Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Nationalism, War, and Terror

In an ideal world, we'd be able to go into a country that harbors terrorists, kill the terrorists deader than hell, knock down the petty dictator that's using them to boost his thug cred, and the people would rejoice (Side note:  that was the Pollyanna view of the attack on Saddam's Iraq).  Reality is that in the shitholes of the world, good and evil are not black and white, but so many shade of gray that you'd think you were in the pre-Technicolor days.  It's a world where the enemy of my enemy is my friend unless there's money enough involved for me to upgrade my mud hut of get me a gun so I can feed my family or earn some respect from someone.  And it's a world where principle consists of "he who has the gun rules."

Which brings us to Afghanistan, AKA the asshole of the world.  I refer to it as such because all it seems to give us is a lot of shit whenever we go there.  I'll save the rest of the anal jokes for later....

I was reading this opinion piece from a guy who advocates dialogue with everybody's favorite ragheaded totalitarian group, the Taliban.  And it got me to thinking, as I always do.

It also got me thinking about Iran, a country oppressed by terrorist-loving Islamic religious zealots that is hell-bent on getting a nuke add talks freely about wiping our ally Israel off the map.  Quick answer is to go in and kill the sons of bitches.  However, were we to go in to take them out, we would be met with a stiffened resistance from the people, and a bloodbath would ensue, despite our best intentions, that would make Iraq and Afghanistan look like cuddly hug party by comparison.  The big reason, and a reason that anything short of a total war can carry the day in most countries is the concept of nationalism (my apologies for the weakness of the Wikipedia article, but I'll try to clarify).

Essentially, its the defense of your home area, state, country, etc, that makes a war on foreign soil so damned hard to win, whether you go with the US COIN strategy in Afghanistan or the old Soviet method of just shooting people.  And whether it's used to turn a pissant nation into a word-dominating power for a while, like WWII Germany (and thankfully, they're still a pissant nation), or the motivation for a lot of guys who didn't own or benefit from slaves in the Civil War-era South, or modern intellectuals defending their home alongside the Islamic nutjobs in Iran.  And in parts of Afghanistan, where the only things there is a market for are rock chisels, guns, and bonable goats, the nation is a mess of tribes and societies where outsiders are welcome enough to bring you RPGs, but that's about it.

Now that's not to say we can't win.  But as it was pointed out in the article I referenced above, it's going to be at a significant cost of time, money, and lives.  And with our fascination of it all being resolved at the end of the show, season, or series (unless you were one of the fools trying to make sense of Lost), most people aren't equipped with the resolve to see this through.

We proved that in the bungle of bungles known as Vietnam, where we could kill the shit out of the enemy and still lose in shame.

Now the current strategy lends itself to success where stacking bodies like cordwood does not.  Unless, of course, we possessed the balls to wipe out all life in parts of the country with some happy tactical nukes (because if you kill everybody, you win (sort of)), which may get the rest to back off (assuming that we'd nuke them next if they piss us off).

But in the end, we have to be ready to embrace even those we might have called our enemy, including the less nutty elements of the Taliban (because not all terrorists are equally evil).  Because it is never an all or nothing situation, and the difference between insurgents and patriots sometimes depends on who wins.  And if it's your country on the firing line, the line between liberator and enemy is fine.

1 comment:

BB-Idaho said...

Pretty good analysis, can't argue with that...