“we didn’t light it, but we’re tryin’ to fight it!”
I remember September 11th 2001 as though it was yesterday, and yet it also feels so long ago. I was an economics student at the University of Guelph, and I was returning to residence after a morning class. I went into the cafeteria to get some breakfast and I looked up at the TV and both towers were on fire under the headline “America at War”. Several students were just standing there staring at the television in shock, trying to absorb what had just happened. My initial reaction was somebody needs to catch a beating for this. Then we soon learned that the attacks came from Afghanistan which was governed by these crazed fundamentalists who take parts of Islam way too fucking seriously, a country liberated from the Soviet Union with the help of billions of American dollars.
Then we learned that they did it because they are pissed off that the United States saved Saudi Arabia from the iron fist of Saddam Hussein. Bin Laden believed that his Mujahedeen should have been tapped to protect Mecca, and allowing the United States to do the entire planet a service by protecting Saudi oil fields from the firm grip of Saddam was a crime against Islam. That is the reason he cites as the justification for declaring war on America. Meanwhile, Osama should secretly be thanking the United States for saving Saudi Arabia from Saddam. Frankly the Afghan Mujahedeen defeated the Soviets by carrying weapons into mountains on mules, then hiding in protected caves, popping their heads out every so often and shooting a rocket. You can’t do that in open desert against tanks and fighter jets, and Saddam had a potent military force by the end of his war with Iran. Bin Laden’s boys would have been massacred.
The more we learned about Afghanistan and the Taliban, the more insane it became. Marred by the oppression of women, the strict interpretation of Sharia Law, and a generally backwards regressive culture. They had the opportunity to turn over Bin Laden to the United States, but instead chose the “lets get our asses kicked in for a decade or more” option and here we are today with a segment of the Pashtuns still fighting. It was never exactly clear where the Taliban ended and Al Qaeda began. There were likely frequent overlapping interests and cooperation. Then NATO came to kick a little ass and the two separate military forces simultaneously withdrew to the catacombs and seemingly morphed into a single military cooperative. They are waiting in the caves until we get tired of spending money and lives to inevitably leave.
I have been pleased with Pakistan the past few months, as all reports indicate that their military operation into the northern border region has been killing lots of bad guys. Keep it up. You can sense that NATO allies are starting to buckle under the pressure of growing domestic disapproval with foreign military campaigns. Democracies always trend towards larger opposition to a campaign the longer it lasts, with some possible exceptions. I see many experts saying that we cannot win in Afghanistan under the current rules of engagement, and even if we evolved we may never be able to clear the Himalayan Mountains of Islamic guerillas. Evidently my idea of plowing the mountains into a parking lot never gained much traction (that is sarcasm, incase you didn’t get it).
One thing that we absolutely must do is convene a think tank of the brightest military minds under the NATO tent to debate and draft a new strategy for engaging an enemy who hides by attempting to blend in to the civilian population. We need to write a new playbook, because this growing phenomenon prevalent in the Muslim resistance movements of using civilians as human shields is deplorable and must be rendered ineffective such as to eliminate the benefits to employing such a strategy. I have some ideas, but I have never been to these places and cannot write the winning solution. I hear more and more “experts” say that we should withdraw because we can’t win, which I reject in favour of figuring out how to win. Because if we give Afghanistan back to the Taliban, then we aren’t much ahead of where we were on September 10, 2001.
Today's blog post was brought to you by Billy Joel.