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Yes, Afghanistan. You may be shocked to learn that the U.S. has nearly 30,000 troops there. That's one quarter of the Iraq force. The only thing is, we barely ever hear about them until, like last week, we hear that president Bush extended the tour of duty for about 4,000 of nice of him. Could anything be more demoralizing that believing you are on your way home from risking your life in one of the most forbidding places on earth, and then finding out you have another six months there? There's nobody to appeal to, because The President has decreed it.

The only other time we hear about what's going on in Afghanistan is when we hear that someone was killed. Other than that, the media is pretty much mum. Maybe that's because we are keeping things so secret that nothing leaks out, maybe that's because nothing materially good is happening. Either way, I've got some food for president Bush to think about:

"Never get involved in a land war in Asia." --Anon

Campaigns into Asia have been the ruin of military commanders since Alexander the Great. And when we get to Afghanistan itself, the history of conquest is even more dismal for invading armies. That particular piece of land has been invaded, conquered, looted, bombed and occupied by every imperialist force that has ever risen to power; the list includes (at least) the Macedonians, the Romans, the British, the Soviets, and now the U.S. And, guess what, no one has EVER been able to hold it.

The people there, the Afghans and Pashtuns, have a culture and legal system that has changed little in 1,000 years. They are proud, fierce, and independent. Almost everyone in the country, from the oldest, to the youngest, can probably tell you of a family member or friend that was killed by some army or military action on their soil. Someone who is 30 years old can now remember at least two occupying forces; one had a hammer and sickle, one has stars and stripes. Do you think the flag makes a difference to the Afghans? No. Getting bombed and living in daily fear of apocalypse is old hack to these folks. We can't scare 'em any more.

Furthermore, the ones we are trying to get to, the Pashtuns among whom bin Laden is supposedly hiding, live in the harshest environment on earth in which man can live. I'm talking about the foot hills of the Himalayas, known as the Hindu Kush mountains. These people have lived among these mountains since before history, and they know them like you know the streets of the city where you live, and probably better. This is perhaps the worst place to conduct a military operation in the world. Luckily, the U.S. has the technology to swoop in and destroy, then move out. But, the Pashtuns have the ability to stay there for as long as they need to and you better believe it, they will. One U.S. Lieutenant once said of chasing the Apache Indians in the American Southwest using his regiment of soldiers, "It is like hunting deer with a marching band."I think the same analogy could apply here.

Try as we might, we will never be able to lodge a sustained, effective ground campaign there. The soil is too forbidding, the enemy too elusive. The most we can hope is to keep forces there and monitor the area for signs of al Qaeda activity, and be ready to respond. This, however, is one degree away from occupation.

So, what am I saying? I'm saying that the book entitled Military Morasses begins with a chapter on Afghanistan, and while the public is calling for a removal of troops from Iraq, we've still got about 30,000 of them stuck in Afghanistan, and it doesn't look like those ones are coming home any time soon either. What makes me wonder is why we don't hear the same clamoring for removal of the Afghan fighting force? Is it because that is Al Qaeda's supposed hide-out? Is it because the public feels more justified in having troops there? Is it because there are fewer troops there?

The reality is, the U.S. and the entire, non-Muslim West faces a variety of threats from all over the world. It would be great if we could leave battalions of troops in every country to monitor and seek out potential terrorists, but we can't. And waging costly and unpopular foreign wars isn't going to work either. What we can do, what I hope we do, is strengthen our borders and our security at home, and increase our cooperation with foreign governments and foreign police forces. We need to find the other people out there who want to put a stop to this and work with them, not pick a country and blow it up. This is the only route to our objectives; a safer America and a safer world.


Anonymous said…
if i could quote a saying from Micky Dolenz, 'love makes the world go round'. why is that relavent to this afghanistan article?? because that is the key to victory, love. we dont need to send soldiers there, we need to send women. they dont have to be smart or even half way attractive, but ones that will do some loving for these citizens in the middle east. there are countless women here in the states reproducing haphazardly not adding anything to our society except unparented children or shall we say derelicts, which historically add to more teenage pregnancies, drug use, and violence. kill two birds with one stone, get rid of these women and settle the violence with love. its a win win situation.

the cuz
seth paine said…
good one, don't know if we just want to bomb all of them and beat the country down though. I certainly feel more comfortable with our troops in afgan probably because i feel that the real bad people are in those mountains going into pakistan... i guess. But, i love the way these pieces of yours are going... nice quotes as well.

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