News & Analysis
Abandon the Afghan Ship?
Why would Defense Secretary Robert Gates (left) want to retire? ... Robert Gates indicated in an interview published Monday that he plans to leave his job next year. ... Perhaps he would rather go before the budget fights get too nasty. It's true that in recent weeks, he has outlined proposed cuts in some areas, including a reduction in the number of generals and admirals. But at the same time, he is pushing for increases in other areas. He's a proponent of flat or increased military spending, overall. And that might be a tougher and tougher position to defend in the years ahead, as the US looks for places to trim back record deficit spending. – Christian Science Monitor
Dominant Social Theme: The war is going well; now is the time to leave command central?
Free-Market Analysis: Here at the Bell we regard the Afghan war as the most important conflict since World War II. We do not believe the Afghan war is merely one of convenience designed to initiate a long war that will destabilize Asia and thus China and Russia. If the Anglo-American axis wishes to intimidate Russia and China surely there are better ways to do it than to spend a trillion dollars on a failed war effort.
Likewise, we don't think the recent spate of Pentagon "big brass" defections and potential defections is in any way designed to manipulate public opinion. Gates' proposed resignation is just what it appears to be – a clever disappearing act at a time when the US military is about to come under increased pressure. General Stanley McChrystal's resignation-by-journalist was also likely a kind of bail-out in our opinion.
In fact, there is likely no meme to present at this point in time – no elite fear-based promotion at any rate. The story is what it appears to be. The various players at the very top seem to be designing ways to depart a sinking ship. And that leaves General David Petraeus in the hot seat. We have no idea why he took the job except that he is probably in too deep to back out and being a clever political player he's probably already figured out a personal departure story, if it gets to that. But it cannot be a pleasant time for Petraeus or generally for any of the Pentagon brass.
The Pentagon and its myriad corporate enablers are probably a few feet from hitting the wall now. Over the past decade the Pentagon has mislaid (admittedly!) trillions without being brought to account. But the US has spent itself into virtual bankruptcy and the days of wine and roses are probably gone for good, or at least for a long time.
But it is not just the budget that is probably bothering the top US brass. The war in Afghanistan especially has gone on and on. And because it has gone on for so long there is a backlog of significant events (unpleasant ones) that will likely see the light of day in this media age. The Pentagon has proven adept at controlling the mainstream media but the Internet is yet beyond such control. Even before WikiLeaks, there were signs that the war had stretched on too long and become too brutal. But the WikiLeaks exposures have taken things to a new level.
Of course it has been suggested (even here at the Bell) that there is something a bit odd about the whole WikiLeaks saga. An element of disinformation that seems somehow to inform some of the goings-on. But regardless of the background or the necessity for the powers-that-be to generate a WikiLeaks-like scenario, the release of so much information – video, textual or otherwise – has cast a not-too-positive light over the war and one that we would suggest is about to get worse.
The worsening is likely to come, as well, from the debut of various media presentations having to do with the death of the famous Afghan volunteer soldier and former football star Pat Tillman. Initially Tillman's death was said to have occurred as he rallied the troops to capture hilly terrain. But it later came out that he had been shot by his own troops. The army, including McChrystal himself, engaged in a long-term coverup of the events that has only gradually – and definitively – unraveled.
Now a book and movie are about to make their way into the public. Mary Tillman, Pat's mother, documents the cover-up by senior military officials in her book, "Boots on the Ground by Dusk: Searching for Answers in the Death of Pat Tillman." The book is being re-released (and will doubtless receive much more attention) alongside a documentary "The Tillman Story." The Tillman story is said to be a fairly explosive portrayal of the death of Tillman.
What comes across as regards all this media attention is that the top brass has existed in a kind of bubble made possible by the billions – trillions – available to the military industrial complex. But the public furor has been growing louder and sooner or later the bubble was bound to be popped. It has been our contention for the past few years that the Anglo-American axis and NATO are losing the war in Afghanistan. We think it is an ill-advised war and that its loss, if that occurs, will mark a kind of high-water mark for the military truculence that has marked the Anglo-American axis in the late 20th century and early 21st.
