As the nation’s attention is passionately riveted to the death rattles of Pelobama Care, some of America’s main business goes unattended.
Several months after being informed of General McChrystal requirements, two months after the general went public to force a response (thereby risking his career), the President has not said if he had made up his mind about what to do in Afghanistan. The argument that he was awaiting the results of the Afghan elections does not hold water anymore. No, Afghanistan is not Switzerland. Yes, it’s a pity there was so much cheating. But, there is no doubt that the winner was really the winner. The runner up Abdallah Abdallah never said otherwise, I think. In the UK, or in Germany, or in Italy, the winner would have gone on to form a government, even without 50% plus one votes.
In the current issue of the Weekly Standard (Nov. 9 2009), Donnelly and Sullivan opine that the President is going to announce an option McChrystal “lite,” 20,000 additional troops instead of the 40,000 requested. That falls short of everyone’s wish. There is mounting pressure from a segment of what is usually defined as the conservative side to leave Afghanistan altogether. Not all of the pressure proceeds from childish petulant desire to do to Obama what the Left did to Bush. Opposition emanating from my Libertarians friends, led by the Independent Institute, is principled, coherent, based on moral convictions, and thoroughly blind, in my opinion. Fortunately, most libertarians (like me) are not Libertarians. Here is a summary of what’s at stake.
The people threatening to take over the Afghanistan are the same people who sheltered the 9/11 assassins. I am not making this up. They are not hiding it. They are the same Taliban movement that was reduced to next to nothing by the flash-quick combined NATO, Northern Alliance victory in 2001. That was the price they paid for refusing to turn over for trial the Al Quaida Arabs responsible for 9/11. By the way, the invasion of Taliban Afghanistan was authorized by the UN and still is. (I don’t care much myself about this fact. I mention this for those of you who are concerned about the fiction of international law.)
There are four additive reasons for Americans to want the Taliban defeated. They are separate and perhaps of unequal importance but they point toward the same US policy. First, there is no reason to believe the Taliban leadership has learned any lesson from its removal from power. It sheltered the criminals who killed 3,000 American civilians even after they had no excuse to not know what happened. They hate kuffar, infidels, and they care nothing about international principles of justice or of peace. There is no reason why they would stop any future attempt to plan one, two, three, four, five, six, or more 9/11, on us, or on our partners. The potential victims are not all in the West. Note that predominantly Muslim countries struggling to become or to remain democratic such as Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, and Turkey make especially attractive targets.
I am not just imagining things. 9/11 was superbly planned, superbly executed and must have cost little more then $500,00. There are more 9//11 where it came from, given a place where the plotting can be relatively well sheltered from intrusion. Afghanistan remains a prime location for such activities because of its geographic inaccessibility and because of its very backwardness.
Let the Taliban take over again and hunch your shoulders! I am not referring only to unacceptable loss of life but to the economic devastation that would follow multiple attacks of the same type as 9/11.
The second reason Americans should want to defeat the Taliban is that newly democratic Pakistan has finally shaken itself out of its impotent torpor. Finally, it’s going with some vigor after its own home-grown violent jihadists, including some who call themselves “Taliban.” Nevertheless, there is little reason to doubt that the average Pakistani sees the military action as more of America’s fight than his own. It does not matter how deluded a view that is. It would not be the first time that the most likely victims of a crime are the most blind to it. After all, most German Jews seem to have made no attempt to flee Nazi Germany, even after seeing SA lowlife marched past them singing something like” “I smile when I see Jewish blood.”
It cannot be said enough that Pakistan possesses nuclear weapons. Even barring a full violent jihadist take-over, there is grave danger in any sort of political accommodation with jihadists, even of their physical proximity to the weapons. After all, how difficult would it be for a powerful Islamist politician to get two of his grand-nephews on the female side hired as night janitors in a nuclear arsenal? Hint: Pakistan is part of the Indian sub- continent where family pull matters. (Why the female line? Think it through.)
