When I was a boy, a common sales technique was for a local store to advertise a deep-discount special that would pull lots of shoppers into its showroom. Shoppers would be met by a salesman who was trained to sell them an upscale model of the product, which cost substantially more. Shoppers would be told that the product was "out of stock due to high demand." This marketing technique relied on highly skilled salesmen. The mark of bait-and-switch selling is an inventory that never has the promised item.
(Note: When you think "out of stock due to high demand," think "Osama bin Laden.")
The Federal Trade Commission long ago made this sales technique illegal. So did most states. But it still goes on. On the Web, you can read about fabulous prices for certain items. You place the order. They promise to send it out that day. But you will get a call-back trying to up-sell you on some high-priced related item that you never asked for, and which was never mentioned in the ad. If you resist, you will finally be told that the item is out of stock and won't be back in stock for weeks. A twenty-something hustler tried this strategy on me this summer with a $595 price on a $750 camcorder. When I refused to buy a $15 battery charger for $120, the camcorder that had been in stock (which I had twice asked him to verify) disappeared from stock a week later.
This sales technique is immoral — fraudulent — and it's also illegal. But it's only illegal for businesses. It is a way of life in democratic politics everywhere.
The technique over the last two months has been used to establish a new government in Afghanistan. The United States, as of this week, has officially joined with the United Nations in a joint nation-building operation.
We have seen all this many times. Let me review, briefly, how this bait-and-switch technique works in American foreign policy. Remember this: "War is foreign policy conducted by other means" (Clausewitz).
Getting Us Into War
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ran for his second term on this political platform: "He kept us out of war." He won the election, but just barely. The campaign slogan was fraudulent from the beginning. From 1915 onward, he had been re-shaping American foreign policy in order to get America into the war on the side of the British, a goal that he achieved in 1917. His Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, had resigned in 1915 in protest to Wilson's phony neutrality program. This was the highest-level resignation in American history, before or since. (The best book on Wilson's strategy is Charles C. Tansill's America Goes to War .)
Wilson's ultimate goal was to set up a post-war League of Nations: the first stage in the creation of a world government. Had the Senate not refused to ratify the treaty, he would have pulled it off.
I came across a key document a few years ago, a letter from the American Under-Secretary of the League of Nations, Raymond Fosdick, which he sent to his wife in July 1919. Fosdick told her that he and France's Under-Secretary, Jean Monnet, were working daily to lay the foundations of "the framework of international government. . . ." (Fosdick to his wife: July 31, 1919; in Fosdick, ed., Letters on the League of Nations [Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1966], p. 18.) This was no idle boast. Over the next six decades, Jean Monnet became the driving force behind the creation of the European Common Market and the New European order. Meanwhile, after the Senate refused to ratify the Versaille peace treaty treaty in 1919, Fosdick returned to New York, where he became John D. Rockefeller, Jr.'s lawyer. He ran the Rockefeller Foundation for the next three decades. He had been on Rockefeller's payroll since 1913. He became a founding member in 1921, along with Rockefeller, of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Fast forward two decades. In 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt ran for an unprecedented third term. He ran on a platform of neutrality toward the war in Europe. "I abhor war," he said. "My wife Eleanor abhors war. I will not send American boys to war." But he had already promised Churchill that he would bring America into the war. He then established restrictive trade policies that pressured Japan to attack us. (The best book on this is Tansill's Back Door to War . Robert Stinnett's Day of Deceit  is also good.) Hitler accommodated him by declaring war on the US on December 11, which was the worst foreign policy decision in modern history.
The anti-Axis allied nations during the war called their alliance "the United Nations." In a classic bait-and-switch operation, the foreign policy internationalists took this name in 1945, added the word Organization, and attached it to the replacement of the failed League of Nations. America's Alger Hiss was elected as the first Secretary General of the UN in 1945. He had been a Soviet spy ever since his days in the Department of Agriculture, a member of the "Ware cell," the Communists' first spy ring inside the U.S. government. By 1945, he was a senior official in the State Department.
There is an old rule in football: when you have a play that works, keep using it until it doesn't work any more. Bait-and-switch in foreign policy keeps working. So, they keep using it.
Alice Through the Looking Glass: www.whitehouse.gov
The President is quoted all over the Web in a September 25 speech as saying, "We're not into nation-building, we're into justice." (I used Google and searched for: Bush, nation-building, justice.)
I wanted to verify this speech. I failed. This speech has gone down the White House's memory hole. It's a very big hole.
The White House Web site is a masterpiece of keeping voters away from anything really important that the President has said or done. Let me explain.
If you click on the Home Page, "President: Oval Office," you get a search engine for his speeches. There are choices of topics. Terrific! I selected "Foreign Policy." Here is what I got: a September 28 speech delivered to the King of Jordan. The next one down is a May 29 speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.
