April 21, 2010
Still Crazy After All These Years

Here’s a little quiz for the “armchair generals” among us who may have become a tad disillusioned by the way that our US military appears to be conducting itself over this first decade of The Long War. Here we go, but before you get started here’s a tip: Because this is war we’re talking about, there are no right, wrong or good answers — just questions.

1. It is easy to identify enemy insurgents in Afghanistan. If you see the following behaviors chances are you’ve spotted an insurgent: (a) anyone who acts nervous at checkpoints; (b) anyone digging a hole; (c) anyone who doesn’t instantly follow orders screamed in English; (d) anyone carrying something large, roughly the size and shape of an AK-47 or grenade launcher e.g, camera equipment; (e) people who grab their guns when you break down their door in the middle of the night.

2. The best intelligence sources on where insurgents can be found include: (a) any Afghan willing to talk to you; (b) air-surveillance spotting of people with trucks/vans; (c) local drug lords; (d) little kids.

3. The best way to minimize collateral damage is: (a) stop killing people; (b) clean up the evidence when victims are obviously civilians; (c) deny it — the Taliban human shield defense works well; (d) if all else fails — lie; say the bodies had already been murdered by someone local e.g., honor killings (if victims are female) or “tribal justice” if victims are male.

4. The best ways to win “hearts and minds” are: (a) leave the country; (b) run around shirtless with a “mock” headdress and shades like a Medal of Honor avatar; (c) build things like cutting edge water treatment plants that are too complex for the locals to operate; (d) burn your high-tech trash in open fires to leave your mark on future generations.

5. The best in-country partners for a counterinsurgency are: (a) local CIA assets; (b) ex-cons; (c) local arms smugglers; (d) popular, clueless charlatans.

Well. That’s enough for now, you get the idea…

Whatever the doctrine or mission or strategy that landed US forces in Afghanistan it’s increasingly hard to come up with a good rationale for staying, let alone surging … perhaps it’s battle fatigue; or the growing effect of an influx of Black Water-y commandos and their 21st Century Art of Warfare program; or maybe it’s just plain old ignorance, bungling and mismanagement — more than likely it’s a combination of the three. Whatever the cause, there are legions of dead Iraqis and Afghanis to attest to the fact that “shit happens” in War and a no-win situation only gets more dismal when you throw more resources at it.

Back in the beginning of the century, I don’t think that anyone, no less anyone in the Bush administration, could have foreseen the absolute travesty and international humiliation that these wars would wreak on participant nations. Unfortunately, the rest of the world seems to be awakening and tiring of their supporting role quicker than we’d like. After all, it’s one thing to be Emperor and quite another to be a “friend of the Empire,” at the end of the day.

Also, unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly evident that perhaps the American collective consciousness doesn’t really have the stomach or the inherent ruthlessness to be global conquistadors. It’s difficult to shape a population reared on a public image of honesty, integrity and generosity into a lean, mean permanent war machine.

I’m not saying it can’t be done — just that it takes longer and more concerted effort to root out the innate common decency that has no place in a global domination program. In my opinion that’s why we’re doing such a crappy job of it and why it’s become necessary to contract so much of the job out to sociopathic gunslingers that cause more problems than they solve.


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Posted by Frumpzilla at April 21, 2010 06:08 PM
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Unfortunately for the title "Still Crazy After All These Years", 3(a) & 4(a) are good answers. The best way to minimize collateral damage is: (a) stop killing people & The best (only) way(s) to win “hearts and minds” (in Afghanistan) are: (is to:) (a) leave the country. All else is folly.

Posted by: darms on April 23, 2010 2:31 PM

It's certainly true that common decency has no place in a global domination program, and I agree there's a lot of it in Americans generally. At the same time, there's a lot of hate in many Americans, especially those like people I grew up with who've left the immediate vicinity of their hometowns twice in their lives for a total of two weeks, and who therefore must deal with the world through their Southern Baptist imaginations rather than any concrete knowledge. Which they disdain in any case.

There are many, I'm afraid, whose common decency would be overwhelmed by their ignorance of themselves and others, and the frustration and hate their lives have left them with. And as Bertrand Russell said, By proper diet and training people can be made to believe any nonsense, no matter how errant.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree on April 24, 2010 5:31 PM

Well said, Chuck. You'll find no argument here. I'm no Pollyanna when it comes to the Imperium but I do have "moments" when I hope (against waves of mounting evidence) that there is a whiff of a possibility that, somehow, our better selves might prevail.

The rest of the time, unfortunately, day-to-day reality leads me, kicking and screaming, to the inescapable realization that the inmates are, indeed, running the asylum.

BTW, I checked out Belisarius and instantly became a fan . . .

Posted by: Frumpzilla on April 25, 2010 8:02 AM

Thanks for the kind words, it's a mutual admiration society!

And I have moments of hope too. In fact my view is that it's vital to maintain concurrent convictions: that we're in deep doo-doo because Americans spend all their time watching TV and don't know much the world around them, and that Americans can get it together at the critical time and pull off the transition away from empire.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree on April 25, 2010 7:41 PM
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