Certainly America, and to a lesser sense Britain, are beset by domestic turmoil and financial instability. Domestic troubles are magnified by the country's serial wars and the results may be eventually be deeply destabilizing. For those trying to divine the future from an investment standpoint, America's domestic and international stances have rarely seemed so troubled or uncertain. For those interested in what the future holds for a variety of non-investment professional and personal purposes, we would venture to say the crystal ball is not much clearer.
When it comes to the Afghan war, the future seems cloudy indeed. We are not sure that General Petraeus's plans will bring success We are not sure, given the continued media onslaught, that there is much remaining patience for the war throughout NATO or in America. Increasingly, the war seems to be waged against elements in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan and Hamid Karzai and his government remain a thin reed on which to rest hopes of victory or even a tolerable truce.
Conclusion: What is certainly true is that some of the war's biggest players are leaving the scene and we would expect there will be more to come. Are these significant in terms of the war effort? Do the defections have a larger import? We are not sure, but like the Taliban itself, the war remains a moving target.
Posted by Emil on 08/18/10 12:42 PM
There are two important issues in the Afghan conflict that have not been well publicized: economy, and infrastructure.
- Practically, if we want to win this war, we have to replace an economy driven by the poppy trade with a different economic foundation that is more attractive and productive.
- The replacement of the poppy trade is complicated by infrastructure: in most senses of the word, but especially in the sense of the educational infrastructure. Although I'm sure Afghan farmers are well educated in the poppy trade, and have probably elevated it to an art form, that knowledge does not translate to being capable in other fields.
I conclude that such a war would take at least one generation, if not two or three, to allow the brave people, not the elite mind you, of Afghanistan to cast off the shackles of the Taliban. The governmental structure of the US does not allow for such a sustained political effort, and so I am not optimistic about the outcome.
However, as we are engaged in combat I find it more helpful, to our warfighters, to understand what they are really fighting for, rather than recycle, rehash, and reiterate, all the reasons they cannot or should not succeed.
Reply from The Daily Bell
"However, as we are engaged in combat I find it more helpful, to our warfighters, to understand what they are really fighting for, rather than recycle, rehash, and reiterate, all the reasons they cannot or should not succeed."
And what exactly are they fighting for? To rebuild Afghanistan as a regulatory democracy?
Posted by Spectator on 08/18/10 11:19 AM
In the big picture, it is far more reasonable to place the US/UK/Israel axis as "the real villain." Who has actually been aggressive, invading, and threatening?
Posted by Tjalf Boris PrÃ¶ÃŸdorf on 08/18/10 06:14 AM
@Milton " "Shia buddies"
ahem, this is wrong on many leveIs, starting with the fact that quite a few (not all) of those Shia started as the US's "Shia buddies".
Then you seem to overlook that Iraq was not destabilized by Iran and "their Shia buddies" " they used not to have a prayer over there until 2003.
It is out of the question, that Saddam Hussein was an indefensible criminal and violent dictator " but the country was to all appearances stable " for what that may have been worth.
Even if one concedes that the removal of Saddam Hussein happened in good faith " open to questioning, it seems " no one can posit that the occupying powers have succeeded in keeping internecine strife on the relatively low level of Saddam's times. The fate of Iraq's Christians is but one striking example of the slew of horrors that was let loose by destroying the fabric of Iraqi society " however wellintentioned that may have been and however criminal and murderous Saddam's dictatorship may have been.
May the complete failure of the occupation in securing everyday life for seven consecutive years be a stark reminder as to why international law knew nothing of "humanitarion intervention" until very recently " well meant is not well done, the horrors of war risk to swiftly outweigh any other horrors that were used to justify the war.