At the top of the page, we read this: "23 results found, sorted by relevance." Sorted by relevance? Hey, guys: America went to war in between these two speeches! There is not one speech on this list later than June.
Well, maybe there is a list of speeches under "Military Affairs." Sorry: no such category. Nothing on the military. But you can select "Faith-Based & Community Initiatives."
Then I spotted an option at the bottom of the page of ten foreign policy speeches. It's not in the topical search's options list: "Policies>Defense." I clicked it. I got 116 speeches, beginning with January 20. Then I selected "Sort by Date." At the top of the screen was a September 26 speech, "President Commends House for Passing Defense Bill." It is six lines long. Next: "U.S., China to Discuss Missile Defense." The date on that is September 5. Odd. I recall several speeches in between September 5 and September 26. There was this problem on September 11. Oh, well.
This site was apparently designed by a disciple of Lewis Carroll: "Alice Through the Looking Glass."
I used the Home Page's general search engine to find the words "nation-building" and "justice." The search engine retrieved dozens of speeches, but not the September 25 speech. I spent an hour looking for it. Gone! Or maybe never posted. Or lost. (On Clinton's site, I could always find any speech I was looking for.) I finally found it through Google by tracing it down to a Q&A session after a Rose Garden meeting with Japan's Prime Minister. It is posted on the Website of the Department of State.
I did stumble onto this. Write this down. Keep it in your scrapbook.
The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. (Remarks by the President at Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. [Sept. 17, 2001])
Note for historically inclined: the word "Islam" means submission.
Nation-Building Is Us!
Back to this theme: "We're not into nation-building." On September 27, James Pinkerton, who made famous the phrase, "a new paradigm," commented on the origin of Bush's public commitment not to build nations.
In the 2000 presidential debates, George W. Bush repeatedly ripped the Clinton-Gore foreign policy record. In Boston on Oct. 3, he declared that he and Al Gore "have a disagreement about the use of troops. He believes in nation-building." And what was Bush for instead? "I believe the role of the military is to fight and win war and, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place." And so, he continued, his focus wouldn't be nation-building but rather "rebuilding the military power."
Mr. Pinkerton has a very different vision — the same vision that President Bush, Sr. called the New World Order back in 1990, as we were getting ready to attack Iraq's troops. Mr. Pinkerton worked in the White House back then, and in the Reagan Administration, too. Mr. Pinkerton spells out his vision, brought up to date.
Soon, the Americans will go and get Bin Laden. As Bush said, "We're focused on justice." But what happens after that? Does the US simply collect Bin Laden, "dead or alive," as Bush said on Sept. 17, and come home?
If ever a nation needed building, it's Afghanistan. Its 26 million people — literacy rate, 32% — eke out a subsistence living; a country the size of Texas has just 1,700 miles of paved roads. And that's not just a humanitarian problem for Afghans; it's a national security problem for Americans because even after Bin Laden is gone, the same chaotic countryside could yet again serve as an enterprise zone for mass murderers.
If the US takes military action against Afghanistan and then comes home, it would be making the same mistake it made after World War I. In 1918, the U.S. spearheaded the defeat of the Kaiser's Germany at a cost of 116,516 American lives. But we stopped at the Rhine frontier, told the Germans not to do it again and retreated back across the Atlantic. Fifteen years later, the Germans elected Hitler.
By contrast, in 1945, the US won a second, more costly war against Germany, but this time, instead of stopping at the Rhine and telling the Germans to get rid of Hitler, the Allies occupied much of the country. As Secretary of State George C. Marshall warned, "Europe's requirements are so much greater than her present ability to pay that she must have substantial additional help or face economic, social and political deterioration of a very grave character."
Resolved to see no repeat of political deterioration, the U.S. combined justice — that is, the Nuremberg war-crimes trials — with nation-building and rebuilding; the Marshall Plan poured $13.3 billion into devastated Europe, about 1.3% of U.S. output during those years. If that level of commitment were converted into today's dollars, the total expenditure would be about $150 billion.
But the ultimate reward, of course, has been a mostly democratic and prosperous Europe that is now partnered with the U.S. in the fight against terrorism.
After Bin Laden, the US confronts the opportunity — really, the necessity — of building stable institutions in Afghanistan. Will it be expensive? Yes. But will it be less costly than another Sept. 11? Yes again.
Today, Bush is more than a partisan, or even a president. He's a war leader, and so he needn't feel bound by the shortsightedly opportunistic rhetoric recently uttered by Republicans — even if he was once the one doing some of the uttering.
If this commander in chief comes to realize that justice and nation-building aren't either-or concepts but rather ideas that should be twinned, he will have done the whole world a service and a greater common good will yet come from this tragedy.
As of November 13, Mr. Pinkerton's "new paradigm" has become the official basis of American foreign policy in Afghanistan, replacing President Bush's "no nation-building" vision. I call this bait-and-switch.
