September 6, 2009

Is Obama being mau-maued in Afghanistan?

Tom Wolfe's classic study of War on Poverty handouts to "community organizers" in inner city San Francisco pointed out that most of the demonstrations and confrontations were largely staged to get money out of the government:

Going downtown to mau-mau the bureaucrats got to be the routine practice in San Francisco. The poverty program encouraged you to go in for mau-mauing. They wouldn't have known what to do without it. ... That was one reason why Summer Jobs was such a big deal. ... Nevertheless, there was some fierce ma-mauing that went on over summer jobs, especially in 1969, when the O.E.O. started cutting back funds and the squeeze was on. Half of it was sheer status. There were supposed to be strict impartial guidelines determining who got the summer jobs--but the plain fact was that half the jobs were handed out organization by organization, according to how heavy your organization was. If you could get twenty summer jobs for your organization and somebody else got five, then you were four times the aces they were ...

Reading the Afghanistan War website of Michael Yon, an ex-Green Beret who has been an embedded reporter in Iraq and Afghanistan, for some reason got me thinking about Mau-Mau the Flak Catchers. Especially the parts where people who are likely Taliban-affiliated show up at the British Army base where Yon is embedded and demand medical care for a wound no doubt suffered fighting the Brits or show up demanding compensation for their house that got blown up because guys were shooting at the Brits from it.

For a lot of the Pashtuns, no matter what side they nominally are on, the war seems to be not just about killing people and breaking things (which, being Pashtuns, they consider good clean fun), but, also, it's a living. If the war ever ends, will the rest of the world continue to funnel money and weapons into Afghanistan? Will they then have to get, like, jobs?

Moreover, consider the lessons the Afghans likely drew from the Iraq "Surge." Here in the U.S., the received lesson is that adding 15% more soldiers made all the difference, but what actually made the difference was what I'd been advocating all along: bribe the Sunni rebels to stop fighting us and start fighting the foreign fundamentalists.

If you are an Afghan, you probably figure that the same logic will play out in Afghanistan as in Iraq: the more problems you cause the Americans now, the more they will bribe you to switch sides, the same as the more you intimidated federal poverty bureaucrats in 1969, the biggerthe bribe they paid you.

Does Obama grasp that? This is one case where his pre-Presidential career experience ought to equip him to understand what's going on.

Yon's perspective is different. He implies that American soldiers didn't like the Iraqis, but at least they were civilized, in the sense that they mostly lived in houses that were designed with the expectation of some degree of law and order in Iraq. In contrast, while American and British troops tend to like the Afghans more on a personal level, they're basically uncivilized. Everybody in Afghanistan who can afford it builds his family a mud fort to call home, a mini-Alamo, because the expectationis that normal life in Afghanistan is Hobbesian.

For some reason, though, this doesn't discourage Yon:

We must face reality: Our reasons for continuing are not the reasons we came for. We are fighting a different war now than the one that began in 2001. Today's war is about social re-engineering. Given the horrible history of Afghanistan, and the fact that we already are here, the cause is worthy and worthwhile. ... Today, the war is still worth fighting, yet the goal to reengineer one of the most backward, violent places on Earth, will require a century before a reasonable person can call Afghanistan "a developing nation." The war will not take that long - but the effort will.

Well, as Sam Goldwyn would say, include me out.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

32 comments:

AmericanGoy said...

"Here in the U.S., the received lesson is that adding 15% more soldiers made all the difference, but what actually made the difference was what I'd been advocating all along: bribe the Sunni rebels to stop fighting us and start fighting the foreign fundamentalists."

this is a key point.

Google "Sons of Iraq" for the lowdown. For extra brownie points, add americangoy to your search.

...

For the lazy and because I live for spamming my obscure blog:

http://americangoy.blogspot.com/2008/09/iran-thanks-brave-american-soldiers.html

Yes, I know.

I can't help it, it's the egomaniac in me.

Anonymous said...

Afghanistan is special because it's mountainous and far from any coasts. It's the ultimate backwater. Every historical trend is doomed to arrive there later than in better-connected locals. In some parts of Afghanistan full-on paganism survived into the 20th century. The Pushtuns' attitude towards male homosexuality seems to resemble ancient Greco-Roman attitudes more than it does anything in the modern world. The culture of blood feuds is more alive there than anywhere else in Eurasia. According to the Wikipedia, life expectancy at birth is 44.6 years there while the fertility rate is 6.5 kids per woman. I'm sure that these are wild guesses, by the way - who's going to gather statistics there? If somebody quoted to me the exact same figures about the Roman Empire, I would accept them in the same spirit - the numbers sound plausible, but who gathered them? And what methods could he have been using?

