This isn't the sixties, and (so far) President Obama hasn't fulfilled my worst-case scenarios. And I'm not at all disappointed.
Reaching Out: to the Taliban?!Reading past the headlines, always a good idea, I discovered that Barack Obama seems to have the idea of opening doors for Afghans who support the Taliban, but aren't utterly committed to the Taliban's no-trouser ideology.
That actually makes sense. Parts of Afghanistan aren't all that cosmopolitan, and quite a few 'pro-Taliban' Afghans may have heard about Western civilization mostly through the Taliban and people like professor Ward Churchill.
Once they find out that westerners can be reasonable people, and aren't as touchy about dress codes as the death-to-men-wearing-pants outfits, quite a few Taliban supporters might change their minds.
Reaching Out to the Enemy: Sound Familiar? It ShouldPresident Obama isn't the first western leader to try dealing with non-fanatic supporters of terrorists. The "diabolical" George W. Bush's administration did the same thing, around 2006, in Iraq. That time it was Al Qaeda, not the Taliban: but the principal was the same.
Between turn-arounds like the Anbar Awakening and the Surge, Iraq is now relatively terrorist-free, and following the American Way of squabbling over election results.
Reaching out worked in Iraq, it might work in Afghanistan.
Reaching out, Yes: Giving In, NoOne reason that I think President Obama's gambit in Afghanistan may work is that Afghanistan is not Pakistan.
Afghanistan's national leader doesn't have military leaders under him who gave orders to shoot American and Coalition soldiers if they chased terrorists in his country. In fact, the Afghan government seems quite willing to let western forces help them get control of their country.
Pakistan, on the other hand, recently handed the Swat Valley over to the Taliban. That's not quite how the deal was spun, but that's the gist of it.
There are No Rice Paddies in AfghanistanFinally, "quagmire" is back. An op-ed in the Boston Globe sports this in the second paragraph: "However, the 17,000 new troops may actually help avoid a quagmire. The long-term challenge Obama faces in Afghanistan...."
"Quagmire" was a very effective metaphor for the Vietman War mess. Between rice paddies and natural landforms, Vietnam has quite a lot of sincerely soggy ground. For Americans who had been fed a steady stream of images from Vietnam, "quagmire" resonated.
Afghanistan, like Iraq and Pakistan, isn't a very damp country. At least one alert writer called America's 'failure' in the Middle East "quicksand."
I like to think that, as years go by and the more adventurous writers and thinkers in America become familiar with realities in the Middle East, terms like "quicksand" will replace "quagmire" as a metaphor for America's 'racist oppression' of indigenous people and 'popular uprisings.'
It would be nice, if more of America's 'better sort' found out what a sweet deal they've got: but I'm not holding my breath. One of the drawbacks of having freedom is that, after a while, it's easy to forget about the alternatives.
More-or-less related posts:
- "Goodbye Quagmire, Hello Quicksand: Champions of Relevance Catch Up"
(January 5, 2009)
- "Marines Abandon Fallujah!!! (Or, Let's Keep Quiet About This)"
(October 17, 2008)
- "More - What Else? - Dreadful News from Iraq"
(March 30, 2008)
- "Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Foreign Troops: One Issue, Two Approaches"
(September 16, 2008)
- "Good News: Anbar Province is Just About Ready for Hand-Over"
(January 11, 2008)
- "No Casualties in Anbar - Violence Down in Iraq"
(October 26, 2007)
- "Locals Join American Forces, Purge City of Terrorists"
(September 11, 2007)
- "Watch for Weird Words: Election's Coming Up!"
(August 9, 2007)
- "Karzai welcomes Obama call to reach out to Taliban"
The Associated Press (March 8, 2009)
- "Afghan leader Karzai backs Obama's call on Taliban"
Reuters (March 8, 2009)
- "Afghan President welcomes Obama's consideration to talk with moderate Taliban "
Xinhua (March 8, 2009)
- "Obama's Afghan challenge"
The Boston Globe (March 8, 2009 )
- "Dreaming of Splitting the Taliban"
The New York Times (March 7, 2009)
- "A New Afghanistan Nightmare"
The Los Angeles Times (March 7, 2009)
- "IRAQ: Political differences threat country’s reconciliation plan"
IRIN, via GlobalSecurity.org (October 6, 2006)