UNITED NATIONS (November 13, 2001 4:45 p.m. EST) — The United Nations called Tuesday for a two-year transitional government for Afghanistan backed by a multinational security force, while world leaders urged the world body to have a leading role in the war-ravaged nation's peace process.
Lakhdar Brahimi, the top UN envoy for Afghanistan, told the UN Security Council that a plan to bring Afghanistan's many ethnic and tribal groups together should be completed "as early as humanly possible."
As northern alliance soldiers replaced fleeing Taliban forces in the capital, Kabul, on Tuesday, there was concern that the speed of the military campaign was outpacing UN-led diplomatic efforts to get a transitional government installed. Many countries cautioned the northern alliance not to repeat the violence that wracked Kabul during their previous rule.
"We need a UN presence there as soon as possible," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in London.
And John Negroponte, the US ambassador to the United Nations, told the Security Council: "An international presence must be re-established as soon as possible."
President Bush called for a broad-based government to replace the Taliban.
"We will continue to work with the northern alliance to make sure they recognize that in order for there to be a stable Afghanistan ... after the Taliban leaves, that the country be a good neighbor and that they must recognize that a future government must include representatives from all of Afghanistan," he said in Washington.
I call your attention to President Bush's phrase, "after the Taliban leaves." Here is my prediction: the Taliban isn't going to leave. It has to be defeated. This is easier said than done. It must now be defeated in the hills. This will not be a piece of cake.
The northern alliance foreign minister, who uses the single name Abdullah, defended the opposition's move into Kabul, saying it had no choice because the Taliban's sudden withdrawal left a security vacuum. The United States had asked the alliance to avoid moving on the capital, afraid its presence would complicate efforts to create a coalition government. . . .
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan wants Brahimi's deputy to travel to Kabul soon, and the United Nations is eager to get its staff back into the country and to deliver humanitarian aid.
Brahimi ruled out a UN peacekeeping force for Afghanistan, which he said would take several months to put together. He said his first preference would be an all-Afghan security force, but said a multinational security force could probably be assembled more quickly.
Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, called Tuesday for a U.N. peacekeeping mission made up of Muslim nations to deploy in Kabul and said Turkey and Pakistan could contribute.
"Kabul should remain as a demilitarized city," he said in Istanbul. . . .
Things seem to be coming together nicely for the United Nations and also for those nations with an interest in subduing bin Laden, and whatever else they have planned, such as building an oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea through Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the Indian Ocean. On this point, see the 1999 maps, published by the Council on Foreign Relations, relating to the Caspian Sea.
With this as background, consider this November 13 report from CNN.
In New York, the so-called "six plus two" nations — those neighboring Afghanistan along with the United States and Russia — were slated to resume talks on a post-Taliban government.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell dispatched James Dobbins, his special envoy for Afghan opposition groups, to Rome, Italy, to meet with Afghanistan's deposed king, Mohammad Zahir Shah, before heading to the region. And the UN special representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, said he hopes to assemble the Afghan groups in the "next couple of days."
A senior State Department official told CNN that Dobbins would make contact with the Pakistani government and work with Afghans there on a future government.
Over the last two years, America has sent $297 million to Afghanistan, by way of the United Nations and "non-governmental organizations" (NGO's). We have promised an additional $320 million.
Now we know why. We have been trying to establish the legitimacy of the UN in Afghanistan. Now the UN is about to supervise the building of a new nation, but without a UN occupying force. Whose occupying force, then? This will be something to see — at a distance.
Winning This War
The strategy for winning every war you get into is simple: redefine the enemy in mid-stream whenever you can't beat him — or, in this case, locate him.
Our original enemy was — way back when — Osama bin Laden. I don't mean last July, when he was a patient in the American-run hospital in Dubai for ten days. That's too far back. I mean on September 20, when President Bush gave his resounding speech to Congress. Back then, bin Laden and Al-Qaeda were the targets.
Somehow, over the next few weeks, the enemy morphed into the Taliban, whose recalcitrant leaders refused to hand over bin Laden when told to by the Bush Administration. The media's news reports steadily moved from the horror of the hijackings to the horror of bearded men who do not let women go to college in a nation without any colleges. Then America started dropping bombs on cities where these women lived. As for killing bin Laden, that was put on hold until the cities were destroyed. Or, to coin a phrase, "We had to destroy Kabul in order to save it."
Now that the cities have fallen to the United Front, President Bush has an opportunity to stop the bombing. Ramadan arrives in Afghanistan today, U.S. time. Because the cities are now secured militarily, the justification for carpet bombing has ended, or at least been made far less plausible. I hope and pray that the bombing stops.
