Americans, Listen to the Ruling Elite...
Give Up Your Wealth for Nothing
Michael S. Rozeff
by Michael S. Rozeff: The
Many Fallacies of Ellen Brown
attacked Afghanistan on October 7, 2001. The war continues to
How is this
war going? Lousy. It has to be lousy if it’s still going on after
10 years. Americans seem to agree. A recent
CNN/ORC poll shows 63 percent of those polled oppose the war
What does an
expert who commanded U.S. military operations in Afghanistan for
19 months say about the war? I refer to Lieutenant General David
W. Barno, USA (Ret.).
Barno is a
Senior Advisor and Senior Fellow of a Washington think tank on national
security named Center
for a New American Security. He is as eminently qualified as
any member of the ruling elite to take your money and waste it in
2003, he was selected to establish a new three-star operational
headquarters in Afghanistan and take command of the 20,000 U.S.
and Coalition Forces in Operation Enduring Freedom. For 19 months
in this position, he was responsible for the overall military
leadership of this complex political-military mission, devising
a highly innovative counterinsurgency strategy in close partnership
with the U.S. embassy and coalition allies. His responsibilities
included regional military efforts with neighboring nations and
involved close coordination with the Government of Afghanistan,
the United Nations, NATO International Security Assistance Force,
the U.S. Department of State and USAID, and the senior military
leaders of many surrounding nations and numerous allies."
at length on November 3, 2011 before the House Foreign Affairs
Committee (the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia).
He had just returned from a seven-day visit to Afghanistan. I will
quote from Barno’s testimony on this occasion.
early 2009, it became evident the international effort in Afghanistan
was ‘drifting toward failure’ and success could be achieved only
if dramatic changes were applied — most of all, a dramatic re-assertion
of American leadership. Success required ‘Leadership plus Strategy
plus Resources.’ In 2009, our efforts were falling deeply short
in all three components of this equation."
After 8 years,
the U.S. hadn’t succeeded (at whatever it was trying to accomplish).
Failure was on the horizon. The U.S. was losing the war. It wasn’t
doing anything right. It didn’t have the right leadership to win
(or succeed). It didn’t have the right strategy to win. It didn’t
have enough resources committed to win.
How great have
been the resources committed to date? Barno mentions
mission in Afghanistan – one that has cost the United States over
1,400 lives, hundreds of billions of dollars and over ten years
of great sacrifice."
appropriations for Afghanistan so far add up to $557.1
billion. There are numerous other costs and costly effects of
this war that are excluded from these funds appropriated. There
have been over "15,000
seriously wounded soldiers". There are deaths, injuries
and costs to the people of Afghanistan. There are indirect effects.
three vital U.S. security interests should dominate our thinking
as we begin to draw down forces in Afghanistan: 1) Preventing
the region’s use as a base for terror groups to attack the United
States and our allies..."
this or any region from being used as a base for terror is not
a vital U.S. security interest. It is a possible means to
an end that is a vital interest, which is the safety of American
citizens. Barno is not stating a vital interest at all. He is stating
a conclusion, which is that the optimal way to assure the
safety of Americans in America is to prevent Afghanistan from being
a region that is a "base" for "terror groups".
is so important and such an important component of U.S. policy that
I give it a name. I call it the Denial of Region or DOR strategy.
Denial of Region
or DOR is a central feature of the anti-terror strategy that has
guided American policy in both the Bush and Obama administrations.
tells us that the DOR strategy hasn’t succeeded.
Why has the
DOR strategy not met with success in Afghanistan?
report on the CNAS website, we are told what is common knowledge:
small contingents of Special Forces teams with air power, the
coalition successfully unseated the Taliban from power and routed
al Qaeda, sending both fleeing across the Pakistani border by
This was confirmed
in 2010 by the CIA
Director Leon Panetta said on Sunday there may be fewer than 50
al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan, with ‘no question’ that most
of the terrorist network is operating from the western tribal
region of Pakistan."
Under the DOR
doctrine, the U.S. denied Afghanistan as a region in which terrorists
could cluster and train terrorists. But in order to accomplish this,
the U.S. "...unseated the Taliban from power..." This
led eventually to the continuation of war against a reconstituted
The U.S. destroyed
the existing government and political equilibrium. That was its
first mistake, but part and parcel of the DOR strategy in this particular
country. Then it sought to bring about a new government friendly
to itself. This was a second mistake. To do this, the U.S. had to
choose favorites within the country. In one way or another, it had
to exclude or diminish the influence of the unseated Taliban. But
this meant that it could not rediscover a viable new political equilibrium
in which a majority supported the new government.
At the root
of this mistake was that the U.S. didn’t reckon with the ethic and
tribal composition of Afghanistan. The Taliban could not give up.
They couldn’t fade away because they are largely of the Pashtun
tribes and this is the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. The
new Afghan army and police are mainly from other minority tribes
to whom the Pashtun are antagonistic. By going against the Taliban
and thus the Pashtun, the U.S. created an unstable political equilibrium.