If the US is seen as faltering in Afghanistan, a large segment of Pakistani political opinion will ask itself why Pakistan should do what the vastly richer and more populous US is unwilling to commit to. A coalition government with Taliban or some other Islamist elements will be next. The dream of every two-bit violent jihadist, including American ones, to get his hands on dirty bomb material will come very close to being realized. A single dirty bomb exploding in a major American city would have the capacity to set back the world economy by many years through a chain reaction. The Islamist terrorists know this. They are insane, not stupid.
The third reason to beat the Taliban is they they are a morally obscene group. When they were in power, they executed “adulterous” women during soccer game intermissions. Guess what “adulterous” means under sharia ? They denied male-administered medical care to women in a country with no female doctors and they kept little girls from school. In the middle-run, the product would have been this demented thing: self-genocide through the dying off of many women. Today, in parts of the country they rule, they throw acid in little girls’ faces to discourage them from going to school. Perhaps worse of all, the Taliban outlawed music. (That’s a good enough reason to kill them, in my book.) I am well aware of the serious arguments against the US acting as the world’s sheriff. (I don’t buy them but that’s another story.) Yet, once in a while, a country’s self-interest and common decency happen to coincide. This is one such opportunity. We should not waste it.
The fourth reason is that the many potential and actual enemies of Americans are watching our every move. Every time President Obama demonstrates weakness, they take a step forward. The enemies include several terrorist groups, of course, Iran, North Korea, and Russia and China if they get a chance. Russia is just a hoodlum country that will grab what it can. The Chinese leadership probably does not want our destruction but it’s ill-informed and prone to miscalculation. If we falter on Afghanistan, they will reach out for a piece of us. Most of our vacillating NATO allies are the way they have been for a long time, as they were under the Soviet threat. They have no stomach for a fight unless we push and pull and, above all, set an example of bravery.
(Note: I know I have not dealt with our casualties or with civilian casualties resulting from our actions. Both matter, obviously.)
In the meantime, my Libertarians friends develop principled arguments against continued US and NATO military action to repel the Taliban that are all about propriety, and also about property. I have no doubt that war increases the importance of government, its dominion over civil society. As a libertarian (with a small “l), I hate it, of course. But a broad terrorist attack would increase the influence of government even faster, more deeply, and more irreversibly. I am not about to join the Libertarian Party because of its blindness regarding defense. The Libertarian arguments, I would buy if I were reasonably sure my house is not about to be set on fire. Moral principles are here to help people live good lives, in every sense of the word. They do not exist to excuse passivity. Passivity in the face of evil is the greatest evil of all.
PS An Army psychiatrist, a major, murdered 12 people at Fort Hood, Texas, today. It seems he was having career trouble. All the same, I wish he did not have an Arab, Muslim name. It makes keeping things in perspective difficult.
CORRECTION: I WROTE IN A PREVIOUS COLUMN ( “THE A.A. PRESIDENT,” POSTED 10/07/09 ) THAT I DOUBTED PRESIDENT OBAMA HAD EVER PASSED THE BAR EXAM ANYWHERE ANY TIME. A FRIEND OF MINE, A GOOD LAWYER I HAVE KNOWN FOR A LONG TIME AND WHOSE UTTERANCES I TRUST SAID OTHERWISE. MY ATTORNEY FRIEND TOLD ME THAT THE FACT THAT BARACK OBAMA HAD BEEN ADMITTED TO PRACTICE BEFORE THE ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT PROVED THAT HE HAD PASSED THE BAR. THAT HE WAS SO ADMITTED CAN BE FOUND ON THE SITE OF THE ILLINOIS BAR ASSOCIATION. I ACCEPT MY FRIEND’S JUDGMENT IN THIS RESPECT. I AM STILL PUZZLED ABOUT WHY THE REAL ACHIEVEMENT OF PASSING THE BAR EXAM – WHICH CAN PRESUMABLY NOT BE EASED BY AFFIRMATIVE ACTION CONSIDERATIONS – IS NOT MENTIONED ON THE PRESIDENT’S WIKIPEDIA ENTRY. MR OBAMA ‘S LIST OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS IS SHORT AND THIN; THE BAR EXAM SHOULD BE THERE TO THICKEN IT. PERHAPS ONE OF THE PRESIDENT’S SUPPORTERS WILL DO THE JOB. I AM WATCHING.