In spite of rampant buggery, the adult HIV prevalence rate in Afghanistan is reported as 0.01%. That also sounds plausible - they're THAT cut off from the rest of the world.

Anonymous said...

"Today's war is about social re-engineering."

"Social reengineering" is not worth a single American life.

This would be true even if it were possible to reengineer Afghanistan out of being a violent, backward hellhole, which it's not.

We didn't break it. We have no obligation to buy it. We do NOT want to own it.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that the Afghan War will hurt Obama much. The simple fact that there is a war going on is insufficient for making a leader unpopular. For him to become unpopular somebody has to make a stink about that war. The Democrats won't do it because they worship Obama, the Republicans won't do it because it would clash with their understanding of patriotism.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Obama cares about war casualties because they are mostly white. I think many young whites sign up for Afghanistan because that's the only job they can get.

To prospective parents I have to ask, why have a child in a country like this ?

KingM said...

And the fact of the matter is that the casualty toll is very low compared to that suffered by the Soviets or by the Americans in Vietnam. People will make a stink as soon as a few thousand Americans start dying every year. Until then, not so much.

Anonymous said...

I suppose that Obama is seeking to avoid the political nightmare scenario of 1) leaving, followed by 2) a terrorist attack in the U.S. bearing some relationship to Al Qaeda. The only thing that would move him off of this position would be if the political risks of staying in Afghanistan seemed worse. For that, the antiwar folks (like me) are going to have to get really organized and somewhat anti-Obama. And, there may need to be a Dem. primary threat from a well-known person -- but who? Or, perhaps Donald Trump could lead the charge with a threatened independent candidacy.

Anonymous said...

That essay reminds me of the ones I wrote in college, where I would examine some aspect of social justice (I was a philosophy major) and spend the whole time proving it wrong, but at the conclusion do a 180 and say "well maybe it has flaws but if you believe it you're a good person so it's correct". That was the only way I could write my true thoughts about nonsense like A Theory of Justice and still get the grades -- by appealing to the ego of the grader. That taught me to say how you feel and replace the actual conclusion with SWPL feel-goodness: you are guaranteed to get ahead and so far it's working quite well in the corporate world. Yon seems to be doing the same thing here -- the Afghanistan strategy is not working but saying so conflicts with dogma, so he reverses himself in the end to say that dogma is correct and therefore ignore the elephant in the corner.

Svigor said...

Well, as Sam Goldwyn would say, include me out.

The bulk of my politics in a nutshell. Unfortunately, that isn't on the table, so at some point we're going to have to force the issue.

TGGP said...

You can read Tom Wolfe's "Mau-mauing the Flak Catchers" online.

Anonymous said...

Its a shame about Yon, he is a great reporter on the ground - but harnessed to a bad idea.

rast said...

KingM, the American casualty count doesn't matter. What's hurting us is the massive waste of our money over there. It doesn't matter if they get it from taxes, or borrowing from the Chinese, or just printing it; the end result is that Americans (outside of the military industrial complex) get a lot poorer.

Anonymous said...

"For a lot of the Pashtuns, no matter what side they nominally are on, the war seems to be not just about killing people and breaking things (which, being Pashtuns, they consider good clean fun), but, also, it's a living."

John Masters, who served with the Ghurkas, wrote of a 1930's British Afghan expedition, following which their Pashtun tribesman opponents showed up asking for the British campaign medal. After all, they had fought in the campaign, hadn't
they?

Anonymous said...

I don't think Obama cares about war casualties because they are mostly white. I think many young whites sign up for Afghanistan because that's the only job they can get.

To prospective parents I have to ask, why have a child in a country like this ?


I'm the most cynical person I know, and I'm not this cynical. But if the mil. recruiter comes around for my boys in a few years, I'll treat him like a drug pusher - no offense meant to drug pushers.

Stopped Clock said...

Afghanistan looks a lot like West Virginia on a map.

Muswell Hillbilly said...

I think many young whites sign up for Afghanistan because that's the only job they can get.

A comment so ignorant it requires zero knowledge of the current military.

No one joins the military because it's the "only job they can get." If you're such a loser that you can't get any civilian job, the military isn't going to touch you.

