My comment this a.m. at Bruce McQuain’s blog:
In the nation state sense, what Gertrude Stein said about Oakland, California, is true about Afghanistan, â€œthere is no there there.â€ That, however, is what makes Afghanistan so dangerous geopolitically, a mere group of Islamic fundamentalist thugs like the Taliban can come in and run the place as al Qaedaâ€™s olive oil company (a reference to the Corleone familyâ€™s legit business).
So, if a gang of thugs can take over, what is the problem for the U.S.? First, the U.S. is not a gang of thugs. It doesnâ€™t go about its business by terrorizing the population via beheadings and killing women.
So, Afghanistan is, like American television, a vast wasteland, punctuated with earthy settlements and population centers, wrapped in Islam, sometimes. All political alignments are, ahâ€¦experimental. What helps you today could get you tortured or killed tomorrow.
Whatâ€™s the strategic value of Afghanistan to the U.S.? First, itâ€™s the negative value of not being a positive haven for terrorists. The theory follows that you first throw out the terrorists and then leave a functioning civil society in place with a monopoly on violence that prevents the terrorists from re-establishing themselves. Thatâ€™s where the â€œno there thereâ€ problem comes in. Afghanistan is the land-locked lot that is never developed. The Americans show up in some locale, make friends, come back the next week and itâ€™s, â€œwho are you again?â€ Meanwhile, glaring out of the nearby cave are the illuminated cat-like eyes of the guy who cuts heads off. â€œWe donâ€™t really know you,â€ the locals say to the Yankees.
So, thatâ€™s The Road, and itâ€™s a long, dusty and dangerous one. And you can mostly forget about the Karzai clown show in Kabul, probably even in Kabul. Everyone in that sort of situation is wondering about where they can go a year or two from now because the Big American wants out.
Then thereâ€™s the more positive strategic value of Afghanistan: itâ€™s a great place to kill off the most violent jihadist demographic, which will want to be there in force if thereâ€™s a chance that the Big American can be defeated.
For the cultural and genetic nexus at which the truly violent world jihadist demographic meets, let them come to Afghanistan. Tag them, watch them, kill them in bunches large and small. If it is true that they love death more than we love life, then by all means accomodate them with extreme prejudice in the â€œno there thereâ€ place.
Naturally, the U.S. is foreclosed from stating the latter as policy. It wasnâ€™t a stated policy in Iraq, either, but when the military records of the counterterrorism phase there are combed through by military historians, that killing field element is going to emerge, sure as shit. We got into position for the Surge and counterinsurgency with a lot of good hard killing.
Is Afghanistan ever going to have a â€œthere thereâ€ as a nation state? Hard to say. Scotlandâ€™s clans were tamed. So anything is possible.