Friday, October 22, 2010

Human rights & the Afghan war debate - an alternative take!

I was casting an eye over this piece in Crikey and thought it was a fairly shallow take on the Afghan war 'debate'. Whatever the strategic rights & wrongs of our engagement this is about the American alliance, pure & simple. If you expected a clear enunciation of geo-political and military strategies from either side of the political divide you were delusional. There is bipartisan support for the alliance and neither party will muster the backbone to challenge US hegemony. So we listen endlessly to that Killcullen chappy telling us about the inner logic of 'counter-insurgency' and, basically, talk amongst ourselves.

The Abbott nonsense about civilisation conflict reprises the twaddle peddled by the neocons justifying the 'war on terror'. Like the 'war on drugs' this war will fail miserably, leaving the situation worse. As one commentator put it recently, you do not buy into the 'messianic' philosophy of al Qaeda and its off-shoots as a counter measure. You counter the message with the rule of law, good governance and community development. You emphasise soft diplomacy and human rights - you do not actively undermine the very things you purport to stand for if you don't want to be seen as hypocritical occupiers and carpet-baggers.

Only a political solution will work in Afghanistan. We are currently supporting a regime that is so corrupt I am reminded of US support for a series of corrupt leaders in South Vietnam as a precursor to defeat in that disastrous war. They ran the country as a personal fiefdom to be plundered by themselves and their client cronies. The Karzai family are doing the same thing. The only way to counter the taliban is through genuine democracy, good governance across all areas of public administration, emphasis on civil society and a fair & equitable distribution of resources. This is not rocket science. The current disproportional division of military and civil assistance of 9:1 needs to be reversed. And we need to stop playing footsies with corruption.

Legitimacy is everything in the struggle for hearts and minds. Can anyone honestly say that Karzai has earnt legitimacy? The taliban support the violent overthrow of his corrupt and thoroughly compromised regime. Meanwhile, he steals elections and is at the peak of a regime that tolerates systematic looting and pilfering of public monies.

When visiting Kenya in 2006, Obama said the following: "Ethnic-based tribal politics has to stop. It is rooted in the bankrupt idea that the goal of politics or business is to funnel as much of the pie as possible to one's family, tribe, or circle with little regard for the public good. It stifles innovation and fractures the fabric of the society...It divides neighbour from neighbour".

This insight could apply equally to Afghanistan. If you can address these issues you have the best hope of counter-insurgency!

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