If the US's intervention in Iraq now serves to enhance Iran's position in the region " how is one to call that? Poetic Injustice?
Posted by Knukles on 08/18/10 04:27 AM
Ah, the meme.
Declare Victory and go hometo triumphal accolades. Mission accomplished. Freedom and democracy restored, for the Afghani wounded and maimed, the remanants left, to lose.
But of course, history of the failure shall be redacted, ammended amd promulgated in a fashion across all Western participant's democratic propaganda efforts as the necessary, honorable defense of civilisation writ large.
Posted by John Edwards on 08/18/10 02:35 AM
If the Liberal/National Party win this months Federal election they will be more than happy to send as many Australian soldiers to die in Afghanistan as the US army/government wants. Australians love sending their own to die in agony in wars of Imperial aggression started by the Anglo-American axis of evil.
Tony Abbott can't wait to introduce some kind of 'National Service' that will basically obligate anyone between the ages of 17-45 to give up their lives for the government when it so pleases. No matter who is elected this Saturday Australia will evolve to a militarised/authoritarian society where only the lives of the ruling elite are worth anything to the system. The rest of us are just factory or cannon fodder.
The Australian political class are nothing less than a band of murdering scum who kill their own for sport. The level of unsolved murders and missing persons-presumed murdered is ticking up at a rate that reflects the lack of concern from our leaders and police.
Australia has always been a penal colony. Just another plaything for the English/Babylonian Pharaohnic royal family and their bankster financiers/government supporters.
Reply from The Daily Bell
Sorry to hear it.
Posted by Milton on 08/18/10 01:14 AM
Missing from thei discussion was the big villain in all of this-namely Iran. They are sitting and biding their time while we leave Iraq and then Afghanistan. We are in no position to attack Iran which will continue to destabilize Iraq through their Shia buddies.
When they have the big nuke they will control the Middle East and most of its oil. The US policy in the area can only be called chaotic because our politicans and generals have no idea what to do about any of it and we can't afford any more directionless messing around.
We will leave with our head between our tail and then the peaceful Muslims can fight their own internecine battles while our power elite figure out another useless, unnecessary, unwinnable and prolonged war to keep our minds occupied.
Posted by C N Mann on 08/17/10 08:53 PM
Sorry the link doesn't work???
Go here if you will: Click to view link
Posted by Cnmann on 08/17/10 08:25 PM
@ Jeannie Q's post:
amazing!,...I seem to be laughing and crying at the same time a lot lately. Much patently funny, serious stuff going on.
It seems to me that all this is heading to to some ugly ends.
'We The People' have one ace in the whole, if WE can get it in our hand, so to speak. That being the Sheriffs of the counties of all the "States". If WE are able to get 80% or more of them educated as to their true powers as the highest Law enforcement agents in their county, being elected officials of WE The People, and fully empowered and bound by oath to defend the Constitution and protect The People, against all enemies, from outside or within, then, WE have a chance, should it come down to a showdown.
I would direct you to:
Click to view link
A movement that deserves attention, IMO
Thanks to the choir for listening,
Posted by Jeannie Queenie on 08/17/10 01:06 PM
Cite: "Going to be an awful lot of angry citizens running around in front of the White House and the Capitol building screaming.
Yes, indeed, and we will also see Obama running and hollering, "a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse". But sadly, the only thing available will be all too many sorry asses. The wonder of it all, the appropriate democratic symbol!
Re: Afghanistan. How can you do 'nation building' when you have no nation, but have beaucoup tribes, each vehemently hating the other?
Recently I also heard an Iraqi interviewed. His remarks were so telling. "yes, you took out Saddam, but you have created a million more Saddams". Looks to me like this war could go on indefinitely giving us all the more reason to pull out yesterday.
Here in the States we have little protection when we are at our most vulnerable...most our troops are overseas, economy down, more foreclosures this year, commercial real estate tanking bigtime, and more folks losing jobs as small businesses learn that next year will severely test them with taxes they never dreamt of. The teacher's unions managed to 'get theirs' to the tune of billions.
