Everyone is shocked — shocked! — that the indiscretions of Gen. Stanley McChrystal failed to provoke a general reevaluation of our course in Afghanistan, rather than merely a review of who’s in charge of it. I find this shocking.
After all, as I recall, Obama ran on ramping up the war on the Afghan front, and even threatened to invade Pakistan, two campaign promises he has kept. Furthermore, he is committed to prosecuting the war in Afghanistan and now Pakistan on a scale that even the nuttiest neocons never dared suggest, a u201Cnation-buildingu201D project that is nothing less than the construction of a US colony, or satrapy, from scratch. McChrystal went into Afghanistan declaring he was ready to roll out a u201Cgovernment in a box,u201D i.e., a puppet regime such as the Japanese set up in Manchuko in 1931. This is the CNAS-Obama-ite u201Cnational securityu201D doctrine in action: pretending to be the Viet Cong while reenacting every mistake the US ever made in Vietnam, starting with getting involved to begin with.
This idea that the Obama-ites are really peaceniks in disguise, who have to hide their u201Ctrueu201D beliefs in order to pass electoral muster, is a myth woven by Fox News and the neocon Right: he and his Pentagon are no such thing. Indeed, they are even more serious — albeit not as visibly enthusiastic — about projecting American military power globally than their predecessors in the White House. If the Bushians left behind the doctrine of preemption as their geopolitical and military legacy, then the contribution of the current crew appears to be the u201Cnewu201D COIN (or counterinsurgency) doctrine developed by the Obama White House in tandem with the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) — the semi-official Obama-ite national security think-tank, whose cadre oversee the Pentagon policy shop.
The indiscretions of Big Mouth McChrystal are only the latest and the least of the u201CCOIN-dinistasu201D problems. Their neo-Maoist u201Clive and fight among the peopleu201D doctrine is failing big time in the field, and they are falling back on the u201Crevolution betrayedu201D explanation for the inability of their new-fangled counterinsurgency strategy to turn the tide against the Taliban. Like their neoconservative predecessors in the Bush administration, this crew is retreating behind the alleged lack of support coming from Congress and the civilians in charge of the war effort. Just in time for the debate in Congress over re-funding the war.
As in the Bush administration, so in the age of Obama: the u201Cantiwaru201D Democrats will make a lot of noise and then cave, in the end: bribery works every time. Their u201Cantiwaru201D stance is just a bargaining chip: what they really care about is how much lard they’ll be allowed to pack into the legislation.
The outing of McChrystal as a lout and a loudmouth is not a very big deal except to those Washington insiders who like to play the game. All this brouhaha over personalities is just a smokescreen so as to avoid the real issue: what in the name of all that’s holy are we doing in Afghanistan, not to mention Pakistan?
The administration insists they’re out to get Osama bin Laden and his gang, but when asked by Jack Tapper on ABC on Sunday if there’s any new intelligence on bin Laden’s whereabouts, CIA Director Leon Panetta admitted — in an offhand, almost carefree manner — that they hadn’t been on his trail since 2001, when he slipped away at Tora Bora.
What COIN is all about is nation-building: if the Afghans can be won over to a government that provides them with both physical and legal infrastructure, the Taliban can be bypassed and made irrelevant as the lives of the people improve. u201CClear, hold, and build,u201D or so the COIN-dinista aphorism goes. Yet what, precisely, are we building over there? Surely not an independent state: our obstreperous client, u201Cpresidentu201D Hamid Karzai, is little more than the mayor of Kabul — and that’s on a good day. On most days his authority barely extends outside the presidential palace.
Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.