BAGRAM, Afghanistan — No more than 200 yards from the main gate of the sprawling U.S. base here, stolen computer drives containing classified military assessments of enemy targets, names of corrupt Afghan officials and descriptions of American defenses are on sale in the local bazaar.
Shop owners at the bazaar say Afghan cleaners, garbage collectors and other workers from the base arrive each day offering purloined goods, including knives, watches, refrigerators, packets of Viagra and flash memory drives taken from military laptops. The drives, smaller than a pack of chewing gum, are sold as used equipment.
This is like the free market bazaar version of the Pentagon Papers.
A reporter recently obtained several drives at the bazaar that contained documents marked "Secret." The contents included documents that were potentially embarrassing to Pakistan, a U.S. ally, presentations that named suspected militants targeted for "kill or capture" and discussions of U.S. efforts to "remove" or "marginalize" Afghan government officials whom the military considered "problem makers."
Anyone home at the Pentagon? Hello?
I saw reporter Christian Parenti of The Nation (which is far to the left of ParaPundit) interviewed and he said that US troops in Afghanistan now suffer as much casualties as US troops in Iraq proportionate to the number of soldiers in each place. He also said that elements of the Pakistani government still support the Taliban and that Afghanistan is getting worse.
I'm also coming across an increasing number of stories about Middle Eastern governments deciding that the Bush Administration has run out of steam and the US demands for democratization can be ignored.
Analysts and officials say the political rise of Islamists, the chaos in Iraq, the newfound Shiite power in Iraq with its implication for growing Iranian influence, and the sense among some rulers that they can wait out the end of the Bush administration have put the brakes on democratization.
"It feels like everything is going back to the bad old days, as if we never went through any changes at all," said Sulaiman al-Hattlan, editor in chief of Forbes Arabia and a prominent Saudi columnist and advocate. "Everyone is convinced now that there was no serious or genuine belief in change from the governments. It was just a reaction to pressure by the international media and the U.S."
Bush shot his wad in Iraq and over-extended the US. He put us in a position that made us look less powerful. If he had just overthrown the Taliban and then just threatened other governments the threat would be more terrifying than the actuality of seeing the limits of US power in Iraq.
According to this theory, President George W. Bush is an "aberration," a leader out of sync with his nation's character and no more than a brief nightmare for those who oppose the creation of an "American Middle East." Messrs. Abbasi and Ahmadinejad have concluded that there will be no helicopter as long as George W. Bush is in the White House. But they believe that whoever succeeds him, Democrat or Republican, will revive the helicopter image to extricate the U.S. from a complex situation that few Americans appear to understand.
Mr. Ahmadinejad's defiant rhetoric is based on a strategy known in Middle Eastern capitals as "waiting Bush out." "We are sure the U.S. will return to saner policies," says Manuchehr Motakki, Iran's new Foreign Minister.
Some hawks argue this is a reason to stay the course and keep fighting in Iraq. They think a US withdrawal will only embolden terrorists and Islamists. Bush has put us in a position where the insurgency fights mostly because we are there. So the United States fight just to prove that we won't leave and won't give up.
The argument is plausible because Bin Laden saw the US withdrawals from Beirut and Mogadishu as signs the US won't take many casualties before giving up and that the US is decadent and on the decline. Well, we are on the decline, though not due to decadence. We are on the decline for demographic reasons (dumb immigrants, smart people having too few children). But the political debates in the Middle East among Islamists and among America's elite in Washington DC has become too untethered from reality for such observations to carry much weight.
I keep coming back to a basic idea: If the Muslims are so dangerous that we should be extremely concerned at what they think of us then keep them out of the West. If their oil cash makes them even more dangerous then launch a huge effort to obsolesce oil. The Iraq war seems an extremely costly, inefficient, and counter-productive way to prove to the Muslims that they shouldn't try to kill us.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2006 April 10 09:50 PM Elites Betrayal And Incompetence|