While state's budgets are severely strained, we learn yesterday that South Dakota will pay all of its fat state employees to get stomach lipectomies to the tune of $24,000 for each fatty!! Lucky South Dakotans get to pony up for this joke and it isn't even April Fools day yet! The first 100 state employees who sign up get it done for free. This surely gives new meaning to 'trimming the fat'.
Only in this case, trimming the fat, actually adds to the fat of the state budget of South Dakota. Maybe they could lose it if they actually worked for OUR money and moved their bodies. Our forefathers must be jumping in their graves to know that we would ever pay for state workers to have fat surgically removed. Somehow this doesn't compute with the Constitution nor the Bill of Rights.
Worse, we have more troops committing suicide than being killed by the enemy. They would do more good by being here on our soil protecting us for it's obvious this administration has no desire to do that. Just looking south of the border we see a white house hamstringing Arizona, showing little interest in protecting 'we the people'. One can only hope that the governor of Arizona sticks to his guns..and while he is at it, hands out guns to everyone of his citizens. But even that could be taken away as we saw weeks ago when the Obama administration announced its support for the UN Small Arms Treay. This international agreement is a severe danger for freedom not just for the United States but globally as well.
The horrific part of making gun ownership outright illegal, is that law-abiding U.S. citizens couldn't keep and bear arms. When that happens I am heading to Home Click to view linkke Bill Ross says, time for 'pitchforks and torches'. Thank god for summer sales :)
Posted by Alan on 08/17/10 12:47 PM
Ah. The missing trillions from the Department of Defense. And billions missing from other departments such as HUD. Not a peep in the media. Comptroller at the time from 2001-2004 was Rabbi Dov Zakheim, neo- con and member of the PNAC who also signed the infamous August 2000 document calling for the USA to attack Afgahnistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria and NK.
I wonder how many of these top brass in the military read sites like Click to view link which regularly talk about the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty in 1967, Israel's connection to 9/11 and so much more. The noise from zionist elements to attack Iran is increasing but there must surely be a large element in the officer class of the US Army that is totally against this based on their knowledge of past and current events.
Oh, and whilst the Rabbi was comptroller the DOD very kindly wrote off lots of fighters and other equipment as "Excess to needs" and sold them for pennies to Israel.
Posted by Bill on 08/17/10 12:38 PM
I believe Gates is a hold over from the Bush/Cheney Dynasty and may be retiring to help the Republican branch of the Republicrat Party retake control. On the other hand Gates may just want to get away from the Stress and retire in peace. Finally Gates may see the futility of this war. Perhaps ALL of the Above is the correct answer.
Posted by Bill Ross on 08/17/10 11:48 AM
Investment advice: pitchforks and torches...
Posted by Grekko on 08/17/10 11:44 AM
Over the next year, the Fed's cover game of setting up straw men to buy US debt is going to end. The US has been broke for for the past ten years and the thin veil covering it up is wearing out to the point of transparency. Soon, nobody will touch our treasuries and then the game will be over.
The power bosses, like Baker and McCrystal, know this. Petraus' little fainting spell before Congress might have been planned as well. Dodd, amongst others, is leaving the Senate to retire. They know what is coming down the road, and they don't want to be around when it gets here. Let's face it, when the collapse does arrive, there are going to be an awful lot of angry citizens running around in front of the White House and the Capitol building screaming.
Posted by Biresh on 08/17/10 10:57 AM
The coalition of the willing is losing in Afghanistan. China and Pakistan are watching this. US military acumen appears to under scrutiny.
Posted by Puzzled on 08/17/10 08:17 AM
Are the pictures we see on TV of men asking "What will become of the Afghan's when America leaves? Is this real or are they just players in this expensive sad commedy? I'm sure there are some over there we are protecting, but for the most part "Don't they wish we were gone? Since they are protecting their homes/families all they need from us is guns/ammo, in reality. In truth that woud be less expensive! It's their war, let them fight it. Men can & will protect their homes! IE: USA original colonies!
