by John Grant
It seems the Afghans are tougher guerrillas than the Iraqi insurgents. Given the relative histories of the two places, this should not come as a big surprise.
Iraq is a nation that before we “saved it” was a nation and a people in some areas of life approaching first world status — that is, despite how we have acted toward it, a culture of smart and capable people in an ethnic cauldron kept under a lid by the Sunni gangster Saddam Hussein, who of course followed in the footsteps of the British who first set up what became Saddam’s minority Sunni gangster state.
Led by a Texan moron and a Wyoming fascist, we stumbled in, tore the place up and blew the lid off the boiling cauldron. We then installed a new Shiite lid on the cauldron that amounts to the ally of our worst enemy, Iran.
So now that we are close to declaring “victory” in Iraq, we can move on to “save” Afghanistan, which is more like Vietnam than Iraq ever was — a classic case of a wealthy and powerful western army fighting a poor, locally-rooted insurgency trying to throw the western army out. The Taliban have no interest in attacking New York.
Our new president has appointed a ruthless and efficient specialist in managing hunter/killer teams to manage the escalating war in Afghanistan. General Stanley McChrystal has now moved an army into Helmand Province, an area known for its poppy crop, and as one might expect in a classic guerrilla war like this, the guerrilla element did not stand up like the redcoats and meet them. It hung back and lay in wait, listening and learning about the western army as it digs in, waiting to pick and choose its targets on its terms.
In the meantime, the US is operating a well-publicized civil affairs campaign, passing out soccer balls, doing public medicine, encouraging alternative crops than poppies, and that sort of thing, while General McChrystal’s highly-un-publicized and secret hi-tech hunter/killer teams locate and neutralize those who won’t play ball (the “irreconcilables”) in a campaign what amounts to an updated Phoenix Program with improved “metrics” and better lethal tools.
The AP story “Soldiers in Colorado slayings tell of Iraq horrors” (7/26/09) addresses the soldiers returning from these brutal, de-humanizing wars who just can’t seem to shut down when they get home. For a brilliant artistic glimpse into the addiction that war can be for some, go see the new film The Hurt Locker about a redneck sergeant who is a fearless ace at defusing IED bombs in Iraq. The scene of his alienation in a grocery store aisle back home is profound.