Friday, February 20, 2009

Land Wars In Asia

Here is the operational philosophy of the people who run the country, regardless of party, as it pertains to either "defending" or "furthering" "our interests". Of course 9/11 crystallized these precepts for the current decade, but they have always been there. It's just that this time around they've cost us dearly, and will continue to do so. It comes from thought patterns such as follows:

  • 2002 - We succeeded in routing the Taleban in Afghanistan after 9/11, therefore we should take the opportunity to ride into Baghdad and oust a noisome regime, for which the brutally oppressed populace will thank us and return to their suppressed democratic instincts. We must do it right away because our debauched intel shows that Saddam might have a couple remote-control planes that could technically buzz Tel Aviv or something.

  • 2004 - The Iraqis love our democracy-whiskey-sexy, they just don't know it yet. Inside every Iraqi is an American waiting to get out. Don't take their word for it, though.

  • 2006 - A sea of purple fingers and the hasty lynching of Saddam ensure that democracy is hustling in forthwith. Expect a Starbucks on every corner by July '07.

  • 2008 - The surge is working. The surge is working. You can tell by the way Iraqis have resumed normal lives and violence has ceased. The surge is working, dammit. We win.

  • 2009 - Now that we've won in Iraq, we can take the surge principles we learned -- which worked, mind you, and spectacularly at that -- and apply them directly to Afghanistan. Even though they are completely different places, with different people, customs, languages, and most importantly terrain and infrastructure, and even though, as you no doubt remember, we ousted the Taleban seven years ago, this can't possibly not work gloriously. Even though we really can't afford excursions like these anymore.

With deluded thinking like that perpetuating ad infinitum, even with the smart set acceding to the reins of power, the Afghan bailout has roughly the same chance of success as the American one. I suppose it depends on how one defines "success"; clearly, that word no longer means what I thought it meant.


The Vile Scribbler said...

I'll tell you what gives me a big ol' successful feeling in my pants - paragraphs like this!

With two missile strikes over the past week, the Obama administration has expanded the covert war run by the Central Intelligence Agency inside Pakistan, attacking a militant network seeking to topple the Pakistani government.

"Expanded", "war", "CIA", "Pakistan"...what could possibly go wrong?

The audacity of hope, indeed.

Heywood J. said...

Well, yeah, and how "covert" is it when they're discussing it in the New York Times? Yep, aside from making a bunch of noise about closing Guantanamo -- and really, good luck with that, but there are actually legal ramifications that must be dealt with in order to do so -- so far this has been pretty much "second verse, same as the first".

Obama is far more intelligent and cares more than Bush ever could, etc., which just makes it all the more galling that there hasn't really been a marked difference in approach thus far. Had Bush had another year, he too most likely would have set fire to piles of ceremonial money on the banks' doorsteps, and committed troops from the "success" of the Iraq surge to the future "success" of the Afghan surge.

Not to climb on the "honeymoon is over" bandwagon, but when you jump in to cover the bad bets, and it's still not enough for the bookies, they're still deserting the sinking ship, then the tough decisions to be made revolve more around the bookies than the reg'lar folk that are bailing them out. Nationalize the banks, take all that bonus money and give every citizen a fat check, and watch debt get paid down and consumerism ramp right back up.

Even that's a temporary fix, to be sure, but this is a fuckin' joke. If they want to stop the bleeding, maybe a 90-day moratorium on short-selling -- which has been driving this thing since last summer, starting with the ramp-up in oil futures -- is the place to start. Every 200- and 300-point gain over the past year has been followed up within a week by a huge sell-off. It's a pretty obvious pattern, and it's fueling this downward spiral.

At some point, the eating of banks is going to start overriding people's inclinations to pay down debt as well. If your mortgage is with Countrywide, which got eaten by BofA, which is about to get nationalized, why wouldn't you just ride the storm out and wait for nationalization and a retooling of rates and principles? The overvalued houses will never recoup their peak value, so there's no incentive to pay down underwater debt. Which means the waterline will have to be adjusted.

And to come full circle, back to our Great Game, the severe revenue shortfalls that will be a consequence of all this deckchair-shuffling will impact our force projection (after gutting services first, of course), especially in an essentially unwinnable struggle. Brezhnev's shade is giggling at us from hell right now, watching us chase shadows in and through Afghanistan.