Sunday, April 04, 2010

Afghanistan and "our" foreign policy

Over at the Shared Sacrifice Facebook page, Gary posted an article detailing U.S. frustration with the Taliban's success in disrupting allied payoff schemes. 

I thought a lot about this, because in charting the course we've charted in the past two years, we independent, egalitarian progressives at Shared Sacrifice have been reserved in our recommendations, if not our judgments, concerning foreign policy, and even Afghanistan specifically.  But sometimes the "old left" conclusions are still the best ones. 

This is a situation where "we" the working people of the U.S. (and the world) have to separate ourselves, psychologically, politically, and rhetorically, from the ruling class. "Our" interests in Afghanistan must be made distinct from the interests of the ruling class. Some of those interests may converge and others will not. Most importantly, _we_ have to remember that we have more in common with the average citizens of Afghanistan than we have in common with our own ruling class. All of that thinking and remembering has to occur before we discuss what kind of policy options we should be pushing. For me, the conclusions point to military drawdown and massive development aid. I have zero sympathy for the fascistic elements in Afghanistan or elsewhere who use Islam as a tool of hatred, patriarchy and violence. I have zero sympathy for Karzai, the corrupt pointman in a network of drug dealing and gangsterism. But we need to remember that our ruling class is not above partnering murderous fundamentalists or drug-dealing gangsters if it suits them. All the more reason we have to chart an independent, egalitarian foreign policy vision that can inform our pragmatic political demands.

After thinking all that through, something else occurred to me.  It's typical of U.S. military policy to think that "winning hearts and minds" is equivalent to buying people off.  Not that resources are unimportant, obviously, but I am struck by the shallowness, the lack of real contextual thinking on the matter.  No wonder it's failing.

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