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The Neocons Speak: Afghanistan as Political Real Estate

When the tears dry, it is worth considering why there is so much upset about the fall of Kabul (or reconquest) by the Taliban and the messy withdrawal of US-led forces. A large shield is employed: women, rights of the subject, education. Remove the shield, and we are left with a simple equation of power gone wrong in the name of paternalistic warmongering.

The noisiest group of Afghanistan stayers are the neoconservatives resentful because their bit of political real estate is getting away. In being defeated, they are left with the task of explaining to the soldiery that blood was not expended in vain against a foe they failed to defeat. “You took out a brutal enemy,” goes a statement from US President George W. Bush and his wife Laura, “and denied Al Qaeda a safe haven while building schools, sending supplies, and providing medical care.” The couple throw in the contribution of Dr. Sakena Yacoobi of the Afghan Institute of Learning, behind the opening of “schools for girls and women around the nation.”

Paul Wolfowitz, who served as Bush’s deputy defence secretary, is less sentimental in his assessment of the Afghanistan fiasco. To Australia’s Radio National, he was unsparing in calling the victors “a terrorist mob that has been hating the United States for the last 20 years.” They had provided the launching ground for “one of history’s worst attacks on the United States” and were now “going to be running that bit of hostile territory.”

Being in Afghanistan, he asserted, was not costly for the occupiers – at least to the US. It made good sense in preventing it from “once again becoming a haven for terrorists.” For the last year and a half, there had not been a single American death. He chided the simpletons at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs who dared survey Americans with the question, “Would you like to leave [Afghanistan] and get out?” They would have been far better framing it differently: “Do you support withdrawal if it means the country is going to be overrun by the same people who hated us 20 years ago and from where an attack that killed 3,000 Americans took place.”

To talk about “endless wars” was also something to avoid. In a reminder that the US imperial footprint remains global, Wolfowitz drew attention to the fact that Washington was hardly going to withdraw from South Korea, where it was still officially at war with the North. It kept troops in countries it had previously been at war with: Germany and Japan. Americans, he lamented, had not “been told the facts” by their politicians.

Boiled down to its essentials, such a view has little time for Afghans with a country “more or less ungovernable for long periods of time.” (What uncooperative savages.) The Obama administration’s deployment of 100,000 soldiers had been an “overreach” with unclear intention. It was far better to treat Afghanistan as a state to contain with “a limited commitment” of US forces rather than “extending to the idea that Afghanistan would become a latter-day Switzerland.” Ringing the real estate, not advancing the people, mattered.

Former US National Security Advisor John Bolton, a caricature of US interventionist policies, never had much time for the withdrawal argument, either. Earlier in August, with the Taliban humming along with speed in capturing a swag of provincial cities, Bolton warned that it was “literally [President Joe] Biden’s last chance to reverse his and Trump’s erroneous withdrawal policy. When the Taliban wins, it compromises the security of all Americans.”



Another voice from the neoconservative stable advocating the need for a continued boot print of US power was Max Boot, who thought it nonsensical to keep US troops in Iraq while withdrawing them from Afghanistan. US forces needed, he wrote in the Irish Independent (Jul 29) “to stay in both countries to prevent a resurgence of the terrorist threat to the US and its allies.” The “imperative” to prevent both countries from becoming “international terrorist bases” remained, but only one had an adequate military presence to provide insurance. Decent of Boot to show such candour.

The British, long wedded to the idea of empire as gift and necessity, have also piled onto the wagon of stayers, saying less about the merits of protecting Afghan citizens than keeping trouble boxed and localised. “We will run the risk of terrorist entities re-establishing in Afghanistan, to bring harm in Europe and elsewhere,” feared General Sir Richard Barrons. “I think this is a very poor strategic outcome.”

British Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, a former captain in the Royal Green Jackets, went further by suggesting that plucky Britain best go it alone in the face of foolhardy US withdrawal. “Just because the US chose to depart does not mean we should slavishly follow suit,” he exhorted. “Would it not make sense to stay close to the Afghan people given the importance of this bit of real estate?”

The one who tops all of this off must be former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, always one given to evangelising wars waged in the name of a sinister, tinfoil humanitarianism. As executive of an institute bearing his name (modest to a fault), he railed against a withdrawal executed “in obedience to an imbecilic political slogan about ending ‘forever wars’.” Like Wolfowitz, he dismissed the use of such terms and comparisons, noting the diminishing troop deployment on Afghan soil and the fact that “no allied soldier had lost their life in combat for 18 months.”

