Is the Afghanistan War Over?
By Staff News & Analysis - April 27, 2010

Locals can always outwait foreigners, so the West will soon leave thousands of civilian casualties behind in a country it never understood to begin with … The end is nigh, my friends. No, I don't mean the end of the Roman Catholic Church, as it drowns in the sinfulness of old men in dresses. Nor do I mean the end of American civilization as we know it, as it too is wracked by hate and barely suppressed violence. I'm referring to the end of the West's futile adventure in Afghanistan, which is likely to happen within the next few years, five at most. I foresee an imminent future in which not only Western armies but Western development workers and diplomats and police trainers will be gone and the country will be run entirely by Afghans, many of whom will be Taliban or Taliban-like in their views – reactionary, women-hating, drug- dealing, murderous thugs. This will lead to even more suffering for the Afghan people, who have never stopped suffering under the Western-backed thugs in the Karzai government. But this tragic result has always been inevitable. For those who believe in R2P for humanitarian disasters – the Responsibility to Prevent – this will be a very serious blow. It will remind us that humanitarian rhetoric is too often nothing more than a cover for political calculations (see the Bush invasion of Iraq). It will also remind us that there are situations beyond our control, where our responsibility to protect the vulnerable is simply impossible to carry out. – Globe and Mail

Dominant Social Theme: It had to end. Thank goodness it is in the process of doing so.

Free-Market Analysis: We, too, believe that the Afghanistan war is winding down. Maybe the US military would like to continue it a while longer, but the home populations of the Dutch, the Canadians, the Germans, and even the British, are evermore opposed to it. From our point of view, the war is suffering from a narrative problem that never afflicted the West's larger military industrial complex in the past when the US and the USSR were squaring off. Everyone could see then (except Murray Rothbard and a handful of other stalwart libertarians) the need to spend trillions on nuclear warheads to ensure Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).

But the Taliban simply does not inspire the same level of fear that the USSR did. Nobody in the West, even in the US, believes the Taliban are about to launch massed nuclear weapons. Nobody believes, in fact, that the Taliban are an aggressive threat outside of Afghanistan. (That role is reserved for the shadowy Al Qaeda.) The reasons to fight in Afghanistan have more to do with a general disdain of the Taliban and the hope of building a better country for the Afghans to live in.

Of course, war seldom if ever makes the world a better place. War destroys and then individual local populations for the most part rebuild. And the Taliban themselves are an outgrowth of the dominant Pashtun tribe that populates much of Afghanistan and Pakistan and doesn't really recognize the border between the two states. No, the Taliban are not the Soviets, and the ever-shifting reasons for the US and its allies to fight the Taliban have continually eroded support for the war in Afghanistan and likely what's left of the conflict in Iraq as well.

The US and its allies have discovered, meanwhile, another bogey-man in Iran, thus threatening to expand once again a Middle Eastern war that is winding down, but simmers nonetheless. We have no idea if the US will go to war again against Iran. But we do not agree with the article excerpted above that the US is "leaving" Afghanistan, anymore than it is leaving Iraq. In both of these failed states, the US has built numerous military bases, some of tremendous size. In Iraq, the US is building an embassy that is said to be one of the largest in the world.

Yet it is not even the military bases that are the signature traces left behind by Western governments. What has been implemented, not successfully, but brutally in both Afghanistan and Iraq, is "democratic" governance. Both Iraq and Afghanistan are to function, henceforth, as regulatory democracies with all the privileges and difficulties associated with that system.

We are not fans, especially, of regulatory democracy. It comes encumbered with debt-based money, central banks, VAT and income taxes, a large police force, an ever-expanding judiciary and legal industry and the cronyism and horse-trading that such democracies inevitably encompass. While some of this can be celebrated modestly, much of it is merely a way to fashion control over people and generate ever-larger bureaucracies beholden to the system.

We are not sure the regulatory democracy installed in Iraq and Afghanistan are much superior to what went before. There is much talk about the brutality of Saddam Hussein, but the democracy in Iraq, such as it is (and it is most fragile) has been purchased with a vast expenditure of civilian human life. The Afghanistan tribal tradition was a good deal more humane than Hussein's brand of brutality and, despite its difficulties, we wonder if the new democratic traditions will prove superior to traditions that went back eons and were fairly well suited to a Spartan, herding and subsistence-farming lifestyle.

We look at Western economies with their cyclical financial disasters, general joblessness, the ever increasing regulatory burdens, the incipient and extant militarism, police brutality, intricate web of economic rules and the resultant decreases in personal and entrepreneurial freedom and we wonder if this is a blessing or a curse – that is in the process of being bestowed on various Middle Eastern entities.

But no matter the advantages or disadvantages, this is the system that the West – specifically the Anglo-American power elite – is determined to install. Once installed, regardless of the presence or absence of troops or personnel, Western countries can do business in Iraq and Afghanistan far more easily. The regulatory practices and judicial systems will have fallen into line to some extent with the Western model.

As we have maintained in the past, we are of the firm belief that the Anglo-American axis did not enter Afghanistan or Iraq for purposes of obtaining oil or constructing oil pipelines, or exploiting resources, etc. What the power elite sought to do in these countries was to extend a long-term presence via military bases and to "democratize" the political process so as to lay the groundwork for eventual integration into the larger global economic and sociopolitical environment it is attempting to construct.

Once the larger mass of troops has departed from these two countries, there will be much analysis of what seems to be a Western over-reaching, and the futility of the wars. But we would argue even though the West will seem to have lost the war, it will not have, or not in some fundamental ways.

After Thoughts

We would suggest that at least some of what is left behind was the reason the wars were fought to begin with. The rest – the civilian and military deaths, the ever-shifting rationales for the violence – all these were part of an evanescent dialogue designed to distract from the West's real purpose, which was to install systems and methodologies of control that will ultimately make these regions more pliable. The real war will continue as the local populations attempt to integrate the new political methodologies with the old and determine, as part of this process, how much lingering influence the West will maintain.

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