Some people (more often blacks and hispanics than whites) join for economic opportunity, but (1) no one "signs up for Afghanistan," (whatever the hell that means), and (2) the people who go for economic reasons go into non-combat roles. They do not become trigger-pullers. The whites who enlist in combat-heavy branches tend to do so for machismo/adventure or patriotic reasons.

Truth said...

". Today's war is about social re-engineering. Given the horrible history of Afghanistan, and the fact that we already are here, the cause is worthy and worthwhile. ... Today, the war is still worth fighting..."

Until you are ready to enlist, grasshopper, no war is "worth fighting."

Anonymous said...

"If you're such a loser that you can't get any civilian job, the military isn't going to touch you."

You mean the military WASN'T going to touch you. The standards are more relaxed now.

"The whites who enlist in combat-heavy branches tend to do so for machismo/adventure or patriotic reasons."

There are also a lot of young white males who graduate from high school and don't really see anything out there for them except to aimlessly waste away or join the service. The military provides meritocratic opportunity, a structured way of using ones talents, goals to aspire to, self-discipline and danger. All traits that men appreciate but are missing from nanny-state America. The other option is to work a dead-end job and play video games.

Truth said...

"The other option is to work a dead-end job and play video games."

There is no such thing as a "dead end job" only dead end employees. McDonalds hires managers too.

nostril said...

Anon sez:
I don't think that the Afghan War will hurt Obama much. The simple fact that there is a war going on is insufficient for making a leader unpopular. For him to become unpopular somebody has to make a stink about that war. The Democrats won't do it because they worship Obama, the Republicans won't do it because it would clash with their understanding of patriotism.


Steve, great and interesting post. Buying off the Sunni's is one of the most significant but underreported things in Iraq. Coz it contradicts the carefully honed image of the fearless, victorious GI? Buying off your enemy makes war pointless and a mockery of the heroism associated with soldiery. It's the symbol of ultimate corruption in any western.

But I agree with Anon that most of the hype about Iraq was artificially induced by the MSM in order to hurt the Republicans. And the MSM is owned by the same people that engineered in Obama and are artificially drilling down whites in the US to less than 50%. They are already planning the festivities for the day when that number hits. Watch them call it out well before the currently predicted date 2040, if only to have fun watching the scarred white faces. Living as a white minority in a country run by blacks or mulattos sucks (thins South Africa), and the elites know it. That's why they relish forcing this onto white Americans. These same elites will turn Afghanistan into a medial success if it serves their corrupt purpose. They only thing you need to find out is how important Afg. is in the scheme of ME politics, then you have your answer whether Obama fails or not. If it suits the elites, they will gladly roast 100000 GI's without the public even noticing much.

Whiskey said...

The strength of Tribal people like the Pathans is also their weakness -- they are tribal, and therefore had tribal enemies.

General Crook used the Navajo, who hated the Apache, to track and defeat Geronimo and his band of Apaches.

There is not much (fortunately) military commitment to Afghanistan -- it's at the end of a tenuous and perilous supply line over the Khyber Pass, most everything trucked through Pakistan. Contra one Anon, relatively few sign up for the volunteer Army, and the place is mostly characterized by "the Special Forces Olympics" with highly trained and very selective forces.

We will never transform Afghanistan into much. BUT ... we can prevent it from being used as a Taliban/AQ base as it was in the 1990's, where the 9/11 attacks were plotted and many of the muscle hijackers trained, and AQ itself organized with a completely safe haven.

Moreover, being in Afghanistan gives us HUGE advantages: we are right next door to Pakistan where the AQ/Taliban leadership fled, and can and do launch UAV attacks on those guys in Pakistan on short notice. Something you cannot do from the carrier deck in the Indian Ocean. We can get word that someone is somewhere right across the border, and launch an attack within minutes instead of half a day. Even now time and distance impose their own tyranny -- fighting AQ/Taliban from UAVs launched off carrier decks is a guarantee of failure to influence things in Pakistan.

Like it or not, we are en-meshed with tribalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan because the nukes in Pakistan matter. This is basically the game we would end up playing (as Putin and China play also) with the end of the Cold War.

There were riots in Urumqui last week ... by HAN Chinese ticked off that the provincial government was not protecting them from Uighers. As long as we can keep the casualties down and the potential hostages low (I assume our bug-out route should Pakistan suddenly fall to the Taliban/AQ is through the short but critical Chinese border) we have the ability to leverage all the people who HATE the Pashtuns: the Hazeri, the Tajiks, the Uzbeks, and so on. THEY will probably do the majority of the killing for us.

headache said...

Muswell Hillbilly sez:
No one joins the military because it's the "only job they can get." If you're such a loser that you can't get any civilian job, the military isn't going to touch you.



Sorry to pop your bubble Hillbill. South Africa used to have a swell military which, though small, was internationally recognised. There was a time not so long ago when working for the army had greater social prestige than slaving away for a super rich mining magnate such as Harry Oppenheimer. But with the new black gov. all the whites left the army in a hurry, and now the military is the LAST place you go look for work. Last time I checked u have a black prez... As whites feel more alienated and realize the gov. is no longer on their side, they will begin to shun the military (why die for another group which hates you anyway?). Invariably then the vaunted US deterrence will crumble. This is very clear to me and I am starting to count the years, no longer the decades.

Anonymous said...

Like it or not, we are en-meshed with tribalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan because the nukes in Pakistan matter.
Aaah, the nukes. I was waiting for that. Now what would intrigue me is if there were gorgeous, tatted Afghan babes in miniskirts with nukes in their handbags heading for NYC...

Anonymous said...

gorgeous, tatted Afghan babes in miniskirts

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

rob said...

So whiskey, tell us how much you admire Putin again. Ooh, also tell us how that you think betas are going to becoming suicide bombers cuz they you can't get snatch.

Richard Hoste said...

Michael Yon and these neocons are fascinating from a psychological perspective. He must know that if Bush never invaded Iraq, the war didn't go bad and the president made up that democracy justification the idea of socially engineering 3rd world countries as a way to fight terrorism would've never popped into his head.

Yes, it's groupthink, but if you're going to be a wide eyed idealist why not just become a liberal? Maybe neocons like Yon have too much testosterone and need the road to their utopia to be paved with blood.

I wish Testing would fill us in.

Mr. Anon said...

"Whiskey said...

Like it or not, we are en-meshed with tribalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan because the nukes in Pakistan matter. This is basically the game we would end up playing (as Putin and China play also) with the end of the Cold War."

If it's so f**king important then why don't you sign up and go over there yourself.

Numnut.

albertosaurus said...

The so called war in Afganistan is no such thing. It is more like a sporting event. Consider how you fight rats versus how you fight tigers. You poison rats and strive to kill them all. Maybe you can't get them all but you can try.

No body tries to kill all the tigers. No body poisons them. There are "rules of engagement".

Alexander did well against the Afgans we are told but no one since. The British failed the Russians failed. We are not doing that great either. But why is that?

The British walked into the mountains with small arms. The Russians had helicopters with machine guns. The Russians hunt wolves that way too.

If we want to win, we need a Sherman who will make Afganistan howl.

Afganistan is quite easy to subdue and since it has no capacity to retaliate they are at our mercy.

Take a bunch of Predator pilotless aircraft. Use them to spray Anthrax on the mountains. Bingo! no more mountain refuges.

This approach is not sporting. It is however the way you would get rid of vermin.

rob said...

Afganistan is quite easy to subdue and since it has no capacity to retaliate they are at our mercy.

Take a bunch of Predator pilotless aircraft. Use them to spray Anthrax on the mountains. Bingo! no more mountain refuges.


Wow, you wonder why the vermin want nuclear weapons? It's so bloodthirsty, genocidal shits like you and whiskey can't take out your frustrations on them.

Whiskey can't get laid. What the fuck is wrong with you that you want to murder large numbers of people who can't retaliate, and therefore are no danger in the first place?

Mr. Anon said...

"rob said...

Wow, you wonder why the vermin want nuclear weapons? It's so bloodthirsty, genocidal shits like you and whiskey can't take out your frustrations on them."

I think you have Albertosaurus wrong there. I won't presume to speak for him, but I think - and he can correct me if I'm wrong - that he is explaining the neocons position, not agreeing with it. That neocon position which always seems to amount to:

We shall be a light among nations, selflessly carrying any burden, bringing unto backward peoples the blessings of liberty, justice and the American way of life.

And if that doesn't work, we'll just exterminate the f**kers.

Anonymous said...

Rob - I think Alberto was being ironic in some sense, I dont think he was advocating that policy.

Anonymous said...

"Take a bunch of Predator pilotless aircraft. Use them to spray Anthrax on the mountains. Bingo! no more mountain refuges.

This approach is not sporting. It is however the way you would get rid of vermin."

It's also illegal... And predators would probably be less efficient that a larger manned aircraft that could carry a greater payload.

We did bomb them into submission in the Third Anglo-Afghan war, but it would have been the first time mnost of them had seen planes so I'm sure the shock was greater even with little bombs.