Saturday, April 03, 2010

Quagmire in Afghanistan

Not many pundits were using that Q word 2 years ago. There is no need to thump my chest and say I did so even earlier. This is a national disaster of which bravado is misplaced. Now the Q word has become common.

Today's column in the NY Times by Bob Herbert is a powerful reminder how American presidents have not learned much from the disastrous Vietnam. Read here.

The reasons are various. One had to be the way they were "educated" where history courses are seldom part of the Liberal Arts requirement. You have heard me say this on many occasions already.

The most popular course at the top universities is Economics. How well that has served national interests? Well, quite apart from the recent financial crisis aided and abetted by the "smartest" crew on Wall Street mostly educated at the top schools, just look at how the "best and the brightest" have also helped their nation to become indebted to the Communist Party of China!

Herbert's column neglected to touch on a very pertinent issue in the mindset of Karzai. In his recent diatribe against the US and the "West", he used the P word, as in Puppet, to describe how the West was treating his regime. And he resented that. As part of his defiant "show you" exercises, he invited Iran's dictator to go to Kabul during which meeting both of them verbally attacked the "West", a short hand for Washington.

The US still didn't get it. Karzai was not actually wrong about the Puppet regime that he was. The US wants to fight the war and change Afghanistan to its image. Karzai was always meant to be the acceptable proxy of Washington's proxy. DC would not appoint some one who does not share its vision. To put differently, US wanted its own man running Kabul.

Of course that means the man in Kabul is effectively a puppet.

The problem for Washington in Kabul, and in the old Saigon, is to ignore something totally fundamental. Karzai's interests are not necessarily the same as those of USA.

US wants a democratic regime and to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Karzai has no desire to see a truly democratic society which may de throne him and to jeopardize the financial interests of himself, his brother and his extended family.

Karzai is an Afghan first and foremost carrying with him all the cultural and emotional "baggage" of millennium. How the US elite think they could miraculously change that baggage to their liking is indeed a sign of hubris and bad education.

So the US is mired in a quagmire supporting a regime that in fact despise the US and is perfectly willing to fight the war to the last US soldiers while the ruling family enriches itself on US taxpayers' largess and on the ignorance of Washington leaders with all its IVY League education.

A recent study shows close to half of the top leaders in Washington have a Harvard degree and close to 80% have at least one IVY League + Stanford + Berkeley degree. Very sad.


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