Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Being Left Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry

Many on the Left have been calling for the US to get out of Iraq, almost from the time we first entered Iraq. They have predicted all sorts of dire consequences; hundreds of thousands dead, a huge rebellion against American "occupation" by the Iraqi citizenry, etc. Well, what did these same people say about Afghanistan? From Front Page Magazine:

... what is the track record of those who want an immediate pull-out from Iraq in providing accurate analysis and timely advice? What would have happened, let’s say, if the US and its allies had followed their advice in October 2001, at the start of their campaign in Afghanistan?

Let’s start with Jason Burke, a British journalist who has made a name for himself by writing a book on Al-Qaeda. On October 21st 2001, one week after the start of Operation Enduring Freedom, he wrote an article for the Observer with the unequivocal title “Why this war will not work”. He made the following predictions:

· the foot soldiers of the Taliban will not be troubled by the forces ranged against them

· the people of Afghanistan will rally behind the Taliban

· the deployment of British and American special forces would lead to a mass uprising against the invaders, while tarring the Northern Alliance as western stooges

· an American invasion force would suffer a similar fate to the Soviet army during its decade-long occupation of Afghanistan.

His advice to the US government was to initiate negotiations with the Taliban during a bombing pause in which the fate of Bin Laden could be discussed along with the “root causes” of terrorism, namely “poverty, repression and skewed policies in the Middle East."

Two weeks later, as the bombing of Taliban ground forces intensified, Burke penned a further
article in which he ignored the doomed military campaign to focus instead on tales of “torture, treachery, and spies”, by which he meant US support for political opponents of the Taliban, such as Adbul Haq and Hamid Karzai. Noting that the Taliban had captured and hanged Haq, Burke made the following predictions:

Pakistan’s all-powerful Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) would ensure that the Taliban “aren’t faced by any serious internal or external threat” (sic), even if this meant disobeying the orders of president Musharraf;

Hamid Karzai and his followers would suffer the same fate Haq.

One week after publication of this article the Taliban had been swept from power by the Northern Alliance / US offensive, and shortly afterwards the Afghan opposition selected Hamid Karzai as the head of the interim government in Kabul.
A master of the art of understatement might say that Mr Burke, in retrospect, has been less than accurate in his predictions. A more pertinent observation would be that US strategists might have profited from reading Burke’s articles by following the maxim “believe the opposite of what he says, do the opposite of what he recommends.”

But it would be unfair to single out Burke for ridicule because his analysis was typical of the anti-American left during the initial phase of Operation Enduring Freedom. On November 2nd, 2001, the Guardian published an
editorial entitled “How not to win a war”, which confidently asserted that “If ever there was a new, Vietnam-style quagmire in the making, Afghanistan must surely be it.”

In addition to making dire predictions which failed to materialise, the Guardian described the Americans as being “trapped in a B-52 mind-set”, which reflects a common theme among supercilious Europeans resentful of US power. In this model of international relations, the US is a dumb giant which knows how to flex its muscles but lacks understanding of complex political realities and local cultures, resorting to brute force when more subtle methods are required.

In a lecture on October 30th, 2001, Professor Sir Michael Howard, the eminent military historian, said that fighting terrorism by bombing Afghanistan was like “trying to eradicate cancer with a blow torch” and had put Al-Qaeda in a “win-win situation”. His comments received wide coverage in the British press, but were based on a lamentable misunderstanding of US policy.
As Colin Powell had repeatedly stated in the fall of 2001, military action was just one element of the War on Terror, which would also be prosecuted through police work, intelligence sharing, cutting off sources of funding and – yes – diplomacy and coalition-building. The military campaign in Afghanistan was an essential and urgent action to remove the only regime in the world which was allowing its national territory to be used as a safe haven and training camp for Al-Qaeda. And as CNN terrorism expert Peter Bergen noted, the removal of this safe haven was a major blow against the terrorists.

Read the rest.