With the old
Taliban government deposed, a complex situation emerged involving
the U.S., NATO, NATO countries, the International Security Assistance
Force (ISAF), and, of course, several tribal entities within Afghanistan.
It also involved Pakistan, Iran and India.
reconstituted itself by 2006 and began a war of insurgency against
the new western-birthed Afghanistan government in Kabul, led by
Karzai. The NATO countries in the region and the U.S. naturally
took the side of their new baby.
At the root
of the U.S. problems in Afghanistan was first the decision in late
2001 to adopt a DOR strategy, and second the related decision to
attack the Taliban government as a terrorist entity and eliminate
What else went
wrong? The terrorists fled into the "western tribal region
of Pakistan". The U.S. expanded the war into that region. The
resulting political situation destabilized Pakistan. Relations with
Denial of one region simply leads to movement to one or more other
regions. This leads to war in more and more and more regions. As
these wars occur and as more and more innocent people get killed
in U.S. attacks, more and more evidence piles up that terrorists
can use to indoctrinate
new terrorists into jihad. At terrorism school
are for indoctrination. It might seem strange that students enrolled
in militant training would need further convincing, but local
recruits are reportedly often cajoled or forced into attending
by their families or madrasas. Recruits are shown hours upon hours
of video depicting Western atrocities against Muslims to dispel
any doubts about the cause of jihad."
This is far
from all. The idea that one attacks terrorism by denying training
grounds or bases to terrorists is wrong in the most practical terms.
Terrorists don’t need bases to train, and they can move into
many places and regions. They can change their training methods
so as to avoid detection. They already
have changed. See also here.
Read the latter articles for supportive detail that terrorists don’t
depend on bases in particular regions.
you need is a shack or a house to learn how to fabricate explosives
using homemade or commercially available ingredients,’ said Bruce
Hoffman, a counterterrorism expert at Georgetown University and
a longtime government adviser."
If the DOR
strategy that the U.S. follows doesn’t diminish terrorism and actually
enhances it, and if it destabilizes whole countries and regions,
isn’t that enough to cast this doctrine aside? There is one more
thing, and that is the outlandish cost of it. Afghanistan alone
has cost over $0.5 trillion in cash plus the many killed and wounded
and it’s not over yet.
some light on how wasteful this spending is. The Oklahoma
City bombing took 168 lives. Wrongful death settlements vary
in America, but suppose we use $10
million. This is a generous figure. Then the monetary compensation
to survivors if these were wrongful death claims comes to $10 million
x 168 = $1.7 billion. But the war in Afghanistan has already claimed
1,400 lives and over 15,000 injured and, on top of that, cost 328
times $1.7 billion! In other words, ask yourself if the war in Afghanistan
has prevented the equivalent of 328 Oklahoma City bombings,
not even counting the 1,400 dead? To my way of thinking, the Afghanistan
war is all cost and no benefit. Ask yourself how much good or how
much safety American could have purchased here at home for the $557
billion spent in Afghanistan?
I do not mean
to pick on General Barno in particular. He just happens to have
spoken clearly to us, and he is one representative of the governing
establishment of the U.S. What I think is that those who wield the
most power in the ruling elite do not think in terms of economics
the way ordinary people do and as I have just done in calculating
what $557 billion really means. You and I face budget constraints,
but when our rulers want to make a war, they just go ahead and do
it, and they borrow whatever it takes to pay for it. They break
the budget constraint, and they saddle the American people, now
and in the future, with that debt. If the government’s budget constraint
ever comes home to roost in the form of future large declines in
living standards, the elites that caused this won’t be around to
be held responsible for that and other calamities. And because they
don’t count the costs and measure the benefits properly, we lose,
not just a little but a very great deal.
As for the
future, Barno is completely uncertain that any permanent gains of
any kind have been won. He has nothing to promise us in Afghanistan
but more costs indefinitely with no benefits to us.
the ultimate effect of this campaign against the diverse groups
that comprise the Taliban is not yet certain, there is little
question that sustained military pressure remains a crucial component
in incentivizing any negotiations."
the success of the last 18 months will be perhaps even more problematic
than the campaign that has wrenched the momentum away from the
enemy, and now has put him on his back foot. Corruption and lack
of Afghan capacity remain crippling problems, and little progress
has emerged in these areas. Next door, relations between the United
States and Pakistan have declined to perhaps their lowest point
in recent memory, a development that will have immense potential
influence on the shape of the next several years in Afghanistan.
Similarly, cross-border tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan
remain a significant barrier to a comprehensive regional security
If the U.S.
military is not rooting out terrorists in Afghanistan and driving
them into Pakistan and other countries, then what is it doing?
current mission of U.S./ISAF forces in Afghanistan is COIN [Counter-insurgency]
– directly leading military operations designed to protect the
population and degrade the Taliban."
