24 October 2009

a blind eye to drugs

before our invasion of afghanistan, opium production had been banned by the taliban government. at the time, the poppy fields were providing 75% of the world's opium, but taliban retaliation kept the risk high enough to result in decreasing production.

it was in the eight years that followed, under the direction of our NATO-led military coalition, that afghanistan's opium business grew faster, farther, and wider. no to mention its benefit to the very insurgency we were fighting. we ignored the opium trade because our mission was to "fight the taliban and al-qaeda, not drug dealers" (see 'dubya misses big picture. again.').

the neo conservatives were too busy selling the claim that americans' drug use was supporting terrorists,to notice the real problem. had they been paying attention to the growing drug cartel in afghanistan, they mighta noticed that its poppy fields had grown in abundance, supplying 90% of the world's opium. and then might've followed that thought to its inevitable conclusion that much of that profit was going directly to the taliban and al qaeda.

so, i guess what i'm trying to say is that this is an easy example of just how in over their heads dubya's cowboys were. amongst their many other failure (a.d.h.d. anyone?), they couldn't see how ignoring afghanistan's drug trade would exacerbate stability efforts on the ground. and impair our end game in the bigger picture.

assuming they'd even drawn a bigger picture...


afternoon wishes

i wish i could wiggle my nose and make unexpired half 'n half appear in my fridge.


23 October 2009

you don't know dick!

dick cheney needs to shut the fuck up! in following his daughter's lead on calling democrats weak on national security, he's now taken to claiming our president is "dithering" because president obama is taking the time to make an informed decision about afghanistan and strategize accordingly.


wasn't it the complete and utter absence of strategy in the former vice president's administration that got us into this mess? after running into afghanistan without thinking, learning, or coordinating an effective ground game, the bush administration then turned its head to the west and decided iraq was ripe for a coup. without getting the job done, they dropped the ball.

and eight years later, here we are trying to figure out what the hell we're going to do. and dick cheney has the balls to criticize our president for listening to everyone at the table, taking a realisitic look at the instability in pakistan, the taliban, what would happen if the taliban control on pakistan's western front could strengthen enough to topple the government and get their hands on a nuclear weapon, thinking about how much success we'll have if the government in kabul doesn't have the legitimacy for an effective partnership, and what it is we're trying to achieve.

and whether the commitment of our troops and treasure, and our soul as a nation, is worth the end game (presumably a stable afghanistan that doesn't want to help the taliban train bad guys to be terrorists). that's a lot to consider, at least i think it seems like a lot to consider.

so dick cheney, sit down and shut the fuck up. let the smart guys use their brains to figure this out, because the dummy cowboys in your administration didn't exactly put afganistan in the win column for america.


22 October 2009

the agony

i do not understand why i agonize as i do over afghanistan. sometimes it feels unhealthy, other times invigorating, but agonizing all the time. it's like, the more i learn, the less i understand. and if i can't understand, however can i possibly help others understand.

this is how afghanistan makes me feel:


21 October 2009

announcements of the frightening sort

i want to build a nation. it's my real goal as i venture into the next phase of my life. and i assumed that i'd really need to work at the white house so's i could make the connections i'd need to be able to garner the support to get me into a nation building role in a fairly scary place on the other side of the world (cuz presumably, NGO's and the state department don't want to hire folks who've never worked in a hostile environment (though a career inside law firms might qualify as hostile in some circles)).

well, as it turns out, the british government might have a different philosophy. i found out yesterday that my application has survived the first 'sift' and that i'm being recommended for further consideration in a 'strategic communications' role in a post-conflict zone of a developing country.

so we are all clear here. i _want_ this job! it's the job i thought i'd first have to work in washington to get. and the adrenalin junkie in me can't think of anything more thrilling than staying calm and collected in a hostile environment, while the world changer in me can't think of anything more rewarding than helping a nation build itself out of the ashes of its waning conflict.

but the friend, daughter, and sister in me worries that those who love me won't be able to understand why i need to do this, or that the value to me in making a difference in the world outweighs any risks that i may lose my life in the process...


20 October 2009

afghans again

for the past several weeks, i have tortured myself trying to come up with a solution for the shit show that is our afghanistan issue, and every time i think i've pinned down my opinion, i talk myself out of it. or i let others talk me out of it.

you see, i am torn first by limited resources. and then by other things. and other people.

putting aside things like money, loss of life, a commitment the american people aren't likely to buy into, and the fact that afghanistan is an historical graveyard of empires, if i had my druthers, we'd go all in. we would commit to building a democratic afghanistan. and we'd do it by empowering the local 'warlords' to become leaders and governors.

we'd help them build roads and farms, schools and hospitals, and give them the tools they need to form a more perfect union. one in which more than 28% of its population is educated, where women have access to equality, education, and opportunity, where farmers can farm something other than opium, and where we can stabilize pakistan's neighbor. we would, in a sense, organize afghan communities.

whether or not there's a strong central government a la the united states of america, or whether there's something a bit more loose a la the short-lived confederate states of america (which seems more likely when considering the present afghani administration), the key is in building the local governments, as an upshot of the current political structure. and then asking them to convene for a big constitutional convention to fine-tune their current government into something more akin to effective governance.

there are those who argue we go all in, regardless of the ability of the afghans to eventually govern themselves. 'let's just go in guns a blazin and kill some terrorists,' if you will. cuz, yeah, that's a great use of our armed services and resources. just because general mcchrystal says we need 40,000 more troops, we should just send them in, without asking questions or coming up with a strategic plan, doesn't quite cut it for me. especially when reality suggests that any sort of afghanistan initiative is going to commit us to a minimum of ten years (and that's only if things go perfectly between now and 2020), with a more plausible time line of about a hundred years.

and i'm not sure how much weight i can give the argument that our end goal is meant to be about eradicating al queda and eliminating the taliban control over any part of afghanistan (at this moment in time, the taliban is gaining control in the eastern part of afhanistan, near the pakistani border, just as they gain power in pakistan. this latter development is enough to worry the bejeesus out of much of the free world that the terroristy taliban is positioned to topple president zardari and seize control of a country in possession of nuclear weapons (fucking scary, eh!?)).

i think our strategy needs to have more to do with regional stability than simply some dumb 'war on terror'. and the only way we can ensure regional stability, enough to help afghanistan learn to effectively govern itself, is to build a nation. and asking americans to sign up for a multi-generational nation-building project is not something i've quite figured out how to do (though i'm working on it).

and at what expense? (this is where that little issue of limited resources comes into play).

i mean, america hasn't had a load of debt this high since the last time we set out to rebuild the world via the marshall plan after world war ii. with china holding all the cards to our continual descent into the dungeons of debt, while our economy seems to be averting a rebound (except for those asshats on wall street whose egregious risk to main streeters is still earning them egregious sums of money (at the same time consumer lenders are spiralling down into the shit tank along with the rest of us)), can we really afford to go all in?

i dunno.

and ultimately, if i have to pick between healthcare for all americans or healthcare for all afghans...

well then, the end.