Afghanistan And Post-Modern Imperialism
All hell is breaking loose in Afghanistan. I love the place. But the U.S. shouldn't be occupying it. The latest attack on Kabul and in other centers across the country turned into a terrifying day and a half long seige in the capital city which the Afghan Army eventually brought under control.
Politically, however, the attack was suitably laden with symbolism and carried an obvious message to the government of Hamid Karzai and his international supporters, which include India and the West.
The message: the Taliban and its allies are in a position to attack the physical heart of the Karzai government at will. Doubly important because of an expected steady US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan through this year and into the next. It has additional import because of the continuing and chaotic attempts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table and prepare a strong negotiating position if and when the talks actually begin.
So far it seems that the hard core of the Taliban, the Haqqani network included, is simply opposed to any negotiations of any kind. Attacking Kabul would help underline their argument that the US is on its way out, Karzai’s days are, thus, numbered and, therefore, the talks can only be about Kabul’s total capitulation. The Kabul attacks will probably be a precursor to other attempts to violently undermine the credibility of the Karzai government.
Karzai blamed NATO and the U.S. for allowing the attacks. Others blame the ferocity of opposition to Karzai's startlingly corrupt, predatory regime.
[T]he most insidious threat to Afghanistan’s future is not posed by teams of brainwashed young men in search of martyrdom, but by the kleptocratic political order that has sprouted in the decade since the US invasion.
Unless Afghanistan’s allies start to ask harder questions about how the country is governed, then the handover to Afghan forces in 2014 will be the starting gun for another phase of bloodshed.
...The US and its allies have long been guilty of placing far more weight on the military wing of their campaign than on fostering Afghan governance. It is time to reverse the imbalance. Perhaps power needs to be devolved to provinces to foster accountability; certainly more needs to be done to train civil servants and tackle an entrenched culture of bribery and embezzlement. Unless a real attempt is made to shut down the drivers of 30 years of conflict, 2014 may be one more milestone on a path of perpetual war.
Or perhaps, as Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley said last week, it's just time to go. "With thousands of lives lost and hundreds of billions spent pursuing nation-building in Afghanistan, it is long past time to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home with dignity as soon as possible."
Many Republicans agree-- as do 78% of Americans now, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. So why are we still there? A lot of politicians-- but more than anyone else, Armed Services Committee Chair Buck McKeon (R-CA) has a career underwritten by private military contractors and war industries. They want the war to continue... it's how they get richer and richer. And then there are the estimates of a trillion dollars in minerals. None of that would devolve to us but it could make some very wealthy families in America a lot wealthier-- and they have their bought-and-paid for politicians, corrupt conservatives on both sides of the aisle-- in the bag. So the war drags on. Yesterday, in comparing progressive North Carolina congressional candidate, Cecil Bothwell, with the reactionary war-monger holding that seat now, Heath Shuler, we saw the only correct answer to what to do about the occupation Afghanistan: "Out of Afghanistan yesterday." Shuler and his handpicked successor, Hayden Rogers-- Shuler is going to work as a lobbyist-- are big supporters of U.S. imperialism. Over the weekend Mike Miles did an interesting post on The Future of Imperialism at his blog, The Dialectic. He worries that a new post-modern form of AU.S. imperialism is even uglier than it was in the bad old days.
In the past, it meant extracting natural resources from a colony and selling them finished goods, with a little bit of tribute collection thrown in for good measure. More recently-- after enslaving indigenous populations fell out of favor-- imperial countries settled for financial control through loans and free trade agreements. Certainly this form of neocolonialism continues, but new imperial drivers have appeared that are assuming precedence over the old.
After the invasion of Iraq was announced, many people (mostly on the left) claimed that the real motive for war was to control Iraq’s oil reserves. This was a reasonable assertion, given the nature of colonialism and Paul Wolfowitz’s comment that oil revenues would reimburse the cost of the war. But that reasoning dissolved quickly, and was never applicable in Afghanistan. Instead, both conflicts were used to maintain power domestically. A number of imperial behaviors are now exhibited within our own borders by our own government.
The machinery of empire drives the myth of American Exceptionalism, a myth asymmetrically utilized by the right-wing in domestic politics. The myth is the finished good that we are forced to buy after the resource extraction of money and blood to fuel the machine. And, not unlike the Andean peoples forced to work the mines of Potosí, our youth (who are disproportionately underprivileged) are sent to war as tribute. The population at large gives up improvements to domestic infrastructure, a robust social safety net, and future financial security in exchange for funding the business of war (for more on this, consider Andrew Bacevich’s Washington Rules.) Like a colony, this represents a huge transfer of payments to a small group of elites.
Extending this model is even more depressing. The colonial “Other” becomes one’s domestic political adversaries, and their value falls far below that of accomplishing political objectives. This makes it not only easy, but necessary, for the imperial elites to marginalize political opponents. Even the sitting President is treated as Other: he is Kenyan, he is Muslim, he does not believe that America is exceptional. It is not a model for democratic society.
Look no further than the whole drone question. This week Michael Hastings dealt with the military/international aspects at Rolling Stone while Gaius Publius took on the domestic political aspects at AmericaBlog:
Rep. McKeon Praises Drone Manufacturers At Conference After They Lavish His Wife With Donations
Last week, Republic Report’s Lee Fang revealed that leading defense contractors, including the manufacturers of military drones, were lavishing Rep. Buck McKeon’s (R-CA) wife Patricia-- who is running for a state legislature seat in California-- with campaign donations. McKeon is Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and received $339,000 from the defense industry himself in 2010, so it’s reasonable to suspect that arms manufacturers and others are donating to his wife’s state race in order to please him.
Now, it appears that these donations are paying off. This morning at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., Rep. McKeon delivered a “Special Address” for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), a drone industry lobbying organization.
Republic Report gained access to the event-- which hosted hundreds of attendees from unmanned systems industry, including military drone manufacturers like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
Blue America is attempting to help progressive Democrat Lee Rogers hold McKeon accountable for his perfidy and corruption. If you'd like to kick in to that effort, you can find Lee on the Blue America ActBlue page. And if you're waiting to hear how Lee Rogers, who is campaigning on ending the occupation of Afghanistan at once, differs from McKeon's endless war agenda, this is what he told us. "McKeon has shown that his constituency is not the people of the 25th district of California, but the war industries. When given the opportunity to help his district, by preventing an unpopular mine or by helping the father of a Army medic killed in Afghanistan, he fails. But at every instance he stands up for the war industries. Before McKeon was chair of the House Armed Services Committee, he voted in agreement with defense industries 25%. In 2011, he became chair and subsequently voted 100% in agreement with them. He was richly rewarded with an increase of contributions by 450%, now taking in hundreds of thousands of dollars from defense industries. These contributions support his lifestyle. He has paid his wife over $550,000 to be his campaign treasurer in addition to paying other family members for services. It's time to elect someone whose campaign and personal wealth isn't tied to putting our troops into harms way."