When I first started this blog I used to hammer away on a couple of themes which really bothered me. The first were Provincial Reconstruction Teams which I maintain are, by design, unable to accomplish their assigned mission. The second theme had to do with the reason we remain in Afghanistan. Our current mission is predicated on three goals; to deny al Qaeda safe haven, to reverse the momentum of the Taliban and to prevent the ability of insurgents to overthrow the government. As I have pointed out many times in the past there is no chance al Qaeda can or wants to re-establish themselves on Afghan soil and there is also no chance that anyone of the various insurgent groups who are fighting against the Karzai regime has the ability to win militarily.
These two themes are now hot news after President Karzai announced that it was time for PRT teams to go and the Center on International Cooperation released a report co-authored by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Flex Kuehn on separating the Taliban from al Qeada. I have commented on Alex Strick van Linschoten before noting that he has a really cool name. How can you go wrong reading something from a member of the Strick van Linschoten family? And as a huge bonus Alex knows what he’s talking about being another member of the outside the wire tribe.
Jousha Foust posted on the PRT issue saying unequivocally that Karzai’s is right in his desire to rid himself of PRT’s and have that money flow through the Afghan government. The problem is that anytime Karzai mentions the need to funnel money through his government a majority of my fellow citizen are convinced the money will just disappear. I’m no fan of the Karzai government but if someone could explain to me the difference between giving a member of the Afghan ruling elite a suitcase full of money to get something done or paying Tom Daschle’s wife a few million bucks to get a favorable ruling from the USG I’d love to hear it. From Hillary Clinton’s cattle futures swindle to our current treasury secretary dictating to the IRS when and how much he would pay in back taxes (until he was appointed to his present post) American politicians are as corrupt as Afghan politicians but more sophisticated. The only other difference is that America has the largest economy in the world allowing our political class to enrich themselves and their families without killing economic growth.
Afghanistan has no economy so the corruption here kills any chance that outside capital will flow in the form of investments. The only major western company stupid enough to invest money here is AOL but they are tapped out. And when contemplating corruption here remember the problem was partly created by us when we pushed Karzai to adopt SNTV . It is not going to change. But if we funneled every penny through the Afghan government who would get the blame when construction projects proved to be inferior, when money disappeared or when basic needs are not addressed? Wouldn’t it be to our advantage if every time the local people complained about reconstruction projects we could point to the billions we fed into the Kabul government and say “go ask them – we gave them billions for this”? It’s not like anyone has the slightest clue where all the money we have spent to date has gone anyway. But we can’t change the way our government does business – too many rice bowls and too much money being made by special interests don’t you know.
What could and should change is our mission here. As the Strick van Linschoten piece (PDF available here) convincingly argues the core reason for our continued fighting in Afghanistan is predicated on the stupid idea that if we leave al Qaeda will return. I’ve been calling bullshit on that idea from the start and it is important for us to acknowledge that this concept is nonsense because it drives the mission statements of the military and other USG agencies who are in the fight. We shouldn’t act like we can tailor make solutions in the third world because we remain clueless about ground truth in every country except our own. We will never have enough situational awareness to institute custom one-off solutions in every country where instability threatens good order and discipline. This fact should serve as a wake up call to all Americans.
We spend billions and billions of dollars on “top secret America” and get next to nothing in return. Witness the fiasco of our current response in Egypt. The head of our Central Intelligence Agency stated that Mubarak would step down yesterday. He said that because he’s an idiot politician; a CIA Mandarin would never make that claim because he knows the CIA has rarely been right about anything important in its entire history. Don’t take my word for it read Legacy of Ashes and The Human Factor; books written by CIA agents disgusted with the waste, fraud and abuse organic to that dysfunctional agency. How do you explain the head of intelligence for this administration saying something as preposterous as the Muslim Brotherhood are “largely secular”? Our liberal elites and their hand maidens in the press think we’re stupid.
Back to the ISAF mission statement for Afghanistan – here it is:
ISAF, in support of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, conducts operations in Afghanistan to reduce the capability and will of the insurgency, support the growth in capacity and capability of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), and facilitate improvements in governance and socio-economic development, in order to provide a secure environment for sustainable stability that is observable to the population.
How does a military force “facilitate improvements in the governance and socio-economics development” of the second most corrupt country in the world? How does a western secular military “provide a secure environment for sustainable stability that is observable to the population” in an Islamic Republic? The ISAF military effort is reducing the capability and will of the insurgents and they are also, believe it or not, growing the capacity and capability of the ANSF. I see signs of that everywhere I go in this country. It is our political leaders who are squandering the opportunities the military has won them and rather then piss and moan about it I’m going to man up and offer a solution our government can use around the world to bring simplicity and clarity to America’s efforts to have everyone just get along.
These ten simple principals, distilled by Jim Owens who heads up the Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership, are all one needs to know about running their lives, a company, or the most powerful nation on earth. Here they are:
1 Live each day with courage
2 Take pride in your work
3 Always finish what you start
4 Do what has to be done
5 Be tough, but fair
6 When you make a promise, keep it
7 Ride for the brand
8 Talk less and say more
9 Remember that some things aren’t for sale
10 Know where to draw the line
Courage, pride, keeping promises, draw the line and ride for the brand. These are principals which have never failed us in the past. Translated to the sophisticated world of geo-politics it means acknowledging we can’t export our ideas about democracy to peoples who have no desire for them. We have to keep our goals simple, clean and consistent. We stand for freedom. We stand behind people who desire freedom and will lend them a hand in every and all circumstances. We should have backed the citizens in Iran when they confronted that hideous regime, the government of Honduras when they tried to enforce their constitution be expelling a tyrant, the citizens of Egypt and Tunisia when they spontaneously rose to rid themselves of dictators. But we didn’t did we? Our political leaders tried to finesse these situations or ignored them or worked against them. Our political class aided and abetted by the Mandarins who populate the senior levels of USG agencies honestly think they have the knowledge, ability, and situational awareness required to manage every crisis in a unique custom tailored manner. But they don’t, they are fooling themselves, bankrupting our nation and breaking our military.
It doesn’t have to be that way – we don’t need cleaver solutions dreamed up by legions of credentialed smart fellers. We need leadership which articulates in unambiguous language what America stands for and who she will back. If you are with us we’ll back you with our military might (while it lasts) and favorable economic policies. If you are not with us you’ll not get favorable trade deals in our markets. If you attack us or our allies we will come to your country and kill you. See how simple that is? Apply it to Pakistan right now. They are harboring bin Laden, Mullah Omar and the senior Taliban leadership while actively aiding the insurgents we are fighting and, adding insult to injury, they have one of our citizens who rates diplomatic immunity in jail. What are they getting in return? Billions of aid dollars which we have to borrow from “our friends” the Chinese. What should they get? A blockade of their ports and the grounding of all air transport in their country would be a good start. You know why? Because some things are not for sale and at some point we have to draw a line.
How would we supply the gigantic logistic effort in Afghanistan if we did that? I don’t know and I am sure we probably couldn’t. Which means most of the bloated headquarter staffs and base infrastructure would have to go and the combat arms units who remain would have to live like my colleagues and I do on the economy. Right vs wrong; good vs evil – there nothing difficult about figuring these things out when you live each day with courage.