Some folks seem to be under the impression that the Taliban and al-Qaeda are synonymous. That cannot be further from the truth! The Taliban are Afghan natives, and the members of al-Qaeda are insurgents of various national or cultural stripes. The United States should not be warring against the Taliban; rather, it should diplomatically support the Afghan government to control the cities in the southern and eastern regions so that al-Qaeda will not be able to find succor in those areas.
The sending of more troops to Afghanistan sustains an old policy that historically made little sense and continues to be foolhardy. The United States seeks to be deterministic in world affairs, and the control of the Afghan government has become the goal, it seems, rather than rooting out al-Qaeda and making sure that group does not wreak havoc upon Afghans and others in the area and among our allies. There is much confusion over what to do in the Obama Administration, and this kind of inept handling of complex issues harks back to our involvement in Vietnam.
There is something to be said about participating in conflicts from civil to international wars. What role should the United States play in helping a nation deal with internal strife or supporting one nation against another? When conflicts affect our national security directly, we certainly should be about the business of resolving the crises. However, when the linkages are not that distinct, then we have to evaluate thoroughly whether or not involvement by the United States can be singularly addressed diplomatically and without military utilization. We have such a long history of depending on the military-industrial complex to keep our economy going, and that easy reliance has a way of presaging what we will do in foreign affairs. This fallacious reasoning assails our attending to what is necessary and encourages our nation to continue disproportionately to be amassing arsenals of weapons of mass destruction, to find theaters of war to use them, and to export them while deepening our national debt.
The United States and its allies have done a fine job of disrespecting President Hamid Karzai and trying to make him a puppet of Western hegemony. The people of Afghanistan have shown signs of growing disapproval of our relations with their president, and this feeling, if not fixed, can only lead to the intensification of any disaffection with our presence there. After all, we are occupiers, in a very real sense—believing that the tragedy of September 11, 2001, justifies any military escapade in which we engage.
The U.S. population must express its belief that the people of Afghanistan ought to solve their own problems. We cannot police the whole world! Besides, our oxymoronic “war on terror” is diversionary, at best, for what was required after 9/11 was certainly not declared warfare—whether it’d be in Iraq or Afghanistan—but expert police and intelligence action to thwart any future attempts at symbolic humiliation.
The hope many had for the new Obama Administration was that the failed and feckless policies of the President Bush and his cronies would be superseded by a significantly more thoughtful and effective approach. That some of the same people are surrounding Obama as surrounded Bush is far from consoling. Their hopes are not completely dashed, but how can they be realized when that tired, old adage remains true: “The more things change, the more they stay the same”?