A Roadmap to Folly in Afghanistan
The Arrogance of Ignorance
By FRANKLIN C. SPINNEY
Nisos Kos, Greece
A report by Jonathan Landay and Dion Nissenbaum for McClatchy Newspapers provides important insights into our rapidly diminishing prospects for success in Afghanistan, some direct, others inferential:
First, the direct: the Qandahar operation that General McChrystal began trumpeting in late February is clearly going wobbly before it begins. The promise to demonstrate progress (i.e., to see light at the end of the tunnel) in Afghanistan by this summer is being bow-waved at least into the Fall, during the height of mid-term election season. The scope of the looming operation is also being scaled back, and its goals are being redefined in more ambiguous terms.
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That the leaders in the United States military believe they can construct a successful strategy based on the premise that outsiders like themselves will be able to manipulate Pashtun leaders like puppets descends into transparent absurdity, when one juxaposes McChrystal’s ambition to the fact, well known among Pashtuns if not Americans, that the United States has contributed directly or indirectly to the murderous horror that has been Afghanistan since 1979.
The American complicity in this horror goes back at least to 1979, when the US National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, established the policy of inflaming Islamic fundamentalists (via the CIA) to destabilize Afghanistan in the hope that the threat of fundamentalist instability on Soviet Union’s vulnerable Central Asian flank would induce the Soviets to invade Afghanistan. Brzezinski’s aim was seduce the Soviets into entrapping themselves in their own Vietnam-like quagmire. The plan worked like a charm, as Brzezinski proudly admitted in a still little appreciated interview in the influential Parisian news magazine, Le Nouvel Observateur (15-21 January 1998, translation
Now, ten years and a lot of stirring later, the details of the script may have changed, but the arrogance of the ignorance shaping the outlook of our leaders has not.
here). When asked if he had any regrets, Brzesinski dismissed the question in a tone that dripped with condescension, “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?” [see the last two paragraphs of the interview]