Meanwhile, Afghanistan

TIRIN KOT, Afghanistan, April 27 — Building on a winter campaign of suicide bombings and assassinations and the knowledge that American troops are leaving, the Taliban appear to be moving their insurgency into a new phase, flooding the rural areas of southern Afghanistan with weapons and men.

Each spring with the arrival of warmer weather, the fighting season here starts up, but the scale of the militants’ presence and their sheer brazenness have alarmed Afghans and foreign officials far more than in previous years.

“The Taliban and Al Qaeda are everywhere,” a shopkeeper, Haji Saifullah, told the commander of American forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, as the general strolled through the bazaar of this town to talk to people. “It is all right in the city, but if you go outside the city, they are everywhere, and the people have to support them. They have no choice.”

The fact that American troops are pulling out of southern Afghanistan in the coming months, and handing matters over to NATO peacekeepers, who have repeatedly stated that they are not going to fight terrorists, has given a lift to the insurgents, and increased the fears of Afghans.

General Eikenberry appealed for patience and support. “There has not been enough attention paid to Uruzgan,” he said in a speech to the elders of Uruzgan Province gathered at the governor’s house in Tirin Kot, the provincial capital. “I think the leaders, the Afghan government and the international community recognize this. There is reform coming and this year you will see it.”

The arrival of large numbers of Taliban in the villages, flush with money and weapons, has dealt a blow to public confidence in the Afghan government, already undermined by lack of tangible progress and frustration with corrupt and ineffective leaders.

I can’t wait until our stupid ass prime minister starts taking heat because the Canadian soldiers over there start dropping like flies as the Americans pull out. Why this retard thinks we can help clean up the US’s mess is beyond me.

What is the point of Afghanistan at all anymore? They’ve fucked the constitution up in such a spectacular fashion that sharia is now the law of the land. The average person is no better off today than he or (especially) she was under the Taliban. There is no vision, no plan for stabilizing even this sharia regime. And now the troops are being pulled back? Insane. Harper needs to wake up and realize he is leaving CDN tropps in what amounts to a trap.

Didn’t someone say he was Bush 2.0? I think that is where the answer lies.

Its impossible to pacify the tribes there, always has been, always will be. They are superb warriors, know the surrounding lands like no other, and almost to the man are capable of insane acts of bravery and courage the likes of which would see a chest full of medals in the West.

Installing a pro West regime, no matter how bad in the towns and cities was the best chance, and one that was taken. There isn’t a military solution, not even the US has enough firepower to flatten every mountain and fill every valley in that place. Once the majority of Afghani’s want us out, we better well leave, as their victory through attrition is assured.

The only problem with that argument, which has some validity even if you go way too far in lionizing these “superb warriors” (setting up roadside bombs is an insane act of courage, is it?), is that Afghanistan was pretty modern and pretty well-off compared to today, back in the 1970s. It’s not the tribal stuff that’s incapacitated Afghanistan as much as the Wahhabist Islam that was imported from the Arab world in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion. That’s marginalized half of the Afghan society through medieval restrictions on female dress and education and, well, just about everything else, and thrown pretty much the entire country into an impoverished, barbaric, dark age.

Where the US totally dropped the ball was in allowing the Afghan constitution to enshrine Sharia as the ultimate law of the land. It should have adhered solely to the UN declaration of universal human rights. As it is, it just pays lip service to universal notions while affirming that Islam is still the ultimate authority in Afghan society. That won’t lead anywhere good, as can be seen in the way that much if not most of the country has already reverted to hardline, quasi-fascistic Islamic rule.

That certainly sounds better on paper, but then so does giving every Afghan their own pony and a briefcase full of benjamins. Unfortunately, I don’t either was practical.

From what I’ve read, the sharia in the constitution was very much what the locals wanted, so it was pretty much a requirement to get the locals to buy into the constitution.

So what? The Karzai government should have told that if they didn’t base the constitution on the UN declaration, and establish the foundation for a secular government, the troops were coming out immediately. By making Islam paramount, you end all chance for a secular government to develop. Also, who are “the locals”? You really think that the average woman in Afghanistan, especially the older ones who remember what it was like there in the 60s and 70s, wanted a constitution based on Sharia? If the US had pushed for a more secular constitution, a lot of people in Afghanistan would have rallied around it.

All this did was set the stage for the return of the Taliban, or at least the development of yet another Islamic Republic totally hostile to the West. Really, all the US is doing in Afghanistan is helping to create another enemy. Totalitarian Islam and Sharia in Afghanistan got us into this mess in the first place; it only seems sensible that these are the things you would get rid of to make the country a stable and productive part of the world again.

The US is making the same mistake in Iraq, trying to build this consensus democracy based on Islam. It won’t work. It can’t work.

For once I agree with Brett Todd. Spreading democracy, huh? Spread deez.

Democracy works best in countries with a highly educated intelligent population. THis is why the Nordic countries are so well off and countries like Russia, the whole of Africa and to a lesser extent the USA are in the shitty positions they find themselves in now.

Some countries need a more extreme form of government to keep peace and stability in their countries no matter how distasteful that may be to the West. Yes, some innocents may die but that is better than all out civil war, isn’t it? (Iraq is a perfect example of this.)

Reading this post gave me a strange sense of deja vu, until I realized where I’d heard it before. This is Kipling’s The White Man’s Burden in modern clothes.

it’s ok though, we declared the taliban ‘not terrorists’ so we can let them take over again, no big deal. I mean, so long as they arent terrorists, it’s fine whatever they do.

