Britain the patsy, the poodle, the dumb ally

22 نومبر 2009
  Simon jenkins
Nobody dares call a spade a spade. Were sama bin Laden given to laughter, which I understand he is not, he would split his sides.
The suspense of Obama\\\'s \\\"decision\\\" on Afghanistan is acquiring epic proportions. It recalls the Delphic oracle\\\'s reply when Croesus asked if he should declare war on Persia. If he does, the oracle said, \\\"He will destroy a mighty empire\\\". It turned out to be his own.
We assume Obama favours withdrawal because, if he had thought more troops would defeat the Taliban, it was criminal not to have sent them a year ago. His decision has thus become a trial of strength between his view and the massed ranks of America\\\'s military/industrial complex, with its $1bn-a-day interest in the continuance of war.
If militarism wins and Obama commences a 10-year battle over the mountains and plains of Afghanistan, it will spell the end of
America\\\'s status as cold war victor and putative world policeman. The complex will have him trapped. The Taliban will have him cornered, as will Bin Laden. America\\\'s democratic leadership will have been pitted against American militarism - an informal component of the republic since the founding fathers - and will have capitulated. So will Britain\\\'s compliant party leaders as they continue to utter weekly banalities over the coffins of Wootton Bassett.
If, on the other hand, Obama takes courage in both hands and announces a withdrawal, by hook or by crook, next year, the impact will be dramatic. Enemies at home will declare that America\\\'s first black president has led his country to defeat. But the boil will have been lanced. Afghanistan and its patchwork of tribal chiefs, warlords and Taliban commanders will have to write \\\"the invaders\\\" out of their script. Karzai must cash in the deals of the past seven years. The Taliban, no longer a monolith, would forge pacts and coalitions, as they were doing prior to 2001. Terrible things will happen in many places but, as in Iraq, they were bound to happen from the moment the west intervened.
An American withdrawal would force Pakistan once again to be the power broker and guarantor of regional stability, albeit on new terms. The Pashtun would lose interest in their al-Qaida guests, who in turn would lose their anti-American rallying cry and seek sanctuary elsewhere. The region would regain an equilibrium it can never achieve under western occupation.
Britain and America should demilitarize the war on terror, surely the most counterproductive main-force deployment in recent history. They need no longer rely on grand armies, popinjay generals and crippling budgets; on bringing death, destruction and exile to hundreds of thousands of foreigners in the faint belief that this might stop a few bombs going off back home. They would hand that job to the appropriate authorities; to the police and security services.
The modalities of withdrawal need obvious attention. Only idiots talk of leaving \\\"overnight\\\", but only idiots make departure conditional on some unachievable objective, such as more European troops or an operational Afghan army or honesty in Kabul. Defeat must be spun as victory. Retreat must be covered by the smokescreen of a loya jirga or \\\"surge, bribe and leave\\\". But it cannot be conditional on fantasy.
This war was never to be won, any more than that in Iraq. Both were neocon nation-building stunts that ran amok on too much money. Three million Iraqis, including almost all Iraq\\\'s Christians, were driven into exile. The same is starting in Afghanistan and will become a flood as NATO retreats. That nation\\\'s agony is not over yet, but the end cannot begin until the invaders depart. That will happen only when the pain outweighs the pride. The question is, how many corpses will that take?
(Courtesy The Guardian)