Despite the withdrawal, Blair suggested that options were available to “the West” which needed some “tangible demonstration” that it was not in “retreat.” A “list of incentives, sanctions and actions” had to be drawn up against the Taliban. In doing so, his motivation was simple: that these turbaned fanatics represented a strategic risk, part of “Radical Islam” that had been “almost 100 years in gestation.”

Far from ditching the prospect for future interventions, the high priest of illegal war is all-embracing of the formula. “Intervention,” he opines, “can take many forms. We need to do it learning the proper lessons of the past 20 years according not to our short-term politics, but our long-term strategic interests.” Be fearful for Afghanistan’s sovereignty, and woe to those lessons.

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  1. New England Cocky

    Binoy I fear that you may have missed the strategic point of the Afghanistan situation.

    I am advised that the US multinational oil corporations wanted an oil pipeline to the Pakistan coast and the Talian who were in power rejected this ”request”. Consequently, the US shifted their invasion from stealing Iraq oil reserves to clearing away Afghan people for the required pipeline.

    This was the basis of the Kosovo Campaign; a pipeline to the sea to export oil with the two local groiups played off against each other.

    It is not the first time that the USA (United States of Apartheid) have used this strategy.

    Look at all the post 1945 conflicts and the same pattern emerges for oil search rights across the world. Korea was an anti-communist campaign, lost by the Yanks. Vietnam ended as a debacle captured by the wonderful pics of the Australian photographer the late Greg Davis. The Iraq invasion ”avoided” the Ministry of OIl to protect the information contained inside about oil reserves and Iran is vilified because US oil corporations cannot access the enormous Iranian oil reserves.

    Noted commentators are beginning to realise that America is a dangerous ally with an expensive re-distribution of public monies into the profits of the NE military industrial complex.

  2. Roswell

    NEC, don’t be surprised to find Dick Cheney’s grubby little hands all over that.


    It’s even worse than that. Read this article by John Pilger on Afghanistan. The US brought the Taliban to power in 1979, they sacrificed the rights of women and destroyed a raipdy modernising country because the Soviet Union had assisted the government.

    John Pilger: Afghanistan, the great game of smashing countries

  4. Harry Lime

    Re Blair…and Little Johnny Rotten,like all past ‘leaders’ trying to justify their crimes.As for the imbecile Bush,he probably doesn’t remember,after all Cheney was the effective ‘President’

  5. Mark

    Australia had its backside kicked in Afghanistan but, nevertheless, we will contain China …. LOL.

    Clearly when it comes to constructing reality, Australia has an ongoing serious Drug problem.

  6. Fred

    It takes you back, but some time near the start of “Operation Enduring Freedom” I remember an ABC interview of an Afghani Mujahideen “warlord” and what stuck in my mind ever since was “The Russians ran away – yes its good the Americans are here now so we can get rid of the terrible Taliban – I hope we can do this quickly so I can go back to fighting my usual enemy” (other local warlords). Please do remember the Mujahideen were awful to women and were backed by the USA. Ah, the progress we’ve made in 20 odd years – I weep.

  7. Bill

    Did the Tabilan take back Kabul, or the company/country that supplied them their weapons?

  8. skip

    Most certainly. The White Male ruling class cares about the Women of Afghanistan. . .

    In Australia today the average female worker earns 15.3% less than a male worker. That’s almost 10 minutes of unpaid labor for every hour worked. But it’s not just unequal pay plaguing women across the country. According to research women are more likely to be depressed, retire into poverty and be victims of domestic violence. Many of the struggles women face today could arguably be attributed to their underrepresentation in government, with women representing only 32% of parliament, despite making up over 50% of the population.

    Over 140 countries were scored in four key areas including health, education, economy and politics. The map, which aims to highlight the global state of gender inequality, shows Australia ranking disappointedly low at 46 just behind the US (45) and countries like Bulgaria (41), Jamaica (42) and Trinidad and Tobago (44) who all offer better overall equality for women.

    That was 2017. Improvement??? NO!!! Howz bout the ‘situation’ for Australian women, down under in the multinational corporate mining penal colony, where women rank #1 in literacy in the world, and rate #125 in the world in estimated earned income . . .

    Let’s move on to 2021.

    Economic participation and opportunity #70 in the world
    Labour force participation rate, % #46 in the world
    Wage equality for similar work, 1-7 (best) #68 in the world
    Estimated earned income, int’l $ 1,000 #125 in the world
    Legislators, senior officials and managers, as a %: #46 in the world


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