And so Obama's America continues to slide into an appalling Afghan morass that is beginning to look more and more like the drip-drip of the Vietnam tragedy/crime. Today we are told that an Afghan surge is beginning in a "dangerous region" near Kabul. According to the AP's Jason Straziuso:
Close to 3,000 American soldiers who recently arrived in Afghanistanto secure two violent provinces near Kabul have begun operations in the field and already are seeing combat, the unit's spokesman said Monday. The new troops are the first wave of a surge of reinforcements expected this year. The process began to take shape under President George Bush but has been given impetus by President Barack Obama's call for an increased focus on Afghanistan.
An increased focus on Afghanistan, eh, with Obama giving "impetus" to Bush's failed war in the region. And why? What's the point of this "process"? It's all because of "militants", the spokesman of 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division explained to Straziuso, who apparently "have attacked several patrols with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, including one ambush with 30 militants." These militants being the Taliban, whose militancy reflects a significant proportion of an Afghan population ravaged by invasion after invasion of foreign powers. And the Taliban, of course, are the supposed allies of Al-Qaeda -- even though none of the perpetrators of 9/11 were Afghani and the Taleban have never articulated any interest in bombing American targets outside their country.
So why is Obama, of all people, behaving like a fin de siecle European imperialist by sending more and more troops to a weak foreign country in which a mythological group of his enemies are supposedly hiding? It's because so much garbage is spoken in America about the "war on terror" that, to justify leaving Iraq, Obama has fallen into the Al-Qaeda trap of invading another Moslem country in the Clouseau-like hunt for Bin Laden (the Saudi version of the Pink Panther). Just as it was Kennedy, and not Johnson, who began American involvement in Vietnam, so a weak Obama is in danger of being sucked into another president's catastrophic foreign war.
But Afghanistan is not simply Vietnam 2.0. America is a much weaker and more vulnerable economic and political power now than it was in Sixties -- particularly in the post October 2008 Wall Street meltdown and its inevitable anti-American aftermath (previewed at Davos this year in the language of both Russian and Chinese leaders). As Emmanuel Todd, the author of the prescient After The Empire, wrote in 2002:
"After years of being perceived as the problem solver, the United States itself has become a problem for the rest of the world."
And a pointless Afghan war, that will inevitably spill over in Pakistan, will only make American bullying of small countries a bigger headache for the rest of the world. Just as Obama is retreating from Iraq, so he should open peace negotiations with the Taliban and get the hell out of Afghanistan. In After The Empire, Todd correctly argues that picking on weak countries reveals a great power in decline. To remain a credible global power, Obama needs to walk away from Afghanistan. That would be the policy of a genuinely strong President. Unfortunately, he isn't strong and it is likely that Obama will simply shift the ludicrous "war on terror" from Iraq to Afghanistan.