Posted by Bill Ross on 08/17/10 07:52 AM
DB: "Do the defections have a larger import?"
You know that elites are playing the long game of control in a futile bid to achieve the inherently unstable and unwinnable game of "king of the hill". They KNOW that the "king" is in a very vulnerable position, subject to the retaliatory wrath of "we, the people", which is why ALL visible controllers are expendable pawns and never held to account by the law. I strongly believe elites KNOW they can never win and have known for a very long time. Rather, the elite position is to profit by the conflict of pitting group against group in terms of selling weapons, the farce of law, cheap labor from third world and extracting cheap resources from weakened (lack of civil society) regions.
To control is to destroy by virtue of reducing survival choices. To comply with control is to commit suicide for the same reason:
Click to view link
Elites KNOW that their current meme set has zero traction or hope of success. On present course, they totally lose. Since they are very creative psychopaths (not bound by any moral code that includes respect for humanity), they are searching for a game changer, an attention shifter, some sort of shock and awe (inevitably false flag) event to create implacable hatred for the alleged perps or, in general, terrorists whom are just provoked pawns, part of efforts to destabilize Eurasia and prevent Russian and China from becoming viable competition to western hegemony.
I suspect what is coming is a nuclear terrorist attack against the west with the alleged "terrorist" perps leaving an alleged nuclear procurement trail leading to either Russia or China, or both allegedly conspiring, if elites think they are able to take on both simultaneously. As to elite hesitation to nuclear pollute large regions of the planet, if they had issues, the west would not be using depleted uranium weapons.
The current set of ruling pawns (proxies) are stepping down to make room for new, less discredited players. Wikileaks info may just be a catalyst / pretext for this. Strongly suggest we STOP looking at these problems in terns of corrupt individuals with the false implication that better, less corrupt individuals will make any difference. The root problem is the system and law which coerces actions and provides opportunities to prey.
In other words, elites are re-arranging the game pieces in preparation for a whole new game, at a whole new level.
Posted by R M'Geddon on 08/17/10 06:20 AM
Latest reports are that there may be very large oil deposits in northern Afghanistan (bordering Turkmenistan particularly), as well as up to a $trillion worth of minerals. We shall see. But although some Afghans (eg Tajiks, Turkmens, Uzbeks etc) may in time learn how to operate a petro-&-resource based economy adequately, how well the Taliban-favouring Pashtuns will respond to this new opportunity is very hard to predict (either favourably or unfavourably). But the war has been managed ridiculously to my mind. Small groups of Allied troops have been required to hold out in small fortresses in isolated towns without any ethnic Afghan back-up – simply on Karzai's or his local (often very dubious) supporters' demand. Our troops should not be fighting where there are Taliban attacks 24/7 (as occurs in many places in southern Afghanistan's Helmand & Kandahar provinces), unless around a third or so of the troops there are Afghan nationals. If they Afghanis don't want to be in a hotspot, then why should our troops be there instead?
Posted by Clayton on 08/17/10 05:25 AM
With the economy lost, it should not come as much surprise that the War is lost also. As the failure of the PE mission becomes more widely known, what will evolve to fill the vacuum left in its wake? Here, a wide berth must be available to harbor all the speculation and anticipation, which is sure to arise.
The fiscal crisis the US faces is of the first order. The current center may not hold. The serious players in DC and NYC are very concerned at the moment with their inability to contain the Negative. Things are not getting better for the vast majority and this ongoing money suck in the Hindu Kush has become nearly meaningless to the average American.
The next leg down in the economy is going to take its toll on more than the "little" guys' balance sheet, it is going to stress to the limit the resources available for the grandiose schemes of our not-so-fearless leaders.