By David Glenn Cox
The ruined soil cannot support the ruined structure. The ruined structure cannot support the ruined state. The ruined state cannot support the ruined people. Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires. The British learned it. The Russians learned it and now we have learned it, yet again. That which is unclean cannot be made clean. This is my second Vietnam, how about you? Missing the first one by a mere fourteen months. The Pentagon Papers had come out, and everyone knew the war was unwinnable, yet the war went on.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
― Sun Tzu
The characters that had advanced the Vietnam War and promoted the war had scuttled off the stage. Leaving behind a smiling (Jack ass eating briars) Richard Nixon to announce, “Peace with honor.” You didn’t have to be of draft age to know what that meant. And when the North Vietnamese tanks broke through the gates of the embassy in Saigon, I could hear Nixon and his peace with honor in my head. It wasn’t clever or fooling anybody, It was run away with an excuse! Problem solved, moving on.
That American belief, that everybody wants to be an American. Show up in Asia, build a few baseball diamonds and pass out a few surfboards, build a few liquor stores and pipe in the Beach Boys. The absurd idea of once we show them how “we” do it, they’ll be begging us for a new Chevrolet. Using a body count metric instead of a willingness metric. They have a thousand soldiers willing to die for their cause; we have none. Your politics can become secondary when supporting foreigners, against your own people. It’s hard to stay motivated in a South Vietnamese Army with a 25% desertion rate. Awfully hard to ask an American boy to do what a Vietnamese boy won’t do.
The old South Vietnamese government was corrupt and was replaced by the new South Vietnamese government, which was also corrupt. Corruption was a cultural legacy left over from colonial times. And when the boss steals, everyone steals. From the mayor right down to the cop on the beat. Add in fresh stacks and stacks of American greenbacks and my oh my, what a wonderful day! As long as you are not the one ducking the bullets, let the good times roll. Bell is selling helicopters and Dow is selling napalm, and you can be eighteen some other time.
Afghanistan makes Vietnam look like an ethnic neighborhood in Los Angeles. Locked into a culture hundreds of years old that believes all change is bad. They’ve have heard the word from their prophet, and he says, I can beat the women folk, if I want to. Or trade them for livestock or what’s inside the box! And maybe come back later for the Grand Prize Showcase. “Ah, Drew, I say the price won’t exceed nine women and three goats, for the lovely outdoor patio set, the jet ski and the weekend in Cancun!” Primitive infrastructure, mountainous one lane roads in a landlocked country. In an effort to win hearts and minds, the coalition hired local war lords paying them millions of dollars to guard a stretch of road, AKA not attack us. What could possibly go wrong with that strategy?
Hamid Karzai former installed President of Afghanistan, was known as one of the Gucci revolutionaries around Washington. Ex-pats with money and a desire for regime change in hopes of latching on to a big fat Afghan government titty. Once installed, Karzai bought the state-owned concrete company knowing that Daddy war bucks was about to go on a spending spree. Playing both sides of the ball, Karzai taxed America for keeping him in power. Famously Condoleezza Rice said, “Just get rid of him!” Then rephrased that as, “I guess we will just have to wait for some free and fair elections.” He was a puppet living it up in Dubai, on money skimmed off the American people. Everyone knew it and nobody cared, this was about making a point to the whole world. Who cares if some tin pot dick head steals a few hundred million dollars? We’re making a statement here!
We’re fighting two theater wars, just to show the world we can. That way the Russians and the Chinese will be nervous in the service and won’t want to mess with us. It’s all here in this pamphlet from the good people at The Project for the New American Century. Coincidently, many who went on to work in the Bush Administration. They toppled Saddam, but Afghanistan was a bridge too far. A logistical nightmare and an insurgent’s dream, where five men could stop a thousand and get away clean. Limitless fractured mountainous terrain.
The coalition was going to build the new Afghan Air force. By buying up used Russian helicopters at a higher unit cost than new American helicopters, explaining they were easier to operate. It didn’t matter really, as most of the helicopters weren’t safe to fly. The pilots were also hampered in their flight studies by an inability to read, in either English or Russian.
What could go wrong? Pilots that can’t read in machines that can’t fly. Flying through the mountains of Afghanistan on a suicide mission. “North, wait… don’t tell me! That way?” The fixed wing aircraft purchased from Italy were a fleet of used cargo planes. Soon grounded due to a lack of spare parts, becoming a lovely multimillion dollar lawn decoration for the new Afghan Air force. The characters that had advanced the Afghan War and promoted the war have scuttled off the stage. Leaving behind a gallery of nightmares in the temples of the absurd.
Don’t blame those who pull out the stingers for the error of those who went after the bees.
“Weapons are inauspicious instruments, not the tools of the enlightened. When there is no choice but to use them, it is best to be calm and free from greed, and not celebrate victory. Those who celebrate victory are bloodthirsty, and the bloodthirsty cannot have their way with the world.”
― Sun Tzu