Why the results in Afghanistan and Iraq simply make things worse.
By Brad Friedman on 6/21/2004, 3:58pm PT  

Getting a bit too wonky even for myself here. So I'll hope the BRAD BLOG readers will tolerate this bit of wonkery for the moment. I believe it's important.

In case you're not familiar, an anonymous career CIA analyst/foreign policy expert, having served decades, and still employeed by the agency as I understand it, is releasing a book in a few weeks which is highly critical of the Bush Administration's "War on Terror".

In Imperial Hubris: How the West is Losing the War on Terror the author, Anonymous, goes into a much detailed account of where we went wrong, and what few options we now may be left with.

For those who would (as those who inevitably will, for partisan reasons) see this as just another Bush Bash Fest, it would be a mistake to do so, since Anonymous' prescription for what to do now, is decidely "un-Liberal". Essentially, he calls for Total War. But for an explanation of that actually means --- and how it differs from what is being waged now --- you'll need to read Spencer Ackerman's full article (over on Talking Points Memo where he's currently filling in for the vacationing Josh Marshall).

For the moment, what caught my eye was a useful and sobering post-mortem on where things now stand in both Afghanistan and Iraq:

[Anonymous] sees our intervention in Afghanistan as a disaster. While not as strident, a host of mostly liberal critics generally agree, arguing that the Bush administration has allowed Afghanistan to slip back into warlord-dominated instability. The prescription this critique implies is a vigorous nation-building effort. Anonymous rejects this entirely. Expanding Hamid Karzai's writ across the country is a recipe for violence, he writes: "After twenty years of war and ineffective or alien government in Kabul, the regions, subregions and tribes have never been more autonomously minded and jealous of their prerogatives." Democratization in Afghanistan, he believes, is a mirage. "We focus on issues that don't matter to Afghans--women's rights, democracy--and we denigrate those things that matter to Afghans--Islam, tribal and clan relationships, ethnic pecking orders," he says. Sometime soon, "you're going to have a government back in Kabul that looks like the Taliban, perhaps under a different name." The proper purpose of the 2001 war, he believes, was to use U.S. forces to annihilate the Qaeda presence in the country and do no more. With our inability to do that, our garrisoning of troops in Afghanistan and support of a weak central government of ethnic minorities provides little aside from an Islamist rallying cry against U.S. occupation--what he terms "an unmitigated defeat." [emphasis added]

Then there's Iraq. "[T]here is nothing bin Laden could have hoped for more than the American invasion and occupation of Iraq," he writes.

All Muslims would see each day on television that the United States was occupying a Muslim country, insisting that man-made laws replace God's revealed word, stealing Iraq's oil, and paving the way for the creation of a "Greater Israel." The clerics and scholars would call for a defensive jihad against the United States, young Muslim males would rush from across the Islamic world to fight U.S. troops, and there--in Islam's second holiest land--would erupt a second Afghanistan, a self-perpetuating holy war that would endure whether or not al-Qaeda survived.

The reason we've made these mistakes, he argues, is that we fail to understand that bin Laden doesn't hate us because of our freedom. Or, rather, while he does hate the licentiousness and modernity that the U.S. represents, it's not what compels him to declare war on us. Nor does an anti-modernist bent explain bin Laden's appeal across the Muslim world. Instead, it's what Anonymous identifies as six points bin Laden repeatedly cites in his communiqus: "U.S. support for Israel that keeps the Palestinians in the Israelis' thrall; U.S. and other Western troops on the Arabian peninsula; U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan; U.S. support for Russia, India and China against their Muslim militants; U.S. pressure on Arab energy producers to keep oil prices low; U.S. support for apostate, corrupt and tyrannical Muslim governments." Combined with his charismatic biography, bin Laden's strategic success has been to frame these arguments through a Koranic prism, "to convince everyone that U.S. policy is deliberately anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic," he says. Bin Laden's critique presents in resonant Islamic terminology a coherent jihadist explanation for practically everything Muslims can find offensive about the U.S.--the most deadly slippery slope there is. And the more Americans insist on treating bin Laden's anger with the U.S. as a pure hatred of freedom, the less equipped we'll be to answer him in a battle of ideas. [emphasis added]

I realize these arguments may be a bit more nuanced and informed than is easily fit onto Headline News, Larry King's brain, or the general limited scope of a Fake Conservative's knee-jerk ideological pallette.

The battle of "Good vs. Evil" is much easier to get across to the Nascar Dad Joe-Sixpacks on whom Dubya's re-election chances now hinge.

None the less, until the United States cares to take a real, sobering, and --- yes --- nuanced look at what this "War" is really about, we're destined to simply keep spinning our wheels in a never-ending, ever-increasing bloody battle that simply cannot be "won".