Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Road to Obamastan

It certainly is a wonderful moment in history not to be Barack Obama. His approval rating is down to about 50%, and I wouldn't be surprised is a lot of those who still approve are sticking with him out of pure cognitive dissonance, having made significant emotional and public investments in him during the campaign. Trapped by conventional thinking, many of the news media seem to assume he's losing people from the center, and hence losing them to the right.

Maybe they're right, but I don't think so. There is a vast amount of anger on the left, and the decline in his numbers started well before the health care fiasco was fully formed. The peace movement, civil libertarians, the LGBT groups, and plenty of others on the left were sick of him well before he let Rahm & The Boys convince him that any health insurance legislation would be better than none – and that one that kept the contributions flowing from major health industry lobbies like AHIP and PhARMA would be best of all.

I despise what's become of American politics over the past thirty years, and I'm just too pissed even to vent my feelings right now. Instead, I'll head straight to the latest impending catastrophe: Afghanistan.

The generals are whining for more troops. The Afghani police and army are useless and corrupt, and the numerous militias are loyal to local leaders, not the central government. The Karzai government is even more corrupt than the police and the army, and its legitimacy rating is hovering somewhere around zero. The Taliban, also corrupt, looks honest by comparison.

If the US pulls out its troops, the right will accuse Obama of "knuckling under to terrorism." If the administration sends more troops, assuming they ever can be successfully withdrawn from Iraq, our NATO "allies" can be depended on to extract their troops as rapidly as ours go in. The current proposal for "winning" in Afghanistan is to "protect" Afghani villagers against the Taliban. Needless to say, there are far too many villages and there never can be nearly enough troops – especially since what the villagers want most is for everybody to go away and just leave them alone to grow their opium.

Isn't there anybody who has Obama's ear old enough to remember Vietnam? The notion of "protecting" villagers sounds a hell of a lot like the Vietnam "pacification" program – which was an abysmal failure, of course, and wouldn't work in Afghanistan either. Doesn't anybody around the president remember how debilitating the escalation of the Vietnam war was to the Johnson administration? Isn't it time to bring Hillary Clinton home from Africa or Latin America or Antarctica or wherever they have her now and get some advice from an adult?

The route out of Afghanistan is, in my opinion, fairly simple. In Afghanistan, what we call "corruption" is called "standard operating procedure." Let's forget about "democratization" and all its associated bullshit, and just bribe our way to peace. Provide the tribal leaders with Hummers, Viagra, and whatever else will keep them happy, and stop trying to "unify" a geographic region that never even remotely resembled a modern state, and is not likely to become one any time in the foreseeable future.

And the Taliban? Bribe them too. I'm sure we can offer them considerably more than Al Qaeda can – and it's bound to be a hell of a lot cheaper than fighting a war that can't be won.

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