Thursday, April 09, 2009

Tunnelling in Afghanistan

After increasing U.S. combat troops in Vietnam in July of 1965, Johnson expressed doubts that he had done the right thing. "Light at the end of the tunnel?" he told his press secretary, Bill Moyers. "We don't even have a tunnel; we don't even know where the tunnel is."--Robert Dalleck

Hopes for the "Afghanification" of the struggle against the Taliban insurgency are dimming, according to an article in yesterday's New York Times. Rampant corruption from top to bottom in the Western-backed Karzai government is strengthening the Taliban's moral authority. Every time a shingle is added to the gimcrack, ramshackle governance structure that we're propping up, another door falls off its hinges.

Many soldiers question whether anything will ever change. “The corruption here is a bigger threat to a stable government than the Taliban,” said First Sgt. John Strain, the senior noncommissioned officer on the American unit training the Ghazni police.

“If we stay here another year, or another 50 years, I think it’ll probably only take two to three years after we are gone until it reverts to the way it was right before we got here,” he added. “To have to admit that when you look at these kids,” he said, referring to Afghanistan’s children, “it really breaks your heart, to think that what you are doing is probably not going to turn out to be a hill of beans.”

Besides the inevitable support for the cause from milbloggers who have a stake in the mission, an ever-decreasing number of gung-ho civilian apologists for the doomed cause, like Terry Glavin and the vulgar puppet show known as the "Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee," are grasping at fewer and fewer straws.

A full year ago, the signs of the Talibanification of the Karzai regime were already becoming apparent. In fact, when it comes to the judiciary, the rot set in well before that. Then, more recently, came a law that apparently applies to only one section of the population, but puts women in their mediaeval place.

At this point Glavin and others went into full-bore denial. First, is there really such a law? Secondly, if there is one, it's contrary to the Afghan Constitution and will never stand. And then: Hamid Karzai, if he really got behind this law, has signed his electoral death-warrant, because he (Glavin) has talked to folks in Kabul, and they're angry. Or maybe, as another hawk suggests, he didn't read what he was signing.

Yeah, I know, I know. I'll give everyone a moment to recover.


The Constitution, upon which Glavin and others so desperately pin their hopes, establishes "the beliefs and provisions of Islam" as paramount. I'm no Afghan constitutional lawyer, but I think it's fair to suspect that the provision that calls for the equality of women, in the hands of an Islamist judiciary, will be trumped by the former. And secondly, Karzai is facing election: far from signing his death-warrant, he's trolling for votes.

In any case, for what they're worth, my predictions (unless NATO squeezes Karzai into renunciation of the law, not merely a delayed "review" of it): 1) the text of the law, whose existence, amazingly, is doubted in some quarters, will come to light; 2) it'll pass, and the Supreme Court will uphold it, the Constitution be damned; and 3) Karzai will win his election later this year, which was, pace Glavin, the whole point all along.

Nope, makes no difference, say the hawks. Push on, knee-deep in the Big Muddy though we are. We'll turn the corner, we'll find that light at the end of the tunnel, slow and steady wins the race.

"We," of course, including soldiers who will die fighting for our Taliban versus the other Taliban. Unless we call a halt to this madness, and support our troops by bringing them home.

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