March 28, 2009
Afghanistan’s Plains

President Barack Obama is adding America to a long list of powerful nations which have tried to conquer or pacify Afghanistan.

If history is any guide he will fail, but not until the blood of United States fighters has run through the rugged hills and valleys of this most treacherous of countries. Treacherous because of terrain, hatred of foreigners, double crosses between Afghan tribes, families and outsiders, and a culture in which boys are trained to be guerrilla fighters from childhood.

Alexander the Great conquered Afghanistan in 330 BC, but the Afghans soon triumphed by enfolding the conquerors and going back to their traditional ways. Alexander, like Obama, tried buying loyalty of the tribal chiefs. But their loyalty is a insubstantial as the morning mists.

It would do Obama good to read of Alexander’s campaign in Afghanistan. It was more costly and wretched than anything he had attempted before.

After Alexander a series of foreign invaders tried to overcome to Afghan people. All were beaten back.

In 1842 a beleaguered British garrison of 16,000 gained what they thought was safe passage for their retreat through the mountains. One man survived the slaughter to tell the tale and Rudyard Kipling gave this advice to anyone planning to invade Afghanistan:

“When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains, and the women come out to cut up what remains, jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains and go to your gawd like a soldier.”


Posted by Bill Doolittle at March 28, 2009 10:40 AM
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I don't think that Barack Obama has much illusion that Afghanistan can be conquered or ruled from afar. He's playing a bad hand he was dealt, and seems to be trying to redefine the mission in a way that gets us out of there sooner. At least I hope so.

Posted by: Mahakal on March 28, 2009 1:48 PM

The difficulties getting out rise with the number of troops and material committed is my understanding. I keep hearing generals telling horror stories about the difficulties of getting out of Iraq because bringing equipment back is so difficult just considering the sanitizing involved. It would appear to me that pouring more and more troops and materials into Afghanistan is not going to make it easier or quicker to get out, but more difficult. Sometimes, it appears to me that B.O. has become somewhat of a hostage to the Military Industrial Complex.

Lets face it, Bush and company shit canned any military officers in sight who didn't agree with them and they, in turn, probably did the same to those under them. I think he is a hostage, why else would he keep Gates on, I watched an interview fairly recently where Gates was unwilling to admit that no real intelligence had been gained through torture. He is still making excuses for torture and is unlikely soul to be charged with cleaning the mess up when he has been complicit in it. Lastly, I think the general consensus of opinion is that Karzai is as corrupt as they come and when he comes out supporting B.O.'s latest "plan" I become very concerned.

Posted by: knowdoubt on March 28, 2009 2:32 PM

I think we are forced to recognize that B.O. cannot be his own man, as in accord with the mandatory role of the office, the U.S. President is always hostage to Wall Street, plus the Industrial-Military complex, and above that, hostage to "core" policies of Israel.

Posted by: Hoffman on March 28, 2009 5:15 PM

To a point it is always true, and ought to be the case that no politician has absolute unchallenged personal power. On the other hand the entrenched powerful interests are nearly always anti-democratic. There is only one way to reduce the influence of that power and it is to create counterposing power drawn from popular will. But be warned that popular will can be hugely reactionary and destructive too when manipulated by demagogues. True progressive change requires communication without power imbalance between all interested people. If the Internet didn't exist, we'd have to invent it. Thanks to those with the foresight to have done so, and to those who continue to reinvent our means of communicating more effectively every day.

Posted by: Mahakal on March 29, 2009 11:54 AM
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