Oh, yes. It’s certainly racist and colonialist to decry a system of government that condones wife-beating, medieval punishments for things like theft, burying gays under walls, honor killings, eye-for-an-eye revenge killings (anyone seen that story from the Sudan this week?), etc., etc., etc.

The whole point here is to set up an independent Afghanistan where all people (not just men, not just hypocritical, autocratic imams) have freedom of consicence and expression. It isn’t to rule the country or to turn it into Ohio with shawarma, dumbass.

Sharia doesn’t have to be part of Afghanistan’s society. If anything, Sharia is a foreign body, imported by the Arabs who gained control of Afghanistan’s society due to the fight against the Soviets. If Afghanistan is under the sway of any colonial power, it’s that of the Arab world.

Islam is actually the original colonial power, if you want to get into a colonialist debate and start blaming the West every time a barbarian in Kabul wants to chop off some guy’s head for owning a Bible. You do know that Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, much of Jordan and Israel, and the entirety of Northern Africa are Arab lands about the same way as India is British, right? They were conquered and occupied in a far more thorough way than the Western takeover of chunks of Africa and the Middle East in the 19th and 20th centuries. Only difference is, the West ended its colonial period; the Arabs/Islam didn’t.

Yes, I know this is a dumb argument. But if you want to bring up colonialist nonsense and blame the West for everything, you’d better be prepared to look at the entire picture.

Good to hear. But, honestly, this is all I’ve really been saying all along. If we’re going to get anywhere, we need to insist that Muslim nations move into the modern era and adopt constitutions based on the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights. Allowing these backdoor Sharia clauses are totally counter-productive, for both us and the poor people subjected to living under such regimes.

And as I said before, once you get things rolling, and make sure that people can freely express themselves without the threat of censure, imprisonment, or death (which seems to happen every time anyone criticizes Islam, or tries to speak with any sort of moderation), these societies will join the modern world pretty quickly. You just can’t give an inch of ground to the fundies, though.

What a fascinating concept. Enlightenment at gunpoint.

It has a certain charm, once one gets past the complete and total infeasibility of the idea.

Well, of course, Afghanistan was more well off before the Soviets and then the warring factions burnt it to the ground. That point seems obvious.

I don’t think the US could impose secular government on Afghanistan in the first place - it’s a third world mess of factions and poverty, not an industrialized country of learning with a unified national identity gone wrong, like post-WWII Japan. Even if it is possible, the current Administration has demonstrated no desire to allocate the level of resources, troops, and long-term commitments necessary to do so.

Without a “boil the ocean” level of policy, insisting on changes you can’t credibly back up is just yammering.

Brett Todd: Here we part company again. I’m against Islam but that doesn’t mean I’m in favor of American action against it, which seems to be counterproductive. Besides, a lot of what manifests as support for Islam is grounded in legitimate concerns about being economically dominated by foreign powers (and, in one or two extreme cases, invaded). To the extent that this is so, I find I have to grudgingly endorse it. Nobody wants to be Central America.

Where our approaches intersect is in the conviction that the preposterous Vichy governments in Iraq and Afghanistan are going to be a huge bummer for everyone involved.

You know, it’s comforting to me that after you make a lucid and reasonable point, that you keep it real by kicking it Toddy style.

Ed, please tell me how that statement of mine is untrue in any way, shape, or form. You are aware that the Arab homeland in basically the peninsula up to about mid-Jordan, right? And that the Arabs conquered all of the lands that I mentioned in the seventh and eighth centuries? And that Arab imperialism is a very real issue still today? Checked out what’s going on in Darfur and why?

Also, Nick, the whole point isn’t enlightenment at gunpoint. You seem to think that everyone in Muslim countries want Sharia. They don’t! The idea is to break the stranglehold that the imams have on the average people who just want to live their lives in peace, enjoy some freedom, and develop a reasonable standard of living. It’s not the average guy demanding that Christians’ heads be cut off – it’s the fanatical imams who are running the show and using fear and violence to keep dissenters in line. They’re the ones who need to be held back, at gunpoint if need be, until the stabilization of a secular, modernized government that will properly serve ALL of its citizens.

What the hell have you got against these people? You act like Afghanis, Iranians, Iraqis, etc. should be doomed to live under this sort of Islamic oppression forever. Ever actually taken a look at women’s groups in the ME? Seen how they’re trying to get out from under Sharia? I think you’ll find that truly secular reforms would be welcomed by a majority of the population in Muslim ME countries, as soon as your break the culture of fear and repression established by the imams and their religious police.

Totally agree. But like I say in the above quote, I think that what you call “American action” is actually what the majority of people in the ME want. Establish a secular government, prove to the average person that they don’t have to fear the imams and their thug allies anymore, and democracy can and will work. I’m not advocating any invasions, etc. But I do think that a real opportunity has been wasted in Afghanistan, and that the Iraq mess was made far, far worse by negotiating with Shia and Sunni blocs and not making more of an attempt to go directly to the people.

You just have to take a hard line with the theocrats and not play games with Islam and constitutions, law codes, etc. If you do, Islam immediately becomes the camel in the tent, because any law in an Islamic republic has to be derived from Sharia as it is deemed an immutable code of laws set forth by God. There is no way to deviate from the letter of Sharia, to interpret or change anything. Do so and you’re a heretic.