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Monday, December 7, 2009

Leakin’ and Learnin’

As many homeowners with the misfortune to have a home with a basement, I have been under “leak’ arrest for more than a month. Every half hour I go down into the basement to turn on a utility pump which sucks water out of the southwest wall and pumps it into a sump which pumps the water to a ditch on the east side of the property. If I don’t do this, the water rises into a small stream running into the basement floor where it will build up in a 64 gallon puddle before reaching the sump on its own. OK got all that? As Vonnegut says, “So it goes.” Can’t stop nature or any physical nature of hydraulics, but I am getting a good education in both.

Between trips down the stairs, I get an education on the two wars into which we dump an average of 1.000.000 dollars a year, per solider. I get that figure from all sorts of sources, the freshest being Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchannan, the conservative pundits for MSNBC who now want to know how we are going to pay for the army that the current administration plans to send there to win the hearts and minds of the Afghans and to stomp out the Taliban. I will use that figure; it is as good as any and as reliable as all (I am convinced that no one knows how much we are spending per day on war, depends on which clock or calculator and on which group is doing the figuring). Anyhow, it is a hellofa mess of money, all of which comes from taxes or really from the credit card called deficit spending. But am I missing something as usual? Are we not already spending that million a year per solider in Iraq? Will we not transfer some of the guys and gals for Iraq to serve with McCrystal in Afghanistan? Why do those idiot conservatives make it sound like it is new troops and new money? Where did we get the money for the seven years of war in Iraq plus the nation building (now that IS an oxymoron)? We didn’t; we charged it. Seven years ago, were Scarborough and Buchannan, MSNBC’s morning morons, asking how we were going to pay for the invasion of Iraq to get to those weapons of mass destruction? I do not think so.

So what good will it do transfer 30,000 troops to Afghanistan? Plain and simple: it will keep the deficit growing and accomplish little. According to COIN (that’s a cool acronym for the policies of counterinsurgency adopted many years ago by our military institutions) manuals and operational strategy, the idea is to move into urban areas, to squeeze out the enemy, to train the locals to be good police and army dudes, and then to get on out, leaving that area in the capable hands of the newly trained cops and soldiers. I will not try to argue whether this will work or not; some say it has in Iraq, but until we leave there in total (and we are not ever going to) no one will really know. And Afghanistan is not Iraq: they have never had a well-trained standing army (the mujaheddin war lords fought the Russians with our support; heck, identical warlords fought Alexander the Great), and they have about a 10 percent literacy rate on a good day in Afghanistan. Imagine trying to train cops and soldiers who cannot read; imagine trying to train those folks when they are possibly not loyal to a country but to a tribe. Pashtu is the predominate tribal influence, and the Pashtun like to help out other Pashtu, and this pisses off the other tribes, the Tajik, the Uzbek, and Hazara. The CIA will tell you that there are about 60 Pashtu tribes which are divided into 400 sub-tribes. Sort of imagine what it would have been like here conquering the Sioux, the Crow, the Comanche, and the Kiowa if they all had AK-47s. To complicate matters, some of these folks are Sunni and some are Shia. The bad guys, the Taliban, are Sunni refugees slipping back and forth between their country and Pakistan but have in their forces Chechens, Punjabis, and Arabs. And they get support for all over, including our buddies in Pakistan. Go figure; we give money to Pakistan to help fight Al Qaeda; Pakistan gives money to the Taliban to help fight us, I guess. And if you think this little bit is complicated, throw in a tiny bit of economics of destitution: since most Taliban are educated in hyper-religious madrassas, they have little education in science, math or vocations. Hence, to the Taliban, war is work and no war is unemployment and nobody is going to give the Taliban unemployment compensation. For them to eat, to be clothed, to survive is to wage war against anybody.

Heck, I won’t go on. It is an educational challenge, slippery as K-Y. All you have to remember is COIN because it is going to take billions of coin to wage more war in Afghanistan. Right now people all over are arguing over this idea of a surge of troops. But right or wrong one thing is very clear: nobody wants to pay for it. Trillions on credit-card wars, rising deficits: priceless.

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