Most Dangerous Man in America” (what Nixon called Daniel Ellsberg after he leaked the Pentagon Papers–which ultimately led to Nixon’s impeachment for the acts of the Plumbers Squad to do break-ins after the Ellsberg affair, eventually including Watergate), it’s time to pay attention to the case against nation building in Afghanistan which is not a nation in any real sense and is causing increasing casualties in what seems like a futile effort.

I read the Peters column linked above (he’s been saying similar things for months) the morning after I attended the premier of an excellent, moving documentary about Ellsberg’s career (did you know he enlisted in the Marines and was a gung ho warrior, like Peters, who took led patrols in Vietnam as a civilian, before turning against the kind of wars we were fighting, then war itself?)

Anyway in the Q&A after the screening in New York’s great Film Forum Ellsberg called Afghanistan “Vietnamistan” and the mostly left-liberal audience despite being Obama supporters had clearly turned against the war and were puzzled by Obama ‘s commitment to it.

Was it because, as Victor Navasky suggested to me after the screening that Obama had used Afghanistan as “the right war” to separate himself from Bush’s Iraq. And then found himself stuck with it and with generals and a Pentagon giving him a range of options from 10,000 to 45,000 more troops? Does anyone think that’s the last request? That way lies Vietnam and the wreckage of a liberal Presidency the way Vietnam wrecked LBJ’s.

The best analysis of why we are in Afghanistan is in Tara McKelvey’s prescient article in The American Prospect last year an astute analysis of “The Cult of Counterinsurgency”. In it she describes the way the charismatic military thinkers who engineered the surge in Iraq and saved us (temporarily) from humiliating defeat, gained so much credilbity for their new way of fighting “low intensity conflicts” as they’re called, that a kind of hubris was developing: we can do this in Afghanistan, maybe everywhere if we want. Unfortunately carryover has not been–and may not be–automatic to other nations, other cultures. It’s too bad Obama didn’t read her article before getting us deeper into what looks like a bloody stalemate at best.

Peters points out the Afghan army won’t fight for itself, its troops, “dont even bother to show up for formations”, so why should we die for them? We’re killing what’s left of al Qaeda with drones that can be launched from offshore.

Not that it’s comletely simple. The Taliban ae evil terrorist-harboring woman and gay hating theocrats, but can we fight evil anywhere and everywhere? Change every culture into a Jeffersonian democracy with a wave of the counterinsurgency automaticwand? And of course Afghanistan can’t be separated from nuclear Pakistan, the growth of al Qaeda sympathizers there and the de stabilization that will come if the Taliban. prevails in Afghanistan.

I tend to be pessimistic and think there’s no good solution, but why should American troops die for a no solution stalemate?

Do you have any better ideas?



  1. Ralph Peters is one writer who should always, always, be listened to.

    Comment by Class Clown — September 19, 2009 @ 3:08 am | Reply

  2. Kabul, Islamabad, Swat Valley, Kashmir are four ducks in a row. There is no answer.

    Comment by charlie finch — September 19, 2009 @ 4:54 pm | Reply

  3. The Taliban are evil terrorist-harboring woman and gay hating theocrats, but can we fight evil anywhere and everywhere?
    No sir, we can’t fight evil anywhere and everywhere, but a lot of people seem to take the position that if we can’t fight it anywhere and everywhere, we shouldn’t fight it at all. And I doubt that such positions are honest. Evil doesn’t want to be fought–it just wants to persuade you, and mocks you when you resist.

    Comment by Tcobb — September 20, 2009 @ 4:03 pm | Reply

  4. We have taken out half a dozen Al Qaeda leaders in the last month and our troop presence is relatively minimal. Also Ellsberg (whom I knew well back in 1972) has devolved into a crackpot in his dotage, doesn’t take 9/ll seriously like many on the left. The “answer” is for Obama to really take on Islam head-on, study its very theologies and openly ridicule people like the Iranian mullahs, the Wahabis, and the Taliban. This Star Trek prime directive approach doesn’t wash. Ban Amedinajad from the UN, put serious pressure of the Saudis and Mubarak. Invite some US mullahs to the White House and rip them a new one. Use intelligence and advanced weapons to decimate every Muslim ideologue. Take out the Iranian nukes and take out the Pakistani nukes.Then withdraw our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Radical Islam must be shamed into subservience.

    Comment by charlie finch — September 20, 2009 @ 6:56 pm | Reply

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