- Feb 2010
Do you KNOW the history of Afghanistan and Iraq? Afghanistan was defined (by the Brits) as the territory beyond that crest line of hills they could not effectively control. They dominated the Indian subcontinent for nearly three hundred years, but they couldn't rule Afghanistan. The land is too harsh, the people too independent and hardy. And ruthless. Here's a line from a Kipling poem (and he served the Raj, so he should know):I am of the opinion that we should not have initiated full-scale invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq. That is, neither should have happened. Yet having done so, if we had put up to 1 million troops in each respective country for an indefinite period, if we had committed with every fiber of our being to clawing those countries back to stability, and most of all if we had not made the unforgivable mistake of trying to fight two optional wars at once, things would've turned out fine.
The Brits were really good at making places stable--stable enough to derive profit from and even move to--but Afghanistan is (literally) that place they couldn't be bothered to rule.The Young British Soldier said:When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.
As for Iraq, it was created by the Brits out of three provinces of the old Ottoman Empire, provinces that the Ottoman Turks ruled for hundreds of years. But even the Ottomans discovered that when the natives were restless, the best thing to do was....withdraw. Just disappear. Give them no one to fight against for a while.
Do these sound like places that can "turn out just fine" if you just apply enough pressure? The payoff isn't worth the cost, and the cost is enormous.
What won the West was murdering all the natives, driving a brand new invention called the "locomotive" across it and getting millions of immigrants and poor native-born Americans to move there and become farmers. It was worth it because the untapped continent they "won" was full of arable land, precious and useful minerals, and ranges for cattle. Have you looked at the topography of either Afghanistan or Iraq?Again, we're not talking about moral outrages, which are another matter. But this kind of longterm commitment is what won the West. We do not exactly have no experience doing it. We just didn't have the nerve, and with Afghanistan, the necons just got fucking bored and pulled troops out to prepare for another invasion.