The U.S. is
still trying to get a government of its choice in Afghanistan. The
Taliban are the insurgents, using Barno’s terminology. The U.S.
forces are doing counter-insurgency. Counter-insurgency is not counter
the terrorists that the U.S. took aim at when it entered Afghanistan.
Those first terrorists left 9 years ago. Even if the Taliban insurgents
use terrorist tactics of their own, the U.S. COIN is not per se
anti-terror as part of a war on terror. The U.S. counter-insurgency
effort is to maintain an Afghan government of its choice and give
it time to organize a force that might be able, on its own, to repel
the Taliban in the future and maintain power.
And what, according
to Barno, is success in Afghanistan?
the areas where the Taliban has been rolled back, Afghan governance
has improved, businesses have returned, and prosperity and personal
security notably improved. Sustaining these fragile and hard-won
gains will likely prove to be the top challenge of 2012 and beyond
– and will ultimately be a central test for growing Afghan security
forces and government. Americans cannot secure these gains over
the long haul"
In his words,
this took "an infusion of nearly 70,000 additional U.S. troops..."
Assume that he is correct in his depiction. He tells us that some
Afghans are in a better situation, not all. Yet these modest
gains are "fragile" and costly ("hard-won"),
and sustaining them is still a challenge in the future. Elsewhere
he points out "crippling problems". Enormous problems
with Pakistan have cropped up.
But are Americans
better off? Whether or not Barno is correct, are ordinary Americans
better off from having spent $557 billion in Afghanistan?
footprint is so large that Barno is unsure what happens when the
Americans diminish their role and leave:
infusion of U.S. forces and dollars since early 2009 has created
an ‘American ecosystem’ in parts of the south and southwest of
Afghanistan, notably in the provinces of Kandahar and Helmand.
A crucial test of the gains experienced in these areas will be
whether the Afghan government and security forces can maintain
this elaborate system with far fewer dollars and in the face of
the reality that U.S. troops will no longer be in the lead."
So we have
a picture in which the U.S. is spending all kinds of money to produce
small and unsure gains for some people in Afghanistan, while no
doubt leaving others worse off. And we cannot even pinpoint the
gains to Americans.
is to be lauded for his forthright testimony. It helps to have such
a man tell us the following:
is unclear whether the United States or the international community
in Afghanistan has an adequately clear definition of the end state
of the conflict which equates to ‘success.’ Disparate outlooks
on where we are going, what is ‘Afghan good enough,’ what is acceptable
or unacceptable in terms of outcomes on corruption, women’s rights,
democratic government, local reconciliation, militias permeate
all aspects of our effort."
The U.S. and its NATO partners don’t know what they are doing in
terms of getting a friendly government installed in Afghanistan,
and this after 10 years! They don’t know what success, even in
their own terms, entails. They disagree with one another. They
are attempting to build a new government and state and even society.
They don’t know how to do it, or what these should include and exclude.
They have a laundry list of favorite ideas like ending corruption,
women’s rights, democracy, and more.
Barno has this to say:
my estimation, few substantive and lasting dents have been made
in the pervasive corruption of Afghan government at most if not
all levels. Massive infusions of U.S. dollars for development
have fueled massive corruption on an unprecedented scale."
Hard-earned American dollars are going straight into the pockets
of members of the Afghan government.
us that the U.S. military fails to build up what I’d call "organizational
capital" in Afghanistan. What soldiers learn on a tour of duty
is not passed on when they are replaced by new soldiers. He quotes
would be comical if it were not tragic. People spend 12 months
rolling the boulder up the hill only to see it roll back to the
bottom when they go home. The next group arrives and then spends
eight months trying to decide how to move the boulder."
His own comment
on this lack of "campaign continuity" is that "Few
military units we encountered had any visibility on events in their
battlespace more than eighteen months in the past."
After ten years
and after the surge, which Barno says has been a success, he concludes
significant success has been achieved by U.S. and NATO forces
since 2009, whether the Afghan government and security forces
can sustain these gains is open to question...the enemy has not
been defeated, merely set back on his heels."
are the direct gains to the Americans who have to pay the bills
for any of this? Where are any gains at all?
Now that 63
percent of Americans disapprove of the Afghanistan War, I hope they
realize that the ruling U.S. elite, not being stupid, are not acting
with the interests of ordinary Americans in mind. And for this reason
I hope that Americans stop supporting the ruling elite. I hope they
get their emotions under control. Americans need to stop automatically
supporting bullets and bombs and drones and assassinations and wars
whenever their leaders mention terror, or terrorist, or terrorism,
or 9/11, or provide some other fabricated pretexts. The ruling elite
is the Pied Piper.
listen to the ruling elite... Give up your wealth for nothing.
S. Rozeff [send him mail]
is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York.
He is the author of the free e-book Essays
on American Empire: Liberty vs. Domination and the free e-book
The U.S. Constitution
and Money: Corruption and Decline.
© 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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