Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




Total Pageviews

Thursday, November 5, 2009

MORE BAD METAPHORS

Now that the elections are behind us, my grandchildren's pictures have been posted, and other such matters have been blogged about, it is necessary to return to the really important issue that pends: the situation in Afghanistan. There are reports from unnamed sources [as always] that Obama is considering changing the mission to the training of Afghan security forces and sending ten to fifteen thousand additional troops in pursuit of that mission.

This is madness, folly, a terrible waste of lives and resources. If he chooses this course of action, I would be willing to bet my entire modest savings that the following sequence of events will unfold: First, the troops will be sent and the mission will be changed. Then the Taliban [or other parties] will mount attacks on the training bases, and U.S. service men and women will lose their lives. In response, the generals in the field will state [publicly, since the tradition of civilian control of the military seems to have died away] that they need more troops to protect those engaged in the training. Obama, having chosen to send those trainers, will believe that he has no choice but to comply. How can he not give the troops he has sent in harm's way whatever they need to be protected while they do the job he sent them to do? A year from now, very little will have changed in Afghanistan, despite much brave talk about "benchmarks" and "metrics" of "success." But there will be 100,000 American troops there, not 68,000. And from then on, no matter what he says or hopes or dreams, Obama's presidency will be about Afghanistan.

This training mission is repeatedly described as "giving the Afghan forces the tools they need to maintain security." Think for a moment about that metaphor -- "the tools they need." We are to suppose that the Afghans are trying to clear a forest with axes, which is very difficult, so we will send them chain saws, which will make things go better. Or, they are communicating with one another by dixie cups attached to strings, and we will give them field radios, which will improve their ability to talk to oneanother.

Now the people the Afghan government forces are supposed to fight have a good deal less in the way of sophisticated equipment, and they have had the benefit of little or no formal training. Yet they regularly defeat the government forces, even when those forces are supported by U.S. air power and artillary ["tools" that the Taliban totally lack.] How can that be? Put this way, the question virtually answers itself. The Taliban [or the Iraqi militants, or the American Colonials, for that matter] have chosen to fight, and they have got their hands on enough weapons to do great harm. The Afghan forces are hired guns, not terribly enthusiastic about getting killed in the service of a corrupt government and an occupying great power. All the traning manuals written by American generals with Ph. D.'s cannot change these facts.

Now, it is no doubt true that with sufficient force, America can rule Afghanistan, either directly, or through a puppet government in Kabul. But experience teaches that to accomplish this dubious end, we would have to: (a) commit vastly more troops, (b) stay for as long as we want Afghanistan to be ruled, and (c) be willing to kill as many Afghan men, women, and children as it takes to oppress them successfully.

I know that Obama did not have a typical African-American upbringing, but surely he is familiar with the story about Br'er Rabbit and the Tar Baby.

No comments: