Afghanistan: Still There Between Pakistan and Iran, As Screwed Up As Ever

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When I tell people I spent the better part of a year in Afghanistan they assume I was in the military. I'm a bit old for that-- not to mention temperamentally unfit-- and when I mention it was in 1969 and 1971 when I was there, they write it off to eccentricity. I don't purport to be an Afghanistan expert, but recent history will bear out my claims to know a lot more about the place than Bush, his ill-starred regime or the self-serving mooks and clueless imbeciles whose advice the U.S. government has followed.

When the U.S. attacked Afghanistan after 9/11-- a target Rumsfeld and Cheney felt was unworthy of the mighty U.S. military-- almost everyone thought it was, aside from being just, a good idea-- everyone, that is, except people who know their Afghan history... and even more especially, the people who could factor in their knowledge of Afghan history with their knowledge of the Bush Regime's dearth of leadership abilities and monumentally breathtaking incompetence and arrogance (a bad combination).

"Here the for will not meet us in pitched battle, as other armies we have dueled in the past, save under conditions of their choosing. His word is worthless. He routinely violates truces; he betrays the peace. When we defeat him, he will not accept our dominion. He comes back again and again. He hates us with a passion whose depth is exceeded only by his patience and his capacity for suffering. His boys and old men, even his women, fight us as combatants. They do not do this openly, however, but instead present themselves as innocents, even as victims, seeking our aid. When we show compassion, they strike with stealth."

An American politician? No. An American general. Guess again. A Russian general in the 80s? A British general far earlier? No... Alexander the Great addressing Macedonian troops fighting in Afghanistan more than 300 years before Christ. Well, it's actually author Steven Pressfield's version of Alexander in his brilliant and timely (2006) latest book on the history of the ancient world, The Afghan Campaign.
The kind speaks of will-- our own and the enemy's. The foe, he declares, has no chance of overcoming us in the field. But if he can sap our resolution by his doggedness, his relentlessness; if he can appall us by his acts of barbarity, he can, if not defeat us, then prevent us from defeating him. Our will must master the enemy's. Our resolve must out last his.
It's never gonna happen. The Macedonians couldn't pull it off-- and their leader was brilliant, heroic, charismatic and beloved, as well as mortal-- nor did the Russians or Brits or anyone else who tried, at least not for the long run. Bush's resolve and will? The American people's? Hillary Clinton's? Mullah Omar and his boys aren't going anywhere. How many Americans could point out Afghanistan on a map-- even with my clue in the title... even if their life depended on it?

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