The pressing immediate need is to get Afghan civilian refugees into safer quarters before winter hits. If civilians are no longer afraid of more bombing, they may decide to go home, unless their homes were destroyed. Whatever we can do to get them through the winter, we should do.
The war has to go into hibernation mode anyway. If we can't locate bin Laden even in good weather, there is no need to keep up the bombing. Winter will make it difficult to conduct a war in the mountains.
The US government must conduct simultaneous public relations operations: the voters, the coalition, and the Middle East's Islamic nations. This will not be easy. The longer it takes to take out bin Laden, the more his legend will grow in the Islamic world. It looks as though he will inflict a winter of discontent on us.
Of course, for a man with kidney problems, a winter in a cave could be lethal. His death would become a major problem for his immediate followers. If he dies, his subordinates may decide to keep him alive in the minds of their followers. They may decide to bury him secretly. He would join Elvis in the land of the not-quite-dead. But his TV broadcasts would then cease. That would create suspicion, once the snow melts.
His continuing video broadcasts raise another question. How do we know that he is still in Afghanistan? If he can smuggle videotapes to Qatar, what about smuggling himself? It would be difficult to keep this a secret, but this man's organization seems highly skilled at keeping secrets. If he is not in Afghanistan, then our forces could wind up playing hide and seek with a phantom.
I think we're about to move into the Sitzkreig phase of the war: "Hurry up and wait." Peace will not come to Afghanistan until the Taliban is eliminated. The tribes of the United Front will soon be killing each other. Someone will have to maintain the peace. This will require an occupation force, no matter what the UN says today. The President told us that the war against terrorism will take many years, but the war against bin Laden is now going into hibernation until spring.
Al Qaeda is not bottled up in Afghanistan. Bin Laden may be. What the West has now done is to capture the cities of a Muslim nation. It must now occupy the nation as an invading army. Washington's deal-doers have shrugged this off. While no one would be so politically incorrect as to say it, they are thinking, as the British said a century ago, "machine guns can handle the wogs."
Setting an Ancient Trap
The Taliban's forces have moved from the cities — now mostly rubble — into the hills. This news has led to a rise in the US stock market.
The Taliban's strategy is what every stock broker's strategy is: to lure the naive into a trap.
The Taliban is a guerilla army that happened to take over a nation. The Taliban's specialty is mountain fighting. This has been Afghanistan's military tradition for centuries. When challenged in the valleys, Afghan military forces move into the mountains and wait for their opponents to come and kill them. To overcome this traditional defensive strategy, Western forces (read: United States special operations units) will have to clear them out, cave by cave. This may take a few years.
The invaders are not all Afghans. The toughest fighters are Uzbeks, who are under the control of an ex-Communist. They may not all be Muslims. I am informed by an Armenian Uzbek that the Uzbek Muslims who run the government like to assign the front-line fighting to non-Muslims.
Thus, when the Taliban abandoned the cities, it was doing what the Afghans' age-old military strategy requires. The invaders' trick will not be in holding the cities. The trick will be to eliminate the Taliban. The Russians holed up in Kabul for a decade. They used Kabul as headquarters. Their possession of Kabul was supposed to give them a strategic advantage. It didn't.
Meanwhile, nobody in the attacking force has any idea where Osama bin Laden is.
I have doubts about the long-term prospects of the new government of Afghanistan, whoever is in charge.
Britain's Tony Blair on November 14 said: "Though there may be pockets of resistance, the idea that this is some sort of tactical retreat is just the latest Taliban lie. They are in total collapse." Or, as a previous British Prime Minister said, "Peace in our time."
I end with a warning from Eric Margolis, who spent time in Afghanistan with the mujahadin in the 1980's.
In all my years as a foreign affairs writer, I have never seen a case where so many Washington `experts' have all the answers to a country that only a handful of Americans know anything about. President George Bush, who before election could not name the president of Pakistan, now intends to redraw the political map of strategic Afghanistan, an act that will cause shock waves across South and Central Asia.
Anyone who knows anything about Afghans knows:
1. they will never accept any regime imposed by outsiders
2. an ethnic minority government can never rule Afghanistan's ethnic majority, the Pashtun (or Pathan), roughly half the population. Taliban are mostly Pushtun. Tajiks account for 18-20% and Uzbeks for 6% of Afghans.
Washington's plan for 'nation-building' in Afghanistan is a recipe for disaster that will produce an enlarged civil war that draws in outside powers.
Nation-building requires peace. This peace must be enforced. The warring tribes that today are called Afghanistan will be killing each other the day occupying Western forces leave the country. This is now our war, for it is now our peace to impose. We will have to supply most of the money, most of the weapons, and some of the troops — not just to get bin Laden but also to enforce the peace among our Afghan allies.
My prediction: Our troops won't be home by Christmas. Not by next Christmas, either.
November 16 , 2001
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© 2001 LewRockwell.com