STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Afghanistan – Better or Worse?
By Staff News & Analysis - July 19, 2010

US military build-up in Kandahar will bolster Taliban, warns security monitor … Nato's counterinsurgency tactic shows no signs of success, says Afghanistan NGO Security Office … The build-up in Kandahar is likely to further strengthen the hold of the over the vital southern city, a highly respected security organisation said today in a bleak report warning of record Taliban violence and rising civilian deaths across the country. The report by the Afghanistan NGO Security Office, which monitors trends in violence on behalf of aid organisations, said NATO's counter-insurgency strategy was not showing any signs of succeeding amid rising violence, the unchecked establishment of local militias and a huge increase in attacks on private development workers across the country. … "We do not support the [counter-insurgency] perspective that this constitutes 'things getting worse before they get better.' – Guardian

Dominant Social Theme: In it to win it?

Free-Market Analysis: From our point of view the Afghanistan War is another dominant social theme that is failing. While some in the alternative news community maintain that the Afghanistan war is merely another phony war cooked up by CIA blowback, we don't think it is nearly that simple. Nor do we believe that the power elite, indescribably wealthy, is after Afghanistan's "mineral wealth" or its "oil." We don't think the Americans and NATO have poured blood and treasure into Afghanistan to build an oil pipeline either. We think the Anglo-American axis is "in it to win it" – and they are having a great deal of trouble doing so.

In fact, the Western powers are in Afghanistan for the same reason that the axis has been meddling in the Middle East one way or another for several centuries. The effort ultimately is to control and co-opt Middle-Eastern communities and make them safe for Western style capitalism. Dubai is an example of how the integration between East and West can work within the context of commercial corporatism. Afghanistan is the ugly side of this combination. In Afghanistan and other, similar countries, the idea is that Western integration is to be achieved by force if other means don't work.

This is the reason that the rationales for the war in Afghanistan have changed so much over time. The initial reason was to avenge 9/11 and chase Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan. In fact, neither Bin Laden nor Al Qaeda were found in Afghanistan, or not as predicted by Western mainstream media. The great cave hideaways of Afghanistan were never found, either. In any event, the rationale for the war in Afghanistan has shifted radically of late and we have cataloged the changes with interest. Today, apparently, the West is in Afghanistan to rebuild the nation, to free women from the despotism of fundamentalist Islam and to raise a "democratic" nation.

The trouble with this rationale is that it is too little too late. Perhaps if it had been enunciated sooner, it would have gained traction as a credible dominant social theme. But in the current context of a ten-year-old war, the rationale looks more like a series of excuses than a galvanizing force that can cause Western populations to rally round. This is at least the second time that a war has been waged against the Pashtuns, seeking to bring them fully within the ambit of the Anglo-American axis. The first time was a century ago, when the British fought against the Pashtuns on and off for about 50 years.

In the late 20th century, the Pashtuns were manipulated by the Punjabi Pakistanis in order to ensure that Afghanistan was controlled by Pakistani allies (Islamic Pashtuns) and to set up a coordinated face against India. Additionally some literature suggests that part of the reason for all this maneuvering was to keep the Pashtuns from seeking a homeland of their own that would cut a swath between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Lately, there has emerged a theory that almost ALL of the Punjabi maneuvering in this regard is aimed directly at the Pashtuns, with an eye toward ensuring that any tendencies toward Pashtun nationalism are redirected toward Afghanistan and against the West. Given these parameters it can be seen that the Punjabi elite which controls Pakistan – and more importantly Pakistan's army – is no friend of the West's even though the army itself and the leadership of Pakistan is closely allied with America.

There are riddles within riddles and secrets within secrets, when it comes to Afghanistan and who is fighting whom, and for what. It is worth noting (as we have not before) that the Punjabis, some 100 million strong, have roots as deep as the Pashtuns and are the main tribal culture that formed the Indus Valley Civilization – one of humankind's greatest, oldest and most mysterious civilizations. This is therefore a war that the West has undertaken against two of the world's oldest tribes. It is a war to extinguish two cultures, in a sense, and replace them with a Western orientation. It is a most ambitious effort.

Keeping this context in mind, it is simplistic to paint the Pashtuns as uninvolved tribes-people that are merely acted upon by outside forces. The Pakistan-centric perspective is that the Punjabis created the schools that in turn created the Taliban. But it is indisputable that the Taliban are Pashtuns. If the Pashtuns as a community withdrew their support from the Taliban – their own brothers, fathers and sons – the Taliban would not long survive.

There are enough Allied forces within Afghanistan to give the Pashtuns the opportunity to cast their lot with the West. They have not and will not because ultimately this is not a war of nation-building anymore than it was an anti-Qaeda war. It is a war of East versus West. It is a Crusade war, a cultural war, a war of utmost importance. Empires have dashed themselves on these inhospitable stones before.

There are dominant social themes and sometimes … eventually, there are merely reports. We are approaching the latter stage in Afghanistan. The nation-building meme is not taking off. Now there is a 60-nation meeting in Kabul to promote the idea of Afghanistan as a kind of modern colonialist entity, but we have grave doubts this cheery perspective will survive. The last ditch efforts of the Anglo-American war culture always involves money – and we are seeing that stage now with "aid programs" being initiated in both Pakistan and Afghanistan worth billions.

If Afghanistan was Africa, the money would engender significant corruption which in turn would generate enough command-and-control traction to bring Afghanistan to heel. But the Pashtun culture in our view is remarkably cohesive and thousands of years old. It is likely capable of absorbing additional stresses and strains. The chances of the West creating a fully-realized vassal state out of Afghanistan, therefore, are not much better than they were last century.

We don't see the Pashtuns as turning on the Taliban any time soon. We don't see the Punjabis as ceasing their furtive support for the Taliban either. The facts on the ground are increasingly apparent. The Taliban can operate in a broad swath of Pakistan and Afghanistan because the Pashtuns allow it. The Taliban are supplied by Pakistan because it is in the Punjabi's interests to do so. Unless one or both of these underlying trends are effectively countered by Anglo-American sociopolitical pressure and military force, the outcome will be no different than it was a century ago.

There is little we see to be done in terms of building an effective dominant social theme out of all this. The reporting to be done for this wretched war will likely increasingly reflect the realities of a region that does not want Westernization and in fact sees Western-style regulatory democracy as undesirable. Of course, we were surprised when Iraq seemed to turn the corner, and the Western alliance can bring enormous power to bear. But we note, even now Iraq seems to be backsliding and there is little to build on so far in Afghanstan. A stalemate does not bode well for the West either unless the "insurgency" itself is dealt with decisively.

After Thoughts

We are not fortune-tellers and do not know how the Afghan war will end. But when the elite cannot create a believable narrative (a dominant social theme), then there are inevitable, negative ramifications. The ramifications begin with the end of the Afghan war but extend far beyond it and have economic and financial resonance as well. In fact, the war in Afghanistan may come to represent the modern high water mark for the West's peculiar amalgam of central banking and regulatory democracy. It is a most important war, and the lack of a credible dominant social theme is most important as well.

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